Tamir Linhart is a former two time All-American at George Mason University and a player with one of Israel's premier soccer teams, Hapoel Tel-Aviv, where he played for seven seasons. His Golden Boot Soccer program is a fixture in the region having trained hundreds of local youth from recreation to competitive travel programs. flyburst asked Tamir to discuss his approach, talk about special programs including those created for girls, and his perspectives on youth soccer.
fb: Can you discuss your program and team offerings?
GB: Golden Boot offers a variety of soccer training programs such as Club Development, Summer Camps, Winter Indoor Training, Private / Small Group Training, After School and Lil Boots classes for kids age 3-6. Some of the specialty programs we run are the Art of Scoring Goals, Player Development, Play with the Pros, All Girls, Goalkeeper Training, Speed & Agility Training and more. In addition, we provide professional trainers and coaches for teams, provide consulting services for parent-coaches and run Coaches Education Workshops. We recently ran out first soccer tournament, which was a big success.
fb: What’s the approach to teaching and coaching at Golden Boot (GB)?
GB: Our approach to training is holistic. We are striving to develop soccer players and also great people as well. Our main goal is to instill a love and passion for the game starting with the proper fundamentals. We provide the basic tools through teaching the technical, tactical, physical and psychological pillars of the game in a fun atmosphere. At Golden Boot, we want to be able to provide a solid technical base for our players, but also have them develop their soccer intelligence. By soccer intelligence, we mean that we strive for the players to become decision makers and problem solvers – not to have us dictate their every move but to provide
them with the right tools to succeed on their own. The majority of our trainers have either played collegiately or professionally, with some kind of youth licensing (we prefer USSF Licenses). Most of our trainers boast very impressive resumes as players and coaches – so they know what it takes. Even more important than that, their enthusiasm, ability to relate to young players, and make learning fun is what really separates us from the rest.
fb: GB has an “All Girls” program. Can you talk about the program and its purpose and methods? Is a different training approach used than what you might use with boys?
GB: Last summer we experimented with the “All Girls” program as a half-day camp and it was a great success. The program is not simply to segregate genders with no real purpose, but to provide an environment for young girls to be able to succeed in a different setting than the typical soccer program (aside from teams). The same principle applies to our Winter Programs. Generally we do not gr oup based on gender in our programs, so we wanted to give those who might be interested an avenue to stay with us and explore that option. The program is not simply a traditional program that just happens to be without boys, but it’s more of an experience for young girls to spend time training and working with our top female trainers who serve as figureheads for these young players. We also incorporate a lot of aspects which are key for female players including goal-setting, team building, and presentations fr om some of our top female trainers who know what it takes.
I wouldn’t say that a different training approach is only required for Girls vs. Boys – but I would say that all players are different, and you have to know how to train and approach each as individuals, regardless of gender. Each player has their own needs an d it’s our job to be able to motivate them, find what drives them, so it’s that much more important to understand them in order to do so. Different training approaches are not something that is limited to gender – but it helps to understand each as individuals!
fb: GB has a “Play with the Pros” program based on a “street soccer” model. Can you explain the program and why you launched it?
This is one of our most popular programs, and beneficial as well. Street-soccer refers to an informal pickup game with the most basic of set ups and no structured coaching. Players are encouraged to be creative, experiment with their skills and not be afraid to make mistakes. It promotes originality, imagination and builds self confidence as they develop their own style of play. Our goal is to create players as problem solvers and decision makers – and Play with the Pros provides a platform for kids to do so. One of the biggest criticisms of US Youth Soccer is that kids just don’t out and play as much as they should – Play with the Pros not only gives players an opportunity to play and be creative, but to learn some moves and create their own with our Trainers as mentors. Trainers don’t serve as actual coaches, but ‘big kids.’ Kids get the opportunity to observe how high level college and professional players play and learn by example.
fb: What are the phases of skill and physical development for kids entering and participating in soccer. What’s the right age to get started?
GB: Our Parent Organized programs start with kids as early as 2.5-3 years old. At this age it’s simply movement but learning to “take the ball with you” and having the ball as your “ best friend.” Between 4 and 6 kids typically get involved in our organized programs’
- Age 3-6 (Lil’ Boots): Our goal is not to develop soccer skills at that age but to instill passion and love for the game as well as to get the kids comfortable with the ball
- Ages 7-9: At this age we really focus on individual technical skills. It is crucial to develop a solid technical base at this age, with a small focus on playing with a team-mate
- Ages 10-13: Focus is on more advance technical skills, introducing tactical concepts and soccer intelligence to nurture their decision making capability
- Ages 14-18 (high school): The technical base should already be constructed, tactical concepts are more complex, formations, functional training
fb: What, if any, concerns do you have about youth soccer play?
GB: One of the biggest concerns I have for youth soccer in America, especially, but all over the world as well, is the focus on winning vs. player development. At the big academies, the focus is not on winning or losing - but to develop the players individually so that they can be the best they can be. If they do that, winning will naturally follow.
Coaching is also a concern, as it goes hand in hand with the emphasis on winning. Coaches need to be constantly educating themselves and be willing to know and understand their players in order to fulfill their duties as coaches. They must constantly be educating themselves, especially if they have not played at a high level to make sure they are leading these young players in the right direction. This will aid in designing sessions, especially age-appropriate activities, which is something a lot of Coaches lack knowledge of if they have not been formally taught or trained.
As we mentioned earlier in the Play with the Pros discussion – the lack of free play, ‘street soccer’ is a definite roadblock to these kids’ success. In addition to the structure practices, they need to develop their love and passion through playing in their neighborhood and with their friends. This is crucial as it not only allows them more time on the ball, but improves their awareness and vision simply by having more exposure to the game.
fb: What role can parents play in helping to navigate their child through a successful experience with soccer?
GB: The biggest thing parents can do to help navigate their child through any successful experience, regardless if it is soccer or not, is limited intervention and confidence building. A no-pressure environment parents create, helps children feel comfortable and uninhibited. Whether they choose soccer or paper mache, an environment which allows children to explore their own individuality and develop their own sense of being will without a doubt provide a positive outcome. That being said, sometimes children (even adults) require critiquing in order to grow – in which case, constructive criticism approached in the right way has to be exercised.
You can reach Tamir Linhart at Golden Boot Soccer at firstname.lastname@example.org