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Coaches Corner: Learning by Watching

Coaches Corner: Gregg Zonnefeld

The last two weeks have provided soccer fans with tremendous opportunities to watch soccer on television. From Copa America to the European Championships, a daily menu of passionate national team play has been available. For the soccer player who is an avid, diehard fan to the casual observer who loves their USA national pride, this is a stark contrast to when I was a high school soccer player. Back then you could count on one hand the number of games each year available for watching—in the 1986 World Cup only the final was televised!

As coaches, the high profile of these matches and their availability are providing us with some great opportunities to grow the minds of our players. Encouraging them to be active, rather than casual, viewers can help them improve—even from the couch! The ability to rewind, re-watch, and breakdown some of the play while watching thanks to the DVR can be a tool of learning. Here are some cues for them to follow:

  • How do the players of my position function? Your strikers can learn by watching the movements of attackers, your midfielders can recognize possession and distribution, your defenders can see how to not only defend but attack as a marking back.  

  • Restarts – Examine how teams utilize these opportunities offensively. How are they defended in specific dangerous situations?  How do their runs impact the play? Encourage them to give you as a coach suggestions based on what they might see.  

  • Possession/Movement – The other day a build up of 23 passes led to a goal by Spain at the Euros. While obviously not all of our teams can string together that kind of possession, the principles of ball and player movement are the same.  

  • Love the passion! Kids today get opportunities to watch the pride of nations as they sing their national anthems, fill the stands to cheer on their teams, and play for the country they love. Come August, our kids get to put on the colors of their school and enjoy the opportunity to represent their school and their families on the pitch.  

I recently hosted a team party to watch a USA match—this provides a great opportunity for the team to get together in the summer, connect socially, and enjoy the passion and excitement that the world’s greatest game has to offer! Less than two months to the start of the new season—hopefully we can help our kids grow…by watching!!

Written by Central Wisconsin Christian boys soccer coach Gregg Zonnefeld, who is in his 21st year as head coach. He is currently in his second term on the WIAA Soccer Advisory Committee.  Coach Zonnefeld’s Crusader squads have captured 12 regional titles and made 5 state tournament appearances during his tenure.

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