This week we are getting a closer look at the Sounders Junior Program’s three regions.


SJP North with Matt Folsom

Why should players participate at this age in this program?

Whether your player is or goes on to play recreational, select, premier or elite, the SJP is the ideal program to develop your player’s game in the formative years. Players can expect to develop fundamental technical soccer skills while also learn life lessons. The Spokane Juniors Program produces the highest quality youth development experience in the region.

What are the benefits of your area program?

My primary influence for much of the technical lessons comes from the legendary Johan Cruyff and total futbol.

It is a philosophy of freedom, self-expression, creativity, and intelligent decision making. Any player can take over the role of any other player in the team. If one player moves out of position, then another player moves into that space. The system is fluid and requires that each player be technically proficient, intelligent and adaptable. Creating triangles all over the pitch. When a team of players are able to sync up their collective movement – moving up and down the pitch as a unit, shifting between a compact defensive shape and an expansive attacking shape – the game can be truly beautiful.

The foundation, whether for creative self-expression or cohesive team movement, is ball control. Ball mastery leads to confidence and confidence leads to creativity. We all have a limited amount of brain bandwidth. If a player can become automatic in controlling the ball, then they free up time and bandwidth to solve the complex problems on the pitch. This thoughtless control, where a player is moving on instinct and intuition, is the flow state. Reaching this flow state in a competitive environment is the height of athletics.

When we take a break during the winter, I am always amazed about how everybody’s grown with their mental ability and physical ability. And that allows us to do so much more. For me it’s all about the foundation – the technical ability. because if we don’t have ball control or we can’t trap and pass, then we can’t do any of the tactical fun stuff that I love. Every training session we focus on ball skills, trapping and passing and then team movement. Seeing it click and the players starting to understand the space around them, how to work with each other and have the ability to carry out their decision is really rewarding. It’s a long journey though!

What role does that play beyond the pitch?

That philosophy of freedom, self-expression, creativity, and intelligent decision making hopefully becomes an intrinsic part of each players’ makeup and becomes a natural instinct in life as they progress through their academic and professional careers as they get older.

What is your focus in soccer development?

Our training sessions our focused on developing technical skill and playing the beautiful game. Technical Ball Work includes inside/outside (both feet); popcorn or foundation; pushes forward; pull-backs backward; rolls (both feet); double touches (inside, inside, outside, outside – both feet); turns (inside foot, outside foot, Cruyf or behind the leg); zigzags; speed dribble; ups; step-overs; scissors; and other creative moves. Ball Striking is where we work in topics such as spacing, collective movement, positions, attacking patterns, defensive principles. Every season we cover: Pressure on the ball, Goal Kick Progression, Defending 1v1, 2v1, 2v2, 3v2, Spacing and Collective Movement and Physical Competitiveness.

What does the training environment entail?

Every session is designed to constant touches on the ball by minimizing the time players spend waiting in lines to do drills and avoiding running without the ball. We try to limit instruction time and stoppages to maximize time working on improving. Limiting stoppages during small-sided games for example is key because the game is the best teacher. Small-sided games are an opportunity to observe players and coach in the flow.

Tell us about the location of training.

Based at the Dwight Merkel Complex, a longtime hub for soccer in the community, we are thrilled to be providing an excellent, accessible training ground for the northside community.


For more about the Sounders Junior Program… visit HERE [+]

To check out a profile feature about coach Folsom… visit HERE [+]

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