Why train with
1 - Frank improves your skill
Coach Frank showed me how to fix things I didn't even know I was doing wrong. I've played soccer since I was five and was a good defender, but Frank took everything up a notch. He showed me how instead of backing up from the ball when I received it, I needed to move forward and attack the ball with my body to control it better and faster. A lifelong defender who couldn't make a shot on the broad side of a barn, he had me scoring goals into the upper and lower corners of the net. As someone who couldn't dribble more than a few meters without losing control of the ball or getting tackled, he had me zigging and zagging up and down the field and making passes with ease. Training with Coach Frank transformed and improved every aspect of my game.
2 - Frank taught me to play the best role on the field
Soccer may be a team sport where every position is important, but let's face it: it's really fun to score goals. So, a lifelong fullback, I asked Frank to make me a striker. Week after week, drill after drill, he did exactly that.
He took difficult concepts, like fakes and jukes, or scoring goals on the run, and broke them down into their basic components. After mastering each smaller part, he added on the other until I could complete all the steps in sequence. We worked starting in January. By in summer, when I showed up to play with the group of guys I had played with for the past few years, always as a defender, I had transformed into one of the leading goal scorers for each game.
I can remember in one of these games when I was standing in front of the goalie with my back to him. He was a big guy always diving and swallowing up all the angles to the goal and it was a real challenge to get shots past him. I received a long pass from the penalty line. I swiftly trapped it on my thigh, popping it up, then spun and drilled it past the goalie into the net. “Where did that come from?” one of my teammates asked as they were high-fiving me. They had played with me for years and never seen anything like that from me before. I shrugged and said, “practice.” It was true, because one of the things Frank worked on with me extensively was trapping the ball with your chest or legs and then being able to do something with it on the volley. Each of the discrete techniques Frank and I had been working on together for months came together on the pitch.
3 - Working with Frank is better than cardio at the gym
I suffer from “bloggeritis,” which is a clever way of saying I got overweight from sitting in front of the computer all day. And I found it's hard to stay motivated to keep going to the gym because sometimes you feel like you're just a rat running on a wheel with no result. You're not even as good as a rat sometimes because at least rats get cheese for their efforts. Which is why I love soccer and training for soccer. It really gets your heart pumping and your muscles going, much more so than cardio at the gym. See, just running on the treadmill will not make you faster on the field. It's too linear and steady. You need to practice the quick changes of speed and direction like how you do in a real game, and the stairmaster will not give you that. You need to be out there, doing it. The thrill and fun of playing drives me to train with Frank and improve. Each time my skill gets better training with him, the beautiful game gets that much more beautiful the next time I play. And that's what it's all about.
- Ben Popken