Members of the South Jersey Elite Baron Soccer Club have found a way to stay connected with one another through these trying times, and it all started by looking backward. Specifically, back to a virtual challenge from over a decade ago.
By now most people have seen the video trend where a bunch of different people have some sort of object tossed to them from off the screen, they catch it, then toss it back off the screen. The small clips then get edited together so it appears people are playing catch with one another.
These clips have skyrocketed in popularity since quarantine began, and some may believe it’s a new trend, but John Thompson, the SJEB Rush Technical Director, knows that’s not actually the case. These videos stem from the Joga Bonito commercial that aired before the 2006 World Cup. He specifically remembers this because one of his teams at the time created a video of their own, mimicking the commercial.
“I think it was our 1991 boys that did one in 2006 on Youtube,” Thompson said thinking back.
Oddly enough, one of the players on that team posted the video to Instagram right before everything started shutting down around the country. And that post gave Thompson an idea to keep players within the organization entertained.
“I challenged one of my current teams to do the same video 10, or 12, years later on,” he said. “Once one team did the video everyone else wanted to do it.”
The creation of virtual workshops:
After seeing how eager everyone was to partake in the first challenge, Thompson knew there was a way to keep everyone connected and working on the game of soccer. He eventually created a number of different workshops for the players, all of which had to do with one of the four components of soccer: technical, tactical, physical, and mental.
“On the mental side, reading books, watching films, getting the kids inspired to find a hero or a club that you love,” Thompson began. “Technical, started doing videos together for small mastery, ball on the wall, gave them distance routines each night. Sports psychology books for them to read. Top-10 videos like best tackles, best goals, best free kicks, best youngest players.”
Thompson releases a new syllabus each week for the players to complete. It contains different skills for them to work on, different videos to watch, and different reading materials. He feels it is the best option available because it helps give the players direction.
The organization as a whole does not track which participants are completing the workshops, and which are not. They work on the honor system, knowing that having the kids motivate themselves to do work they aren’t required to will ultimately benefit them more in the long run.
“It’s all about self-accountability now,” he said. “Hopefully the ones that are out there actually doing it, they’re the ones that are going to accelerate their development, and they’re the ones in life that are going to be better employees and going to be more successful in what they want to achieve.”
Thompson and the coaches are also starting to reward the kids that have really taken to the program. They have started having a number of different athletes put together training sessions and then run a virtual program live on their Facebook page for anyone that is looking to join in for a workout.
“They do peer-to-peer training instead of coaches do it. Get our kids to do it, so it gives them some leadership training, and they love it,” Thompson explained.
“They’ve got great energy, great delivery, and confidence… Everybody’s looking for stuff to do online and it’s more fun if you’re doing it with someone virtually, and it’s live, and you’re interacting with them. The goal right now is to just keep them interacting while they are staying at home, just to feel that connection with your teammates and your club.”
Looking towards the future:
South Jersey Elite Barons Soccer is a program that has kids from multiple states coming together to form a community. They love being able to get together but it can be hard when kids would have to travel over an hour to do so.
But now, with this quarantine, the coaches within the organization have realized that they can host practices virtually, and it’s something they are going to implement once everything gets back to normal.
“Not all training needs to be on the pitch. You can inspire the kids in other ways,” Thompson began. “Do a 45-minute chalkboard talk with video intermittently thrown into the visual. That way we can break down, instead of all kids going and doing their generic session outdoors, you can break it down and individually train a player in specific tactics of the position. It’s just going to broaden the education you can give your players.”