Press Release: September 4, 2014
Alexandria Soccer Adopts Club-Wide Academy Soccer Curriculum
At a recent Academy coaches’ clinic, the Alexandria Soccer technical staff hosted classroom and field sessions to introduce and help its coaches implement the newly-adopted club-wide Academy curriculum. Based on a progressive possession-oriented style of play for all age groups, the curriculum provides sequential and cumulative instruction that guides players seamlessly from the 7v7/8v8 small-side game environment into the 11v11 full game. In addition to uniting all teams under a common playing vision, the club-wide curriculum emphasizes common themes and concepts across all age groups, which the technical staff believes will create sound technical and tactical players that can compete at the club level and beyond. Ryan Rich, Alexandria Soccer’s Director of Coaching and driver behind the development of the curriculum, believes the club-wide curriculum will continue to strengthen the club’s overall quality and take the Academy program to new heights. According to Rich, “we want to focus on the technical and tactical habits that help our players and teams play our brand of soccer. From the very beginning, we aim to develop player’s muscle memory to receive and develop their first touch with automaticity. In addition, we emphasize the tactical component by teaching proper decision-making on and off the ball.”
The curriculum works through several phases, ordered in a specific way that each successive phase builds on the previous one. Therefore, the players are learning to build on previously-learned knowledge and using that as a foundation to understand more complex material. Initially, players learn the foundation of Alexandria’s style of play, building play out of the back. According to Rich, this foundation provides the basis of our possession-oriented soccer. “We believe that in order for our teams to play effective possession-oriented soccer, they must master playing out of the back consistently. Until we see consistent execution of training concepts in game situations, we do not move on to teaching more detailed and complex material.”
Another key element of the curriculum is its laser focus on the most important technical and tactical skills and concepts. According to Rich, “with the internet, coaches have access to an infinite number of activities and sessions. However, we have narrowed in on specific activities that we feel are the most efficient and effective in teaching our style of play. For example, the 4v1 rondo is one specific activity that teaches so many important aspects of our style play (see below).
Within a 4v1 rondo, one of the most important aspects is focusing on a player receiving across their body (i.e. if the ball is passed from the left, receiving across the body with the right foot) whenever possible. This small detail makes a huge difference in their ability to see all their options on the field and execute properly.” In addition, repeating and reinforcing activities and concepts leads to more efficient training and execution. According to Jim Hogan, Director of Recreation and Programs and U9 and U12 Boys age group director, “the ASA curriculum developed by Rich has been tried and tested in a number of age groups the last two years. During this time the technical staff, with Rich's direction, began identifying specific activities that best bring out our style of play and concepts the players should be mastering. There are now a set number of activities each ASA coach has access to and will progress their team through as the players show an understanding of what is expected. With the expansion to mandate all Academy teams in ASA follow the curriculum and specific activities and sessions, it allows for players to seamlessly step into a practice or game field with the other teams in their age group or any other age group.”
Parents have taken notice of the changes since the implementation of the curriculum. Lee Burbage, the parent of two boys currently at U9 and U12 level, states, “The caliber of coaching and facilities alone have grown far beyond my expectations for the club. But, the real, exciting growth has taken place since the beginning of the club’s curriculum's implementation. From the beginning, the group worked on the foundation of the club's style of play, building play successfully out of the back. Through the new curriculum, our sons have learned how to incorporate their individual skills in the team context and when and where to use them. It has been fun to watch the brand of soccer they now play.”
“The teaching philosophy and style of play highlighted in the curriculum is taught club wide regardless of the league, tournament, program or class,” says ASA Executive and Technical Director Tommy Park. “The value of emphasizing the ‘ASA Style’ across all programs with the in-depth curriculum has been evident in the heightened enjoyment level of the game for the participants and their ability to play a quality brand of soccer. In my experience playing and coaching at some of our countries top professional and youth clubs, I have yet to see this level of support and guidance for coaches, players and parents alike. We are excited to watch ASA players and coaches continue to develop with the guidance of Ryan as full-time DOC along with the tireless support from the clubs technical staff of Jim Hogan and Chris Arnold.”