It all started because I did what I always do when I’m a bit “down” or lonely—I grabbed my soccer ball and went out to find a wall to kick off of. In my typical fashion, I got obsessed trying to master some challenge I set for myself. Not thinking much of it, I decided to film myself and post the video on YouTube to see if anyone else could do it. From there, it became a fun little experiment—who out there in the world of the internet would try my skill challenge and post a video of themselves doing it?
And so, my YouTube channel grew and I felt the power of technology tying us all together; people from all over the world who shared this common interest. To my surprise, many people reach out and tell me how they use my training ideas or that their kids spend hours trying a certain Backyard Skill Challenge. It has become my way to give back.
Love the Journey
When I was 9, I dreamed of becoming a professional soccer player. Thanks to the hours and hours I spent on my own with the soccer ball, I’ve been able to live that dream. I was incredibly fortunate as a young player to have some amazing coaches and mentors, including my parents, who inspired me to spend time with the soccer ball, mastering the tool of my trade.
Players, parents, and coaches often ask me what’s the most important thing young players can do to set themselves up for success. My answer: Spend time with the ball! So many youth soccer players are playing the game without having mastered some of the basics that are vital to not only performing well and becoming elite, but enjoying the game more fully.Technique is one of the few things that athletes have complete control over. Click To Tweet
From ages 11-14, I was the only girl on an all-boys team. Overall, the boys were much more aggressive and athletic than me, even at that age. This was the time frame where I REALLY started to hone my technique. Not only is technique the great equalizer—there’s no reason that male and female players of any age should have a gap in technical ability—but it’s one of the few things athletes have complete control over.
Some people are born faster, quicker, bigger, or smaller, and there’s not much we can do about that. You can certainly improve your athletic capabilities, whatever they may be, in small percentages. But technique is something you have full control over as an athlete. There’s no magic or predisposition to it. It’s a simple equation—your ability correlates to the time you’ve put in to master the skill.
Moreover, ball control and skill are not qualities that exist in a vacuum. Developing these areas forces players to improve coordination, agility, quickness, and even flexibility and endurance. The process of practicing repetition and working towards mastering the ball also encourages athletes to be self-coaches and really delve into the concept of deep practice, which trains focus and mental toughness as well.It’s a simple equation—your ability correlates to the time you’ve put in to master the skill. Click To Tweet
Long term, I always had a vision of offering soccer players something a bit more substantial than the random training videos I put out on YouTube. When I was a young player, all that was available were a few VHS tapes that my dad would order from soccer catalogs. When they came in the mail, we’d watch them over and over and I’d write down all the skills from them to go out and practice on my own until I had them memorized. To this day, I can still quote lines from those videos!
Nowadays, there are thousands of videos out there all over YouTube and social media. There are tutorials, training sessions, freestyle, trick shots. I always tell players: “There’s no limit to what you can learn to do with the ball!” In addition to my YFutbol channel, here are a few YouTube channels I recommend:
With so many amazing ideas and resources out there, I saw that it could be hard for young players to figure out what’s most important to work on if they have the time and desire to train on their own. So, the idea for Techne Futbol was born.
Training with Techne
I wanted to create a way to curate all the amazing content available and give players an actual blueprint to follow to achieve their dreams. After all, that’s what I had done for myself, with the help of my amazing mentors and the limited resources I could find at the time. Beginning with the very ambitious vision of creating a personal trainer for each and every player out there, I set out to start with the minimum viable product.
- Profile Page: Each player can create a profile and view their stats: Total/Daily/Weekly Time Trained, Training Streak.
- Training Sessions: Every training session includes 30 total drills, all with a demo video and written description. Many drills have an option to adjust the difficulty so players can work along a progression, depending on their current ability. Each drill also includes a timer, which allows the player to work on the skill for one minute and then adds that time to their training log.
- Sock System: Similar to the belt system in martial arts, we have a Training Sock system where players earn their next level of socks after logging a certain amount of time in the app.
- Leaderboard Competition: Players can compete with others from all over the U.S. and the world and view where they stand on our Leaderboards.
- Time Trials: To measure technical proficiency, players are prompted to record scores in the app for various time trials. They can work to improve these scores over time and track their progress.
Types of Drills
- Juggling: If you love juggling, it’s probably because you’re good at it. If you hate it, it’s probably because you haven’t spent enough time practicing to make it fun! I think juggling is one of the most important skills to master, not just for first touch. It helps with balance and coordination, and it’s easy to keep track of your progress because you can count your juggles.
- Dribbling: The app includes stationary ball work, dribbling through cones set up in different formations, 1v1 moves, and pretty much any way you can imagine being on the move with the ball at your feet. Dribbling is cool to practice because there are a lot of different ways to be a good dribbler. Personally, I don’t often attempt to dribble past players (like Messi or Mallory Pugh), but I do pride myself on being able to maintain possession of the ball in tight spaces.
- Wall Work: While growing up, I always used to try to force my sister to train with me. On the days she refused, the wall was the perfect training partner. It never says no! I used to spend hours at the schoolyard near my house, kicking against the wall.
- One thing I like to stress through Techne is to get creative with your training. I train on/in fields, parking lots, parking garages, tennis courts, racquetball courts, driveways, and the house. That way there are no excuses. There’s always a way to make it work if you want to train!
Inspiring Youth Soccer Players to Own Their Development
The amazing thing about business and technology is that they’re incredibly similar to athletics in some ways. You start off with the grand vision of what you want to make or who you want to be. Then you ask yourself: “What can I do right now with the tools I have?” and “What should I be doing every single day to bring me closer to that vision?” As in athletics, I was well aware of my areas of expertise (my strengths) and where I would need to find experts I trust to guide me.
From the start, I employed the help of a friend and advisor, Samantha Weber. A former college soccer player, she understood the vision, and had also worked in the tech world in San Francisco. Samantha had a good understanding of business and technology, which I certainly lacked. She connected me with a freelance developer, Daniel Woodall.
Over roughly seven months, Dan built out the first version of Techne. It was a subscription-based web app that offered subscribers a weekly training session based on a drill library that I had spent hundreds of hours preparing as we built out the first version of the app. The idea was to spend minimal money (although if you could monetize my sweat equity it would definitely not be minimal!) and then scale up as we proved the concept was viable.
Since September 25, 2016, when we first opened signups and October 2, when the first training session went live, not a day has gone by that work hasn’t been put in to improve the product and user experience. Since then, we expanded our subscription system to allow for groups and I’ve brought an amazing developer, Russell Richardson, on board as a partner in the business. Through Russell’s work, Techne Futbol is now in the Apple and Google Play app stores and we continue to push forward on product development, chipping away with a very ambitious long-term vision in mind.
I view the project as threefold: the technology/product development, the development of the Techne system as a whole and the subscriber experience, and the actual training content. Each of these pieces is a constant work in progress. My goal is to form a community of people who care deeply about the process of mastery and skill development in soccer and leverage their expertise and passion to grow the Techne brand. The future will include more options for players and coaches to customize training sessions, as well as more training content from other players and coaches around the world.
Training with Techne is about embarking on a journey. It’s about making the ball your friend and understanding the process of mastery. But more importantly, it’s about empowerment. Techne subscribers comment all the time on how much more confident they feel when they play, and that they can feel themselves improving and doing things on the field that they weren’t able to before. And players don’t have to rely on their parents, coaches, or any fancy equipment to make that improvement. All they need is a ball, a wall, and the Techne app!
It’s been a fun but exceedingly challenging process to share this part of the sport that I love so much in a quality and engaging way. I’ve fallen in love with the puzzles of technology and business, in a similar way to falling in love with the soccer ball as a young girl. Techne Futbol has brought me full circle in some very powerful ways.