We’ve mentioned the phrase ‘Set Tactical Work’ often, but I know this is a foreign notion to the American Soccer Community at all levels.
So let me try to give a more familiar concept. Set Tactical Work is essentially Choreography.
Here’s an example from the 3four3 curriculum.
Now, Rich asked the following:
I think for many of us at the younger ages, it goes back to what I asked in the comments section a number of months ago: how often and what depths do you go into for set tactical work at U9, U10, U11, U12?
It’s a good question, and I’ll get to an example of what we’ve done in a second …
But first I must reiterate, there is no map – no recipe.
Coaching is an art!
An art, whose practice is driven by ones philosophy.
A philosophy that is shaped by your studies, your personal history of trial and error experiences (ie Execution), current and ultimate objectives, and so on …
Every coach’s situation is different.
That is precisely why a clearly developed philosophy is so critical. Once you have that, it provides you with all the answers!
Another reader contributed this:
Rich, you can start at any age. The world’s leading academies start at varying ages. A few examples here are:
* Ajax starts at 12.
* Arsenal starts at 14.
* Barcelona at age 8.
* F.C Bayern at 11.
* Inter Milan starts individual tactics at age 8 and team tactics at 13/14
* Racing Club of Lens in France starts at 13.
These numbers can be found at this source.
Now, I’m not going to go into why you shouldn’t blindly cite these numbers, but this once again gives a hint that there’s no strict recipe.
What we’ve done
For instance, here’s a general historical look at what Brian did with the U12s involving “possession out of the back”.
At U10 (8v8):
- How often? Every week at training and matches.
- What depth? Proper shape & constant verbal indoctrination of philosophy (the why’s? and constant Q&A with players).
- How often? Every week at training and matches.
- What depth? Proper shape & constant verbal indoctrination of philosophy (the why’s? constant Q&A with players)
Note: towards the latter part of U11, the training of ‘out of the back’ tapered off a bit (understanding & execution were to a satisfactory level). But “refreshers” are done when we see fit.
- How often? Regularly in pre-match warmups. But no longer a specifically targeted activity involving just back 5 at training sessions (maybe a refresher of details when we see fit and Q&A’s).
- What depth? Details pointed out during the course of a match.
Love this Gary. This could really change everything. Gary, do Brian’s practices follow the model that is shown at many coaching courses. Start with a technical warmup and slowly progress the practice into a specific topic for the session and add pressure as you go. Maybe three different types of drills.
Trying to figure out how important that is and how to it relates or doesn’t to Brian’s style.
Gary Kleiban says
Sounds about right … the technical warmup activities are first.
Jason Seabury says
“You can understand it, once you get it”
This quote was on Cruyff’s Facebook page this morning and I read it after reading through your new post about set tactical work. It seemed appropriate since I seem to be at that point where I think I now know what I don’t know, which is progress, but I’m still stretching to fully “get it.” A quick Google search on Cruyff’s quote provided this context for the quote: Talking about tactics, Cruyff said literally that it (the sacred knowledge of soccer) is only open for people who actually “see” it…
So, Cruyff was talking about tactics and I want to talk about philosophy, but the quote applies just as well I think. I asked a question a few weeks ago that has gone unanswered, maybe because the way it was asked came across as prickly. Here’s my second attempt. Although I would love to hear from you, Gary, I would also appreciate the views of as many others as possible.
I understand that once a coach’s philosophy is well developed, all answers to these kind of questions naturally flow from that philosophy. But here’s the thing. What part of your philosophy leads to you conclude that set tactical work has been appropriate for players of yours as young as U10. Is it that the “soccer age” of those U10’s was actually much older due to their prodigious level of development? Was it because of your stated goal of developing elite professional players and the belief that set tactical work from a very young age is a necessary component to give those players a shot at having a sufficiently high trajectory? Is it because your philosophy is that you have to win in order to create the stage from which others will respect you, listen to you, give your players a shot at placement in a European youth academy (and that set tactical work gives your teams the competitive advantage needed)? Is it because you believe it is simply a better environment for individual development? More importantly, what is the philosophical difference that would lead, say the FC Barcelona Escolas to conclude that while the U8 players at La Masia receive set tactical training, the players at the Escolas at ages up to U12 do not? (Note that I don’t know whether that is actually the case and I am only inferring that possible conclusion from some vague references on this topic that I have seen.) Or, what about some of the top European clubs that CLAIM they don’t begin set tactical work until much later than you? What philosophical positions would lead them to conclude that their execution should not include set tactical work until much later? Basically, what is the philosophy behind that decision? I’m sure you know exactly why your philosophy leads to your particular execution with regard to choreography. And since you have probably spent some time defending your position, you probably also know exactly what philosophical stones those on the other side of the fence throw at you on this topic. So can you enlighten me? I am not critical of your philosophy or that of others who disagree with you. I am just trying to understand.
Jason Seabury says
One last point, the reason I care to understand the “WHY” behind the set tactical work is that I have a sense that it is not appropriate for all players or teams, of all ages, in all situations. Without the philosophy behind the execution item of set tactical work I am left unable to avoid what you, Gary, caution against: taking any unconsidered, un-artful, cookie-cutter, formulaic approach to deciding whether, when, and what kind of set tactical work is appropriate for any given player or team at any given point in time. I need some help developing the WHY, the PHILOSOPHY, behind this particular item of execution.
dr loco says
“the set tactical work is that I have a sense that it is not appropriate for all players or teams, of all ages, in all situations.”
Is it appropriate for all students to learn how to read a book?
Set tactical work is like reading a book for all kids of all ages in all areas of interest. You must develop a child’s mind first before you can increase complexity. Start the tactical work early if you want them to learn quickly and reach a high-level.
Would you rather start reading in 1st grade or 8th grade?
Jason Seabury says
Totally get your point but it is not responsive. This conversation is only marginally helpful if we speak in generalities, but I realize this medium is not well suited for communication of any great detail. Someone needs to organize a live symposium. TED for footballers.
It IS appropriate to teach all students to read.
It is NOT appropriate to teach students of all levels to read the same book.
YES, I would rather start READING in 1st grade than in 8th grade.
BUT, I would rather start reading SHAKESPEARE in 8th grade than in 1st grade.
You have a point but it is so superficial it doesn’t advance the discussion I am trying to initiate. I think we can all agree with everything you said. Sticking with your reading analogy, maybe this will help spark the discussion I would like to have: What is the philosophy that drives the determination of the age or reading level at which a student’s reading development would be accelerated by reading Shakespeare?
Jason, I like the reading analogy but there is a better one to compare to set tactical work. Math. All these kids are in say 3rd grade. They are learning multiplication and division. Every math book will explain concepts giving examples of equations and solutions. The real learning takes place when the student understands those fundamental concepts and equations and begins to apply them to problems (situations) that don’t quite resemble the examples in the text. This is the same with set tactical work. Once the player understands the concept (repetition) the development comes from handling the variable situations that arise to complicate the learned play. Some will do it better than others – ie they will eventually become the cream that rises to the top. There is no reason why a 9 and 10 year old can not learn fundamental concepts on the field when they are learning so in the classroom. Problem is most coaches do not understand that, don’t know how to teach it or don’t have the confidence and patience to work it thru.
NOVA Mike says
Great questions Jason. You wanted to hear from others so here’s my take on it. I will start running sessions like this one this summer, with rising U9 select. The reason? They are ready for it. Technical skill and comfort on the ball is there (although will continue to be emphasized) – built with lots of small-sided play, pick-up / street soccer, heavy footskills emphasis at U5-U8. Important to reiterate that when I say lots, I am talking year-round, multi-days per week — i.e, not the standard US rec curriculum. They understand basic tactical principals in the 4 phases of the game such as attacking shape, defensive shape, transition. The philosophy of possession-based, skillful, creative attacking soccer has been consistently drummed into them since U5 (all coaches in age group were on board). For U8’s, our area has what is called “crossing over” leagues, for advanced players who play 4v4 w/ Puggs in morning games with their house / rec teams, then get together and play 6v6 w/ keepers against other advanced players from different clubs. So by this summer our rising U9s will have had at least 2 seasons of playing in consistent formation (we use 3-2-1 at 7v7, and drop the striker at 6v6), slowly learning how to apply the general concepts and philosophy in the context of positional responsibilities within the system. For example, our outside backs know that they need to move out wide when we have the ball, but pinch in to provide compactness w/ cover and balance when we are defending. They try to play out of the back according to some general principals: shape needs to have wide options (provided by FBs), MFs need to make runs to find and/or create space, the ball should be played quickly to a player in space with minimal risk, play the ball safely to a player in space, supporting triangles to play out. At this point they have progressed to the point where they are successful playing out of the back more often than not. As expected, mistakes are still common, and costly. Importantly, the players are very motivated to fix them. In other words – they are trying to play out of the back, they want to play out of the back, and they want to know how they can do it better.
At this point, an exercise like the one provided by Gary (modified for us with a back line of 3), is the next logical step. They are ready to add this level of detail to what they already know and can do. We actually talked about it and did a mini walk-through at pre-game last weekend, and I could see the light bulbs begin to flicker in their brains. Of course they didn’t go out and execute it flawlessly b/c we haven’t actually practiced it yet, but I could see that it made sense to them, because it builds on what they already know. For my group it just feels right.
I would not go so far as to say that chronological age is irrelevant, but at a certain point it’s influence may be much more significant in determining how you teach as opposed to what you teach.
Final thought for the morning … Jason, the way you phrased this question is interesting: “Is it that the “soccer age” of those U10′s was actually much older due to their prodigious level of development.” Maybe we need to start looking at this another way. Maybe the real issue is that the “soccer age” of most players in this country is actually much younger than it should be, due to their prodigious lack of development. I think what most U9-U11 coaches in this country do (and are taught to do), really boils down to remedial skill development. Kind of like what the schools would have to do if 3rd graders were still stuck on picture books.
I think that’s a really good point re: soccer age of our players. One of my two teams right now is a U10 girls team. When I got them last year just prior to the U9 season they were far behind. Couldn’t run with the ball, pass, receive, etc. with any degree of proficiency as they were basically coming from rec. So I had to start from absolute square one with basic technique. I’ve done some tactical work in bits and pieces as I felt they could handle it. They’ve been trying to play out of the back since day one, but we’ve had a lot of trouble continuing to build the play once it’s gotten into the midfield.
Now that we’re going into spring of u10, they’re finally able to put it all together. Once we get outside in a few weeks on a normal 8v8 field, I’ll do a lot more tactical work. I tried to do some stuff this fall, but after trying it for a few sessions I could tell they just weren’t really getting it (and still didn’t have a high enough technical level in general) for me to keep with it. So I backed it down to smaller possession games and other stuff to keep building their basic technique and game intelligence.
I think it’s also important to mention that now with the benefit of another year of coaching experience, I would do things a bit differently. I could break down some of the concepts of how I want the team to play into smaller pieces that probably could be assimilated by younger/lesser players. But I personally needed to wrangle with it and trial-error to get to that point. So I think that’s part of it too – how effective the coach is at teaching his ideas to the players – breaking his philosophy down into the constituent parts and designing activities that are appropriate to the players’ abilities while still teaching pieces of said philosophy.
“it is not appropriate for all players or teams, of all ages, in all situations. ”
I think this is the key point in answering your question. I’m going to speak to my specific circumstance because the geographic isolation and small population base gives me such a wide variance in player ability and development speeds to give a unique insight into the issue. I draw from a population base of roughly 20,000 and the nearest town is about an hour away – I don’t have the ability of recruitment and release that large populations do. I currently coach the BU14 traveling team and am developing curriculum for the entire youth soccer program in my area.
On my team, I have one player that made an MLS academy team (distance prevented participation), three or four at about a premier level, and the rest are select level at best. Clearly, some of my players should be learning advanced tactics, while others are still learning not to toe-punt passes. I create season plans for different groups of players, based on skill, to cater to different technical abilities and ability to learn.
My low-skill and low-learning players (about 8 players) get a very rudimentary and simplified version of the game: Basically 75% of their training is first touch, passing technique, and establishing width. My assistant coaches (high school players and recent high school grads who I worked with in the past) run the drills for these players.
My middle skill and middle-learning players (about 5 players) get a higher-level version of instruction focused on: positional and ball movement (overlaps, wall passes, switching the field of play), first touch, pressure/cover/balance, and proper communication. These players are ones I spend time talking about general philosophy: move the ball quickly, high pressure defense, looking for opportunities to penetrate, etc.
My top 3 or 4 players are what I spend most of my time on. These are the players who really have the mental acuity to understand advanced tactics and the technique to execute their decisions. I give them instruction on how to organize and instruct their teammates during the game and dictate the flow and speed of play.
By separating out the level of instruction, it allows each player to develop at a pace appropriate for the technical and learning abilities. Within the game itself my low-level players, despite their lack of game understanding, contribute some of the basic things needed to facilitate the style of play the better players are capable of.
What it all boils down to is the level of skill and understanding that your current group of players has and coming up with a plan to advance them as far as you can with the time you have with them. Some years you get high-skilled players and can play total football. Some years you get crap and have to work on basic technique. You can’t force a level of game-understanding on a group of players who don’t have the technical ability to execute it.
ken Ward says
This is my first post here, but have been reading for 6 or so months. I too am wondering when this set tactical work should be done, and what should be done. A little backround: I learned
soccer in the late seventies, starting at age 12 or so. Most of by formal training was at summer soccer camps, I played highschool soccer (no youth soccer at the time), played alot of pickup street soccer before this with a very ethnically diverse mix of friends (italian, English, Portugues, Brazilian etc. I was sort of the odd person out… being many generation american). I watched alot of NASL soccer (had NY Cosmos season tickets). When I was formally educated in tactics, we didn’t do much set tactical work, we were presented with the guiding principles of offense/defense etc, and taught to evaluate our tactical choices (both on and off the ball) based on these.. and by watching alot of film, to see how the best in the world (beckenbauer, cruyff, pele, alberto, etc.) did things, and how these were guided by the principles. When watching live games, or games on TV, I always analyzed play to see how these players made their decisions. While watching lots of games, you did tend to see patterns of play emerge (i.e. when to pass back, when to change up the field, when to make a risky penetrating pass, when to dribble deep and cross etc. etc.). So with young kids (say U10+) I’m struggling at how to best do this. I think ultimately you want your players to make their choices, not based on a few set choreographed peices, that just makes them robots of a different type, yet I think the set tactical work exposes players to a few (or many) useful patterns. It seems like Gary does this at U10, but then moves on from there (and them maybe works in the more abstract concepts that lead to these choices, and gives players more tools to drive their tactical decisions). I think U10 can do the set tactical work, but I don’t think
that all U10 can make that next step, and I don’t think all U11/U12 or any age can make that step, they really need to want to learn and open their minds to this. Its not cookbook, and some kids might always be stuck in a cook book mentality (I always do X in situation Y), but I think introducing the principles at U10 and above enables the kids to ‘get it’ when they’re ready. It takes work, and effort to get it and apply it in a game like setting, and not all kids want to put the work in. FYI I coach Girls U12 now (in our lowest/weakest division), and also volunteer as our Town Soccer U5-U8 coach and player developement coordinator, so I’m very interested in making sure that what we do at U5-U8 (which is very much technique focussed) doesn’t create bad habits for the kids as they move up in age, and gain both physical, mental and developemental maturity. I think alot of what we can do at U5-U8 can set up more success at the older ages. I’ve been coaching for about 7-8 years working my way up from U5 (coached U7/U8 with two daughters, then u5-U12 with my younger daughter).
dr loco says
“I think ultimately you want your players to make their choices, not based on a few set choreographed peices, that just makes them robots of a different type”
As a coach I rarely let players make their own choices. It’s my game not theirs! When we win/lose or perform well/poorly it’s 100% my responsibility so I make all the decisions on the team.
“Its not cookbook, and some kids might always be stuck in a cook book mentality”
Perhaps not cookbook but it is textbook. It is good that players get stuck with the good stuff so they don’t have to think about it. Problem is we just teach them bad stuff and that gets stuck with them forever.
ken Ward says
Ok, this is something that I really disagree with. A coach has to give the team
a philosophy/strategy (i.e. when making a choice, possession is better
than a risky pass that is likely to be lost), but if you tell a player , for instance, “if you regain posession in the back half of the field, always play the ball back, them move
it across the field (back through the goalie or whatever), your making them predictable
to the other team, and your not letting them take advantage of the poor position of the other team on transition. The back pass might be the correct thing to do 80-90% of the time, but if they understand why this is, and also why sometimes it isn’t, then they’ll make smart plays, and can take advantage of the situation when its possible to. Now for a young group, without alot of experience that they can draw on, saying to do this all the time, does get them into the good habit of playing out of the back, especially if its a alien concept to them. But as the kids get older, you want them to use their soccer intelligence, their abiltiy to read the game, to make these decisions.
I tend to think, the sooner you empower them to make choices, and to understand why those choices are good (and why ones are poor) both as individual, and within the team strategy/philosophy you want them to play under , the sooner they can be truly good dynamic players. Predictability, eventually, is easy to play against (provided the opponents have good soccer intelligence and can read your play).
I agree that the youngest ages need more/constant direction. I’ve been pretty disappointed with my *relatively* talented U10 boys who consistently hear and practice building out of the back; however, if they hear the words “no restrictions” at the end of practice for 7v7 scrimmage, all hell breaks loose and it is straight up jungle ball and 1v1s all over the field. I’ve moved to being more strict even in the “scrimmage” portion of practices.
I think that tactical work can be helpful and is needed for those kids that don’t watch soccer. These types of kids don’t have any “default” understanding of what to do in certain situations. Giving them a framework makes things more concrete and gives them confidence that they know 2-3 different options they “should” have. Getting the other players to provide those options at the right time is another thing…
pg 19 says
Ken, you made the following
“if you regain posession in the back half of the field, always play the ball back, them move it across the field (back through the goalie or whatever), your making them predictable”. I’ve done specifically that. The only objective was whenever we received the ball, we had to play it all the way back to the keeper, no exceptions. This was a game, not a practice. As often what is done at practice is lost in the game unless you provide specific direction/objectives. As a result, I do use games to teach what is possible because the competition is real.
Did I do this to win a game? No. Was our play predictable. Yes, the opponent coach figured it out and guess what, the opponent players started to mark my players positive versus negative (goal side). They were anticipating the pass to our keeper whenever we won possession and would line up in an offsides position to try to get at it. Were they offsides, no, because we played the ball not them. I argued against this, got the referee to argue back and this encouraged the opponent to be even more aggressive in being in a positive position to our players.
Tactically, how can that work to our favor when the opponent in numbers, no longer marks our players goal side? I think what I’d like to see from more coaches, is instead of theorizing the potential problems of playing a certain way will lead to, is instead try it and observe what happens. Can your players make the observation of how “strategy” of playing a certain way can condition a response from an opponent to play a certain way. Can that “set” an opponent up to be picked off?
Another comment above is what is appropriate for your respective teams for set tactical training. Its more based upon your kids abilities. What is their level of play in terms of fundamentals? How sharp are their ball handling skills? If its there when they are 6, why not start then? If its not and they’re 16, guess what, its not going to happen if they can’t receive the ball let alone pass it. My 5th grade kid reads at a collegiate level. No way I would make her read what other 5th graders do. She would be bored and more importantly, her development in reading would be stunted. Not about age, all about skill/ability/playing level.
Maybe we should instead award special colored belts to players based on abilities like Martial Arts. That would be weird, seeing players identified by ability versus age.
ken Ward says
So yes, you can use a game to make a point. And I think the set tactical training exposes kids to possibilities , and if its a strategy of yours to do the predictable
to lure the other team into a position that then can be exploited, that a great concept to teach. Lots of times teams do just that, work the ball on one part of the field to open up the other side, make the same runs for a number of times in a row, then mix it up, when the other team is anticipating the same move. And having absolutes at younger ages simplifies things and allows you to ingrain good behaviors. My some what issue, is when you do this, should you also tell the kids that, there are times when the thing you ask them to do all the time isn’t the best choice, and explain why, and maybe show why and work that set tactical situation into the practice?? What age is it appropriate to put more of the decision making process into the players hands, and if you do rote stuff too long, does it inhibit where you eventually want them to be. At some point I think you do want the players to know the whys and wherefores of what your asking them to do all the time, Or , as it looked like you did, make the predictable part of the strategy or the learning process of showing how an opponent will react to your play. I tend to think that as soon as you think the kids can handle the ‘whys’ you let them know, and then also get them to try and make the correct choice. The set tactical stuff gives them a great tool kit for what is generally good. But I’d hate to have a player miss a great penetrating pass to a player making a good run into space, because he was told to always pass it back (or do whatever all of the time). But I suppose if you don’t ingrain certain things, they never become options kids consider. My difficulty is how much and how varied, as opposed to teaching concepts that apply to making the right tactical decisions. A fundamental problem of the kids I coach (and because its a low level team, I have to deal with lack of skill, I constantly get new players to my team, as well as players who haven’t played much or all previously, even at U12) tend to
expect to be ‘joystick’ coached, because thats what they’ve been exposed to, so for them, I want them to show them possibilties, and have them use their own decision making to decide what to do. With weak skills they will have a lower success rate doing the right things, but that’s fine. Lots also have bad
habits with regard to being restricted to where they play (i.e. backs not crossing the half way line, or staying in the penalty box) . So I feel that doing too much set work, would just re-enforce that lack of thinking. Its different, and more ‘correct’ lack of thinking, but I think it still prevents them from gaining understanding of the “whys and wherefores”. But I know this webpage is more concerned with how you train the elite, the problems I’m trying to deal with are very much in the “recreational” side of things, but I don’t want to write these kids off, I think some have real potential to grealty improve if they were put on the right track, and then decided to put more personal effort in (mostly in improving their technique).
I agree that when you introduce things to players is very dependent on when their ready, and that isn’t based just on chronological age.
pg 19 says
Absolutely, the kids have to learn the why, but when is that taught? I believe US Soccer wants to approach this as teach them the why and then let the kids figure out the how. My observations of the Kleibans is you teach the how until technique allows them to execute with consistent success, then the why starts to be understood and the progression/morphing of the tactic into other possibilities become organic, developed by the player with guidance from the coach with less instruction from the coach. You’ll note the post how the kids are wheened from the instruction as they understand, execute and I’m assuming are able to modify the tactic to situation. It becomes less mechanical and more fluid.
It is interesting how simple this is, and yet how easily it is overlooked. A coach called this shadow play and I would agree that it is, but its much more in detail to a smaller group of players, specific to one phase of play. Often the coach makes things too complex, this is much simpler and the repeition much greater.
Reading the lines literally in the post is that the players are spending a significant amount of time on this concept for at least 3-4 seasons of play. Likely more as I’m sure these boys play year round. In addition, these are highly skilled players relative to their age group. Factor in players with lesser skill, where soccer is their secondary sport, soccer is played recreationally, fewer team training dates and virtually no work done by the players at home for technical skill development, you kind of get a sense of how much work there really is on something this simple.
How many coaches would have gone on to the next thing before establishing the level of consistency with their teams with this activity? I’m not talking about coaches that haven’t ever seen this blog. I’m talking about the coaches currently reading this forum, who believe they are enthusiastic about the information they just received and eager to get started. My season starts Monday, so I may be just one of those coaches.
ken Ward says
Right, I think US soccer wants to teach the kids the principles, then let them discover the patterns on their own. I don’t think this works, unless of course kids are also watching alot of soccer and can see patterns, but alot of the good play isn’t obvious, so the I think the set play is needed to introduce those patterns. I don’t see why you can’t do both, but maybe with young kids its better to have them just “do it, trust me, and when you get older you’ll see the light”. My issue is I see even younger kids to “just do it” and I think what their told to “just do” is detrimental (because it isn’t good soccer). But these 3four3 tactical patterns aren’t detrimental, they are good fundamentals for many situations. So maybe thats what I have to distinguish. And also if there is a plan to them move the kids toward more understanding of the “whys” they will then begin to know when it isn’t correct to do the set tactic. In general, the things I think coaches have been telling U5/U6 (and maybe even U7/U8) players, that makes them look like their playing older kid soccer, is detrimental. I’ve done some set type work with U8 through my current U12 players, but I have to say it probably hasn’t been enough to really beat it into them, but at the same time, I’ve really had to spend more time on skills (i.e. activities and drills to give the kids lots of touches).
John Pranjic says
I rarely see specific patterns work out exactly like we practice them. But practicing patterns is basically hammering ideas into their head. Which is good.
Sometimes… the patterns work out just the way you drew them up though…
Matt Emmert says
John, that’s a good point about the patterns not being executed robotically on the field. I had a U16 team several years ago and I did a lot of 11v0 stuff with them and, while I didn’t know exactly what I was doing, I taught them 2-3 different patterns in attack. While we never did it exactly as drawn out, once it was sort of ’embedded’ in their mind, we went from being disorganized and overly direct to suddenly scoring after 8-10 passes on a routine basis.
My assistant always believed it was from that shadow work that we were doing every session at that time and I have to believe it was the case, especially in light of your comment
Pg19, I did sort of what you are talking about with my U8 team, but I did it in a game where we were in control a bit, what I mean is we were the better team and gave our guys a chance to work on some things with less pressure, actually what I did is told our team we had to keep the ball in our Defensive half of the field, now I like to talk to the team about the fields being in thirds but for this game we played in our half for the whole second half of the game. I will also tell you in all games we look to play possession, we have a number of passes we want to string together each time we gain possession, that number is change according to the other teams level, but never under say 4 passes in a row. mostly 5. We play out of the back quite often anyhow. In this game we were able to use our set tatical work out of the back because we only went to the half way line. This was before I had ever seen this set tatical work the way Brian and Gary have it. Which I love btw. So instead of making them go back to the keeper everytime, have them go back to the keeper when your outside back steals the ball, meaning regains possession. That would make more sense and would be harder for the other team to use those tatics. I hope this makes sense….
pg 19 says
All within the context of the team, intent, etc. I think my point primarily is to try something versus predict why/how it isn’t going to work. What if we were receiving this information from the Kleibans but there was no team that they had coached, it was all theory? The argument to implement this would be from much fewer numbers in terms of support, but the reasoning is no different or no less effective in play.
Intent; I coach a high school team. The team I did this with was a U13 girls team. Because I coach hs, I’m grooming these players so they are skillful and soccer literate. W’s are not as important as Development. In addition, I do not have seasons to coax a change from the players. It has to be drastic and relatively immediate. Making the players play a certain way in games is the only way I know of where change will be immediate.
Sink or swim. Often we don’t play a certain way, make changes because we assume the worse. Everyone here wants assurances that playing possession soccer will lead them to success. Why? Who’s that for, the players or the coach? Glad to hear you’ve tried something “unconventional”.
Got it, makes sense, I also work with school soccer as well as club…. So I understand the short season you have them and the focus and having players from different clubs, and clubs that don’t teach jack crap. I always shake my head when a girl comes back to me from one grade to another and they are the same player they were a year ago. It is a crime!!!! I understand what you were saying, keep up the good work….
Gary Kleiban says
A warm welcome Ken.
No doubt that the goal is that players make ‘excellent decisions’ all on their own.
The question is how do you develop them to that point? This is what tactically rich means. This is what vision, processing space and time, pattern recognition, creativity, etc … is about.
The answer is not: “the game is the best teacher”.
The answer is providing them with a sound and executable framework over time. This is what set tactical work does.
Antonio Reis says
“Set Tactical Training” (STT) is a nice marketing slogan.
In some way all training with the ball can be considered an element of STT. If one plays the ball against a wall, there is the target, the proper technique, the proper speed and tempo. One can make the target as small as a single point or the entire wall.
If the player does not master this simple component, it does not matter how much the team understands about game strategy it will not be able to execute.
A player without adequate agility, coordination and decision speed, is difficult to incorporate into high level training.
For those reasons most soccer development philosophies choose to first develop a set of skills that will allow the player to participate in high level training as soon as possible.
The analogy is that one would not want to teach the principles of calculus to a 9 yo not because the kid is incapable but because there is no exposure to the elements required to be proficient in the subject.
My two cents
Gary Kleiban says
“In some way all training with the ball can be considered an element of STT.”
Let’s not muddy the waters here and offer people ‘an out’ to their ignorance of what tactical work actually is. An out that says “sure I do tactical work”. No! That’s why I defined it: Set tactical work is essentially Choreography.
Kicking a ball against the wall or doing rondos is not Set Tactical Work.
It goes without saying that level of technical proficiency, coupled with the quality of your opponent, can dictate the level of execution. And so does coaching competence.
Gary Kleiban says
Lot’s of questions Jason!
Your umbrella question being:
“What part of your philosophy leads to you conclude that set tactical work has been appropriate for players of yours as young as U10.”
And here’s an umbrella answer:
I want to see our teams play a possession-centered, attacking, attractive, thoroughly controlled, and winning game.
That is what guides us, gives us pleasure, and the training required is what we thoroughly believe develops players for the global game. (It helps knowing prestigious international colleagues agree)
As for specifically U10? Brian and I weren’t sure what was possible here in the States.
There is much more to this answer of course …
Gary Kleiban says
… continuing to answer your individual questions Jason:
Q: “Is it that the “soccer age” of those U10′s was actually much older due to their prodigious level of development?”
A: There were no prodigies. Top 10%? Yes. And that certainly helps.
Q: “Was it because of your stated goal of developing elite professional players and the belief that set tactical work from a very young age is a necessary component to give those players a shot at having a sufficiently high trajectory?”
A: As stated, this is a difficult question to answer because I can pick it apart. I think the best answer for now is the one I gave above:
Q: “Is it because your philosophy is that you have to win in order to create the stage from which others will respect you, listen to you, give your players a shot at placement in a European youth academy (and that set tactical work gives your teams the competitive advantage needed)?”
A: Winning is important for many many many reasons. Undeniably, one of which is recruiting power. If you want to develop ‘the best’, you’ve got to get ‘the best’.
And yes, set tactical training is a tremendous competitive advantage. It develops our players, which in turn wins us games.
Q: “Is it because you believe it is simply a better environment for individual development?”
Gary Kleiban says
… more Jason questions:
Q: “More importantly, what is the philosophical difference that would lead, say the FC Barcelona Escolas to conclude that while the U8 players at La Masia receive set tactical training, the players at the Escolas at ages up to U12 do not? (Note that I don’t know whether that is actually the case and I am only inferring that possible conclusion from some vague references on this topic that I have seen.)”
A: That’s a question best for FCB. But my fairly informed response is that the Escola program is a rec program. The objectives are simply different. Additionally, If players at the earliest of ages don’t already have a sufficiently high technical proficiency, no doubt that’s what they need to work on most.
Q: “Or, what about some of the top European clubs that CLAIM they don’t begin set tactical work until much later than you? What philosophical positions would lead them to conclude that their execution should not include set tactical work until much later? Basically, what is the philosophy behind that decision?”
A: Again, only those clubs know that answer. But I’d like to reiterate what I said in the main article and is applicable here:
‘A philosophy is shaped by your studies, your personal history of trial and error experiences (ie Execution), current and ultimate objectives, and so on …’
The possible reasons are endless as to the differences in training philosophy / methodology. No doubt I’ll be diving into that.
Jason Seabury says
Thanks for the thorough response Gary, and congrats on the three state cup wins.
Some Coach says
Reading this blog, I have developed a different belief on how to train the young ones .. U10, U9s.
As simple as this:
At U10 (8v8): Building out of the back
How often? Every week at training and matches.
What depth? Proper shape & constant verbal indoctrination of philosophy (the why’s? and constant Q&A with players).
You will see your U10s doing it in games, and actually looking good. Even though they might concede a goal or 2. By U13s the are rocking.
Bottom line: Do you understand building out of the back ? What are your coaching points ? Do know what verbal intro you need ? … This is what makes the difference.
The main difference in my coaching this season than the past decade is my coaching points. Be careful don’t just say “stupid stuff” give correct information. You will see the difference.
“…this is a foreign notion to the American Soccer Community at all levels.”
I really appreciate what you guys do, and I’m eager to learn from any materials you guys put out, but to claim that you are the only one in the American Soccer Community to be enlightened is a bit much. No, the US Soccer Coaching Education doesn’t have much on it, at least in the lower licenses, but NSCAA incorporates shadow play quite a bit in their mid-level licenses, recognizes a variety a session formats, and has sessions on pressing within a particluar formations for example. Success In Soccer magazine includes loads of passing patterns including those to switch across the back and various ways to press. I’ve seen this stuff in Elite Soccer magazine, Mancini’s 11v0 defending, videos of Italian shadow training the back 4 and more. I think what you are doing that is new to the US is try to show how to implement it at youth levels where coaches are either ignorant of these things and/or are taught to avoid early positional specialization.
In my case, I’ve only been coaching a few years, but I fumbled through teaching building and switching out of the back as soon as I became a head coach (that was 8v8 U12 then), was shown a better way as an assistant at a high school. was shown a slightly different way by a former USMNT player, and am still looking for better ways to teach these concepts with the new teams I have now.
Regarding philosophy, I think there are several advantages of early position-specific training. One is that early focus could lead to a higher level player in that position. And I don’t think early specialization has to be completely avoided – e.g. teaching a center back to support from depth or a fullback to get wide all falls within expanding in possession, which can apply to any position. On the other hand, some positions offer different opportunities than others, so maybe specialize for a couple of months at a time so they are exposed to the nuances of a position (instead of just a couple of minutes). I think the coaching schools generally say to teach kids the broad, basic principles so they can be applied anywhere, but in fact the basic principles might be learned better in more specific, concrete contexts that are position and situation specific and more easily recognized in play…pattern recognition.
As for patterns, it can be easy to get obsessed with them, so I think the best way is to introduce the patterns as possibilities and as soon as they can execute the technique, introduce decision making. For example, when switching across the back, let them get the patterns up to speed without opposition, then maybe the coach can get in the way of one of the options as they switch, then introduce a limited number of live opponents in a half-field/phase of play situation. The same process could be applied with 11 players to teach how the attackers generally move as play is switched.
John Pranjic says
It’s the details, Jason.
You have a pattern from Success in Soccer. Okay. It says 4 plays 5 who plays 9 who plays…. and so on… yeah… okay.
What foot does 5 receive with? Why? What foot does he then play the ball with? Why? What was the speed of the ball played to him? Why? What should it have been? Why? At what speed does he play the next ball? Why? What did he communicate with his hands and body before 4 played it to him? Why? How far away was 5 from 4? Why? What was 7 doing while all of this was happening? Why? What about 10? Why? 8? Why? 6? Why? What do these numbers even mean? Why?
Man, I could ask 100 other questions. But it’s those intricate details where we are failing… miserably!
Gary Kleiban says
Are we the only ones who know about Set Tactical Work?
No, I’m sure there’s a number of fans, parents, coaches, writers, etc … who ‘know’ about it. But that % is tiny.
Are we the only ones who execute Set Tactical Work to a certain level in this country?
No. But I’m sure the number of others is nano-sized.
I’m not going to qualify everything when something is applicable 99.9% of the time.
The quality of play, writing, and consumerism, in this country at the highest levels from youth all the way to the national teams is abysmal in huge part because of non-existant understanding and execution tactical work.
I’m sorry Jason, it’s just that this is a big sticking point for me. I’m outraged when people in our country even say the word ‘tactics’. There are NO APPRECIABLE TACTICS in American Soccer!!!!!!!!!! This is perhaps the very thing that derails everyone into incorrect assessments about the game.
Also, I think reviewing these ideas during pregame is highly effective to influence the match. And I’ve already begun incorporating several of the coaching points from your curriculum example that I had not thought of. Now if we could finish…
John Pranjic says
Let the fun begin!
dr loco says
This could change everything.
Yeah. That Michael Jolley video showing the phases of possession build up should change everything too. But this STT shows how to learn to do it.
Juan de Dios says
“Is it appropriate for all students to learn how to read a book?”
I agree Dr Loco
ken Ward says
Is it appropriate for a 1st grader to read ‘Moby Dick’?? (Is it appropriate for anyone to read it 🙂 ). Sure someone who knows the alphabet can ‘read’ anything. Will they understand it , and all of its nuances?? If you teach concepts to children too soon, its does worse things than if you don’t teach those concepts. Same for alot of skills (i.e. try to teach a bicycle kick to a 5 year old, not a good idea…). Sure you want to challenge kids, and many are much more capable than what we give them credit for.
A little back round. At times you see coaches of young players, tell them to not move from certain areas of the field (i.e. if your a back, don’t cross the halfway line, stay in the penalty area, stay on your half of the field etc. etc.). This sort of makes those young teams look a little more organized, and certainly gives them a little team shape, but is that good soccer? No,
at some point you want them to potentially be able to move all over the field, to help take advantage of space that opens up, or to help create space for their teammates, to be in the right position to support the player on the ball. If you watch young kids who are told to do things like this, you see that they focus on the lines they are not supposed to cross, and immediately disengage. Their not ready to understand the concept of good team shape and spacing, so instead some coaches teach them something they think will help them learn this, yet its really making them learn something bad, that takes alot to break them from as they get older. Same with the ‘tactic’ of booting the ball down the field. Might work at U5,6,7,8 gets cheers from their parents (and some coaches) but you have to break them of that as they get older.
Hey now, booting the ball down the field gets cheers from U11 parents and coaches in the top tier in our area. That area being the East Coast.
Oh to never hear “NICE KICK!” again.
Some Coach says
If you are teaching no sense and no information then of course its too much for a U8 to hear the BS .. then you better letting them play. If you are providing correct information and you actually “Get it”, then this intro will help the U8s.
Juan de Dios says
I agree with Some Coach and Dr Loco, another important thing is “patience”, don’t think you can show them 1 drill and they will play like Barcelona…or if you keep switching drills every single practice, I find this confusing, your training should be based on your philosophy, foe example, if you like to play thrugh balls and long kicks, that’s what you need to train, or possession, etc..you can’t expect a player (no matter what age), to play the way you don’t train, if you just “let them play” and then during the agem you yeel at them, play 1 touch football! come on! recover the bal! preassure!!!! (but you don’t practice thiis things, how can they do it?) “one touch” when?, why?, pressure? Where on the field? who does it? then you win the ball, then what?. You know what I mean??
I still think is amazing, that football (american, basketball) are sports that teach kids, certain positions and functions, and also tactics as young as 7 or 8 yeas old, why not soccer?
ken Ward says
I agree. I don’t agree with the “let them play” in order for them to learn good tactical
concepts, and you have to practice those concepts. I sort of agree that kids don’t play
enough “pickup” though. But you can’t sacrifice a structured practice for this, but I think
trying to enable kids to play more pickup, is a good thing. If you teach them good soccer,
one would hope if they played pickup, that they wouldn’t regress. When I was young and
played pickup (anywhere from 2v2 to maybe 6v6) we tried to play good soccer (i.e. every
thing we’ve been taught or learned). I do think there are things you can pick up in the
pickup/unstructured environment, that you might not get in a structured practice (some leadership skills, conflict resolution, self drive etc.) that are needed to be a good player, but you probably don’t pick up good tactics (unless you’re playing with kids who have good tactics, and you pay attention).
One of the big problems I see with American coaches, is if they come from a football or baseball backround, where as a coach you micro-micro manage every single thing that every player does, pretty much every second of the game. Soccer isn’t like that. There are alot more absolutes in these sports too, and alot more concrete concepts (at least for most players). Their nature forces a certain structure as well, that you don’t have in soccer except for a few
dr loco says
“One of the big problems I see with American coaches, is if they come from a football or baseball backround, where as a coach you micro-micro manage every single thing that every player does”
If you minimize mistakes the team has a better probability of winning. Who makes more mistakes the players who are under pressure or the coaches who have time to think and analyze the game? Pay attention to the location of the coaches on the field/court.
At the highest levels everything is deliberate. We see it from coaches in NFL, NBA, MLB. We don’t see it in MLS because with the exception of Chelis and Porter there are no tacticians in US Soccer.
We don’t see
ken Ward says
I honestly don’t watch MLS and can barely watch the USMNT. Its sad that after the first US soccer boom (the original NASL, which I grew up watching) we’re still pretty poor. That was 35 years ago.
My point about the micro manage was that in those sports, in the actual flow of the game, the coach tells (or can tell) every single player what to do pretty much exactly. You can’t do that during a soccer game (and at high levels there are restrictions on how much coaching you can do during the game).
Ultimately, what I think a good player has to eventually do, is assess the situation, anticipate what they have to do (i.e. get into good support position, whether near the ball, or providing balance away from the ball), understand where their teammates are, or likely to go (based in part on set tactical play, but also using the principles of good soccer), then react as the ball and opponents move. This movement, and how they qualify their decisions is based on the team strategy/philosophy, and if everyone is on the same page there is a synergy. A lot of this becomes second nature and requires little analytic thought as you play/study play, and as your exposed to good patterns an choices. But ultimately I think you want your players to think for themselves (under the constraints you coach into them), because that allows them to solve the problems they encounter during the game. A question is how do you best do this. I learned the concepts more by being described them, and watching film, instructional videos. We played and did drills, but not much set tactical work. All the things you do during set tactical work do employ the principles, but it helps to expose the kids to the good in a more efficient manner. My fear (probably unfounded with older kids) is that you eventually don’t want them to do and not think. With the younger kids, I’ve found that its hard to get them to think, when they’ve been told to “do” from a young age (and when they’re told to “do” things that are poor, its worse). I think truly good players can move into any system fairly easily (it might take a while for them to really become a seamless part of the team), but if your a good player, and know the principles of play, it doesn’t take too long to fit into any system. A good player should
also be able to read the game, and react to what their opponents are doing. Certainly a manager/coach is in a better position do do this, in that they can survey the field, but every player should be able to do this. Especially when you have limited subs. When you have unlimited subs, a coach can tell his subs what to do when they go out there, in a more dynamic fashion than without subs. I think this is a problem with US soccer, in that it can stiffle a players ability to do these things.
From what I’ve seen, even when coaches are trying to instill a passing/possession style play, they don’t often express or instruct where every one needs to be. In effect you get players ball watching because even though they’ve been told to “pass and Move” they don’t know where to move to. The linked exercise is easy to understand and fairly easy to execute. But it has to be repeated over and over and over. Getting faster and better at it until it’s second nature and can be done under intense pressure.
If you try playing out of the back without it… you’ll be destroyed.
Coach J says
As you mentioned, the HOW to play possession is the key to doing it successfully. My daughter guested with a team a month ago and the coach says to me, “We are a possession team FOR SURE!!” I said, “OK, lets see it.” They played their first game of the tournament and passed it around a bit, but their was no reason for the passes. It was like, “I can’t do anything more with it, you take it now”……and so on and so forth. When the Right Outside Back got the ball it wasn’t like the Right Outside Mid got wide to the touchline(he employed a 4-4-2)…..she just kinda stood there and watched the ROB “do her thing”. The player with the ball never had definitive options, there was no structure to it.
The next day before the game the Coach gets his players together and says, “OK girls, we need to win the game today to get to the Finals. I want you to play everything up top to our Center Striker”. I nearly puked!!!
They lost the game playing the most disgusting kickball I’ve ever seen. I lost ALL respect for the Coach. Because he didn’t know HOW to coach possession soccer, when it came down to crunch time, he went to “old faithful”……kick and chase.
The sad thing is, this guy coaches a BU17 Premiere team in SCDSL, a Boys High School team, and a GU12 Flight 1 team in SCDSL. I watched one of his training sessions for his GU12 team and this poor guy can’t coach his way out of a paper bag. It’s sad because the individual talent is there, but there’s absolutely no TEAM concept. Set Tactical Work is a foreign language to him. I asked him about his philosophy of a good training session and he said, “50-60 minutes of individual ball work, 15-20 minutes of scrimmaging and then some conditioning.” I was like, “When do they learn to play soccer??????”
Juan de Dios says
This is exactly what I mean, right now possession soccer is very popular because of Barcelona, so coaches are “trying” to just “implement” or say they like to play like Barcelona, specially to the parents, but then yoou see the practices and they have no idea on how to practice “possession”, they think that playing a keep away game will give them that style, and it’s not like that. You need to incorporate so many factors, possession drills, position drills, intense, resistant drills, etc etc..
When Chelsea beat Barcelona in the Chamipons league lots of coaches said “A-HA!! that’s why kickball is good!!!!, so the reality is How much soccer do coaches watch?? What type of soccer? what leagues? With which one they identify? How many courses they take? How many chances they have to assist to a professional soccer training? etc etc…
@ Coach J — “When do they learn to play soccer??????”
We could condense all the ills in youth soccer to your above quote.
Unfortunately, the answer to your question is almost always: “Never”! Making pro is maybe 80%+ luck, matter of circumstance (even if the player is dedicated, talented, knows how to play). Same matter of circumstance applies to being fortunate enough to be with right coach.
Why does it matter what Brian (Gary’s brother) did? As long as you have the philosophy, everything flows. If U10, U12, or whatever is right for you, you will know. If wrong, tweak. What works for one, doesn’t necessarily work for another. Worst thing you can do is cookie cutter. I’ve learned that providing the vision and allowing individuals to creatively implement is a wonderful thing. I believe that’s what Gary is attempting to do with this site?
Now to sound bipolar . . . I believe successful clubs and coaches should do more to break down barriers, help improve all of soccer, not just their own club. We already accept that we don’t like how the sausage is being made and there is lots of sand in the gearbox. If FC Barcelona USA is successful, why not share coaching philosophy with broader SoCal market? Coaching clinics, seminars, partnerships, try to get the ear of CalSouth and other federations, etc. Be the catalyst to shape things to come. This forum is great, but magnitude / impact may be limited? Set tactical training is just one are the larger soccer community needs to greatly improve on. I’m just proposing we break down walls a bit for benefit of players and future generations.
Isn’t this the philosophy what Germany and Spain did . . . even Mexico? Establish common philosophy, playing style, shared vision with the masses at grass roots, who then went out and we now see the results. We are rudderless at the macro, stove-piped at the micro. We need to protect our turf, but we are all over the board with coaching and fundamental philosophy partly because we have 20-foot walls around our clubs and coaches within a club often are independent contractors. Often no consistency between ages within a club. Menawhile, ODP and national teams are vectoring off in their own directions.
Jason Seabury says
I have to agree with Kana on his point about breaking down barriers. It is remarkable that Brian and Gary are sharing their STT materials at all, let alone at no cost. It is counter cultural to “give away your secrets.” I am grateful to have the opportunity to study those materials, work on developing my philosophy, think about the art of coaching, and press anyone who will listen to do the same. I may never use what I learn here as a coach since I put that aside to enjoy being a full time soccer dad to my three kids. I don’t know as much as most contributors to this blog, but I know a LOT more than I did 6 months ago. If nothing else though, what I have learned has caused me to enjoy the game more as a supporter, and most importantly it has made me a much more savvy consumer of club soccer coaching services and opened my eyes to what is best for the development of my kids. If more parents understood what I have learned, the macro changes that need to happen would come much quicker. So, Gary and Brian, thanks for being generous with your time and knowledge. I appreciate it.
The variability across coaches in most clubs can be significant. Partly because they lack individual or a club-centric philosophy. But also because they never took the time to develop a training / development plan based on that philosophy. “How do I work towards that philosophy”?
Many coaches go through mindless drills serving no tactical purpose. Doing stuff from a soccer 101 for dummies book or merely following the lead of a senior coach who was equally clueless. Some coaches (from personal experience) change tactics weekly to beat next opponent. This works at younger ages, sure. Easy way for selfless coaches to derail budding talent future potential.
By tactical, I’m assuming we are all talking specifics such as: positional responsibilities in transition, in parts of the pitch, positional interchange, triangles, group pressure, moving (attacking, defending, pressure) as a unit, building from back when opponent pressed high, wingers tucking in or staying wide, opening channels for wing backs, etc . . . . how do we do these as a team and individual responsibility?
I can count on one hand the number of coaches who routinely weave in what I call “real” and “meaningful” set tactical work in a game-like situation. Burning movement, shape, and responsibility into their DNA. Not a glorified gym teacher running drills from a 3 x 5 card.
I was watching a breakdown of Barca / Milan (Fox Soccer I think it was?). Barca was textbook. Two sets of triangles interweaving in the box. Of course they scored!
I may be off-base, but hopefully this is where Gary was trying to take the discussion?
Gary Kleiban says
That’s what Brian and I are trying to do Kana, share.
Remember the Venn Diagram?
3four3 is attempting to help on the 1st and most fundamental – Philosophy.
And we’re working on bringing the Activities & Execution components to people who want that as well.
Thanks for sharing. It’s crazy what it is doing for my coaching. Totally taking my coaching to a new level, simply by being inspired to create my own philosophy.
Well, just as Moby Dick may be over the heads of a grade school child, I think this concept may be too difficult for some of you to grasp. I did this same thing with my GU9 team this past season and while you are teaching this you must also verbalize “why” you are doing this. And that’s the problem for the majority…you do not know how to explain to these athletes “why” we are practicing this choreographed sequence. And, that’s why coaching is an “art”. Not everybody is an artist, but so many think they are.
In all honesty, this is not some complex tactical scenario, but rather the “Three Blind Mice” of a musical instrument or the basics of trapping with the inside of your foot with your heal down and toe up. It’s basic fundamentals of possession tactics that then develops into a more complex system. As the team becomes more comfortable with it, then you add different pressures/scenarios and the visionary players will emerge with their creativity.
Even in this basic concept, there is extremely important movement on and off the ball and positional exchanges that must be taught. Maybe this is something that many don’t see or understand or know how to coach because they are so focused on the ball itself. Maybe because it’s not in everybody’s blood because they have played at a lower level or have not played at all or don’t still play.
I don’t know Brian or Gary but can tell you that this is really good stuff! And it’s really basic stuff. If you don’t agree with it then don’t do it, however, they are offering you some valuable insight to what they do and what has worked for them in the younger age groups.
Hi VDub, this is where I disagree. Kids don’t always have to be explained “why” in order to be taught, especially at the younger ages. I once posted on this forum that coaches need to be autocratic, and I got some push-back. This is the kind of situation I was referring to. We Latins have an easier time accepting the principle of top-down rule, which is maybe why we have better footballers, but the US has better government. The notion that we have to persuade kids to do things seems very American to me. At the core, it is noble and empowering, but for teaching kids to brush and floss, make your bed, clean your room, and learn the basics of soccer tactics, it is not so useful.
The need to be autocratic as a coach should not be seen as an absolute prescription, but a guideline. I am not familiar with how set tactical training is done in all other countries, but I have seen it from very close up in Spain, as early as Pre-benjamino level (about seven years old). I assure you those kids are not explained “why” they have to move the ball around the back. It is a process of repetition till they learn it, then those who learn it move to the next level, and guess what? One day it all comes together and you have players with deep tactical, situational understanding.
That’s the way people learn lots of things. As you imply, young kids just don’t have the experience, intellectual framework, and cognitive speed to put these complex ideas together right away. So we have to tell them what to do, and repeat until they get it right. And through these heuristic experiences on their part, they figure out the grander scheme. Unless they just don’t have what it takes to move to the next level. And there will be many of those players, too.
I have to disagree with you a bit that U7s or U8s don’t understand. Some will, some won’t… Cognitive ability at this level can be as much as +- 3 years. The kids that understands plays the fulcrum and is in charge of switching play. It is all how you build their understanding of what to do with the ball. A heavy dose of 1v1 to 4 goals implicitly teaches the kids to switch play. An activity where the players play 1v1, but the attacker “can” pass to a second attacker positioned behind them, teaches them to pass backwards when they are in trouble (back turned to goal to protect ball), or have pulled the defender all the way to one side of the field. That is one session, done every Tuesday for 4 weeks and repeated as necessary for a whole season – after a serious amount of individual ball work of course. Then on Thursdays u play tactics with 3v0 in channels, then 3v1 in channels… you can only be in your own channel, unless you are dribbling the ball, then you can go anywhere. With the channels you can teach them overlaps, switching the ball, wall passes/give and go’s. You need various activities before this final portion of the practice to build some understanding of the movement with plenty of repetition, but you get the idea. At the end of a couple of sessions, some of the kids can/will guide the other kids on what to do.
I think questions are the way to go… “do this, do that” is not as effective as “why”, “who”, “where”, “what” or even “show”… “kevin, show jimmy where to go” or “where does johnny need to move”, or “where can you pass” or “what can you do now.” Most kids love a puzzle and respond very well when you commend them for giving a great answer, or giving them positive reinforcement for making the correct play happen. When you give the kids the ability to position each other, to help… you will also get communication on the field… yes, even at 6 years old.
Let me write down a couple passages I recently read from Barca-The Making of the Greatest Team in the World.
Xavi adds: “Before you become a professional you need to learn and develop, but without losing your competitive edge. In Barca we all understand that. Development is a priority. The young lads learn footballing concepts and understand why we do things in a certain way whilst maintaining their competitive spirit, their desire to win.”
Gary – is it correct what Alberto is saying that they don’t explain “why” different concepts are being taught and repeated constantly?
“That is precisely why a clearly developed philosophy is so critical. Once you have that, it provides you with all the answers!”
For years I toiled about with no clearly developed philosophy, putting out good sessions, putting out great drills from here and there, had teams that achieved things, did this for 10 years…. Now I start to understand that having a clearly developed philosophy provides the answers. Some extrodinary answers, things that I did not get before. Whether it is U8 or U16 or I imagine any age, if you have it, you will have the answers, the question is do you truly have it….. I think I do, but I also think my philosophy continues to be refined and changed….. So many trainers just put out a good session, with all the bells and whistles, but don’t connect crap… or they run the dog piss out of teams get them really tired out and the parents get them and say awesome my kid his tired he must have worked hard. That is not it, do the right work, train the right way, then we have something….. Thanks Gary for adding the Set tatical work, worked on it last night with a U16 team that I have only worked with 3 times, I am continuing to work with them, I had been building my philosphy with them and last night worked on playing out of the back, the light went on for them. It has been slowly getting brighter but yesterday was extrodinary!!!! What I see is without a philosphy, you could run set tatical work all day and it won’t matter…..
Gary Kleiban says
Thank you Kg.
Keep plugging away … and don’t be satisfied with your work or your player’s work until your team shows consistency in execution during matches.
Some Coach says
“KEEP IT” is BuZZZZ word. ..
Many coaches yell it in their games with no purpose or coaching to show their team can keep it.
John Pranjic says
Buzzword is a buzzword.
John Pranjic says
This was some good stuff and relates to the training exercise Gary released.
This is good
-no fat or BS…all meat
-it’s the game
Gary Kleiban says
In general, I believe it’s a good litmus test.
Some Coach says
A question, IMAGINE your team of U12 or U13s, plays possession well when playing against a low pressure team or not very physical team. But when playing vs a team that is super physical and plays direct (like Stock City), your team struggles big time. Your team looks way different from the team you know. Your team destroys teams one game but can barely nick a goal in another.
The big picture look understood, they switch the ball, they build out of the ball, the first touch looks good under minimal pressure. The penetration decisions are good ..etc.
When you look inside the little details, you see that your boys panic vs bigger kids, the movement off the ball become cautious and not fluid when facing a team that can score on them by one big kick ball to their fast forward. Outside back are too worried to join the attack just because one big ball would require them to spring 50 yards back. ..etc.
How to keep your team to believing in their style, even sometimes without success?
How do you improve the weaknesses in your team?
2 things you can do “Some Coach”, play in smaller spaces at practice to increase pressure on first touch. Include older kids in your practices.
So does this mean that Brians u12s which will be u13s next season got denied by USSF for the u13-14 devlpelopment academy? If this is the case, wow! I already had little to no respect for the USSF now I have absolutely 0!!!
Gary Kleiban says
Off topic Kevin.
But my response is here:
Guys this is my team: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UacHRA_zE4s
I think we are on the right path!
What age group is this, u9? It’s fine they are passing but it’s all so so so so so so slow!! Why is everyone WALKING?????
Well in futsal, the ball does not move as fast as outdoor soccer. And Secondly, the other coach decided to defend in their own half, thus reducing the speed of play(it gets boring when the other team does that). BTW these are U10 but number 10 is U8.
I was refering to the kids moving, not the ball. Forgive me for being rude but believing this is quality or a good start is the problem. If you told me these kids picked up soccer for the first time 1 month ago then I would agree it’s progress. It’s not my job to rip you for your effort but you also shouldn’t be given credit for sub par performance. This is very “rec” for u10. Folks, this is our biggest problem. Our most caring volunteers and fathers don’t know what quality looks like or their benchmark is so low. You beat a team 10-0 but only because the other team should be playing tennis or consider bowling, not because you played well against a quality opponent. Just my 2 cents.
Yea you are right, I only started 3 months ago. Soon we’ll be playing the potomac memorial day tournament(one of the highest ranked tournaments near us). Then we can see if what i’m doing is good or bad!
I’d like to see a video of your team play.
All of your penetration is on the dribble because your kids are simply taking up positions of safety to establish width and depth. Neither of your advanced players were moving to create space or overloads by getting in dangerous positions. Cycling the ball around the horse-shoe is nice and all, but the main thrust of your attack was just individual ball skill. A couple times I saw movement into and/or across the middle, but it was always when you were possessing in the defensive third – try to incorporate that higher up the field as well.
Yea there is so much more we need to work on. This is only the beginning!
Getting there. They weren’t under a lot of pressure though. I think the other team didn’t know what to do against a team that passes.
They actually did, their coach decided to stay in their own half after we scored 10 on them!
Well obviously the coaching is poor for that team. Why would they bother to defend? Clearly they were going to lose. Why not work on pressure or trying to score for the rest of the game. 95% or more of teams will defend poorly and not put enough pressure on your team. It doesn’t mean you’ve been successful. Kick and run teams win all the time, doesn’t mean they’re learning anything.
Once you went up 5-0 you might of changed it up and said… let’s make 10 passes in a row before we attempt to score.
Thought this was applicable. You have to accept that defeat is part of the process when your players are learning to play out of the back.
Just joined the blog. Hi from New Zealand! Great to see someone as forceful in their opinions as I am! I agree set tactical training is a good idea. At any age. It just needs to be tailored to the team’s ability like you say. I know a young man who was at Basel’s academy in Switzerland for a year and he told me the whole approach is technical/tactical. No specific strength/fitness work, all games and tactical concepts. He plays great football. Head and shoulders above the others here in NZ. I’ll be trying your set back four on Thursday with my U12s. Gonna get the boys to work out what, when and why based on some questions I pose for them – to try to get some principles of play into their heads and build some game intelligence. I’ll go through the moves without opposition, and gradually add opponents to up the realism and pressure as they get it. I’ll let you know how it goes. Cheers!
Guess who doesn’t seem to do STT, or if he does it, changes the tactics the night before a match. We’re screwed. The US will be lucky if we get to Brazil.
Klinnsman is yet another example of ex-player-turned-coach who doesn’t have the beans. We are plagued with it in New Zealand. Our only pro team, the Wellington Phoenix – who play in Australia’s A-League – had ex-All White (the NZMNT) Ricky Herbert for years. He’s just resigned. Appallingly average coach. Played 4-4-2 ‘lump it’ and got nowhere with them. The new board and coaching staff changed the focus of te squad and demanded a Total Football approach. You should have read the invective spewed forth in the papers! ‘What’s the point of possession?’ they asked. ‘We’re big! We’re physical! We’re battlers!’ Yeah right. Battlers who played like high schoolers most of the time and almost always lost…
Reporting back after Thursday’s session:
1) had a whiteboard. Drew out a pitch and the 1-4-3-1 (we play 9 a side at U12 in NZ) sdystem and asked the boys to name the positions, point out the triangles and diamonds. Then we went through our technical warm up – we always start with 1000 touches. Then I talked briefly about how a drama production worked – how we needed to rehearse so we didn’t run around like fools on stage. Just like how we don’t want to appear foolish in a game. That got the buy-in! We spent 20 mins without a ball! Just going through where to stand when in, and out of possession, go big when in, and go compact when not. Then we had a couple of run-throughs then some 6v6, with keeper, 4 backs and a CDM per team. Man, what a difference! Real width in attack, patient defence. It was awesome, cause I’ve only had this team twice. They have been let down badly, mot by bad people, but coaches who just don’t know how to do things right. Thanks so much fr justifying set tactical work. I was afraid to do it up til now. Now I am a total convert.
Great article from Spain in reference to this theme
Great American interview in reference to this theme
Jefferson Alade says
Where is that video that is posted?
Jefferson Alade says
Is that video open to watch.