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08 May 2020
How conditions in grass scream for beach skills
By Tighe O'Sullivan, Nor Cal BSC President and beach soccer coach
This is a retread of thought to think about coming out of Covid19 and wanting to get the most and best out our your players quickly. For more, the longer version breaks much more in regards to physiology, strength, conditions, and skill. But, this is a good blurb to open the mind a bit…
“Beach Soccer emphasizes everything players don’t train on the grass, and with what we do, it adds an incredibly different element changing the players perspective. Earlier kids are mastering the “three small toes” for scooping and flicking to teammates and essentially giving them great familiarity with addressing flighted balls. Not to mention greater strength and comfort in passing/striking using the outside of the foot.
Whether we are speaking to better balance, concentration, composure, or striking the ball off the uneven surface the beach offers a plethora of opportunities for technical and tactical ideas which are new and challenging to a young player thirsting for greater knowledge. This while creating greater interest and increased motivation. Players cannot hide in the sand and must move, so the effort you will see from your players will also surprise most coaches at first. Then they can use this to their advantage in a multitude of ways which will improve learning and the excitement of new challenges and skills which have not been tried in the grass…including the bike kick!
Ko Ishikawa, a Bolivian, Tahuichi 80’s/90’s player, in the era of Marco Etcheverry, and now coach of the Japanese Profession team Tokyo Lequios LD once commented to me, “Of all the types of futbol one can compete, Beach Soccer more than any other, by far takes the most technique, and is without a doubt, the most tactical and strategic one can play“. So simply putting them in the sand in a fun environment not only creates an alternative way of thinking and approaching the game, but in turn makes them stronger, faster, and smarter when they return to the grass.
The presentation continued by introducing specific rules needed to be understood, as well as what a 2 hour progressive technical/tactical training session could look like, in the sand. It addressed the importance of the goalkeeper, who is considered the quarterback and most important player on the team, as well as the emphasis needed on set pieces and the importance of the composure needed to be taught not to foul. It wrapped up with videos and illustrations on how to begin to teach your players how to bike and/or overhead kick. This is not only fun for the kids, but from my personal experience of over 25 years of coaching on the grass it leads to more fantastic goals from your players as their confidence and concentration of meeting the ball skyrockets with this introduction and continued practice of this skill. Their bodies will move and adjust in ways you will have never seen before introducing them to the beach.
We have gone into decent depth in regards to explaining how there are so many benefits to introducing your young players to the technique and tactics of beach soccer. We can all honestly understand this and know the fact it’s a fun and alternative way to get more out of your players. Not to mention, the proven bonding experiences we have seen from clubs coming to a tournament in force with 20 or more teams as the chance for the club to come together closer as a community with a weekend on the beach. But outside of the obvious, what other practical ways can these skills truly be those sharp new set of tools to be taken out of the shed?
In speaking to one of the Directors of Coaching in California about beach soccer he stated I was speaking to the choir. Josh Kalkstein, Technical Director of Soccer Operations at Marin FC Alliance, reminded me how in the community we no longer play in water bogged fields. Whether this is due to field turf conversions, or because the new generation of players don’t get their “feet wet” like they used to, it was clear where he was heading. He described a recent trip his Northern Californian team took to a DA (US Development Academy) showcase competition in June of last year in Indiana. On the last day of the event it was pouring rain and the field was more than ankle-deep with water. The players were at a total loss as they tried to kick the ball harder throughout the first half, which we all know simply just wears them out, with more frustration than progress.
It was clear to him the other teams based on the east coast had more experience playing in those conditions. At halftime he explained how he tried to tell the players they needed to get the ball off the ground, out of the mud and water, and keep the ball in the air. The players were amiss and the logic just didn’t settle in as they had never been trained in a way to lift the ball and carry on in the air. But with his advice and constant reminders they picked up on it in the 2nd half and improved their play. But, the reality was it was June in Indiana, and who would have thought, as they didn’t have rain gear as they were fatigued and frozen to the bone by the end of the first half with more interest in the hot shower at the hotel than getting the result.
He clearly stated if his players had ever trained in the sand and developed those techniques then the ideas he was expressing would not have been foreign to them. Kalkstein believes they definitely would have had more success and quite frankly fun playing in a difficult environment if they were not fatigued by half time. Having played on the beach himself over the last few decades he hopes to see greater emphasis as he realized how much it would have helped his team.
This funny enough was a new concept even to myself which I could not help but include as yet another practical illustration on why the fundamentals of beach soccer help improve a player. The ability to play with a different frame of mind gives them a sharp advantage over other players who have not. Maybe if they had the experience of lifting and scooping they would have been able to maintain more strength throughout the match? Maybe they will get the chance to find out in the future? It is not difficult to understand the advantage a team would have in those conditions with beach skills.