This is my response to reader John, who left an excellent set of comments. The last of which I’ll address here.
I’d love to see you talk about specific tactics, Gary. I have no doubt that you are a very bright guy, but I wish you’d share your knowledge with us. Tell us about your games or training sessions. Tell us about your problems and how you solved them. Maybe that could be a separate section in your blog? Just an idea. Either way, I’ll continue to be a dedicated reader.
What follows is my brain dump reaction.
I’d love to do this too! But to put it simply, it’s a monumental task. One I’m not sure is even possible (or at least I don’t know what kind of hack job I’ll do of it).
I’ll start by saying that no one – that I’m aware of – has captured truly elite coaching and/or player development in some type of recipe form.
That’s what I gather you mean when you ask me for specific tactics.
Coaching is an art – particularly if you’re any good at it. It is not a paint-by-numbers.
For instance, take the curriculum Claudio Reyna released for US Soccer last year. I think it’s a great piece of work. It provides guidelines and goes into some depth with particular tactical training exercises that support the big picture philosophy.
Those are ingredients.
But it takes an artist to use those ingredients to build the final team/individual product.
The coach must know (have a feel) for what the proper execution of each of those exercises looks like. That’s an art that comes from understanding many things:
- How it should look and feel to begin with. Are the speed and rhythm correct? No? How do you fix it? Who’s messing up the spacing? What player(s) timing or positions are off? Is the weight of the pass proper? Etc …Whatever the case, the coach must be capable of not only recognizing the issue(s), but also decide when to interrupt the exercise, with what frequency, and in what tone to address the players.
- The quality of your players and their true potential. If you don’t understand this, you may be expecting too much or too little from them and then you fail with point #1 above.
- How to get to the final product you want to see come game day this weekend, come game day 6 months from now, or come game day 2 years from now. That’s a freaking art!
Let’s say you have at your disposal 100 tactical training exercise diagrams with accompanying discussions (I think that’s what you’re asking for). Which ones are you going to run in todays sessions? In what sequence? Do you repeat the same ones in your next session(s) or do you do others?
It all depends right? It depends on your judgement of what the players need individually and the team collectively. How can I help with that?
There are no recipes! Is there some compact way to capture this sort of stuff? I don’t know.
That is, how do you want your final team product to play. How do you want your individual players to play.
Let’s say you want your team to play like Barcelona. Well, how long have you been studying Barcelona? I mean really studying! How many games of theirs have you not only watched, but recorded and dissected the tapes into oblivion? How many years have you been doing this for? How many press conferences of their coaches and players have you heard? How many interviews? How in touch are you with the philosophy? How many other possession-based teams have you watched and studied like this?
Have you gone to see live games? Have you gone to see live training sessions? Have you had one on ones with these coaches?
Has your team ever mimicked Barca-like sequences? How did it happen? Was it a fluke or maybe due to your training? If your teams have had lots of spells where they play a la Barca, then you’re doing something right. If not, then you don’t have the experience within that philosophy yet. But don’t give up, it’s time to keep studying and trying different implementations.
Pretty simple: no passion, no chance! If you don’t eat, breathe, and shit this stuff … no chance! You’ll be a hack.
There are no cradle-to-grave recipes to replicate the end product. Only ingredients. This is an art!
The Good News
The good news is that the ingredients are not secret or hidden. Nobody is keeping them from you. They’re all available in the following forms:
- Technical exercise diagrams/videos/descriptions.
- Tactical exercise diagrams/videos/descriptions.
- Games on TV and DVRs.
- Press conferences and interviews involving the world’s greats.
- Media from all kinds of people with varying degrees of expertise.
- Games of all levels (youth to pro) you can attend and learn from.
- Training sessions at all levels (youth to pro) you can attend and learn from.
How many of these ingredients have you played with? And for how long and how deep?
Since the publication of Outliers, people have been talking a lot about the 10,000 hour rule. You’d best believe it has validity here too. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to just throw my hands in the air and say: “sorry, your gonna have to put a decade or two into this”.
What I do want to get across is that I’m not so sure how to go about hyper-accelerating a willing coaches path.
I have thought long and hard about how I can possibly stitch together a program that can capture our experience. The goal being that a coach can take the program and replicate our end product to some degree.
After years, I came to the conclusion that step #1, is for a coach to adopt a soccer philosophy. Without it, you have no compass, no skeletal structure upon which you can build! You have nothing! And this philosophy can’t be summed up in a sentence, or a post, or a series of posts. It’s something that you must feel in the core of your being – like a religion.
So I embarked with this blogging effort which thus far fails miserably in the silver bullet department, but should help in the philosophy department. It is a philosophy that models itself after the best in the world . And a philosophy that is not only possible, but has given us success .
That’s what I’ve been trying to share, and in the process hopefully lay the foundation upon which the details you may be looking for stand a chance of being built and adopted.
As an example, I have pondered filming all our training sessions and – more crucial – microphoning both myself and my brother during the session so that the way we go about practicing our art is better captured.
I know I’m not being exhaustive in my response here, so let’s continue in the comments! I’m an open book, so fire away.
 This is the biggest failure of American coaches (and parents, and fans, and everybody else involved with soccer here). If you pass this, you’re already way ahead of the game.
 I am yet to define at length what coaching success/failure even means. Yes, it can be viewed as a function of philosophy. But I believe there is a clear right and wrong. Here’s a primer to some success criteria.