The Book

Drawing heavily on the author’s journey from a largely clueless newbie to a teacher/coach of more than two dozen future All-Americans, Players 1st presents an unconventional approach to the development of skillful and creative soccer players. Our youth soccer book also uses the game as a platform for growing “stronger, more responsible and confident individuals who will be successful in life.”

“Players who do not get a thorough grounding in the game’s essential skills at the younger ages are being cheated out of their futures in the game.”

The Players 1st model departs in many ways from the way things are commonly done. It’s much more than a book about soccer. There is a much greater emphasis on individual improvement—“skillful players first”—than the team result (although that usually follows). It fosters a “Go-For-It” mentality and welcomes the “unconventional relationship with failure” that athletes develop from attempts to be bold, daring, and even outrageous in using their skills. The book shows how learning to juggle a soccer ball “makes every touch better.” In the soccer coaching book, we recognize the critical importance of the 1v1 duels that so often determine a game’s result.

In addition, our guide is unique, because we also “teach to the weaker foot.” It is a concept that quickly gives players an unusual ability to control a ball and strike it with accuracy and power using either foot with little difference in proficiency between the two. The intent is for a parent-coach to provide a progression that leads to mastery of the small-group situations from 2v1 to 5v5. They are the building blocks of team play. At that same time, we show you how to provide just enough in the way of team organization to prevent total chaos on game day.

The 75 exercises in Players 1st progress from “one-with-a-ball” activities to play in 2s, 3s and 4s. They are as effective as they are fun. Each has been extensively tested over the past decade with players from age 7 to 16 who, if given the opportunity, would play them forever.

“What we are to do in youth sports is help build better children.”

For those of “a certain age” youth sports were a natural succession of neighborhood games and activities. While we usually learned something about the sport that was then in-season, mostly we were learning about life: choosing how much physical, social and emotional investment we would make to be first to kick-the-can, working through issues of fair play and sportsmanship on a close play in a kickball game, deciding whether or not to cheat at Marco Polo.

Though the organizational model has changed, youth sports continue to provide wonderful settings for growing such life skills as poise, confidence, determination, resilience, perseverance, self-sacrifice, and courage. In the end, what your athletes learn about the values that underlie your team’s culture will be more important and enduring than anything they’ll learn about the game. Players 1st includes a variety of ways to enhance this essential element of your team’s experience. About the Author.