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Shakespeare on Grass

My eldest daughter Brittany, a Legends and Kansas ODP soccer player in her youth, was a drama student at Kansas University (2007-2011). She played leading roles in many amateur drama productions during high school and college and is now a part-time professional actress.

She also runs a Happy Feet soccer business. In her words, the Legends program is Shakespeare on Grass.” She informs me that acting a Shakespearean lead is the most difficult task in the thespian world. As she explains it, “Shakespeare is so incredibly challenging because the actors have to learn to emote and convey feelings in a completely different language.”

For those not familiar with the genre, Shakespearean lines are delivered in Elizabethan English, a language medium that is significantly different from modern English. As such, it presents the actor with unique performance complications and components that make occupying center stage and the spotlight a much more difficult and daunting task than performing plays in modern English.

AB-239.jpgBrittany explained to me how the Legends way of teaching soccer, which is based on process, with its expectancy of creativity and leadership, is the sporting equivalent of playing a lead role in a Shakespeare play. Her premise is that the Legends method of using high-risk, deceptive dribbling with significant finishes increases the degree of difficulty in soccer. In the same way, the Shakespearean actor has to communicate creatively in a strange and difficult language, Legends players have to use the most daunting and difficult dribbling and ball-striking skills–a strange soccer language–in order to dominate an opponent.

Furthermore, she explained how drama and soccer share numerous critical character-defining components. These include: embracing the spotlight, connecting emotionally with the audience, conquering a wide range of difficult performance skills, and improvising when things don’t go to plan. Because of her expertise in drama and soccer, Brittany was able to identify and connect core benefits provided by learning the most difficult genres of both disciplines.

Brittany’s insight led me to critically examine the learning and growth factors inherent to Shakespearean acting and team soccer. It quickly became apparent that both genres share a beyond-the-summit component, where the benefits of conquering opening night jitters or the next opponent or whatever immediate mountaintop are merely stepping stones to the wider value of bravery and creativity for life.

Inherent to all personal learning is the need to improve, to go beyond what you can currently do. Learning only occurs in new territory. New territory is uncomfortable because it involves stress and uncertainty–complexities and challenges never previously encountered. This newness can be frightening enough to discourage greater exploration and, therefore, further growth. Complexity theory points out that learning and growth occur at the “edge of chaos.”

An old friend, Robyn Jones, is one of the world’s leading authorities on complexity theory. He writes, “In depicting sporting activity as being reliant on patterns of interactions between individuals, this evolving conceptualization has placed coaching close to the tenets of complexity theory inclusive of both predictable and random results, and where small differences in initial conditions can result in large changes in outcomes.”

Rudolph Steiner, the architect of the Waldorf Educational Method states, “We can never repair what we have neglected as educators in the first seven years. Just as nature brings about the right environment for the physical human body before birth, so after birth the educator must provide for the right physical environment. It is the right physical environment alone, which works upon the child in such a way that the physical organs shape themselves aright.”

Robyn Jones’s writing highlights the benefits of pushing children to the limits of their tolerance for complexity, while Steiner’s emphasizes the importance of the first seven years of a child’s life. The remaining years of one’s life are of unquestionable importance, but the first seven years are where the die is cast.

ABarney.jpgThe Legends approach to coaching optimizes child potential from a very early age through the intelligent use of Complexity Theory at the “edge of chaos.” We challenge all children, including the very youngest, in unique and fun ways.

The “Shakespeare on Grass” story aptly describes our unique methods. Coaches in all sports subscribe to the need to build expertise in the four pillars: technique, tactics, physiology and psychology. Put another way, children have to be taught to be skillful, knowledgeable, fit and mentally capable.

It all starts with technique and skill. Children are much more capable than we give them credit for. Most coaches begin the technique journey with the push pass. The push pass is the simplest pass. It is performed with the inside of the foot. It seems logical to begin in this manner, yet it isn’t! Soccer is the world’s most popular team game, so, logically, the first technique should be the easiest and most common team skill–passing–right? Wrong! Young children are more than capable of learning the more difficult technique of shooting from day one.

From a technical perspective, the coach who focuses on shooting takes the child to the “edge of chaos.” The world’s greatest players all started their soccer odyssey by shooting against other kids in their neighborhood. Passing wasn’t even on their radar. When traditional coaches become involved in youth soccer, the focus quickly turns to passing and tactics; the involvement of traditional coaches in youth soccer has actually retarded child development. The Legends approach is to maximize the speed of child development by focusing on deceptive dribbling and shooting from day one. These are the two “edge of chaos” skills of soccer. They are highly pressured and very difficult. However, the Legends Club has proven conclusively that even the youngest of children can start their soccer journey at a much higher level than the coaching profession typically gives them credit for.

AB-212.jpgThe bonus is that shooting and dribbling are the two most motivational skills of soccer. Because they’re more fun, the Legends methods are vastly more motivational than traditional ones. What’s the point in coaching if the child doesn’t want to play? In the new Legends indoor training environment, the surroundings are structured to promote an incredible degree of repetition, resulting in amazing skill acquisition. Tight spaces, rebound surfaces, the best shooting and dribbling coaches–these are all components that create a complex feast of soccer multi-tasking.

The benefits of learning to play soccer are immense. Character development leads to personal fulfillment and a meaningful life, which is invaluable. In the Legends Club, while children develop incredible technical skills, they simultaneously build self concept, elite physical fitness, discipline, bravery and creativity. This motivates them to put forth even greater effort. The combination of fun and challenge makes the hard task of learning new skills and acquiring new abilities more enjoyable and fulfilling than traditional methods.

Copyright © 2011 by USIndoor, Inc.  Write the editor of GOAL Online, Sylvie Green, at sylvie@usindoor.com.