Shep Messing soccer program modeled after worldwide practices
Shep Messing, retired legendary American soccer goalkeeper and current broadcaster who works as the lead analyst for New York Red Bulls matches on the MSG Network, has teamed up with Port Washington Soccer Club. The former U.S. national team soccer player now coaches Shep Messing Soccer, a recreational league soccer program modeled after practices from around the world.
Messing grew up in Roslyn and currently resides on Long Island.
“I went to Wheatley, a small school in Old Westbury, and never played soccer until I was 15,” said Messing. “I didn’t play on travel teams, but then I played in high school. I played American football and basketball and when I got to ninth grade we had a terrible football injury and there was no more football. So, the soccer coach came up to me and said I’m a good athlete and he needed a goalkeeper. He brought me to the high school field and I watched the game. I said I’d give it a try.”
Messing went on to play seven seasons of soccer in the North American Soccer League and six in the Major Indoor Soccer League. He was part of the U.S. men’s national team at the 1971 Pan American Games and the 1972 Olympic summer games in Munich, Germany. After the Olympics, Messing was invited to play for the New York Cosmos of the NASL, where his teammates would eventually include the legendary Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer, Giorgio Chinaglia and Carlos Alberto.
“Everything today is high pressure, whether it’s school, music or sports. They’re starting high pressure training younger and younger,” said Messing. “My philosophy is that kids should fall in love with what they’re doing.”
Port Washington Soccer Club, which Messing’s grandkids use, reached out to Messing to run a program for them called Shep Messing Soccer, which incorporates practices he’s learned from the countries he’s traveled and puts the fun back in soccer by playing short-sided games. The program, for children in pre-K to sixth grade (4 to 12 years old) consists of four 10-minute quarters in a five versus five game, with 15 minutes of instructional skills taught at halftime of each session. One skill is taught during each session of the eight-week program.
“Most coaches will tell you the game itself is the best teacher,” said Messing. “It’s a free flowing sport and that’s what we have to encourage.”
Messing explained that France outlawed talking by coaches and parents at games, which Messing understands they get caught up in the game, but when parents and coaches shout, he said they “take away the child’s ability to think and decide what to do. When the ball comes to them, they’re the boss. They decide to dribble or to shoot.”
Messing’s advice to kids is to be brave, challenge the other player and be courageous. He said if a player makes 10 mistakes, they should be encouraged to try it again.
“I’ve played with the greatest player Pelé, a dear friend and teammate,” explained Messing. “Children all over the world would come up to him and ask how to become a great player. His answer would be, ‘don’t worry about being a great player, being a good person is more important and two, fall in love with the soccer ball.’”
Messing thanked Port Washington Soccer Club for allowing him to have an untraditional program, unlike the many programs in America that focus mainly on skills and structure. He wants the kids to just run out onto the field and have fun, not think about playing the sport for a future scholarship or college.
“On the first day of the session in winter and spring, I hold up the ball and say, ‘this is a very simple game with a simple round ball and you
either control it or it will drive you crazy, so I want you to fall in love with the soccer ball.’”
Messing said he is teaching the age group that he loves, and he is able to watch his grandkids play the sport he so loved and excelled in.
“I don’t want them getting caught up thinking anything other than what I’m explaining,” said Messing, noting that it’s great to watch his grandkids play. “I just want them to have fun, be good teammate and get all the socialization and character building you want for your grandkids to get.”
For more information about Shep Messing Soccer or to sign up for the program, visit www.portsoccerclub.com.
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