This past July, I had the opportunity to take the National "D" Course in Stockton, California. I arrived on the afternoon of July 18th. For the next four days, I ate, drank and slept soccer with a bunch of other soccer maniacs.
The first concept that we were introduced to that evening was "the SERVE." Koach Karl asked two of his former E/D students to demonstrate. The demonstration went something like this:
Both students had three flat cones in their hands. They proceeded to lay down the cones in a semi-triangle arrangement - ten yards apart from each other. The player with the ball (server) began the action by dribbling the ball in 'a designated pattern' around the cones. Once around the back cone she said the buzz words, "push, peak, pass." While saying these three words, she did exactly those three things.
At the same time, the player without the ball (receiver), was mirroring 'the servers' exact running pattern. (see illustration). After the 'server' passed the ball to the receiver she immediately became the First Defender (D1). When the receiver controlled the ball he immediately became the First Attacker (A1).
This was all very confusing to me because I did not understand why they were doing all of these things. Koach Karl explained that 'the SERVE' was to become the basis of starting our coaching games. The 1 v. 1 or 2 v.1 games would all start with "the SERVE." My personal question was, "Why?"
I took a look at the mechanics of 'the SERVE' and realized that it provided the repetitive environment necessary in acquiring basic technique. Each player was getting a great deal of touches on the ball. More touches would mean better ball control, more confidence with some conditioning and coordination. By practicing the "push, peak and pass" mantra, players would remind themselves to look up before passing the ball. While on the other side, the player without the ball 'receiver' had to automatically practice the 'looking and controlling' techniques. Done repetitively, over the course of a season, "the SERVE" might help teach my players those and possibly other fundamentals.
I coach 7 and 8 year olds. Granted it took some time and patience to teach them "the SERVE". But it was worth every moment since it has 'truly' helped me to simplify the teaching of the basics to them. We, now, start all of our games with 'the SERVE'. Often "the SERVE" is the game. For passing accuracy, I will place cones in the center of the grid so that each player must pass the ball between the cones. For every successful pass, the player receives a point.
In teaching the kids how to pass/shoot with their left foot, I'll set the back cone on the left hand side. This forces them to concentrate as they are dribble through the pattern and then work on making a successful left footed pass/shot.
I now recommend that all youth coaches begin any action or game with 'the SERVE'. Of course, "the SERVE" in itself will not make every child a Landon Donovan or a Claudio Reyna but it will help with their fundamentals. I am convinced that, instinctive performance of the fundamentals will make each child's soccer experience a better one, and 'the SERVE' will help them accomplish this goal!