By Tim Grainey
iSoccer.org has been receiving a lot of publicity recently, particularly from NSCAA sponsored Fox Soccer college games. For decades, soccer coaches and administrators have worked to improve the technical skills of American youth so that they can compete on an equal level with top players from around the world as they advance in the sport. iSoccer.org is an educational and motivational tool for young soccer players—both recreational and competitive—aimed to address that skills gap. iSoccer.org brings together the immediacy and practicality of online testing and measurement with that sometimes elusive quest to improve technical skills.
Scott Leber founded iSoccer.org in 2008. A Stanford graduate and former professional player, Leber feels that his company is unique in bringing online technology to fundamentally help reduce the technical gap of American players.
Leber says that their key questions in developing the company were: “How do we motivate and excite players to spend more time on the ball and how do we develop U.S. players to be more technical with the ball?”
Their method drew a number of partners who have implemented the iSoccer.org system, including youth soccer clubs in all 50 states, along with eight state soccer organizations and eight national organizations--including the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. iSoccer.org has collected over 485,000 assessments on these skills, involving over 14 million touches of the ball.
iSoccer.org’s program begins when a player takes a standardized “soccer” test online at iSoccer.org. The test includes 16 technical skills such as head juggling, juggling with a preferred and non-preferred foot, change of pace dribbling (preferred and non-preferred foot), aerial control, ball striking and speed. A player can submit a score (unverified) or a coach can submit it (verified). Sometimes teams do the test together; sometimes it is done in pairs but it was designed so that an individual player who wants to improve can take it alone.
Leber says that, “The test is the starting point of the solution to have players feel more comfortable on the ball.”
After the standardized assessment, players and their coaches can watch and compare their performance to videos for each skill so that they can improve. The videos show basic moves—such as step over moves--progressing to advanced moves (even at the Lionel Messi level). The online assessment allows coaches and players to breakdown specific areas for individuals to work on. iSoccer.org strives to be fun to use and a graph plots what a player should work on, based on their iSoccer.org score. They then can repeat the test a few months later and follow through the same process.
Leber saw no fundamental difference between his technical coaching approach and those of popular British, Brazilian and Dutch skill-based training programs, other than the online component and the quantification, “to systematically drive improvement.” Leber believes that their targeted training approach produces more complete and dynamic players, while helping to motivate kids all at the same time. iSoccer.org leverages the best that eLearning programs have to offer in terms of motivational psychology.
Earlier this month, Tanya Antonucci, the founder and former commission of Women’s Pro Soccer and herself a former Stanford soccer player, joined iSoccer.org’s Board of Directors. Antonucci said, “iSoccer.org’s product is unique in the marketplace. It fuses the benefits of online technology and national standards with individual player assessments to provide a platform for technical proficiency and improvement. It’s such an incredibly useful tool for all teams, coaches and individuals that I envision it growing into a must-have in both elite and recreational training and development.”
Leber explained, “In many ways, we are a fusion of sports with standardized testing. We are establishing a standard measurement of success through our assessments and then empowering players around the globe to maximize their potential and literally raise their level.”
Leber hopes to add videos and scores from players of all ages from other countries in the years to come, so that coaches and players can benchmark their skill acquisition with players from Argentina, Brazil Italy, Spain and other countries. To learn more about iSoccer.org, go to www.iSoccer.org.
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