June 16 marked the beginning of our position-focused training sessions.
Of course most sessions we run have positional play development going on. But this is different with respect to focus, and magnitude.
What I’m talking about here is segregating the players by time. It’s not uncommon for the pros to do this (ie defense shows up for training in the morning, offense in the evening).
Same concept here. And we combined the U10s and U11s.
Defenders (11:15am practice starts. Ends around 1pm)
10’s – Jonathan, Jeffrey, Chuy, Oscar, Alexis, Imanol, Artur
11’s – Mikey, Justin, Louie, Richard
Back 5 worked on ball circulation out of the back … continue perfecting the spacing and movements in unison under all scenarios. Low pressure, high pressure, goalkicks, open play, with the lead, when losing.
Midfielders (12:15 – 2:00)
10’s – Oscar Cervantes, Jesus, Romario, Artur, Imanol
11’s – Charlie, Alex, Cesar, Togo, Effra, Jonathan
Worked on finding the spaces and gaps behind opposition’s midfield line. So while we circulate the ball instead of simply checking back, we work on losing your man, getting between their mf line and back line to run at defense and create danger. Also worked on mf pressure in unison with forwards under all scenarios.
Forwards (1:00 – 2:30)
10’s – Pablo, Jacob, Brian, Willie, Artur
11’s – Misa, Jona, Uly, John
Forwards worked on our defensive pressure in unison to continue to perfect our movements. Worked on how the weak side winger needs to stay wide, so when we win possession back we have an instant reference point to switch point of attack and create a 2 v 1.
Finally, attacking patterns with detailed individual decision making on and off the ball under various scenarios for the wingers and central attacker.
If you notice, there is some overlap in the times. This is by design.
So for instance:
- the midfielders will warm up and then be used to apply pressure on the defenders
- when the forwards show up, they warm up, and are then used in our synchronized defensive pressure training
Conventional wisdom (I believe) was to delay this sort of training until the older age groups. How do you insure that your U10 & U11 age groups get enough technical training (vs tactical training)?
Gary Kleiban says
There are gold standard philosophies / methodologies.
Snippets and soundbites do not, and can not, capture the gold standard. But unfortunately the horde thinks it does. And that’s when something becomes ‘conventional wisdom’. Conventional wisdom is flawed because it is not an accurate representation of the gold standard.
Technical development overwhelmingly falls on the individual player touching the ball on his own 24/7. A coach serves to refine and polish technique with nuance. We do that. And pretty much all we do is with the ball.
It’s a sad state how wrong ‘conventional wisdom’ is. If you stick around here long enough, you might realize that just about everything we do is opposite ‘conventional wisdom’.
And we, along with the best youth academies in the world, are correct. Not the horde.
Thank you for your response. I’m here because my DNA says you are on the right track! Unfortunately, my 9 year old son’s soccer academy is part of the horde 🙁 I voiced the above comment for the sake of discussion but it is not something that I support.
I love that your boys are learning how to think (e.g.,., unlock the defense) on the pitch!
Gary Kleiban says
You’re always welcomed here Larry! I want this to be your home.
And never be shy about voicing your thoughts.
I may come back and ‘bite your head off’ (I’ll try not to 🙂 ), but please know my intentions are for the betterment of the game.
p.s. Heads up. I can pretty much guarantee you’ll have seriously strong objections to things I write. There are some ‘crazy’ polarizing things to come …
This one drives me crazy. “You don’t start tactical training until 13-14 years old you must only teach technical ball skills” That is absurd! . You are absolute correct here. The kids have to perfect their technique on their own time. A coach of a team cannot possibly make this happen in the time he has with the kids. Also, why on God’s earth would the two be mutually exclusive? Are the kids not touching the ball during tactical training? Is there even really a big distinction between the two skills? Seems to me they overlap quite a bit.
What good is a kid with all of the technical skills in the world if he can’t see the field, make good passes and move without the ball?
most of the soccer development curriculum that I’ve seen divide the training into three categories .. technical, individual tactics, team tactics. Then, they have provide age groups that divide the amount of time by % for each category that should be spent at each age group.
The point is .. at the earliest age groups, most of the time is spent on the technical skill development & less time on the team tactical aspects. It is not a mutual exclusion but a time % argument here. How many of your kids are strong footed players?
sorry .. just realized there isn’t an edit feature to this blog. I need to (better) proof read before posting.
Well, from what I understand, tactical pattern play gives players a good deal of technical repetitions. If you have players run through various scenarios, players are passing, following their pass to the next spot, receiving & passing again, and the cycle continues. In a few minutes span, players could get lots of touches on the ball.
Gary Kleiban says
And the ‘correct touches’. Meaning, receiving and dishing properly.
John Pranjic says
‘Correct touches’ is what it’s all about. I can’t remember ever seeing a player weave through a set of cones during a game.
At what speed do you typically begin with for training pressuring. Do you start with a lot of walk through and shadow play and then progress in speed and intensity as the synchronization of the pressure improves?
Gary Kleiban says
Usually just two speeds:
* Walk-through first.
* Then straight to 100% intensity.
Excellent stuff, thanks Gary! Nowhere on here did Gary say that every player every week of every year would train only with the defenders, midfielders, or forwards, I don’t think that’s the point of this. But it is important for players to understand the roles within the system of play as both individuals and as groups. More important than positioning here is the philosophy and system of play and getting players to understand what is expected of them, I am sure Gary would say that if they only understand their specific position they are doing their teammates a disservice. While understanding roles and system and philosophy of play they are obviously are developing as players, there is nothing here that is purely tactical on a white board or anything, they could all be used as regular training session activities, just with a more specific focus based on how you want to play as a team and as a club as a whole.
I would just hope that, with all such drills and games that players this age are rotated through all the positions. Way too young to be labelled a particular position. If you did this 4 or 5 times over the season, I’d be sure to have players experience what’s expected from all the positions at least once.
As he said, professional teams have this degree of specialization. Not sure that you can apply the same standards and practices to 9 and 10 year olds. Actually I am sure and the answer is that you can’t.
So have you been to FCB Escola and observed how they train this aged group of kids? Your comment seem to be pretty “US” based and do they have basis for infact what you have seen or is it your own preconceived.opinions. Gary and Brian have observed many trainings in FCB as well as our own Tech Director that did a six month residency under Ronald Koeman and numerous observations since of the Escola program. Gary didn’t elaborate on the rotation in different positions but to move players continually would just further confuse the young player. Once they have grasped the concepts positionally it is far easier to move a central player from CB to CM to Striker and likewise the flank players which is the Dutch concept. Please do not be so quick to judge and realize that 10 and 11 year old players can not grasp concepts surprisingly well if giving the proper time and training.
Meant to say “can grasp concepts surprisingly well”
Gary Kleiban says
Is this your first time commenting here? I can’t recall.
It’s about bloody time! 🙂
You know me – biting my tongue, not one for confrontations!!!! LOL
Gary Kleiban says
So, what do you know can and can’t be done?
You’ve tried many development methodologies and have a gold standard of your own?
What has been the product of your training methodologies?
“Rotating players through positions” is yet another one of those fortune cookie phrases based on a misinterpretation of a gold standard.
I thought positional cross-training was a core element of the total football approach the dutch brought to barca. No?
Absolutely the dutch brought it but it needs to be done in stages.
Gary Kleiban says
But you don’t play right back today, center mid next month, and left wing the month after that.
And certainly not different positions during the same training session.
At least that is not our philosophy.
So what type of positional rotation do you typically see in the program?
How does Barca do it? Is a young player like Ben Lederman going to cross-train across other position at the age of 10-12 or is the focus on mastering a single position at this point in development?
Does it vary player by player depending on how adaptable they are?
The first thing I”ll say is that I really value sites like this that present training ideas in a very specific, unapologetic manner and then provide a forum for generally intelligent comment. I like that you encourage differing opinions and don’t get defensive when they’re presented.
Here’s more of my take on it.
1. There’s massive differences in players when you compare them at pre-pubescent and post-pubescent levels of development. They are often very different in terms of what they’re capable of, what their physical strengths and capacities are and how they stack up relative to the other players around them. To already be grooming players for particular roles at least three years before puberty is a concern and I think players that have been pigeon holed (and I’m not saying you are doing this) as being a particular type of player and get limited exposure to other aspects and perspectives because of this risk being cast adrift when they hit 14-16 years old.
2. Specificity (and excellence) in any endeavour can only come after a solid foundation of basic knowledge has been accrued. No nine or ten year old player has, in my mind, played enough to have developed the overall, general knowledge of how the game looks from different vantage points to be ready to start specializing. Frank Lloyd Wright built a lot of these before he was able to build the Guggenheim in Bilbao. He needed to experience building a lot of simpler things before he was capable of his greater work later in life.
3. I read about how professional club academies like Ajax work and it’s very Darwinian. They are unapologetically about developing first team players for a top European club with a great history. They may keep a player from the age of eight until 15 and then, at his annual review, release him. That’s devastating for most kids and I’m not sure it’s justifiable within a professional club system but I’m even more convinced that for those of us working outside of such clubs it becomes more imperative that we bring an element of ensuring we keep players wanting to play and not lose them because of negative experiences at young ages.
Again, I’m not saying you’re set up is doing that. My concern though is that I do think that if you are rigidly building cogs out of nine year olds for a machine that is overtly concerned about winning championships at very young ages like U11, you are more likely to end up with some players who are not going to survive at higher levels of play when they’re 16 because they’re don’t resemble the cog they were developed to be anymore and so they don’t fit in the machine.
Great blog. Fantastic soccer your team(s) play. Just surprised at the early specialization but pleased to see from some of the other comments on here that there is some movement of players between roles and positions.
NYC=Frank Lloyd Wright
Nice to see another local here. I made the same statement later in the comments section re: specialization at this age. Way too early.
oh, seems a previous comment I posted didn’t come through some how.
Agree with Gregor – specializing at this age is detrimental to teaching the youngster the “whole” game. Positional rotation is a good thing. Done in intervals. Teach a player a position, then move him to the next logical position. IE, this year my u12’s will stick to a combo of positions. CB-RB, RB-RM, CM-CB, CM-ST….that sort of thing, depending on each kid and what their strengths and weaknesses are. Then as they progress their two-position assignment will or may change.
Gary Kleiban says
You do not know if it’s detrimental.
You may think it, but you don’t know it.
Should players experience different positions? Sure.
But when, with how much detail, with what frequency, and under what circumstances is a matter of philosophy.
I am curious what you use as the standard for providing players experience in different positions?
When, what frequency, what detail and under what circumstances?
I want to run an idea past everyone. I want my U9 and U10 boys to understand how to play all positions on the field while I have them (I pass them on after U10). Is it a good idea to rotate players every 4 games or so to a new position. So over the course of two seasons, players would play all positions for extended times. That way, they get 4 week spells of weekend games, infers quad scrimmages, and tactical pattern play in that position? It may result in some losses in the short term but would pay dividends after awhile.
I’d like to see what others say about this but it seems like a pretty good idea. 4 weeks seems pretty reasonable, I wouldn’t do any less than that though. Also, don’t harp so much on position that you make it boring and to tactical for the players and forget to let the kids play. The game is the best teacher. I would say to not think of it as players mastering all positions on the field, but rather that they are enhancing different areas of their game every 4 weeks.
mohammed jamai says
please let me know how can i register my son 11 yers old
Any chance of getting a video snippet of each session? Great stuff and thanks for sharing the methods you are using.
Gary Kleiban says
I’m working on that stuff Wolfgang.
Being straight with you, I’m developing a product that will pull back the curtain.
But I will drip out some of that material here too.
As always, thanks so much for your support!
Continue to feed us little snippets and keep us posted on the release of the full meal deal.
I think the concerns about early specialization are valid. Rinus Michels (the godfather of the Barca concept) and Laureano Ruiz (really the spiritual founding father of Barca’s academy) both are against early positional specialization, so to dismiss people who have concerns about this as somehow unenlightened or ignorant is both arrogant and unhelpful in advancing soccer knowledge by discussing the pro’s and con’s of doing it. I’m not necessarily against it, but certainly some of the best minds in soccer youth development (including adherents to the Dutch style) are not proponents of it.
Part of it is that you have to define what your goals are for your particular team and your club. To say that Barca or Ajax academies do it a certain way so it has to be the best way to do it, without considering WHY they do it is just a mindless following without understanding the underlying concepts-which Barca youth coaches are the first to deride.
Barca and Ajax academies do select young players for specific positions and coach them for specific positions from an early age. But their goals are not necessarily the same (nor should they be necessarily) as a U.S. youth soccer academy. Barca and Ajax have one very specific goal: to provide players for their first team that play a very specific system. In doing this, they know they are limiting a players ability to adapt to other styles of play with another team or at least the real difficulties of doing this, should they not make it with Barca. The coaches readily acknowledge this (again read Senda de Campeones). But is this a realistic goal of an American youth academy? Exactly for what team are you developing them for (if you are not part of a professional team’s academy) that has specific attrubutes they are looking for. And the question remains by doing this are you limiting the long range options of the players that you are “developing”. There is a valid argument (and one made by Pep Guardiola, which is one of the reasons he left Barca to go to Italy and Mexico as a player) that it is helpful for young players to be exposed to different playing systems and different positions and to learn the concept of space and movement from different perspectives, to gain that insight organically instead of imposed from without by a coach. This is certainly the perspective of such well known soccer development coaches like Horst Wein. So again, figure out WHAT the goals of your academy is, which to me in my program is to concentrate on and maximize the soccer potential of EACH individual player for their own sake. This, to me, means, at least at the younger ages, to make their soccer understanding and knowledge as flexible as possible. As Laureano Ruiz said, one of the biggest and commonest mistakes coaches make is thinking they can predict what the best position for a young player is going to be. However, if your goal is to mimic Barca’s development techniques (to what end?) then early specialization is certainly consistent with Barca’s methodology.
Gary Kleiban says
Thank you for that Hincha,
We understand (is that arrogant).
But again, people seem to be getting carried away here and on twitter. Did I mention we are locking in players and making them specialists?
Just this weekend we had a match against perhaps the best team from San Diego. In that game, we had a ‘midfielder’ play outside back, and outside back play striker, a striker play outside back, a winger play center mid.
Again, how things are implemented or not is philosophical (which contains ideas dependent on end-goals as you state).
I think people here are either:
a) trying to drive the discussion
b) get upset over my tone in comments
c) or simply reacting because it clashes with fortune cookie philosophy
My response was directed more at Pulguita. I have the utmost respect for what you are trying to do and I know you and your brother have probably deeply thought through these issues. It is others who just unthinkingly accept statements or positions without understanding the underlying concepts that bug me. I find having to justify my position on a point to someone who thoughtfully disagrees with me to be one of the most helpful and important ways of understanding the problem. I thank you for this wonderful blog and find some of the most interesting areas are those few that you and I respectfully differ in opinion (most of which I am still mulling over- like the whole “simulation/diving” issue 😉 )
Gary Kleiban says
It’s tough and frustrating at times for me too, because like I’ve said before, we can’t encapsulate the entirety of our philosophy in brief posts and comments. But all this helps.
I’m thankful you’re here helping us all along!
Why would your comments be more directed towards me. I responded to what I felt was a comment that was purely opinion by Gregor on the merits of what you could teach 9 and 10 year olds and pointed out that FCB Escola trains these young players daily in these types of activities – ie positional training. I did not ever state that at these young ages does the Escola pigeon hole these players for a position at these ages when it is known fact that Barca does not believe they really have a grasp as to what a player is until they are 16. They infact promote as you earlier pointed out that they are champions of player interchangeability. If they truly believed in this type of specialization how could a Pique be a center back today when he started out as a forward in La Masia? Furthermore, to point out that I used their program as a reference and implied that I have no inkling of what goes on there is arrogant and utter bullshit. It seems that what Gary has done with his teams is develop players that are technically sound and have a reasonable amount of tactical understanding to play possession based competitive games with positional awareness, positional interchangeability, and flair in one of the most competitive soccer environments in the US. I have observed many activities that involve player gatherings from all over the US at the highest levels and have observed for the most part that the coaching staffs of all these players around the country are failing miserably at developing ball oriented, skillful creative players with high soccer IQ. If you are in your particular program my hat is off to you because at this moment you are a rarity.
This is a fantastic perspective. Well said.
Let me put it more succinctly: If you are an unaffiliated club youth coach, for each and every young player under your charge, you should constantly be analyzing,”Am I doing the right thing by each and every individual player so that I am putting each player in the best conditions to maximize their soccer potential when they are 18 years old, or am I sacrificing a player’s long term individual potential for the short term (or long term) benefit of the team?”. One of the biggest gifts you can give to a young player is the ability to adapt to changes and different conditions. While early specialization and the Kleiban’s techniques certainly point to beautiful TEAM soccer in the short term, It remains to be seen how and if the Kleiban’s methods benefit each individual player down the line when they reach 18 or so. I am not saying that they won’t, but I think that the Kleibans and anyone else who is considering such a development model would be remiss not to deeply consider this aspect.
Gary Kleiban says
You think we’re not constantly considering this?
Look at our ‘about’ page. From day one, the following is stated:
“The target is to develop quality players for the professional game. ”
We obsess over how to maximize each players maximum potential. Hell, one of the reasons for starting this blog is to open our work to the world in hopes of receiving attempts at constructive criticism (as opposed to staying confined in our little bubble), and being challenged by good people (trolls can fuck off).
You can’t produce what we’ve produced without working on player technique and game understanding – the very foundation.
Seeing where players end up is tricky and can be extremely misleading. Because it’s not just a function of how “good” they are.
I know you guys are, and that is what makes the decisions you make so fascinating because you are not operating in Spain or the Netherland, or directly under a professional team but trying to apply some very compelling concepts to the unique American youth club soccer environment. Let me emphasize, this whole “specialization” concept is not black and white, and don’t disagree at all with how you are attacking it (in fact, it seems very similar to how I have been handling it). It’s been one of the thorniest questions I have had to consider in the development of my players, and I my conclusions on it have not been totally formed even yet. I guess that each player has to considered individually and try to do what’s best for them, which is different for each player. As I stated above, I try to keep in mind that putting them in uncomfortable or new positions and conditions, while difficult and less successful results-wise in the short term (which is in itself one of the thorniest problems for a coach because U.S. youth club soccer culture is all about short term team results over long term individual player development)- will help them learn to be adaptable, which I feel strongly is one of the most important things for becoming a great soccer player. That’s why I have to keep repeating my question to myself as I see my team struggling when players are not playing their “normal” position and every bone in my body says go for the easy win: put them in their “normal” positions: Am I doing what is best for the individual player to maximize his long term soccer potential which can be at odds with optimizing the chances of winning an individual match (which is still consistent with emphasizing the importance of trying to win every match without sacrificing your priorities).
Adaptability is not a word I associate with most of the great soccer players. There are definitely some versatile players who have had stand out careers. I am not sure those players developed their versatility by jumping around to a lot of different positions as a youth.
Your focus on each player as an individual for me is the key. To create success and true development for the individual you need to evaluate and pick the right times to implement position moves. Sometimes a player is one step away from a breakthrough of understanding and by moving him or her to another position adds confusion and missed learning. Other times a players gets tunnel vision and needs to move to a new position to see and appreciate what you are trying to teach them in the other position.
Other important circumstances to consider when making the decision to give a players a new experience is game conditions. Asking a player to take their first minutes at center back in the second half of a highly competitive tie game could easily back fire and turn the player off to that position and stunt his development. Likewise giving him minutes at a new position during an easy, blow out win doesn’t really give him the experience and development you are looking for.
I think a third very important factor is the player himself and his/her skills, personality, motivation, focus and character. Even at U6 there are some players who are more excited about stopping the other team than they are about scoring goals. Motivation is an important part of learning readiness. Use it and leverage it but don’t forget that motivations can change over time and can be influenced by you as a coach. On the other hand some motivations are very deeply rooted and should be respected. I hate someone else trying to make me something I am not. I try to respect the same in the players I coach.
Going deep is sometimes the best way to go broad. By having a more complete understanding of one position on the pitch all of a sudden you can see other intricacies at the other positions. If you are starting to deeply comprehend the how, what and why of the forward position you can start to imagine for yourself what a midfield might do to collaborate with you successfully. You can also start to imagine what it would take for a defender to stop you and counter what you are trying to do. Without going deep you never really get to the level of understanding needed to imagine and be creative.
I think to be a great soccer player it is imperative that you have be adaptable. Soccer, above all sports is the most complex player driven, not a coach driven sport. Once the game starts it fall almost completely on a player to recognize different situations and adapt to them quickly. The ability to read the game and situation quickly and intelligently is a keystone of Barca’s philosophy.
Your points are well taken. Maybe you misinterpret my use of adaptable to mean adapt to playing other positions, which is not specifically what I intented. However, I do think a young player understands his primary position better if he sees his position and the field in general from different positions and switching positions tends to work a players area of weakness. Of course, it would be foolish to throw a player into a game situation in a new position without significant prior preparation in practice, and doing it willy-nilly without careful consideration of the player’s attributes and what you are trying to accomplish is foolhardy also. Everything a youth coach does should have a clear objective and how it is going to be achieved in mind before it is implemented. I think having a young player have a primary position and a secondary position (it could be just playing in the center as opposed to the wing, or wing forward instead of wingback) has proved valuable on my team, its broodened their perspective without undue burdening them with too much varied information.
Thanks for the reply. I think I was misinterpreting your meaning. Your clarification on the intent behind the word adaptive is helpful. The words creative, pro-active and responsive for me capture the characteristics we are trying to develop in a player so he or she can quickly and effectively overcome a fluid and dynamic 90 minutes of opposition.
From what you hinted at about considering each player individually I suspected you are purposeful and planned about each player’s development. I thought I would get the ideas out on the table to confirm and share. Hopefully some coach who is not as thoughtful will read and change his behavior.
Gary, did your players want to be “professsional” players at 7-8?
That is a big problem I see. Most kids here don’t dream of being professional players. In other countries they want to be professional from the crib. The culture is different and specialization happens very early.
Professional clubs know what kind of players they need for the 1st team or what kind of player they need on the market so the farm system will adapt to create them. The farm system is like a herd of cattle. Players are created for the highest bidder. The best players will be molded and re-developed for other positions.
Danny M says
One of the other problems with rotating players is that in competitive club soccer, rosters are only so deep, and within these rosters are kids with different attributes. Not every kid is going to be suited for CM, or CB, or striker. Not every kid has an instinct to go to goal, and in my opinion, goal scoring is one of those things that is hard to teach, and tends to almost be instinctual. Does that mean that there is no room for movement, or ratation? No. But also, if you’ve got a kid that can run the midfield like a magician, he’s probably not going to spend a lot of time playing right back.
Gary, how do you guys incorporate your keepers?
I feel that the idea is there, but the session is very questionable. From the planned schedule, the session has a heavy emphasis on the system and not on player development. Yes, players do need to understand positions on the field, but I would keep sessions more ambiguous. Especially at this age. We all love Barca for one reason only…THEY ARE CREATIVE… Thats the beautiful game. Your u11 boys have the technical ability, but I would like to see more focus on creativity and not the system. Maybe play more games that force the kids to think, “How can I help?” Rather than, “What position am I playing?” I am a supporter of what you do especially because we are doing the same here in the South. But you posted something I couldn’t resist in voicing my opinion. > Sorry. =)
Actually, Shaun T, Barcelona spends a great deal of time with its youth players from an early age doing exactly the type of exercises that Gary seems to be describing. But (like I am sure the Kleibans do) they also make sure the players know the WHY (the underlying concepts) of their diagrammed movements, which eventually leads to creativity you describe.
I just went to a FCB Escola course and this is spot on. I am baffled that people have any problems what so ever with the exercise and format that Gary just laid out. The fact that people do have problems with it and want only technical work shows why we produce athletes, some technical players, but no players with a high level soccer IQ. Understanding movements, roles, and the overall philosophy of a way team plays is absolutely critical to building soccer IQ. It is not pigeon holing a kid with what Gary did, it is helping them dramatically. If they understand how to move on and off the ball, what runs to make, which spaces to take up, where to close down, which decisions to make in different areas and all this while getting technical work this is as good as it gets!! The FCB Escola coaches break down their session activities into three stages: technical, tactical, and system, and these exercises are 3 for 3, talk about getting the most out of your sessions for development to create a complete player! You are doing your players a large disservice by being so afraid to pigeon hole players that they end up getting no tactical training, if you are worried about players not being exposed to new positions lay out a plan where there are rotations monthly or yearly, but if you are so petrified of your players only knowing one position that they end up learning zero positions you are much worse off than even if they did only master one position.
Soccer Purist says
It is amazing to me how reactionary people and coaches can be. The truth is always in the details. Clearly this is not something the Kleibans do in every training session. In addition scanning the player list not only is their overlap in the timing of arrival to connect roles but players are involved in multiple positions. Artur for example is used as a defender, midfielder, and forward. There are several others who are involved as well in different positions though of course to keep the integrity of the session it isn’t universal amongst all of the players. It is also important to judge the quality of any coach on their entire body of work and not in isolation. Those that have been following for sometime and have read Gary’s game reports would have noticed how much positional interchange there has been. It is clear that the Kleibans are not at risk of pigeon holing or early positional specialization.
Knowing all of this it is clear to see how beneficial a training session like this can be. Having the opportunity to more clearly define roles within the thirds of the field and the 4 moments of the game can be extremely beneficial when the groundwork of technical proficiency has already been laid. Overlapping the times is a brilliant move as well to help connect roles. Players get the opportunity to not only gain a clearer concept of their own role but how they connect with the other roles on the field.
What I have found a very valid discussion is the role of clubs and coaches not associated with professional clubs. Gary would love to hear your thoughts on the matter. You all clearly follow a very specific style and philosophy of play rather than a more globalized philosophy. Curious how you reconcile that with the understand in that at 18-19 your players will move on to a program whose philosophy will be different.
Thanks for some more details. One of the difficulties in these discussions is that Gary puts out so little information on specifics in his posts- look at his posts, most of them are slyly nebulous only throwing out a morsel of information. Because of this it is easy to misinterpret his rather ambiguous posts. It is also a strength of the blog because it does generate a lot of general discussions on philosophy, technique which I think is very useful, and which I suspect is the intent of Gary’s cryptic posts (or maybe he’s just really busy with his real job 😉 )
As a coach in an unassociated club without a specific system (each coach in our club is free to choose their system of play, which is good for me but not necessarily the best system- or maybe it is- a discussion for another day) I feel my most important goal with my players is to as much as possible develop their long term high level soccer potential. Specifically, this means making sure that 1) They are technically first class who are comfortable with the ball at their feet under pressure in closed spaces and comfortable beating a player on the dribble if need be (all positions) and 2) That they deeply understand the concepts of creating or closing space, timing, ball movement and appropriate movements with and without the ball. If they intrinsically and deeply understand this process, they understand the WHY and not just do it by rote, and combined with step 1) I believe they can be successful players in any system (and understand other sports like hockey, basketball, lacrosse, team handball, and field hockey).
I do believe that at times, diagrammed patterns and plays are necessary to show players. If done correctly and asking the right questions along the way, the players understand how their actions create space and lead to scoring opportunities. Thus they stimulate the players to understand WHY they are doing the sequences they have been taught. However, if it is just done so players learn various movements by rote without the underlying understanding, it is not helpful in developing their soccer IQ, which is the most most important goal.. Another way to try to achieve the same result is more by the Horst Wein method where you set up parameters of small sided games so success is only achieved in the game if the players discover FOR THEMESELVES (with guided questions) the correct solution to a given situation. I think both techniques are needed, and it certainly sounds to me that the Kleibans use both.
What you have to be careful with a lot of American coaches who have played other sports is that American soccer coaches use methods suited to coaching basketball and football and baseball, which stresses following a coach’s detailed play or gameplan and NOT thinking for themselves. It is one of the hardest things for American coaches to overcome in coming to grips with soccer’s different requirements.
Gary, love the blog and this post. Never too early to start learning positional play and a system. As players develop, they can always learn a new position and responsibilities. As I watch my son play youth soccer, it’s easy to see the players have no idea of where to go to on the field. A lone striker may stay up top waiting for a counter and maybe a center back trying to stay behind the line of defense. This post is spot on and I can’t wait to hear more.
Also love the idea of creating a DVD. I would buy it! I have a friend who did an iphone/android app containing drills to improve skills. But, it’s really hard to find good material for youth players so they can understand a system of play and tactics.
Please post more on this topic!
Gary Kleiban says
Gary, great soccer educational info. Lot of youth coaches seem to have the answers without even knowing what the question is. You have really “dissected” it.
Gary Kleiban says
Loooooong way to go. We’ve barely started.
I’m not going to comment on specialization as it’s philosophical, but I do want to give you kudos for saying you think about a player’s potential at 18. Far too many coaches think about a trophy and rankings — the short term, a opposed to long term. The team my son plays for has said many times he cares about future potential and not worried about tournaments. But I’ve had the unfortunate experience of the opposite.
What’s right is what works and different things work for different teams in different situations. And style and type of player has and always will change over time. Right now Barca are tops, before that it was Italy and France and Brazil. Tomorrow, who knows?
Gary Kleiban says
Thank you Kana!
1) Winning and development can happen simultaneously. In fact, I think that is what should be strived for. But these are muddy waters, and I’ll have to explain exactly what I mean, and why it’s important.
2) The one common thing that has not changed for as long as I’ve known the game is possession. That is the most fundamental and constant thing in this game, and the top footballing nations and teams in the world understand that. This is not to be confused with extraterrestrial FCB or Spain. You mentioned Italy, France, and Brazil. All possession-literate players and teams. Again, another topic I need to write a hell of a lot more about.
Agree winning and development are not mutually exclusive. They are complimentary. Sometimes strongly correlated; sometimes not. Especially at youth ranks where learning and and development aren’t linear. And winning is often cyclical.
Development can be individual and team, but winning is all team. Win and lose as a team.
Looking forward to your post on the topic.
Hi Gary, I’m glad to see this comment. It’s not a big thing, but perhaps that thing about your blog that I have been the most uncomfortable with these last three years is the constant focus on Barcelona and now Spain as examples. Because a lot of people DO seem to confuse the possession message with the Barcelona/Spain phenomenon. Tiki-taka is possession, but possession is not necessarily tiki-taka. This seems some people to reject your ideas outright or, perhaps worse, to assimilate them in a rigid, simple-minded way (think “soccer Taliban”).
Using other examples of possession soccer can make it easier to widen the circle of discussion, and maybe win over other people. I know it helps me, a clear non-expert here, to assimilate the concepts. Especially since where I live, there is probably not going to be any club or team in the near future that will play like Barcelona, and offer to the kids here what you are offering at Barcelona USA. Locally, we must push for alternative models that don’t appear so threatening and unreachable to our local clubs. Some Northern European examples might help. Germans? Dutch anyone?
Gary Kleiban says
Actually pretty much every single top-level team is jam-packed with possession-literacy.
You’re right, I need to talk more about this.
I see where you’re going with this somewhat but I don’t like the settling connotation, that we aren’t ever going to be Barcelona so why try. Setting the bar to low is very dangerous.
Kevin, that’s not at all where I was going. First of all, the notion that, since Barcelona is the best so therefore you should only follow their model is cartoonish. That’s the very problem I was trying to point out. We are talking about development here. I suspect there are many, many, many systems that will successfully develop a world-class player, if those systems are based on a possession style and are competently executed.
At the end of the day, there is the need to translate theories into actions in order to develop kids. If you are lucky enough to be at a club that wants to develop kids the Barcelona way, then great! But if you are not at such a club, then do you just keep dreaming, or do you try to find an alternative, but also effective model?
The notion that only FC Barcelona knows how to develop world-class players is just wrong. And if, for example, you are at a club that favors a direct, physical style and recruits good athletes, do you try to influence them towards a Barcelona style, and start recruiting quick, wiry little kids, or do you encourage them towards a German, or even Dutch possession-style model, so the kids who are there actually have a chance to learn something?
The discussions we have here are great, but at the end of the day, if you want to change something, you have to be willing to take small steps towards perfection. If you start out trying to force a blueprint of perfection on people, you will achieve nothing. “Setting the bar too low” is irrelevant, if you can’t even get off the ground.
“The notion that only FC Barcelona knows how to develop world-class players is just wrong. ”
Are you sure? Maybe there are a few others but not many clubs. Perhaps the definition of “world-class” is culturally based.
I agree with you. Also goes back to what Hincha said about developing players to what purpose, to what end. I know coaches trying to teach passing and possession but they have a team of man-child players who may be better suited for physical, long-ball style. As Gary said, many coaches have “cookie cutter” approach. One style fits all with no consideration about the future and what’s best for players.
But we as parents put our kid into clubs based largely on reputation and winning. Wouldn’t it be nice if XYZ club posted their player development philosophy on their website or just being more specific during tryouts as to style of play and player qualities they prefer. I wouldn’t have my 5’ 3” son tryout for XYZ team if I knew they preferred physical style of play and long-ball. No, I’d look for a team that cared more about skill and ability, possession. But the problem is I consider myself knowledgeable in soccer, but I have had to learn lessons about clubs and coaches the hard way – through frustration, trial and error.
Sound dumb? Isn’t that what professional clubs do in Europe and South America? Stock their youth teams with players who best fit into their style of play? For example, why would Valencia or Arsenal or Ajax bring on a big, strong player if he wasn’t skillful enough? They won’t! Even at younger ages. Yet it happens all the time in American youth soccer. I guess it’s difference between pay-to-play and club-sponsored player models.
Is that the kind of European thinking that Gary and his brother are trying to do with their team / club?
I personally don’t have a problem with whatever style of play, but it should fit the philosophy and team. Does it make sense to have small, quick players within long-ball type system? Is that best for him at 18?
“Yet it happens all the time in American youth soccer. I guess it’s difference between pay-to-play and club-sponsored player models. ”
Right, American youth soccer is a business first. The priority is to collect money not develop players. Most other countries only focus on the young kids who want to be professional players. In the US everyone is given an equal opportunity as long as they are willing to pay. American kids want to play for the fun of it so the goals and club priorities are much different.
“Locally, we must push for alternative models that don’t appear so threatening and unreachable to our local clubs.”
Create the culture first that will represent the club/team.
Coach J says
There is no reason teaching possession soccer and winning cannot go hand in hand. Sure you might have the occassional mistake by misplaying a ball as you try to play out of the back, but the kids WILL learn from it and get better. I coach a GU12 team and when I took over at U10 I told the players and parents that I was going to teach them the right way to play soccer…….MAINTAIN POSSESSION OF THE BALL!!!!!
The girls have gotten better each and every season and are very comfortable playing out from the back, using our Keeper for pass backs, resetting if things get shut dow…….but always trying to maintain POSSESSION of the ball!
I’m not in anyway trying to brag about my team, I’m just saying that if you have the right mind set, you can teach possession soccer AND be successful. Some people seem to think that you will sacrifice success for the sake of learning how to become better if you try to teach “possession soccer”. I say BS!!!
The problem is the majority of coaches don’t know HOW to teach possession soccer, therefore they are afraid to try and implement it. They know direct soccer. They KNOW how to tell little Jimmy to kick it as far as he can and tell little Tommy to go chase it down and try and score a goal. This is what they know, so this is what they teach.
If we can get coaches that know HOW to teach possession soccer, and aren’t afraid to teach it, we have a chance as a nation to become great. But until then, we will be a middle of the pack nation, because direct soccer is not elite soccer. Possession soccer is elite soccer.
are both your 10s and 11s playing 11v11?
How about 8×8 and/or 7v7? It would be great if you addressed 8×8 i(along with 11v11) n your product set.
IMO, 8v8 would be a magnitude harder challenge than 11v11.
Gary Kleiban says
Well our 10s are now going to be 11s.
And that’s the age where competition here becomes 11v11.
Not really “harder” in terms of coaching or execution. The principles are the same, and the player density doesn’t change enough to trouble us.
But I’ll certainly place this on my to-do list.
Have you seen Brian’s posts during the Florida tournament? Our 11s played 8v8 there.
I’ve read them a while back ..
Though, I think I recall Brian mentioning that there was some trouble with the high press; resulting in more long ball 😉
IMO, there are not many possible 8v8 formations that can be employed.
3-3-1 is typical, where there is only 1 CM; which puts tremendous pressure (e.g., stretches the CM into having to perform both D-CM and A-CM roles).
I would prefer to see different 8×8 formations because I think it would favor/enable more ball possession thru the center midfield vs the wings e.g., 3-1-2-1 or a 3-1-1-2, (all have more than 1 CM).
I’m back after re-reading some of Brian’s blogs from Danone Nations Cup.
Your U11s played 3-3-1 ..
plus, they attacked mostly down the wings. IMO, attacking down the wings is not
Tiki-taka style since it resemble and/or looks too much like 4-4-2 to me. Do you agree?
cut-n-pasted from Brian’s blog.
Getting the ball wide to our wingers is the key to our success. Creating 2 v 1′s with out outside backs overlapping is out bread and butter and led to the 2 goals in the second half to put the game away.
Definitely wrong here, high and wide wings and using the whole pitch is a Barca trademark. The tikitaka usually comes from the central players, that is true, but the high and wide wingers (fullbacks and forwards) are crucial to the barca system, and they are always looking to move the ball into wide positions to create overloads, for example when Messi played on the right him and Alves would constantly combine with eachother. As for your comment about formations for 8 v 8 I was thinking since FCB Escola uses a 3-2-1 and on occasion a 2-3-1 in the 7 v 7 games since they think that it translates best to their 4-3-3 in 11 v 11, what about doing a 3-2-1+1 or a 2-3-1+1? (The plus one would be a winger that has the freedom to play on either flank at any given time and switches flanks throughout the game). Just an idea, would be interested on what people think of that idea.
Soccer Purist says
Most 8v8 fields are too small as is. Great in some ways, not so great in others. Because of this it is very difficult to play in 4 bands without players playing on top of each other. Best formation for 8v8 in my opinion and if you have a very technically competent team is 322.
Considering a 2311 next season but I am trying to work out how to defend the width with two CB’s and not have my outside players drop deep as full backs too much.
In 3-3-1, do we even have any high & wide players in the formation?
Formations are less important than Playing philosophy. I have used. Many different set-ups in 8v8 such as 322, 331, 3121, 421 but all that was meant to do was counteract an opponents strengths or to play to my own team strengths. It did not affect the ideals of promoting possession-based soccer.
In the end you have to set your team up based on who you and who they have. But doesnt change your approach or philosophy.
I hope you have a sense of humor 🙂
You say formations are less important than playing philosophy ..
but you do not mention what your playing philosophy is. Instead, we inform us that you employ a bunch of different formations. One could argue that if formations are less important .. then why change the formation so often.
Also, doesn’t your statement imply that all your players must be (grand) masters of the
game .. since It is hard for me to fathom that 10 and 11 year old could have learned
enough soccer .. at this point in their lives .. where your statement is believable.
Maybe, players from team Barca .. maybe, a team of elite international players .. but 10 or 11 year olds?
Have a nice weekend.
Larry Please re-read my first paragraph in my last post. Specifically the last sentence. You will see my philosophy stated quite clearly.
Second why do you believe only Barcelona ten or eleven year olds can change formations? That’s ridiculous and you underestimate them.
Third and it makes sense you would assume we changed formations often but you are wrong. What you don’t know us those were used over the course if two years and as I said already were based on players available and opposition.
Finally, thank you Larry for reminding me if the wonders of assumption and jackassery that us possible on the Internet. Font worry we have all made the same mistake!
Ps- ignore the typos!! #iPhone and fat fingers dont mix
My apologies if I came across as an ass .. But seriously, I was having a difficult time understanding the meaning of your post. I wish I could have voiced my confusion a little more eloquently.
Truthfully, I believe style of play & formation go hand in hand. You may want a certain style of play but choosing the wrong formation can be determintal to achieving this goal. This is meant as a concrete vs abstract point of argument.
I’m starting to understand the massive challenges that Gary faces with his blog & readers.
Gary Kleiban says
Feels great to know you’re seeing how tough this is.
But I’m up to the challenge! 🙂
style of play and formations do go hand in hand. But that doesn’t mean, one formation=long ball/hopeful kicks up field, while another automatically means keeping the ball down. Example is when Stoke play 4-4-2 they do it a lot differently than when Man City or Man United do. It’s about philosophy and approach more than formation. But yes, if you want a quick counterattack you prob don’t want to play 5-4-1, against an opponent with 2 tall centre backs marking your forward. etc etc etc
As Gary would say .. We’re talking Gold standard now.
Would you agree that the majority of the best teams in the world are all playing or planning to play 4-3-3 vs some other formation?
Let see .. Brazil & Manchester United are two examples against. Any others?
Seems most of the top teams are playing 4-2-3-1 now, as opposed to 4-3-3.
Hi gary hows it going, im an under age coach based in ireland iv been at it for a few years now , mainly started bcuz of a bad injury to my shin im only 19 so that gives you an idea of just how bad an injury it had to be to keep a young guy like myself off the pitch for good. i love coaching and i love the idea of kids passing the ball and just playing what i call ”the pointless pass” , i found calling it this was the best way to get it across to the kids that 90% of the time the best pass was to the guy that was 3 – 5 feet away from you and on the ground instead of the long ball or the high ball or the risky long ball to somebody further away … because what i tell the guys is that if your an attacking player and there are 4 or 5 of ye slowly working that ball around the opposition area eventually one of them will do that silly thing and over commit to a ball creating a gap and opening them selves up for you instead of you doing all the hard work… the big problem i have had though is that we can normally only get out for training session 2-3 times a week for about 1 to 1 and a half hours with the entire team and after the warm up time and the getting ready is all out of the way it kind of leaves me short on time to focus on the guys playing ball … what id like to know is there any specific drills you may be able to recommend that hopefully i dont have myself that are good on time and that get as much of the team involved as possible while at the same time focusing on both positioning and good movement and judgement of the ball … your help would be great
Gary Kleiban says
Hi Jamie and welcome!
I’m developing a product to address that very thing. Target launch date is in the Fall.
ok sounds good ill keep and ear to the ground for that
Soccer Training For Kids says
It was extremely interesting for me to read that article. Thanks for it. I like such themes and everything that is connected to this matter. I definitely want to read more soon.
PAUL RODRIGUEZ says
HI Gary, The problem I find when young kids U8 U9 start to get in to the whole club soccer environment is that no one really concentrates on the technical advancement of the player. Most all coaches concentrate solely on team strategy and how to get from point A TO B TO GOAL.
I’m from Argentina and this is something we focus on greatly especially at this age.
What do you think ?
John Pranjic says
I’ve been wanting to come back and revisit this post for awhile. Today’s the day 🙂
When you work on different scenarios with your back 5 (i.e. with the lead or when losing)- what changes? What is the mentality of the team as a whole when you guys are up 1-0, 4-0, or 10-0? From what I’ve seen, read, and heard (albeit not much of it has been live) there is no mercy. Do you guys discuss taking your foot off of the pedal or keeping it pressed to the floor? A combo?
We still haven’t gotten to the bottom of that ‘launch it’ comment I heard while I visited. Is that something that is used more in certain situations? I know you mentioned that you and Brian differ in some ways. Do you guys share the same general ideas while you guys have the lead? While losing? While trying to break a deadlock?