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Published on 05 Jul 2011 | over 7 years ago

When Brendan was four years old, he wanted to learn how to develop football skills like his heroes in the 2010 World Cup. There was, however, a big problem. His mother and I are both paralyzed and unable to demonstrate skills. All he had was a little brother, Julian, and the internet. I showed them Mohammad Madin’s “Next Ronaldo” video and Hassan Ayari’s “Little Messi” video, which they used to learn skills. Madin and Ayari were even bigger heroes to them than Messi and Ronaldo.

A month later, Brendan asked to make a video of him doing Madin’s and Ayari’s skills. As a tribute to their heroes, we combined the title of Madin’s and Ayari’s videos to make a bit of a joke out of our channel name. Messi and Ronaldo are obviously opposites. The titles of all of our early videos were likewise hybrids of Madin’s and Ayari’s videos. Today, people don't get the joke because Madin's and Ayari's videos don't get much traffic anymore, which is a shame. They are still great training videos.

Ayari's dad, a Paralympian wheelchair racer like me, gave me some great advice about how to coach kids using the internet. Ever since, we have used our YouTube channel to provide free skill training to about 200 kids in our local community.

We never thought that our soccerskills4kids.com videos would be watched by anyone outside of our local training groups. We were shocked when our channel received over 10 million views and thousands of subscribers. We were even more shocked when our videos started to appear on football websites throughout the world. Ayari's dad was right. We were witnessing an online revolution in football. Parents and kids no longer needed to pay coaches thousands of dollars to learn skills. Kids from all around the world who do not have access to professional coaches because they live in remote areas could learn the same skills that academy kids learn. The internet had changed everything. ALL kids could now dream of being the next Messi or next Ronaldo if they were willing to go to YouTube and get to work.

The skill training proved effective. When Julian was six years old, Schellas Hyndman approached him and told him how impressed he was with his skills. Julian was so tiny and lacked confidence then. Coach Schellas helped him so much by telling him that he was doing the necessary work to be a good player when he got older. He has been mentoring both Julian and Brendan ever since. Diego Walsh, Lance Thompson, Niki Jackson, Amer Sasivarevic, Alex Radilla, and others at GCU have also been important mentors. We highly recommend GCU soccer camps.

I was lucky to have had George Kuntz and Dan Kuntz as my mentors. My brother had Mike Rabasca and Greg Vanney as his mentors. He also played under Luis Dabo's system. Arizona's elite footballers are lucky to have had so many great mentors. They tell young players what so many American coaches do not: No matter how good you think that you are at 12 years old, you have to train EVERY day as if you want to be the best in the world. Even if you're small and get rejected by coaches who pick size over skills (a huge problem in the States). Even if your family doesn't have the money to participate in the failing pay-to-play system. Even if parents keep you off of a particular team due to the political quagmire of American youth soccer, just train every day. Training will get you to the next level. The future is in your hands. Don't ever listen to anyone who says otherwise.

The work ethic that the Kuntz brothers taught me before I became paralyzed, in fact, helped me to become the two-time world record holder in the wheelchair 100m (Class T53: 14.78 seconds). The lessons that you learn through training will stay with you for the rest of your life, so get out there and train!

Once Brendan and Julian had learned the skills on the internet, I was able to use them as my assistant coaches. They were able to teach the kids by demonstrating the skills that I could no longer demonstrate myself. Other coaches, including Diego, have used them to demonstrate skills as well because he has trained them for so many years now.

For those who have asked, Brendan and Julian can claim dual U.S./German citizenship because their grandmother was essentially kidnapped from Bayern/Bavaria after the war. Her German family didn't find her until 40 years later. It’s a complicated, legal nightmare even for a lawyer like me. They have family from both Germany and Brazil, and originally focused on futsal. They are presently learning German, hoping one day to be able to speak with their cousins who speak very little English.

The song is Insanity by Dan Marciano and Michael Kaiser.
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