The Importance of Watching Soccer for Youth Players
Posted by: Mark Cromie | U11-U12 Boys Director of Coaching
According to the Social Science Research Network, approximately 65% of the population are visual learners, meaning that they are more likely to remember and understand content if they watch it. For youth soccer players, actually playing the game of soccer is the most effective way for a player to learn the various skills needed to participate in the sport, however, there are many benefits to watching soccer games to perfect their technique and strategy.
The popularity of soccer in the US has grown rapidly in the last few decades, with around 3 million kids now playing the sport around the country (see article “Soccer Is Here, for Real This Time”). In addition, there has been an increase in soccer-related media coverage and accessibility of the domestic (MLS, USL, NASL) and international leagues (Premier League, LaLiga etc). The numbers don’t lie, soccer is starting to take a dominant place in American sports culture and youth soccer players and organizations can only benefit from this trend.
Obviously, many young soccer players enjoy watching soccer games as a fan. Connecting young soccer fans to the game from an early age increases their likelihood of being involved in the game (even just as a supporter) throughout their youth and adult lives. Watching the games can also be a great way to bond with family members and/or teammates and create a camaraderie that can last a lifetime. Additionally, young fans can explore their heritage and international roots by watching teams from countries around the world.
As soccer coaches, we recommend that players watch professional soccer games not just for enjoyment, but as a learning tool in order to help with player development. As a partner of the Colorado Rapids we offer discounted opportunities for players to watch MLS games in person, but there are many opportunities to watch games on TV or social media platforms, such as YouTube. With the expansive options for watching soccer, young players are able to learn from their heroes. Being able to watch the strategies used by professionals can give young athletes a better understanding of HOW and WHY we train the way we do. This visual learning helps empower youth soccer players to replicate the techniques demonstrated by those who are considered masters of their profession.
Watching soccer as a student of the game, rather than merely a fan, requires viewers to focus on details others may not notice. We encourage young soccer players to focus on these specific details, such as:
- Watching players on AND off the ball – How do players without possession of the ball still have an impact on the game?
- Watch players in your general position – It’s always fun to watch Messi and Ronaldo, but also try to focus on the position you generally play, whether that be a defender, goalkeeper, or striker.
Ultimately, there are many factors that go into player development, but watching soccer can be a useful tool for young players. It is important for players to use every resource at their disposal to become more familiar with the skills and techniques they will be using.