These days, training goes beyond the pitch.

If we saw any silver linings from our forced hiatus from team training due to Covid-19, it was the opportunity for our club to innovate and improve our approach. We strive to remain connected to our players beyond their team training sessions.

While some clubs saw Zoom meetings and players training in isolation as obstacles, we embraced the challenge and are proud to introduce our Virtual Academy: a new staple in our methodologies.

At a high level, the Virtual Academy provides players and families invaluable ideas and environments throughout the year in order to maximize the player's comfort, strength and balance on the ball while challenging our older Pre-Academy players to start thinking deeper about the tactical side of the game.

This program teaches our players how to train on their own and then holds them accountable for their development on and off the ball.

Development by Design

Coach Brower demonstrating technique during a Virtual Training Session.

There are five main influences that help a young player reach his or her full potential:

  1. Household, parent and family
  2. Playing on your own
  3. Pick-up games
  4. Structured club training
  5. Personal training

Our club aims to provide our players with all five aspects. Specifically, the Virtual Academy supplements a player’s existing team training days and specializes in the three bolded areas above—areas often misunderstood or not given the necessary attention during a young player's development.

The Virtual Academy, designed and led by USSF "A" Licensed coach Dan Brower, focuses on players' individual technique, ball mastery, skill and problem-solving ability.

“We have developed two unique age-specific programs within the virtual 'arm' of our club,” Coach Brower says.

“Our U9-12 curriculum focuses on the individual player and his or her love for the ball and body. We also work with the player’s family so we can better understand each child’s learning process. At these early stages of development, we introduce our players and families to our player-centered approach.”

“Our U13-15 program is designed to develop problem-solving skills with high-level questions related to our game model and style of play,” Coach Brower continues.

“An Arsenal coach provides feedback on the player assignments and their personal training videos.”

The Virtual Academy uses our one-of-a-kind Digital Training Ground as its foundational resource.

We are always accepting new players!

Take the challenge and become an Arsenal player.

Deep Practice: Trust the Process

Nobody will argue that soccer is not a complex sport. The amount of coordination, flexibility, balance and thought required for each movement is tough enough, not to mention the act of stringing several movements together. For a young player, this can be overwhelming at times.

This is where the concept of deep practice comes in. Our club believes that while all practice is important, it is the quality of practice that is most influential in shaping outcomes. The Virtual Academy follows the three rules of deep practice:

“The player and adult’s understanding of deep practice and the learning process is key,” Coach Brower says when asked about first learning a new skill.

As players work on their techniques in the Virtual Academy, they are given specific feedback on their training videos by the coaching staff. The staff breaks down each movement to the step-by-step level so the learning process can work. Take the three videos below for instance:

Video 1. After being introduced to a new turn, it is clear the player is not comfortable with its execution yet. You can see it in his face, and you can be certain that the player feels it as well.

Video 2. Following the deep practice steps, the move was broken up into pieces, focusing on the feint first, then the pivot, and repeating. The slow-but-sure process helped the player gain confidence since he knew and felt his body was now in the right position. The actions started to feel better and more realistic.

Video 3. Once the feint and pivot were proficient, we then added the tiny touches and demanded more intensity and speed. The progressive, thoughtful, confidence-building approach resulted in a successful learning process, the evidence for which you can see on the player’s face!

Goals of the Virtual Academy

“Our Virtual Academy was, first and foremost, built to refine our youngest player's ball and motor skills and to increase their confidence,” Coach Brower says about the program’s inception.

“Without question, those players who create the best habits on the ball and improve their coordination capacities from the beginning stages of their developmental pathway are the ones who reach the highest levels in high school, college and in the professional ranks.”

Play Video
Play Video

But the Virtual Academy has broader goals as well.

Our players will become role models in our club and community. For example, players are expected to provide a large number of personal training videos to help inspire themselves and others.

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Play Video

Our players train smart and hard, and are brave enough to show the way—to lead by example—for other like-minded players.

Beyond individual growth, the program and our club always aim to impact the soccer culture positively.

“Our Virtual Academy helps our Arsenal families further develop a soccer culture at home,” he concludes. “The program helps our young players understand the importance of playing on their own with the ball, and this will heavily influence their personal training habits for many years to come.”

The Virtual Academy is available to players as a supplement to team training or as their primary training outlet if they have chosen not to participate in team training due to Covid-19 or for another reason.

Additionally, the Virtual Academy is available for free to any non-Arsenal players looking to improve their technique and ball mastery through individual training.

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Interested in the Virtual Academy?
Contact us here.