The Great Player Model™ LeftFoot Coaching Academy

Great Players

We have to think about WHY we develop players; by coaching players outside of a team structure, we are individually teaching soccer players to follow the great player model. If we allow an athlete to grow into a player dependent on his or her team, we are jeopardizing the full potential of what kind of soccer player they become. By coaching through the Great Player Model, we re-think how we organize player development from Team Orientations to Skills Orientation.

Austyn Kimbrell and Morgan Turner go against each other in the 2017 State Tournament. Austyn was U13C3 when she started at LeftFoot. Morgan was U15 Premier.

Working Backwards

At LeftFoot we pose several questions generally to every coach and parent: If you had one player who could do these seven things, would they be a star on your team? If a player who had these qualities came to you, would you take them? Would a player who demonstrates these tendencies and skills ride your bench?

If any and all coaches would agree to take these players, wouldn’t it make sense that we should organize this as the end goal for developing private clients?
And if so, when we meet a player and evaluate them, can they do these things? What are they lacking? Where would we begin?
Working backwards from empty space
Phenomenal FootSkills: Creative on the Ball

Watching Marta or Messi move and make the ball move is pure pleasure. The finesse, touch, skill, and diversity of touch allows them to play the ball on the ground, flick it in the air, and scurry through and around defenders with ease. A great player thus needs to be creative and be allowed to explore and practice. Skilled players experiment with multiple surfaces of touch, multiple directional changes, and different ways of touching the ball on the ground, in the air, and with both feet.

A player should be allowed to explore and experiment to learn:

  • multiple surfaces of touch
  • multiple changes of direction
  • different ways to handle the ball not only on the ground, but in the air
  • how to comfortably and effectively use both feet

A great player should be able to perform this in GAME PLAY

Multiple Surfaces and Touches

With over 12 different surfaces we believe there's over 24 possible combinations to touch the ball.

LeftFoot recognizes over TEN types of Touches:

Sliding Touch: the ability to maintain contact with the ball for a longer period of time with the inside of the foot or inside of the big toe; it is sometimes referred to as a "drag."

Rolling Touch: the ability to roll the sole/arch of the foot laterally across the ball; it's sometimes referred to as a "slap."

Tapping Touch: the ability to tap the ball forward with any part of the foot.

Poke Touch: the ability to poke the ball forward; it is typically done with the big toe.

Cut, Chop or Slice Touch: the ability to chop the foot to the side of the ball; related to cutting at speed, usually the first change of direction to be taught: inside cut or outside of the foot cut.

Flick touch: the ability to lift the ball with the front of the foot; this is applied to chipping or lifting the ball.

Stop or Cap Touch: While not necessarily taught at LFC, the ability to stop the ball under the front part of the foot is considered a type of touch, being able to differentiate the applicable power of the touch is important for specific hesitation moves.

How do we use these different kinds of touches and surfaces at gameplay speed? And more importantly, how do we use these varying touches together to implement speed and power in our movements?

Combination Touches

Players are encouraged to combine types of touch to create new solutions; typical combination touches are:

Slide and Tap: often called an inside/outside move or "Stanley Matthews" where the player slides the ball toward the inside of the body, and taps it with the outside of that same foot past the defender.

Roll & Tap: Players roll the ball to the inside of the body, and then tap it across their body with the opposite foot.

Skip Touch: Players cap and slide the ball across their body.

Combinations are endless and instrumental in allowing players to creatively apply new solutions to the obstacles they face in game play.

How many surfaces does the player use in the video?

How a player touches the ball creates a variety of spins, resistance, or power in their dribbling skills, and also in their receiving and striking abilities. For instance, being able to apply a sliding touch on the ball will be instrumental for a player to be able to bend the ball later. So keeping the foot in contact with the ball for a longer period of time will create the foundation of technique that can be used as skills progress.

More Than Goal Scoring
Deadly Ball Striking: the ability to strike and serve the ball with accuracy and power.

I’ve worked with more than 500 players in my past sixteen years of coaching and ANYONE can kick a ball, but few players can receive passes, put the ball where they want it, and then do all of that under pressure. Ball striking is more than just service and shooting. It is about the technical qualities related to the release of the ball, how you prepare your body to shoot, how you position your plant foot, and how you respond during, before, and after you strike the ball in gameplay. At LFC, we identify five technically specific strikes on the ball.

We don’t just kick the ball, we strike it with purpose, direction, and with one or two touches within a one step approach.

Can the player drive a ball?

Anyone can kick a ball and move it from point A to point B, but more there's a more complex, technical skill to striking a ball in order to fulfill the Great Player Model.

By swinging your leg in the general direction of a ball and kicking it, it will inevitably travel. The challenge for most players is to intentionally drive a ball to a specific spot. Placing a driven ball low and in the corner of the goal is the ultimate shot. And less than 1% of players can do that consistently.

So if we want to create great players, shouldn’t our task be to teach our students how to strike a driven ball that is accurate and spot on?

What about driving a ball from a corner kick? What about shooting off the dribble? Or driving a ball from the defense straight toward a forward’s foot? As one of the 7 Aspects of Great Players, driving a ball is more than scoring goals.

A Driven Ball

Can your player intentionally place a driven ball low and to the corner 5 out 9 times?

Can they chip a shot? Can they change the height, spin and flight of the ball AND know how to do it differently each time?

Does the player think of the ball as a toy, and use their body in the game?

Dominant in the Air

Winning headers, volleying the ball, receiving the ball, flicking it, and controlling it in the air is a rare quality in players. Find a player that is comfortable striking the ball after flicking it in the air with the outside of the foot. Find a player that can do all of that under pressure. Identify a player that can receive, volley, pass the ball in the air and is comfortable heading the ball in multiple directions under pressure and in traffic (up, down, re-directional side to side) and I’ll show you a Division I quality player.

- Now, can they do this consistently UNDER PRESSURE?

Developing all aspects of coordination, control and athletic development with a ball.

Twelve Surfaces

Can a player utilize all twelve surfaces of their body while juggling? It doesn't matter if they can stay on their thighs for 1,000 juggles. Can they use their whole body?

  • Inside/Outside/Top of the Foot
  • Both Thighs
  • Both Shoulders
  • Chest & Head

Finishing

Can the player track a ball in the air? Can they finish a flighted ball based on timing, coordination, power and courage?

Don't you want the player that can?

Strong & Fast in Body & Mind

Soccer isn't played as a 45 yard sprint in one direction.

Great players not only run fast, they think fast. They are actively thinking and computing thousands of problems and solutions that are not just the right solution, but a creative solution to the problem facing them on the field. Soccer speed is multi-directional—a fast player in soccer knows how to cut at speed, change direction, goes one way-- then another, fakes, bobs, weaves, jumps, pushes, stops, pulls, and even dives! You need power and repetition to develop speed and the mental game is just the same.

Great players make mistakes, move on, and get back into the competition as fast as possible. They have the ability to overcome boredom in their practice, face adversity with courage and laugh at themselves while appreciating their limitations.

Speed of Play

The four speeds of soccer aren't just for coaches to say why a player isn't good enough for their team. At LeftFoot we have to help players understand changing direction and technical speed, but they also have to develop mental speed.

  • multi-directional speed with and without the ball
  • power and repetition

& mind...

- Do they know their limitations?

- Can they overcome boredom during practice?

- Do they move on and get back in the game after making mistakes? Do they do it fast?

- Can they make decisions quickly? Are those decisions the right decisions? Are they creative?

Ability to Balance Task and Ego Oriented Goals.

Great players can focus on practicing the same skill hundreds, even thousands of times focusing on the nuances of their practice, their body, and the skill. But they can also turn on the mental switch and take over the game, sore the final goal, dominate the defensive game, make the winning pass, and go in hard for a tackle. Yet it’s the combination of the player who has the mental confidence and the technical superiority that finishes on top. Tons of players want to get better, but only a few can dedicate themselves to the finer details on a daily basis to actually get better.

- They can throw all of their focus into the small details necessary to get better, refining their skills, becoming technically superior, yet...they have the ability to see and contribute to the big picture, making the team, winning the game, reaching the championship,

and they know how and when to flip the switch.

Combine Vision and Movement On and Off the Ball.

Great players are effective off the ball and can see not only the current play, but the next move and possibilities. Great players see everything within a range of vision; from the subtle foot placement of the oncoming defender to the player running into space on the far-side of the field. A player with vision is more valuable than the clunky defender at the next level. An a player that sees how others can get involved and then stays involved even when they do not have the ball creates thousands of possible combinations with their teammates. Most players only see their own problems in front of them rather than the possible solutions of those that are around them and involve them.

A great player can and will:

  • see the next move and possible solutions to get there
  • stay involved even when they don't have possession of the ball
  • involve other players
  • make others around them better

Head Up - Take a Look

They do not just pass of the responsibility.

7. Communicate effectively and with passion...

Great players talk, shout, engage, empower, and encourage those around them. They know their own voice and can command respect. They can balance directions with praise and demands. Great players demand excellence not only from themselves but of those around them and raise up to the challenge with passion. Watch Abby Wambach in the last minute of the Brazil game shout to her teammates, “we can do this!” A minute later, they did. These seven traits of special soccer players now form the basis of our Great Player Model of Player Development at LeftFoot Coaching Academy.

Great players know how to balance praise, commands, and directions. They encourage and command respect.

They demand excellence not only from themselves, but from others, and rise to challenges with drive and passion.

Great Players Don't Walk In...They Walk Out.

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