Longtime Cambria soccer coach Luis Plasencia enjoys teaching the fundamentals and nuances of the game, but when it comes to which is the more receptive age group — the varsity high school boys he coaches in November or the younger players he’ll coach in September — “The younger kids listen to you more,” he says with his ready smile.
Plasencia will have plenty of listeners as he coaches up to 15 13- and 14-year-old boys in the Cambria Youth Athletic Association (CYAA) soccer program next month.
Although nearly all the players on Plasencia’s team will have had some experience, “As a coach, you have to start over with the basics. That is, you start with the techniques of soccer.”
He’s talking about ball control and conditioning. His first goal with players is to teach juggling (kicking the ball up and down over and over while standing in place to practice control). The coach then assigns small groups in a circle, and they juggle the ball back and forth to each other.
Then they practice dribbling (moving up and down the field controlling the ball with practiced footwork). “They love to do that,” Plasencia says.
Another skill that the coach will work on is passing the ball. He emphasizes that you don’t “kick the ball with your toe. You don’t want to use the toe; you will get into a bad habit.”
Players run the risk of breaking a toe if they get into that habit, albeit if a player gets a shot at the goal, Plasencia said “You need to get it into the net anyway you can do it!”
More than simply being in good condition and being able to dribble the ball with skill, players must be able to “visualize how their teammates are moving on the field,” Plasencia continues.
As his team practices and jells as a functioning group, Plasencia will be looking to see which boy shows leadership.
“I want a leader who is able to teach other kids the real concepts of the game,” he says. “Not just kicking the ball, but how to mold your team and how to improve your team.
“There is so much talent in Cambria, with kids coming up,” Plasencia says. “I will find leaders in my group, the ones who set the example for the others.”
One thing Plasencia asks of his players is to be on time, to in fact come a bit early so they’re ready to go when practice begins.
“Cambria, unfortunately, has kids with that habit, coming late. I’m going to emphasize this: If you’re going to play soccer, you have to be there early and be ready.”
How will Plasencia enforce his rule about being early?
“That’s a good question,” he replied with the grin of a coach who is strict but simpatico as well.