The weather may not have cooperated with the first week of the spring season, but it also made us think about looking back on the winter. In particular, the winter session gave Aztec the opportunity to host a number of important events. Among these were coaching development symposiums and in-house college showcases organized by the Directors of Coaching.
First, the staff training - In January, Boys’ Director Andy Branton held a staff training event at Essex Sports Center focused on demonstrating how the whole-part-whole method of teaching can be applied to the 'skill' of soccer. This model of training, or coaching is demonstrated frequently in training by the Belgian, Spanish, German and English Football Associations.
“The ‘whole skill’ is first demonstrated and practiced in this example in a small-sided game before being broken down into the smaller parts to practice the individual elements and improve on these, before putting the whole skill back together. A good example comes in soccer, where the learner would play a small-sided game, then isolate a weak component, such as the running off the the ball that we worked on at our coaching development night before putting the game back together,” Andy says. “Hopefully this gives the player a sense of the whole skill before they break it down and improve on the weak aspects of the performance. As with the part-method this should affect the transfer of the skill from parts to the whole.
The U16 NPL boys team went through the session, which also included Heather Waters from Club Partner Bay State Physical Therapy presenting and demonstrating the correct technique for training and pre-game warm-up routines.
Then in February, Girls’ Director Joel Bancroft hosted his Coaching Symposium at Essex Sports Center. Again, it was an opportunity for the staff to come together and think about some coaching concepts and bond. Using some of our top players on the girls side, the event took place in two sessions. With the younger group, Joel ran a technical session based on first touch and receiving the ball away from pressure. He then ended the evening with a tactical session based on mobility and standardizing a language for what "type" of passes we used to break down our opponent.
“In between, the staff participated in our first annual Corn Hole Tournament. The prize pool consisted of a pair of Red Sox tickets as well as several ‘thanks for coming’ prizes,” Joel said. “This was hotly contested throughout the evening with the final featuring both gender directors Andy Branton and Joel Bancroft squaring off with Aztec Founder Mike Kersker and the greatest coaching mind Greece has ever produced, Costas Flessas. It was a back and forth affair but the directors put some distance between themselves and their opponents in their last toss. Overall a nice evening to check in outside the rigors of training and have a bit of fun as well.”
In addition to the staff training events, Joel and Andy both organized college showcase events that were held at Danvers Indoor Sports over the winter. The boys event took place on Super Bowl Sunday. More than two dozen coaches were in attendance from six different conferences across all three NCAA divisions. The Aztec Sophomores from the 01 NPL played against the sophomores and juniors from the 2000 NPL and the Juniors and uncommitted Seniors from the 99 and 98 NPL played against each other as well.
“All in all a great day that led to a red hot cell phone in the weeks after the showcase,” Andy says.
Joel’s girls showcase took place in early March, also bringing in more than 25 college programs from all divisions. The format this year expanded to include all of Aztec’s senior girls teams as well as wrapping up with a game that featured all players that were currently uncommitted across all four Aztec age groups.
“The feedback has been positive from both coaches and families,” Joel says. “We feel like this is both an effective and unique footprint that we will continue to improve upon. While our primary focus is player development, we work very hard to develop long term relationships with college coaching staffs and look forward to hosting them annually.”
Now as it becomes time to move outside - once the weather fully cooperates - it is important to remember that a lot of great things take place during the winter months. Player and staff development continues, and we look forward to seeing those lessons and experiences pay off this spring.