By Jean Jacques Bosco & Kristina Charania
On a bright May afternoon in Vancouver, I went out to Douglas Park to enjoy the sunshine and practice my soccer technique before the new month began. As I was walking through the park, I encountered a young man reading a history book on a bench. After talking with him for a few minutes, I learned a great deal about him: his name was Tim Rogerson, he was an engineering student at UBC, and he had moved to Vancouver from his hometown, Edmonton.
I tried to entice him to come play soccer with me. As I twirled the ball around in my hands, he explained that he wasn’t very good at soccer but excelled in fixed bar gymnastics. It took much convincing on my part to get him to follow me to the freshly mowed green field a minute away.
In Canada, and especially in Vancouver, there are at least three parks that are sizeable and can host great soccer, rugby, and American football games. Generally, these fields are empty of people when it is a not a sport season. This was the scenario when we arrived to the field.
Immediately, I started to kick the ball around with Tim. His footwork with the ball wasn’t too skillful, but his athletic abilities and coordination were prominent and well-developed. Because of these observations I had made, I felt obligated to teach him how to lift the ball and juggle it, which was a technique he had never learned or applied in a casual game setting.
Astonishingly, his first tries at lifting the ball were successful. Within five minutes, he was able to correctly apply the two lifting techniques that I taught him.
Then, we randomly began to play a real soccer game. Tim was smiling from ear to ear while telling me about his girlfriend, who also played soccer on a regular basis. This was the moment when he really started to enjoy handling the ball with confidence.
After about twenty minutes, we went to do some exercise on the fixed bars at Douglas Park Community Center. Tim did a couple of sets of push ups on the bars, but nothing else exciting in terms of gymnastic exercise. I quickly demonstrated two moves on the bars and again, I was amazed by how quickly he was able to learn and perform them.
How can anyone acquire four new skills with such speed and ease and still believe that sports agility and co-ordination should precede skills development, or, more importantly, take priority over them?
I’m positive that Tim shared his story with the next person that he came across that day, and many people after that. I first gave him tips on how to lift he ball and he quickly did, and then I showed him a second juggling technique and he passed it with flying colours. What a great fast learner!
Having been a successful soccer coach for over fifteen years now, this half an hour soccer diagnostic session with Tim confirmed one of my many theories about soccer development. Coordination and skills training go hand in hand when you’re practicing any sport, but it’s especially important in soccer classes with our Canadian children, youth, and coaches. Age is also not a factor when you’re trying to pick up a new sport. As many say, it’s never too late to learn something new!