World Cup 2014

Pick Up Your Game

A youth soccer coach shares tips to help you shape up your skills

June 05, 2014

Maybe you’ll never play in a World Cup tournament, but you never know. TFK asked Hugo Grajeda, director of Pro Youth Soccer Academy in Chester, New York, for tips to help kids improve their soccer skills.

Start with basic drills: “Go outdoors, grab a ball, and keep it close to your feet,” Grajeda says. “That will help improve your ability to run with the ball close. Juggling and dribbling will help improve your timing and ball control skills. If you have a backyard, work on shooting.”

Sign up for a soccer camp: “It’s a good way of building skills without having the pressure of games. Choose a camp that emphasizes building skills and go to one of those. There are plenty of camps that begin right after school ends.”

Coach Hugo Grajeda, director of Pro Youth Soccer Academy in Chester, New York.

Coach Hugo Grajeda, director of Pro Youth Soccer Academy in Chester, New York.

Don’t forget to stretch: Before each game or practice, start with a proper ten-minute warm up. Then do a series of stretches to loosen up your muscles. Grajeda recommends calf and hamstring stretches. Don’t forget to take a drink of water before you even step on the field. “Water is important, especially during this heat,” Grajeda says.

Watch the World Cup: Grajeda will be telling his athletes to watch as many games as they can, and he plans to tune in, too. Study how the best players move the ball and try to bring some of their moves into your own game. “Pick up something that you like and practice it,” Grajeda says.

Keep practicing: Practice may not seem like the most fun part of playing soccer, but it’s the best way to develop good technique. “It depends on the age of the kid, but I think the formal ratio is three practices to one game,” Grajeda says. Look for ways to make practice fun by adding some competition to simple drills, and don’t be discouraged if it takes time to master new skills. “If someone were struggling to improve, I would tell them to keep practicing, keep trying. Practice makes perfection.”

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