Following the recent US Youth Soccer rule changes and heading restrictions, there have been a swarm of studies and new findings concerning the impact of heading on the brain. We want to try to distill some of the concerns people are having with heading, what the studies have shown to date, and what you can do to help minimize brain trauma risk in soccer as a parent, coach, or player.
Recent findings have shown that the sub-concussive impacts of a regulation soccer ball cause both short term and long term mental health problems. Studies have shown that repeatedly heading a regulation ball causes short term impairment of brain function with as much as a 41-67% decline in memory test performance:
On average, soccer players head the ball six to 12 times during games, and 30 times or more during practice. Scientists are worried that repeated "subconcussive" impacts of the brain — getting shaken in the skull — might result in brain damage such as laceration of nerve fibers.
What recent research has found, is that there is a threshold number of 885 headers with a regulation ball that we don’t want to exceed per year in order to minimize the risk of developing long term brain damage symptoms. Players who had exceeded this threshold of 885 times a year or more showed cognitive impairments consistent with brains who had sustained traumatic brain injury.
"Our study provides compelling preliminary evidence that brain changes resembling mild traumatic brain injury are associated with frequently heading a soccer ball over many years," Says Dr. Michael L. Lipton, associate director of Magnetic Resonance Research Center at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University.
Another major concern for head injuries in soccer is from a collision with another player. In order to minimize the chances of players colliding heads during a header, the safest technique for performing a header needs to be trained. Just like learning any new skill, players need a high number of repetitions practicing proper technique to learn effectively.
...So how do soccer players practice these necessary repetitions without exceeding the threshold that causes brain damage?
Why soccer needs our product to exist:
We have created a solution to this problem in the form of a lightweight ball that maximizes the simulation of a normal ball's flight pattern, and minimizes the sub-concussive impact when heading the ball. (It doesn't even register in a test for impact by top concussion research labs!)* Tested using Tri-Ax SIM-P Technology*
“Eliminating head injuries in soccer is likely impossible, but reducing exposure and enhancing player safety is not,” says NSCAA Director of Coaching Education Ian Barker, who uses our ball for instruction in the new heading NSCAA course featuring Abby Wambach, focusing on techniques, practice activities and preparations. “What’s important is that coaches emphasize correct positioning and stance for executing safe, purposeful, and effective headers.”
Our lightweight ball allows players to get those high number of repetitions of practice that are needed to learn the safest technique for winning a header, while also keeping players well below that dangerous threshold of 885 headers per year with a regulation soccer ball. We have also included heading progressions and videos of how to use The Heading Trainer to teach correct heading in our free mobile app for iOS and Android. So, when the inevitable situation comes where players need to use their head during a match, they will do so more safely and effectively.
Through our Ball for a Ball program, for every Heading Trainer ball sold, we also donate a high quality soccer ball to disadvantaged youth in the USA through the ASK Foundation.
We stumbled upon Spanish Club Unidad TEC Academy through Facebook recently, and loved their video utilizing The Training Triangles, check it out here:
We immediately reached out to them and found that their Academy has been consistently implementing TTM in their passing and finishing drills and, "[The Training Triangle] is perfect to develop in players the optimum body orientation." Here's what else they had to say about TTM (roughly translated):
"Our players are already perfecting their technical skills with this method!
In TEC we have incorporated the Triangle Method to our pass wheels, technical figures, isolated domain stations, dribble drills ... The method is used in the top academies at European level for the development of its contents."
Bueno, TEC!! This is a fantastic example of an Academy fully utilizing the potential of TTM by incorporating the triangles into their 'pass wheels' (also known as pattern recognition training or mannequin training), technical figures, isolated domain stations, and dribble drills.
Needless to say, we hope to stumble upon many more videos of how coaches are implementing TTM within their own teams.. and when we do we will be sure to share them in future posts!
If you've been following The Triangle Training Method for the two years that we've been putting out content for coaches, you're aware that one of our primary pillars we teach and emphasize is this importance of 'mannequin training'. In fact, two of our articles that shed some light on mannequin training were just named the two most popular coaching articles of 2016 by Amplified Soccer. We have also expanded our reach, with our training method being implemented in 36 countries and counting. Clearly, this particular topic is of great interest to many coaches around the world.
In an effort to provide even more clarity, we would like to propose a revised phrasing of the term 'mannequin training', and change it to something that more fully discloses why the Triangle Training Method has experienced such rapid growth and interest in such a short time globally. This new phrase is called pattern recognition training.
So, why this new term?
Well for one, we believe that the term "mannequin training" is actually missing the point. Yes, top European clubs and elite coaches the world over have often used mannequins to conduct this style of training and develop the best players in the world. However, we have found that it is not the height of a traditional mannequin that is most important, but the space that the mannequin takes, to assist with players visualizing where a defender is on the field. By only occupying the space of the mannequin, we have simplified this type of training and made it more portable and at a fraction of the cost, unlocking this method to a much larger audience of coaches.
Furthermore, what is most important about the Triangle Training Method, and the point that many coaches may be missing when they hear the term "mannequin training", is that this training style specifically educates players in the kinds of patterns that have the most success on the field. Training these specific patterns develops selective attention within players. Selective attention is important in soccer because it helps players organize the chaos, and make the right decisions, faster. With our training method, players will be getting maximum repetitions of the many different potential patterns within these shapes that will allow them to have success on the field.
Using pattern recognition training, players will be given the opportunity to understand the most effective patterns on the field, the correct spacing within those patterns, and the proper timing both on and off the ball. They will also simultaneously be training the proper techniques of passing, receiving, dribbling, turning, and shooting that are essential as well to player and team success.
Free play, of course, is extremely important in training as well, and we offer examples of how to smoothly transition from pattern recognition training using the triangles, to small sided games so players are able to practice these patterns and freely make their own decisions both on and off the ball. We suggest that your job as a coach here is to positively reinforce players when they successfully recognize and attempt a pattern during free play. This reinforcement by you will aid to further strengthen your players selective attention and ability to recognize patterns.
So how does all of this translate to the end goal, that is, playing beautiful soccer and winning games?
Pattern recognition training, coupled with small sided free play games, and your positive reinforcement as a coach over time, will translate to your players making quick, split second decisions both on and off the ball. Their mind is the key to their success. They will be able to think quicker and therefor act quicker. Players will instinctively move to the right supporting areas of the field, at the right time, and at the right angles. Through recognition of patterns, players will begin to understand the game at a more advanced level, allowing them the confidence to make their own creative decisions as a result. It will be a joy to watch as a coach.
Amplified Soccer has reviewed their analytics for the past year and have counted down below the 16 most read posts in 2016, with The Triangle Training Method holding both the 1st place and 2nd place positions for the year! Thank you to all of our contributors that helped make it an amazing year. We hope everyone has a great 2017! Full List
16. Finishing Drills Making Use of the Entire Team
This drill incorporates game related components and involves the whole team in the build-up to the shot. The outline for this drill is below the video along with the rest of the session outline. Watch Now
15. Aerobic Endurance Training Session by Ritchie Semple
If you want to compete at your best at soccer, you need to commit to pre-season training, so that your team’s strength and cardiovascular fitness peaks at the right time. This drill can get you started.
14. Individual Defending Exercises by Jeff Tipping
When defense is discussed, it is often in the context of the team. Yes, the defensive system employed by a coach, whether it is man-to-man or zonal, is important. But what are as important and often overlooked are the technical and tactical defensive abilities of the individual players. Keep Reading
13. Soccer Awareness Elite Academy and Barcelona Double Rondos for 10 Players – Part 1 by Wayne Harrison
This exercise is what the SAEA and Barcelona thinking model of passing and movement is built on. This is a transition game teaching a mentality to switch from attacking to defending and defending to attacking We build it up to make it work with real pace and accuracy; as again; it speeds up the mind and body in decision making. Keep Reading
12. The American Future Coach: The DaVinci Coach by Jeff Tipping
UEFA’s brilliant Technical Director, Andy Roxburgh, penned the phrase DaVinci Coach shortly after the book ‘The DaVinci Code’ hit the bestselling charts. His 2007 presentation in Basle, Switzerland focusing on the skills of the European future coach captivated an audience of European Technical Directors who came away inspired and anxious to get to work. Over the years I have found that Andy has that effect on people. It set me on the road to thinking about the skills our American “Future Coaches” must have in our unique and challenging position. Read More
11. Barcelona Rondo: Angled Passing and Moving in 4s by Wayne Harrison
This is a very simple but effective angled passing and moving drill teaching speed of play; accuracy of passing and angles of support. This is a grounding to prepare the thinking process in players in a very simple but effective way. The real test is when they get to ONE TOUCH passing and moving. Read More
10. Training The Final Pass / Breaking the Lines from The Triangle Training Method
Training players to know how and when to play the final pass that breaks down defenses is an extremely important piece of training for your team's attacking players. These type of passes, that are executed so consistently by elite playmakers like David Silva and Andrés Iniesta, are exciting to watch and often result in quality chances on goal. Watch Now
9. Preparing to Play – a Mental Warm Up by Dan Abrahams
How do you conduct yourself in the hour before kick off? What do you do? How do you go about preparing for an important game? As the match approaches so you should have protocols that help your body and your mind attune to competitive intensity. So let’s go step by step through a great pre-game mental warm up. I hope it will help you. Get The Script
8. Developing Decision Making Speed in Soccer from Performance Conditioning Soccer
This article discusses an important element affecting soccer performance - decision making speed. A player's ability to make correct split- second decisions is particularly critical at higher levels of competition where time and space are limited. The individual who can consistently choose the best course of action from a variety of possible options under conditions of limited time, restricted space, physical fatigue and challenging opponents will have a decided edge on players who lack that ability. Read More
7. Passing Patterns to Combine from Soccer Champions Coaches' Clinic
Passing patterns are designed patterns which players execute in a pre-set order. The patterns can range from very simple to very complex. These Passing Patterns to Combine drills develop technical ability, increase coordination of player movements, establish timing & rhythm, increase passing accuracy and player focus. Get The Drills
6. Awareness Session Warm Up by Wayne Harrison
Use this drill to make sure your team is physically and mentally prepared for their training session or game. Get The Drill
5. 7 Crazy Quick Ideas to Improve Your Soccer Game by Dan Abrahams
Working on your soccer psychology doesn’t need to be complicated or time consuming. I’m going to keep this brief. I’m going to keep this simple. But I promise each point works, and each point is powerful. Read More
4. How much time should young players spend with the ball? from 1v1 Soccer FC
From 1v1 Soccer FC’s perspective, the Arsenal model confirms our belief that for players to become successful in the game, they must be practicing more and more with the ball. Steve Bould (former Arsenal defensive star as a player, current assistant manager and former youth team coach) believes that young English players are still behind young European players in terms of weekly training time. Read More
3. Youth Conditioning - Integrating Speed, Agility, Strength and Fitness Training into Practice from Performance Conditioning Soccer
Time is always a consideration, with some club teams coming together only a few times a week. The coach has a lot to worry about. For coaches pressed for time, make speed and agility part of your warm up routine. Here's a progression that you can use. Keep Reading
2. Full Triangle Training Method Session #1 from The Triangle Training Method
With The Triangle Training Method learn mannequin training exercises used by top European teams such as Arsenal and Bayern Munich as well as games that create environments to pass and play in triangles. All age groups and skill levels can benefit from this type of training. Here is a sample training session
1. Mannequin Training, Pep Guardiola and The Triangle Training Method from The Triangle Training Method
Watch Pep Guardiola's former Bayern Munich 1st Team, an exemplary top European team, performing mannequin training. This is why Coach Warming believes it to be so important that US Soccer adopts this training methodology for player development throughout all age groups and tiers. Proper mannequin training is the most efficient way to give players functional repetitions of different patterns of play on the field. Watch Now
Penn State Men's Soccer Coach Bob Warming has been using mannequin training to develop successful players and teams for years. "Substituting mannequins with The Training Triangles has solved the portability, storage, transportation and other issues we've experienced while using full sized mannequins to train pattern play for the last 8 years" states Warming. But the PSU Head Coach isn't the only one beginning to seek a solution to the numerous issues with mannequins, as the list of Men's and Women's College, Club, and High School teams now using The Training Triangle is rapidly growing. Coaches can now easily implement mannequin training with their teams, without needing to haul full sized mannequins from a storage facility to the field everyday.
The Triangle Training Method and Pep Guardiola
Warming has helped design a completely free website TheTriangleTrainingMethod.com aimed at sharing innovative training methodologies to develop players of all age groups and skill levels. The site outlines some of his team's training practices in Fall 2015 using mannequin training like this one:
Notice Any Similarities?
As you probably know, this is Pep Guardiola's Bayern Munich 1st Team, an exemplary top European team, performing mannequin training. This is why Coach Warming believes it to be so important that US Soccer adopts this training methodology for player development throughout all age groups and tiers. Proper mannequin training is the most efficient way to give players functional repetitions of different patterns of play on the field.
TheTriangleTrainingMethod.com will continue to update its completely free website with new content throughout the spring, introducing many new mannequin training exercises. Subscribe to be on their mailing list here.
The Training Triangle provides a portable and affordable solution for coaches to implement mannequin training with their players, regardless of whether or not they are training in a world class facility, a gym floor, or their front yard. We will also continue to make additions to our Team Training Guide, with diagrams breaking down exercises such as the ones being implemented in the above video by Pep Guardiola (along with additional variations of this diamond training exercise).
Here's a look at one of our favorite playmakers #21 David Silva, using the across body cut pass (mostly in the final 1/3 of the field) to break through the lines of the defense and pass out of tight space.
The next time you watch a top European match, take note of how many times this pass, where a players hips are facing one direction, but he passes in a different direction, is used. Chances are, you will see almost every player in every position use this type of pass, yet a majority of passing exercises currently available never train it! If we want our players to consistently pull off this type of pass, shouldn't we be providing them with environments that give them the maximum repetitions, in the shortest period of time, training this technique? We think so. (and we've seen the results) The cut pass is one of the fundamental techniques we train to break the lines of the defense and pass out of tight space in The Triangle Training Method eBook:
Training players to know how and when to play the final pass that breaks down defenses is an extremely important piece of training for your team's attacking players.
These type of passes, that are executed so consistently by elite playmakers like David Silva and Andrés Iniesta, are exciting to watch and often result in quality chances on goal. More importantly this pass is usually an across body pass where the players hips are facing one direction (perhaps facing the defender), but he passes the ball with his leg swinging across his body, in a different direction. This is an important type of pass for players to train, and perfect their technique, as it is used all the time to successfully break the lines of the opponents defense.
Watch 21 David Silva cut passes used to play between the lines of the opponents defense:
In order for these "breaking the lines" passes to come off consistently with your team, the timing and type of pass needs to be properly trained, as well as the timing and type of run made by the receiving player.
This Final Pass Set Up is just one of the many mannequin training exercises Arsenal uses with their first team as well as youth teams to train players to consistently execute the final pass: