What Landon Donovan Says About Learning on Your Own

Recently I came across a video posted on YouTube by Major League Soccer.  It was part of a series called “Movement” hosted by Calen Carr.

In part of this video Calen interviews the MLS all-time leading goal scorer, Landon Donovan.  Now, if we’re being honest, I really am not a huge Donovan fan, for reasons I won’t get into here…but you can’t argue that the guy was good and he deserves all the accolades and records he gets.

That being said, Landon says something in the interview that really stuck out to me:

“…Everything I did was on my own…I took a soccer ball outside and kicked the ball against the curb for hours. There’s no replacement for that.  You can learn all tactics and formations and all this stuff, but there’s no replacement for just touching the ball and learning on your own.”

Landon Donovan - No replacement for touching the ball

I LOVE that.  That is exactly what we talk about here at BYSC!  Your child will become a better soccer player independent of coaches, teams, practices and games.

The video goes on to talk about how important “pick up games” and just getting together and playing are for the development of players.

You can watch the entire video here

Calen even says as he’s talking to Landon that,

“I did the same thing, mine was in my house though.  I used to set up chairs and dribble around them.”

The fact of the matter is just kicking a soccer ball around makes a huge difference!  It doesn’t always have to be structured and formal.  Sometimes the best thing for a kid to do is just play around. Like Landon says, there’s no replacement for just touching the ball.

Here are 3 ways you can help your child just get touches on the ball.

1. Keep a ball out and available

This is a huge one…and it’s super easy.  In my house, we always have a soccer ball in our living room.

The result?

My daughter and my son will randomly start kicking the ball, dribbling it and passing it back and forth.  These are precious, unstructured touches, on the ball that will pay huge dividends as they grow older!

(I’ve even been known to play with it sometimes in the middle of our living room….as evidenced by this video)

2. Encourage your kid to imitate professionals

This one requires watching soccer on television or in person.  As you watch soccer, talk about what you are seeing.  Point out the moves that they are practicing when you see professionals do them.

If you see a player do a move and your child thinks it looks cool, rewind the game (if you have DVR or it’s recorded) and help them figure out how to do it!

Imitating professional soccer players is one of the best ways for kids to learn to be creative on the ball as they get unstructured touches.

3. Incorporate “freestyling” time into your play

Make sure when you are practicing with your child that you include some “freestyle” time.

Freestyle time is unstructured touches on the ball.  Encourage them to try new moves, perfect moves they’ve been working on, try to dribble past you like you’re a defender — and here’s the most important part…

No matter what they do…no matter if it works or doesn’t work…do not correct them! 

In game situations, half the time the move they try to do won’t work…so when that happens, your child needs to know how to improvise…and they learn to improvise by learning what to do next when what they were trying to do doesn’t work!

And always remember what Landon says in this video: “You can learn all tactics and formations and all this stuff, but there’s no replacement for just touching the ball and learning on your own.

So get out there with your child and help them get touches on the ball and learn on their own to love the game of soccer!

Question: Do you encourage your child to spend time just “messing around” with the ball? If so, how has it helped their game?