For Soccer-Crazy Girls Only: Everything Great about Soccer

For Soccer-Crazy Girls Only: Everything Great about Soccer

by Erin Downing


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"To be a great soccer player, you must be in love with the game." – Mia Hamm

Do you love lacing up your cleats for the first game of the season—and do you love it even more when they're caked with mud after the game? Are there many nights when you dream about kicking the ball, and watching as it soars through the air toward the goal? Would your perfect day include hours on the soccer field? Do you love to watch people play, soaking up everything you can from other soccer-crazy players? Have you ever felt like your soccer team is a second family? Then you're definitely soccer-crazy . . . and this book is definitely for you!

From training techniques formations and strategies—this book has it all!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250047090
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication date: 09/16/2014
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 264,677
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 7 - 10 Years

About the Author

Erin Downing is a lifelong soccer fanatic, both as a player and a fan. She is the author of the Quirks series (as Erin Soderberg) and a freelance writer and editor. She lives in Minnesota with her family.

Read an Excerpt




For many soccer-loving girls, the game is all about having a good time—and that’s exactly what it should be about!

Most people play soccer because it’s the greatest sport in the world, and it’s a ton of fun. If you enjoy soccer just because you like getting together to practice or play with a group of friends who you have a great time with, that’s awesome.

But some soccer-crazy girls want more than just fun—they want to be one of the best. So what are some of the steps that a good soccer player can take to become a great soccer player? To be good, you must love to play. That’s obvious. The more you enjoy playing soccer, the more often you will play—and, of course, practice (tons and tons of practice), which makes you better. Taking the time to master your sport will make you a much stronger player and will probably lead to you loving soccer even more.

There are many good players out there: women who make trapping or dribbling seem like an art form, or girls who can run for hours and still have that extra burst that will get them through the last hard minutes of a long game.

But what’s the difference between those very good players and the greatest players on earth? One of the most important things great players have is competitive spirit, the re to win that gives them the passion and drive they need to overcome all obstacles. Great players keep their spirits high, even when they’re going into a dif cult match or coming off a losing streak. They don’t give up—ever!

Great players also work very hard. They use up every bit of energy at practice, and push themselves to learn and master every aspect of their sport. In her fascinating autobiography and soccer guide, Go for the Goal: A Champion’s Giude to Winning in Soccer and Life, Mia Hamm shares something memorable her legendary coach, Anson Dorrance, noted while she was college: “The vision of a champion is someone who is bent over, drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion when nobody else is watching.” Mia and her teammates practiced—as a team, and as individuals—until they didn’t have an ounce of energy left in their bodies. That’s how they became the best.

If you want to become a truly great player and a soccer champion, you need to focus on soccer almost like it’s a full-time job. In many ways, exceling at sports is even harder than working most jobs because of how much time you have to put in to them, and how hard you have to perform.

Remember, you are the only person who can make greatness happen for yourself. It’s your body and your mind, and you have to make them both work hard. Practice both with your team and alone, prepare for the situations you’ll encounter on the eld, and get tough—mentally and physically. That’s how to follow in the footsteps of some of the best players in the world.

To watch people push themselves further than they think they can, it’s a beautiful thing. —Abby Wambach


THERE ARE FOUR basic elements that work in harmony to make up the game of soccer: technical, tactical, physical, and psycholocial. All four are essential to your success on the eld, and they’re all aspects you’ll continue to work to improve throughout your soccer career. We’ll talk in more detail about each of these elements throughout the next few sections.

If you don’t let something break you, you’re going to come out stronger in the end.—Hope Solo


THE BEST WAY to get better is to play as often as you can, and to always look for opportunities to improve. That means always attending practices with a good attitude, doing your best to learn from watching others, and working hard on fundamental skills when you’re at home, practicing on your own.

Coach Mike says: “You don’t have to be on a team to play soccer. You can play in your backyard or your basement and work on your ball skills in the off-season. Pretend you’re scoring goals to win the World Cup. Self-motivation is going to help make you one of the best.”


•  kicking a ball into a net to practice your shooting

•  practicing passing and throw-ins against the wall of a building or the side of your garage

•  organizing small pickup games with neighborhood friends or a parent

•  playing keep-away with your dog or a friend to work on agility

•  juggling

•  heading practice


ONE OF THE MOST important skills you can learn as a soccer player is how to juggle a soccer ball with your feet. Juggling will help you with dribbling and agility—important technical and physical skills.

When learning how to juggle the ball, the biggest mistakes a beginner makes is not “locking” her ankle and forgetting to keep her big toe down. The secret to successfully juggling a ball is a combination of (1) concentration, (2) keeping the ball low to the ground, and (3) staying calm.

Then practice, practice, practice!

Coach Mike says: “You should try to use as many body parts as possible in practicing juggling because it will help improve your overall ball control and ability to handle balls in the air. However, the majority of your time should be devoted to juggling with your feet, because that’s what you will use the most when you play.”


SOMETIMES, THE BALL will come ying straight at you through the air. You can either step to the side and let someone else take control, or you can meet it head on … literally. There are a couple of things to keep in mind when you practice stopping or passing the ball with your head:

•  Use your forehead. Hitting the ball with the top of your forehead will give you the best power and more control.

•  It won’t hurt. As long as you’re hitting the ball with the right part of your head, you’re not going to get a goose egg.

•  Keep your eyes open and your mouth closed. You need to see the ball that’s coming at you so you can hit it properly. But keep that mouth closed up tight so you don’t bite your tongue.

•  Lock your neck and keep your back nice and loose. Most of the power from a header doesn’t come from your neck or head popping forward (ouch!)—it comes from the power you can get from arching and snapping your upper body.

•  Keep your chin in. This will help you release your neck muscles when you move into the ball.


Somewhere behind the athlete you’ve become and the hours of practice and the coaches who have pushed you is a little girl who fell in love with the game and never looked back … play for her. —Mia Hamm

Mia Hamm’s excellent autobiography and soccer guide, Go for the Goal, is a must-read for soccer-crazy girls. The book is lled with inspiring stories from Hamm’s youth, excellent insider tips (and photos) to help with technique and exercises for training at home, and behind-the-scenes stories from Hamm’s years on the US Women’s National Team.


A GOALKEEPER’S BEST DEFENSE against a shot on goal is to catch it. The most effective way to catch the ball when you’re in the net is to put your hands up with your ngers spread wide and the tips of your thumbs close together—so your hands look like a big W. Using the W, there’s almost no chance the ball will squeeze through your hands to knock you on the nose or slip into the net.

Sometimes the shot may be coming at you too hard or too fast to allow you to catch it, so in this case you can punch it. A double- sted punch is most effective if the ball is coming right at you, but if it’s coming at you from the side, a single punch is your most effective weapon.


HOW WOULD YOU like to try to score against a goalkeeping machine? Did you know there’s one called RoboKeeper, which is a special robot goalkeeper that has two cameras for eyes? The robot goalkeeper’s eyes take ninety pictures per second, and can follow the ball’s path from the penalty line to the goal. The information about the ball gets sent to the robot’s motor control, telling the RoboKeeper which way to go to defend the shot. All of this communication happens in less than the 0.3 seconds it takes for a ball to make it from the goal line to the net.



WHEN YOU’RE TRAINING at home, there are a few ashy moves you can practice working on to really challenge yourself. Of course, mastering basic technical skills is the most important thing a young player can do—but who doesn’t want to try a few cool moves from time to time, too? Step-by-step guides for doing some of these moves can be found on, and there are a lot of great instructional videos on YouTube as well.


Also called a “scissor kick,” this is an incredibly dif cult move to perform! You need to be able to throw your body up into the air, then kick one leg in front of the other (usually up above the level of your head) without your arms or body touching the ground. A bicycle kick can be executed backwards or sideways. Bicycle kicks take tremendous strength and agility—and a whole lot of trial and error when you’re learning how to do them.


A front handspring throw-in literally involves doing a front handspring toward the touchline with the ball in your hands. You begin your throw-in fteen to twenty feet away from the side of the eld, then take a few steps toward the touchline to give you some momentum for executing a handspring. When you land on your feet again, the force of your handspring will help you throw the ball even further onto the eld. Practice regular front handsprings rst, and once you’ve mastered that you can try doing a handspring with the ball in your hands.


One of the most famous and ashy moves in soccer, the Rainbow, is also a move that is rarely performed successfully. To do the Rainbow, you step over the ball while you’re running forward. Then the ball rolls up your heel, and you ick the ball up and over your head with your leg. If you manage to do it correctly, the ball will y forward over you, making an arc that looks like a rainbow, before landing on the ground in front of you.


The Maradona is also called the Marseille turn, but is more often referred to as the Maradona because of Diego Maradona, the legendary player who performed the move with great grace and skill. The Maradona is a really cool way to execute a turn—where both you and the ball change direction—in order to defend the ball in your possession against an oncoming attacker.

There are three basic steps to a beginner’s Maradona move. rst, you step lightly on the ball with your dominant foot to stop its forward progress. While that foot is resting gently on the ball, you use your other foot to propel your body to begin its spin to face the other direction. Switch to put your weaker foot on the ball, and continue to spin until you’re facing the exact opposite direction you’d been running just a moment before. Then ick the ball forward with your foot to get it moving again.


ONE GREAT WAY TO immerse yourself in the world of soccer for a week or two is to attend a soccer camp in the summer or during a school break. Many cities and towns around the United States run camps that are staffed by high school or college players, professional coaches, or for a lucky few, professional soccer players.

At these camps, instructors will run drills and work on fundamentals, while focusing on fun, fun, fun. Soccer camp is a great place to meet other soccer-crazy girls who live in your area who play for other teams and leagues.

If you’re interested in attending a soccer camp, ask your coach for suggestions, or ask the athletic director at a local high school for recommendations. If you can’t nd a camp in your area, you could even consider teaming up with some of your friends to start your own. Talk to a few older players, and see if they’d be interested in spending a few afternoons working with you on drills and skills. Or, you could run some fun mini-camps in your yard or at a local park for some of the younger soccer players in your neighborhood—sometimes teaching others is the best way to get better yourself.



IF YOU’RE THINKING about trying out for a select (or “travel”) team, there are some things you need to know. Competitive leagues and travel teams require a lot more than just exceptional soccer skills—they take sacri ce, time, and a whole lot of hard work.

Some soccer-crazy girls are perfectly happy to be playing on their rec or school team, but others want year-round play. They want the chance to live and breathe soccer day in and day out. They can’t imagine spending their afternoons and evenings doing anything other than soccer. Their weekends are spent playing games and tournaments, and their weeknights are spent training. Some might even go so far as to say that they don’t mind missing parties and sleepovers and school events for games, since soccer matters more to them.

If you think being on a select team is for you, make sure you talk to your family about it. After all, someone’s going to have to drive you around to your games and practices—so you’re going to need their support!

Coach Mike says: “Please understand that if you decide to play for a select team, it’s a much greater commitment than playing for a recreational team in your neighborhood. Your coach will expect you to be able to practice year-round, and to make soccer a priority.”




SO YOU’VE DECIDED to try out for a select team. Congratulations! When the big day arrives, how can you make sure you get noticed as someone the coaches would want on their team?

•  Be early! Many times, coaches will be keeping their eye on warm-ups, too. And even if they aren’t watching warm-ups, if you get there a little early to kick around a ball with a parent or a friend, you’ll be ready to go by the time tryouts begin.

•  Speak up! Often at tryouts, you’ll be playing with a team of girls you’ve never played with before. Communicate effectively with your new team by letting them know if you or someone else is open, alerting a teammate if someone is running for a pass, or sharing any other important information with your teammates. Also, remember to encourage good plays and be supportive of the players around you. Coaches want leaders, and great communicators are the best leaders.

•  Do your best! It’s essential that you give it your all at tryouts. This isn’t the time to sit back and let others shine—you need to give one hundred percent and then some, since you’ve only got one chance to win the coaches over. Go after the ball, and then do something with it—whether that something is dribbling it up the eld to take a shot, passing it to an open teammate, or keeping it out of the net. Play well, play fair, and be supportive of the other people playing out there with you.

•  Stay positive! If you lose the ball, hustle to get it back or make yourself useful elsewhere on the eld. Don’t pout, shout, or get angry. Soccer moves fast, so you’ve got to bounce back from mistakes quickly or you’ll risk being left behind.

•  Stand out! Obviously, great playing is the best way to stand out. But there are other ways to be memorable, too. Perhaps you could wear a pair of wildly colorful socks, do something interesting with your hair, or wear a crazy jersey. If you’re more noticeable, you might be more memorable. Of course, you’ve got to play well, too—cool out ts alone aren’t going to win anyone over.

Coach Mike says: “Sometimes, there may be many players trying out for your position—you may increase your chances of making a team if you can play multiple positions.”


THE TRYOUTS FOR most select (competitive or traveling) teams will involve some basic technical drills (dribbling through cones, etc.) and some small games or scrimmages (often ve-on- ve). The coaches will be watching everything—and looking for the best players to include on their roster. So make sure you play hard every minute you’re on the eld, and show them what you can do. That doesn’t mean you need to hog the ball or score all the goals—you need to show them you’re a team player, and that you have skills that will make you an asset on the team.

Remember: Not everyone who tries out will be selected. If you’re not chosen for a team one year, keep practicing and come back the next year.


Coach Mike says: “Don’t be heartbroken if you don’t make a team. A lot of great players get cut from teams and develop their skills later. Believe in yourself and try out next year—or perhaps try out for another club’s select program. The key is to keep playing and improving your skills—and have fun with the game!”


THERE ARE MANY ways to be a team leader in soccer. The most obvious leadership opportunity, of course, is to be selected as the team captain. But if you’re not chosen as captain, there are plenty of other ways to step up and be an important leader on your team.

•  Are you especially good at a speci c skill—and do you offer to help your teammates gure out how to improve at it, too?

•  Do you stay calm and collected during a tense match when it seems like everyone else is turning into a hothead?

•  Do you always give it your all at practice, demonstrating the importance of hard work?

•  Can everyone hear you cheering on your teammates from the sidelines, inspiring everyone to stay positive (even when you’re down 5–1)?

•  Many opportunities will arise for you to be a leader on your team. The only way to be successful is to work together as a team—and everyone plays a different role on the team at different times. What’s your starring role?

Coach Mike says: “I believe in the power of positive energy. If you are encouraging and optimistic, your teammates will follow your lead and it may inspire them to be more positive, too. Great attitudes are contagious and a huge asset on the eld … especially when you’re facing adversity and dif cult situations. Be a leader!”


ONE OF THE great perks of being on a competitive team is the opportunity to participate in tournaments around the country (some teams even travel around the world!). There are incredible tournaments that take place all over—there may even be a famous tournament that takes place in or near your hometown. Below are just a few of the largest and most unique tournaments that soccer-crazy girls everywhere might get to compete in someday:


One of the largest tournaments in the country has been held every July in Minneapolis, Minnesota, for more than twenty- ve years. The Schwan’s USA Cup—with more than 1,000 participating teams—is the largest international youth soccer tournament in the Western Hemisphere.


One of the top-ranked soccer tournaments in the northeast United States is also the only major soccer tournament that takes place entirely in New York City! More than 500 teams from across the country get to go to New York and play soccer in the heart of the Big Apple.


For almost forty years, the WAGS Tournament—in Washington, DC—has been the place for nationally ranked teams to showcase their skills every October.


This tournament, which is held in Texas, brings together some of the top youth soccer clubs from around the world. Forty percent of the 180 participating teams come from outside the United States, another forty percent come from across the US, and twenty percent of the teams are from the Dallas area. This tournament draws in a lot of college coaches and pro scouts from all over the world, so it’s a great place for future soccer stars to get noticed.


One of the most unique tournament facilities is the Golden Goal Tournament Park in New York’s Adirondack Mountains. The organizers of Golden Goal strive to provide an environment that almost feels like a mini–Olympic Village. The park has weekly tournaments, and visiting teams stay with each other in Athlete Village. Players are able to bond with their own teammates, and also get to know players from other teams.

Copyright © 2014 by Erin Downing

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About the Author,

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