Tom Byer’s approach to youth development in soccer has been internationally recognized. He has done a lot of work in Asia, in countries like China and Japan.
Recently, Byer was on Long Island sharing is Soccer Starts At Home philosophy at an event hosted by Massapequa Soccer Club.
“My presentation is all about trying to make people think differently,” Byer told LIJSoccer.com. ” I want them to understand that the learning of technical skills can happen at a much earlier age.
“I also want parents in particular to understand their role in helping their child to develop. The entry level for the sport is not kicking and shooting all the time, but learning to have a relationship with the ball at your feet from an early age. Kids in most soccer-cultured countries fall in love with the ball first and then the game. Thats the biggest takeaway I want people to know and that this can start as soon as a child starts walking!”
The goal of Byer’s methods are to develop technique at the earliest of ages, while developing a love for the game and was fueled by his own experiences with his children.
This came about when my first child was born and I placed many small balls in each room of my house and when my son would play with the ball, I would discourage kicking and encourage pulling the ball back and learning the basics like stopping and starting, turning, pulling the ball back, and protecting the ball,” Byer said.
“Kids are engaging with a ball from a very young age, usually between two to five years old, so I figured this could be replicated with other families.”
Byer’s focus on youth development was also influenced by working alongside camps with former England striker Paul Mariner, who introduced him to Wiel Coerver and the Coerver method of coaching that he developed.
On the impact of teaching the technical aspects of soccer to young players, Byer said: “Players can always improve their technical ability, but at the youngest ages it’s much quicker and will assure the player enjoys playing throughout their life. It’s tantamount to learning to ride a bicycle early in life versus trying to ride when later.”
Byer noted that he uses a “very simple approach” that puts players in many small-sided games.
The LIJSL has taken a similar approach through its Club Development Days, which focuses on U7 and U8 players playing in several small-sided games to learn the joy of the game as well as the necessary technique needed when advancing on in the game as they grow up.
Another important factor is the motto behind LIJSL – Building Character Through Soccer. Byer agreed with that sentiment.
“Soccer is just a vehicle for many things,” he said. “It not only builds character, but many other things important in life. You learn teamwork, resilience, discipline, winning and losing, and the list goes on. But now we are learning that playing soccer or sports at all has tremendous cognitive and educational benefits as well. The reality is that sports in general develop better human beings.”
Byer, who is the Head Technical Advisor for the Chinese School Football Program Office and Official CSR Grassroots Ambassador, is now hoping to spread his Soccer Starts At Home further across Long Island and the U.S.
“Long Island needs to continue developing players and coaches such as they have done in the past,” he said. “We need to work even harder though to bring kids into our game. There are many distractions and kids are turning away from soccer and sports in general with many other things to do.
“We need to promote soccer just not for the sport of it but to show parents that kids have many benefits in playing sports. I just worked with Massapequa Soccer Club and, under the leadership of the President Yuri Fishman and DOC Paul Biglin, we are trying to create the first ever “Soccer Starts at Home” movement on Long Island which could serve as a model for the rest of Long Island, New York, and perhaps the country!”