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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Former college coach Keith Tucker provides big boost as DC SCORES Soccer Specialist

This fall, DC SCORES got a huge boost in soccer instruction with the addition of a highly acclaimed staff member.

Keith Tucker joined the DC SCORES team as Soccer Specialist — and the title fits him quite well.

Tucker is well-known in DC soccer circles, and with good reason. Tucker, a Howard University graduate, coached his alma mater for 26 seasons through 2007, including taking an undefeated Bison team to the 1988 NCAA championship game and being named national coach of the year.

Howard’s premier player under Tucker’s tutelage was Shaka Hislop, who progressed to play 14 seasons in the English league prior to starring for Trinidad and Tobago in the 2006 World Cup.

Beginning this fall, Tucker — who also was head coach of  the Bermuda National Team — switched his focus to developing youth well before college with the hope that many of them can one day reach that level he’s so familiar with.

Tucker recently took time off from his instructing duties to answer questions about his new role:

What made you interested in working for DC SCORES?

DC SCORES is a youth development program which uses soccer and writing as a means of improving children’s attitudes toward developing their physical, social and academic abilities. I too feel that this development is important; as a college coach, it was my job to recruit student-athletes who have mastered these abilities and who want to continue this development process at the higher levels. The higher level can be reached by every student if they believe in themselves. I feel very confident that we can get them to believe rewards come from hard work.

Obviously this is quite a different job than coaching at the collegiate level. What excites you about coaching kids the game at a young age?

This is not my first experience coaching young players. My boss, (DC SCORES Athletic Director) Kenny Owens, was a member of the Washington DC Under 10 soccer team that went to the Sister City Tournament in China back in 1988. We trained at Howard University all summer long to get ready. We had a great time playing teams from Japan, East Germany and China. The USA soccer experience is a year-round program that can expose a player to so many rewarding possibilities.

Hopefully, with the help of all the stakeholders in the community — schools, recreation, churches, parents and businesses — we can create a similar youth soccer structure in the city. Soccer is introduced to kids from as young as 3 years old to young men and women of high school age.

I am excited about watching the players develop those individual skills that make soccer such a magnificent game to watch. I want to create many “Little Messi's.” I know that there are a couple of them out there right now looking for a program to join.

As someone with a wealth of soccer experience, what do you see as the main benefits youth get from the game?

Soccer is a lifestyle that allows kids to mature at their own rate as a player and as a person. It is a development program that could reward you with a free college education after all the hard work. Soccer is also a community-building program that brings all the stakeholders together in support of the children, which will be a major benefit to the whole life of the players.

What are the main things you learned during your college coaching career that you can apply to your DC SCORES work?

Perfect practice makes perfect. Take time to prepare to give the best training session you can give to your team. Keep training simple … plan three 20-minute periods of [1] skill development games; [2] small sided games [combination]; and [3] full sided games where a player tries to use the skills taught in the first two periods.

How did your first season with DC SCORES go? Any surprises?

DC SCORES is a great program and the players show that they are enjoying their experience with all those beautiful smiles. Fall Frenzy was an incredible event. I saw some great players who I think that if they could continue their development in high school with a year-round program, they could become college scholarship players, state team or national team players.

With such a long history of giving soccer instruction in the District, how much does teaching DC youth — whether for the first time or as college athletes — the game mean to you?

Passing the knowledge on to the DC youth is important to me and also my family. We have enjoyed our time together as a soccer family and hope that kids and their parents will experience a good time playing and watching the game. Parents are very important to continuous management of the development of the program. America has one of the best youth soccer programs in the world because of how well the soccer community shares the information with the next generation of administrators and coaches.

Looking forward, what are your goals as DC SCORES' Soccer Specialist and as an instructor at our Saturday SCORES clinics?

My goal is to help coaches with their coaching methods from planning to delivery. There are four hours of training each week, which makes it difficult to cover all the areas needed to develop a highly skilled player, so we are recommending that players practice at home at least 30 minutes a day on the basic soccer skills and play against Mom or Dad.

If they can, get a ball at lunch hour and play a six-versus-six on the school field, or play some of the skill games on the playground. Better still is a pick-up game after school which would accelerate the learning process to a higher degree. Summer camps are a must for players who wish to obtain a soccer scholarship in the future.

Saturday SCORES will introduce the game to the 3- to 8-year-olds that will hopefully enter the school league with increasingly more skills and game knowledge in the future. The structure of USA Soccer is built around a fall and spring soccer league (and) winter indoor league, pre- and postseason tournaments and most important are summer camps.

If the community can provide the student-athletes with the same programs to develop their skills, the future looks good for the sport in the city. However, most important, the future looks good for the lives of our youth.

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