Most of us have seen that TV show or movie where the cowboy jumps on a horse’s back with the aim of domestication. The wild animal violently resists being ridden and will buck, jump, twist, whatever it takes to knock the cowboy on his ass! After all, the horse is wild and doesn’t want to change it’s nature. It has always had complete freedom to roam as it pleased.
Coaching has some parallels. There is a new player on your team that has a certain notion of how to play. You, as a coach, try to bring him around to your (hopefully better) philosophy and teach him to leave much of his past behind. Depending how much of a gap there is and the age of the player (younger is obviously better), this transition can be smooth or a nightmare.
Some players may integrate immediately, others may take months, and some may never adapt.
I want to provide my take based on experience and observation on how this relates at the youth and professional level.
At the youth level, this is generally not a huge obstacle since the coaching here is horrific. Meaning there isn’t much structure or tactical requirements imposed on players like in top soccer nations – the kids here have free-reign by comparison. Coaches choose a formation, assign positions, throw 11 on the field and say “work hard”. There is no identity to a team (no style), and so no well defined detailed roles for each player. Actually, nevermind … if there is one ubiquitous role that every player is lectured on here, it’s:
As a result, going from one club to the next is pretty much the same. Unfortunately, since we want to truly develop our players, this situation makes our job that more difficult. Virtually all players that we’ve had, have never been exposed to excellent instruction. It’s always been a constant battle to bring them around and see the light.
In our experience, if we catch them early on – before they reach 16 – then chances of success are good – the earlier the better. Sixteen to Eighteen year olds have proven to be less malleable and we have had our share of failures. Although I will add that it seems to also be a function of their soccer heritage.
This has huge implications for the future professional American player.
Since these guys came up through this horrendous system – quite frankly receiving ignorant instruction. If and when some team in Europe gives them a chance, most never adapt. All of a sudden their coach wants to place them in a clearly defined tactical role.
This is shocking! Failure is eminent. This horse can not be broken.