1 Truth, 1 Fallacy, and 1 Solution for Coaching Possession Soccer

Possession Soccer off Goal Kicks

A Truth

It can be successfully done across all levels of play.

The main reason it’s rarely seen, is that most coaches have not acquired the expertise to do it.

  • First and foremost, a coach must develop a possession-based philosophy (a vision … a taste … a feel for that type of football).
  • Then he must whole-heartedly commit to the process of having his teams reach it.

If those two requirements aren’t met, then chances of it happening are close to zero.

If however, we’ve got a green light on those, then what comes next is converging on a small and proper set of enabling activities to train players with.

A Fallacy

Now, a fallacy that has been circulated for as long as I can remember:

“We can’t play a winning possession-based game, unless we have the technical players first.”

And it’s generally crap.
How ‘technical’ do they have to be?

Yeah … nobody seems to address that question. Instead, the blanket statement is thrown, everyone nods because there’s a logic to it; it’s taken as truth, and we’re all excused.

I’ll give you just one answer today:
The amount of space and time a player has, dictates how technical he must be.

The more space and time you’ve got, the lower the requirement on technique.

Right off the bat, this means that the lower the level your team is competing at, the lower the technical requirement on your players. Because intrinsic to the lower levels, is more space and time.

Even more important:
Time and space can be manipulated by player decisions.

And how is that achieved?


If you can train your players to create more space and time for themselves and teammates, you’ve just lowered the technical requirements.

Coaching baby, coaching.

The factor that makes or breaks implementing a successful possession style is chiefly tactical.

And I say all this not in theory, but from experience.

We’ve done it across levels of play.

Our Experience Matrix

possession soccer age groups

The levels where we have applied our possession-based methodology.
* Also several HS seasons (not shown).
*Color codes indicate distinct teams.

But of course over the last 10+ years, our core has evolved via tweeks, additions, and subtractions. And the execution has gotten better.

So executing the possession-based game requires proper training. Proper tactical training! It’s about teaching decision-making on the field and choreography.

The point here being you do not need master class technical players to successfully implement winning possession-based soccer.

I’ll reiterate a comment (partially modified) I made last week:

“Doesn’t matter what level the team is. If it’s an ‘average Joe American’ team … well, you’re usually competing against other ‘average Joe American’ teams. So in time, you should be able to execute.”

We’re in countdown mode to launching our online coaching membership. In it – we show in 101 fashion – the core of how we’ve done it. Make sure you’re signed up.

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  1. manowar says

    This is very encouraging. My U11 boys select team is entirely made of ex-rec players. Without a pool of players to select, we just can not match other club team’s speed and size. However we focus more on ball control, ground ball passing receiving, and combination plays. Nothing close to what your team is doing, but your video is inspiring to our parents and players. We just finished top 2 in bronze division, and will compete in silver division next season. Your possession 101 will be timely.

    • says

      If you’re being promoted to higher division, make sure you add several starter quality players for that level.

      Otherwise, you’re likely just going to get crushed, no matter what you do in training.

      • manowar says

        Thanks for the advice. We have been working on recruitment for next season. The challenge is that we are a small club surrounded by a few big clubs. Hopefully our style of play and track record will attract a few good players to join.

  2. Ryan says

    Spot on article Gary! I had a mid level team last season and we played “good looking” soccer thanks inpart to the things I’ve learned here at 3four3.

    At the beginning of the Spring I was working with a Flight 1 team and I was curious to see if the same system would work at this level. As you said, they had less time on the ball, but because their first touch was really good, they were able to incorporate the “possession based” soccer pretty quickly. After about a month of training they were looking good! Not perfect, but you could really see a huge difference in how they moved the ball up the field…..their was purpose to what they were doing.

    This Fall I started working with a second to last place Flight 3 team…..these guys needed work! But it was the perfect opportunity to put to test the idea that possession soccer CAN be played and SHOULD be taught at all levels. Well, they currently sit in 2nd place and are playing some beautiful soccer! Not because I’m some soccer guru or something, but because possession soccer is superior to jungle ball. What’s great is that if their first touch is not perfect, they still have time to get another touch and then make a pass. At this level there just aren’t many teams that come out and press you and give you little time on the ball. In fact, after working with all three levels of teams, I would say that the Level three team has been the easiest to work with because of the extra time on the ball.

    My DOC wants to know where I got my ideas from and I say, “3four3″ baby! Thanks Gary…..can’t wait for the online 101 stuff!

    • dr loco says

      Ryan, sounds like your DOC doesn’t know what he’s doing.

      Curious how much time you spend on each team and how you can effectively teach possession soccer? If you move to different teams how do you ‘develop’ players?

      My issues are dealing with parents and players. They don’t share my philosophy so constantly switching teams. I guess another solution is for the coach to be constantly switching teams too.

      • Ryan says

        Loco….The original team I coached combined with another team to form a Flight 1 team, but it was like starting over because the new players were very skilled technically, but clueless tactically speaking. It was fun working with a team that had no weak links and everyone had a good first touch. They just needed a system in place and needed to be taught HOW to play correctly. I was with that group for 8 months. The original team I had for 2 years.

        My new DOC only coaches one team, but he manages the whole club. He’s definitely more on the management side of the equation than the coaching side of things. After he and I got together initially to talk philosophies he basically handed his Flight 3 team over to me and said, “Run your system”. It’s gone really well and it’s a blast watching these kids play real possession soccer.
        You mentioned parents…..99% of parents are CLUELESS!!!! They have no clue what good soccer is. You can try to educate them as much as you can, but they will still scream “Send it!!!!” all game long. Whenever a defender does a back pass to the Keeper they all still panic……it’s kinda funny actually :) .

        • dr loco says

          “it’s kinda funny actually”…parents…not really when they are plotting against you to sabotage the team because they think the coach is the CLUELESS one

    • says

      Generally speaking, we’ve found the same thing Ryan.
      It’s easier to execute at the lower levels. Generally.

      That’s why I strongly believe coaches must start out at the lower levels. That gives them an opportunity to develop.

      • Miguel says

        Great point Gary, my one question is do you hold back on moving up in terms of divisions when you have already had succes in league and tournament play in lower divisions, or do you go up an tale a crack at higher level competition even if you know the team is not ready?

        You see I have a U15 boys team currently in gold. We had succes in tournaments placing 1st in two of them, but in league we are 4th place( tournaments included teams we are facing in the league). The club and parents are asking and pushing for us to move up to premiere. Would you recommend taking the challenge or holding off until we know our team can successfully execute possession style soccer even at the highest level?

  3. Ryan says

    Countdown mode, YES!!!! Cannot wait to see what you guys have to offer. We just finished up our high school season and unfortunately we fell a bit short going to state, but I have never dominated a #1 seed so much in terms of possession. Sure we didn’t get the goal we needed to win, but in the overall big picture it was some of the best soccer displayed by my team in over 9 years. And it was all thanks to Gary, Brian and the rest of the coaches posting comments. We did a complete overhaul this season and it paid great dividends.

  4. pg 19 says


    The fallacy outlined above, I was just beginning to figure out on my own from not a season of experience, but years. As an advocate to extremes in developing exceptional technique this will still be a challenge for me to accept.

    However, just as I do when making a major purchase, I read the reviews of said product. If the reviews are all raves, I often will look for the rants to get insight that is meaningful and to challenge what many may accept blindly. This fallacy alone is that rant. So even though it challenges me to the core of my beliefs, I’ve already started questioning what I have already accepted to be a truth and you learn a ton when your core has been shook, because you start to question everything and major changes (ie improvements) can be made with a mind that is open.

    The journey of learning to date from this site has been an incredible one. Looking forward to the course work! Eventually I do hope it leads to being able to meet some of you fellow TFBAC’s!

  5. Rich says

    I can’t wait to see what you have as well. I’m doing more set tactical work, and some of my kids gripe about it being “boring”, but I liken it to learning scales on the piano. If you don’t learn scales, playing the piano is much more difficult, and while they can also be considered “boring” by many a student, they are the core of music.

    I also really like your quote about the “Average Joe American” – consider that most players / teams fall in the “80%” of the bell shape curve, and all are roughly equivalent in terms of capability. If you accept that to be true, then playing the exact same way, same style, same formation is a 50/50 proposition! You MUST do something different – and consistently better – to achieve a solid result.

    My team is lower level travel, still learning to trust the possession game. We very much use the “space and time” theory, and the biggest issue is breaking some of the bad habits the kids have so they accept the concept…

  6. Some Coach says

    “Right off the bat, this means that the lower the level your team is competing at, the lower the technical requirement on your players. Because intrinsic to the lower levels, is more space and time.”
    Not necessary. Some terrible soccer teams press (unorganized) like a crazy mad bull at you. Have you seen a lower level HS game? Its like bulls chasing a red ball ! 50/50 Jungle ball is a nice name for them.

    “Even more important: Time and space can be manipulated by player decisions.” This is true, and if you are playing a team of bulls chasing a red a ball, then this can be implemented by simple creating space with off ball movement.

    • Curious Larry says

      I agree ..
      Recently, I saw a U12 Boys team (Norcal Gold level) that was below average technically but very very good on team (defensive) tactics (e.g., high press defensively w/ high defensive line for offside trap). The team was very very good at shrinking the available space of their opponent. Though, I view this team as an outlier though.

  7. STL A-B says

    Great site and great topic today! I thoroughly enjoy the questions being asked by the Kleiban’s and forcing me to break down my training down.
    What do I want to teach? How do I teach it? Kids do not learn through osmosis.

    I went more tactical (thanks Kleiban’s) two months ago and noticed an enormous difference.
    One of the points today of ‘lose your man, find the gaps/space.’ Tell a U9/U10 player that and 90% won’t get it as they stare at the ball. Reminds me why I pull my hair out. Quickly noticing the message by Kleiban’s — tactical is choreography..,the game will not teach the boys how to get open,

    Look forward to diving deeper.

  8. John says

    Absolutely agree 100% with this post! It gets so tiring to talk with coaches who make excuses about why they play kick and chase style. When my teams break down in that style, I basically tell them we have to stop playing kickball and start playing soccer, then go into specifics where we messed up.

    A coach has a limited time to work with a team and it makes no sense to waste that time on a style of play you don’t believe in. If you want to do the best developmental coaching job you can for the players, then you must adapt a possession style and stay consistent to it.

    Learning to work with your teammates is critical to development of a player in this team sport – it’s part of the basic skill development for the players and should be included from the beginning. This is does not mean yelling at a player to pass as soon as they receive the ball, it means teaching the player to read the field with and without the ball, and then how to make it work to your advantage. Waiting to teach these concepts is only putting your players behind.

    There’s no such thing as a highly skilled player who cannot pass the ball well or exploit space – one argument I have over and over again with coaches. Highly skilled is more than being able to win a couple 1v1 battles – that’s just one set of skills required to be a good player.

    The odd thing about this is that is does match up with some of the popular coaching mantra out there. Teaching the game in context, which led to the SSG push. Players learn best when there’s pressure and competitive elements are involved. Skills learned in those situation translate directly to the game. Therefore learning tactics with the associated skills is required.

    • Kevin says

      “The odd thing about this is that is does match up with some of the popular coaching mantra out there. Teaching the game in context, which led to the SSG push. Players learn best when there’s pressure and competitive elements are involved. Skills learned in those situation translate directly to the game. Therefore learning tactics with the associated skills is required.”

      Actually, if I understand correctly, Gary is advocating doing EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE. Don’t setup a little soccer thought experiment, throw the players in it, and expect them to figure it out. Coreograph exactly how things should go in a game then reherse exactly that over, and over, and over again until everything is perfect. As a side effect, players do not have to be masters of every possible technique. They just need to be able to execute their role in the coreography. This is in direct contradiction with the “let the game be the teacher” progressive coaching philosophy advocated in the USSF licensing clinics.

      I think most club coaches buy into that philosophy. So they pack the players into a tiny area, place them under intense competitive pressure and let them “figure it out.” For example, playing 5v5v5 keep-away in a 10×15 grid. One-touch in a mosh pit. And when the players cannot translate that into a framework for how to play in the game, 50/50 donkey ball results.

      If you were preparing a ballet group to perform Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, would you shove all the dancers into a phone booth, play all of the songs simultaneuously at full blast and double speed, scream “DO BALLET-ISH STUFF! FIGURE IT OUT!”, and hope that art is a result?

      • goodone says

        > play all of the songs simultaneuously at full blast and double speed, scream “DO BALLET-ISH STUFF! FIGURE IT OUT!”, and hope that art is a result?

        lol brilliant rant/analogy.

        really agree as well. we do a lot of basic tactical although our technical (rec) is still so highly varied (some great who should move on, some complete noobs).

    • David Williams says

      I teach possession football and have done for years. I was asked to help a U16 team who lost on average 17-0. We worked on playing out from the back, centre mids supporting etc etc. similar to what Gary has shown. All I can say is this was almost impossible with this particular group. Kids could not pass the ball accurately 20 yards, so passes were given away all over the pitch. Most were overweight, only 1 lad had any pace. I went over the same things week in week out, but they just could not compete, as they made so many mistakes and we play on pitches that are smaller than those in the Kleibans videos. Other teams although not good, were miles ahead of these boys and they never had problems winning the ball from them. I would agree with what most of you have said on here, had I not had the pleasure to coach them, cos they were a great bunch of lads.

      • John says

        I went on a rant and that led to that last part, which made sense while free streaming. The point I was getting across was the BS about young kids learning skills in isolation and delaying teaching of any tactics vs incorporating skills in context. This goes to the fallacy brought up in your post about a team not being able to play possession because the players aren’t skilled enough yet.

        Compare two passing activities for example. In the learning skills in isolation situation, a common activity is to have players passing to each other in pairs around a cone. The players receive the ball by moving the ball to the other side of the cone before passing back. Compared that to the activity you have illustrated above, where players must move the ball a certain way with their first touch to set-up the next movement which includes the element of how to build from the back.

        It’s putting the skills of first touch receiving and passing into an easy to understand context where the players can take that lesson directly to the field with them. It provides an easy link/context to why I move the ball a certain why with my first touch and advances that simple lesson to the first touch going in the desired direction of play.

        • John says

          Note, the philosophy related to let the game be the teacher actually came as a solution to the teaching skills in isolation problem. The teaching skills in isolation problem came from the obvious determination that US players weren’t skilled enough.

          The SSG push shows that US Soccer is actually able to recognize that what’s going on for player development isn’t working. Unfortunately it’s leading other problems that have been highlighted by this blog – naive, jungle ball soccer. This is the current situation and it will be hard to break.

          Evolution on coaching problems/solution for US player development over time:
          Problem – coaches with no soccer background trying to make parallels to sports they know – football, basketball, etc. led to players with very poor skills –
          Solution – focus on skills. easiest method to teach (especially for novices) is step by step in isolation
          Result – players who could execute skills in isolation
          New problem – players struggled to put those skills learned in isolation into the game, chaos
          Solution – SSG where players practice skills in context
          Result – players who are competent in executing skills under pressure
          New problem – players who are tactically naive (our current situation with the majority of the US)
          Solution – I’m hoping what is illustrated above will be that solution – teaching the tactics/situations and learning the necessary skills while executing
          Result – Once again, hoping that this results in players who are both skilled and tactically competent. We have some good examples of this working from this blog and now we’ll see if that advances.

          • hatrik says

            So are SSG themselves the problem, or is it HOW SSG’s are used that’s the problem? IMO it’s garbage in, garbage out no matter what development method you are using. My own personal soccer development relied heavily on uncoached 4v4 games played on a small court. I learned more there than I did from all of my youth coaches put together, but I was playing with a really good group of players who had an established style of play and there was a pervasive culture where we always played with a lot of purpose and intensity. It was very different from the typical pickup game I see in the parks in my area. But the idea that you can throw 8 inexperienced players out on a field to scrimmage and beautiful play will spontaneously develop over time is fantasy. It is not going to happen unless you are in an environment where the players already understand how to play.

          • Wolfgang says

            I like to think of it like putting together a puzzle. No one would ever expect to find success putting together a puzzle by simply throwing the pieces up in the air while shouting “make a pretty picture”. If you did that everyone would stare at you and declare you crazy. In soccer however we watch “coaches” do exactly that with their puzzle pieces, the players and we accept it without question.

          • hatrik says

            @ Wolfgang

            This summer I was listening to a coach give a pregame talk to a bunch of 13 year olds and he told them all: “Go out and play like Spain!” Then for the next 60 minutes he shouted “send it” every time his players won the ball.

          • Wolfgang says

            That same scenario plays out on countless pitches across America every single Saturday and Sunday and weekdays during the high school season.

  9. Wolfgang says

    Gary, thank you for addressing this fallacy and truth. It was getting hard to read thru all the comments after each of your post as people would use player selection constraints as an excuse for not teaching players how to play soccer. I am always thrilled to see teams progress once they have someone who will teach them HOW to play. That is what good tactical instruction is, teaching someone HOW to play the game.

  10. Wolfgang says

    All critical components of developing players. The HOW is almost never included. Then again the WHEN and WHY are usually missing as well. And the WHAT and WHERE when included are wrong. How many 4 back lines do I have to watch that once they have booted the ball forward just stand, watch and wait never to get involved in the attack beyond the initial kick up field. It is so bad that I get excited when I see a back 4 that will at minimum push up to the half way line. But heaven forbid they should take more than a few steps past the half line. Those poor kids have a coach that only teaches WHAT and WHERE and the elements he teaches in these categories are wrong.

    Looking forward to your materials and already get tons out of this blog.

    • Crollaa says

      Hey Wolfgang,

      What age group are you coaching these days? We’re looking at coming your direction in the spring for a tourney, any suggestions?

      -Andrew in Eastern OR

    • Kana says

      @Wolfgang — This has been a frustration of mine in some coaches. “Do as I say” attitude and don’t explain why, how, or when but expect the player to know next time around. The players are left to their own devices. The coach doesn’t prompt them to think and ask them to solve it. Confidence begins to wobble. I’ve seen the cycle of failure first-hand.

      The best coaches my son has had were always 100% into practice. Not telling players what to do, but asking what they could do better. Forcing them to be aware, guiding . . teaching them to fish.

      • Wolfgang says

        I call it the Tell and Yell approach to coaching and I see almost every coach in the US employing it. They tell the player what outcome they expect (e.g. don’t lose the ball or get it up field) and then yell when they don’t get the outcome they want. When you go and watch their practice they have a bunch of drills they run everyone thru and again yell or inform players when they fail to execute but they never stop to teach and actually coach. By coach I mean teaching the how, why, where and when portions.

        Real coaching is about creating talented thinkers who understand and see the various levels of what is happening in a game. When you coach you should be teaching them how to read and respond. Set tactical training is an important element of creating context about what you are seeing and reading in the game. Set tactical training provides context around decision options and criteria for how you will respond to what you are reading. Set tactical training is the context needed to understand when some decisions and levels of risk are preferred over others. Set tactical training provides the context for who should be be open and who should be ahead, behind, left and right of you. Set tactical training provides the context of why you should choose to dribble rather than shoot rather than pass. It is the framework. Scribbling a bunch of words onto a paper is not poetry any more than shoving a bunch of kids out on a soccer field with a ball is playing soccer.

        Coaching is about teaching someone to think as an individual and as part of a team at the same time.

        I am with you Kana. I actually have had to teach my kids how to ask the right questions of their “coaches” to force the person to take at least one or two steps away from just Tell and Yell. Wish I had the time and bandwidth to coach them all at every level.

  11. Kana says

    I’ve always believed every mistake in soccer can be traced back to mental mistake (not thinking ahead, panic, poor positioning, not reading the game, being unaware, not mentally ready to execute).

    From my experience, the main reason teams don’t play possession soccer in a game comes down to loss of composure and not thinking . . . mental mistakes. Coaches need to have high expectations in this area (like the quote I posted about La Masia from Gio dos Santos).

    Training doesn’t mimmic match intensity. Match pressure brings out team / player weaknesses. High intensity training and scrimmage is how you slowly perfect it.

    The “we can’t play possession soccer and don’t have technical players to do it” is a real BIG FAT FALLACY! Mastering passing, receiving, movement, ability to read the game quickly and ahead of time, and the composure to stay in control and think logically is critical. This all comes with repitition over years with objective of incerasing intensity as it’s mastered. Being able to dribble like Messi or Neymar is not the benchmark for “lacking technical skill”. They are outliers. Being able to possess the ball (not fumble), making good 1-2 passes, thinking, moving is vastly more important.

  12. Some Coach says

    I saw an average U14 team from a small city in one the southern states. Players were not special, not technically gifted, neither super athletic, but were very tactically efficient beat a super pre Academy team from the midwest. No bunker or or kick ball, just playing simple. Building of the ball with minimal touches.
    I talked to the coach and he said all his practices are functional training from the real game. No small sided games (maybe once or twice every 2 month or so). Always have points that he needs to cover, he tells the boys before the practice, some kids get it and start doing it, some needs the progression.

    Point clear that this topic hits the nail in the head !

  13. Soccer 'Merica says

    Hey Gary

    Possession is so overlooked and the straw man in America is when coaches scream at their team of aggressively fast players to “CHASE THE BALL” until eventually the possessive team makes one mistake. That one mistake is often times the deal breaker and looks as if fast and overly aggressive is the way to play. Most parents love to see their kids chase, clear and over dribble the ball. I purposely go to their youth basketball games and scream at the kids to “Shoot the ball!!!” as soon as they get near the 3 pt line or “Clear it!!” when they rebound. Then if they have the skill, I urge them to forget about the other players on the team and take it straight to the rim by your self, every single opportunity- sarcasm….

    Anyways, great post Gary!

    • Soccer_Sense says

      Hey…don’t confuse clearing and dribbling too much with fast and aggressive (there is no “overly” except when you foul in my opinion). Fast and aggressive IS the way to play and i love to see it! And I’m not talking about in my kid’s game. I am talking about FC Barcelona because they are not just the best at possession, but also the best at pressing and forcing mistakes. It is a critical part of the game. Since you made a youth basketball analogy, you should read the chapter in David&Goliath about the 7-8th grade girls basketball team pressing all the way to the Junior Championships. They had a simple, brilliant idea like the ones on this blog that go against the grain of typical thinking in the sport. Why do teams only defend the last 25ft or so on the court? Why don’t they press all the time and defend the full 94ft? You can imagine how angry parents on others teams got. I wonder if Brian has heard the same types of complaints.

      • pg 19 says

        Just a thought and sure the 101 stuff will address this.

        Attacking Unit (AU) vs Defending Unit (DU)…8v7+GK on a half pitch. Has anyone tried the following:
        Give each player on the AU a red disc, each player on the DU a white disc.

        During a tactical freeze, say when AU loses the ball to DU and we want to address defensive pressure from AU toward DU, having each player mark their existing position on the pitch, then addressing the movements of the players tactically to compress and pressure the ball. Then reset to the marked positions and see if the execution of the tactical adjustments can be implemented by AU. If not, you have a marked reset to go back to so the tactical piece relative to this specific situation can be repeated until there is cohesive high pressure defending from the AU.

        My question, have any coaches attempted this?
        Does it work?
        Does having the players each carry a small disc interfere with their play during training?

        Noticed the Kleibans use cones in their training to mark relative positioning and assuming there is significant repetetition in much of their tactical work. Trying to anticipate what is to come or spoil the surprise.

      • Alfredo says

        @SoccerSense my team was beat soundly this past weekend by a team using a very high/aggressive press that forced us into a lot of mistakes. My kids level was simply not good enough to beat the pressure yet. The other team is also working on possession. We are a bit better than they are building out of the back, possessing the ball, etc… but I learned the hard way that a high pressure defensive strategy, high on the pitch is also critical to possession. By the way, the other coach is a soccer coach with a basketball background. Thanks for the post and yes fast and aggressive, if used wisely, is ideal.

  14. Coach W says

    I agree you don’t have to have technical players to play a possession-oriented game; however, you are creating static players who only fit into one system. Most coaches are not with a team for 7-8 years and pigeonholing them into playing a system limits their abilities when they get older. Keep in mind I’m not arguing against possession style, but I am arguing for individual player development rather than team development because rarely are entire teams kept together from U11 to U18.

    By providing these players with the technical abilities at an early age you are preparing them for future success. There are no tactics on the streets of Paris or the slums of Sao Paulo. Had it not been for this environment to develop their technical skills such greats as Henry or Cafu would not be around today! Yes, tactics are important once players get older, but at a young age if the players aren’t getting experience experimenting with the ball, trying new things individually, in the long run they’ll be completely static players.

    In his book, “Soccer For Thinkers,” legendary English coach Malcolm Allison argues for tactical development first, but it is important to note in his 9 seasons as a professional coach he only had 1 winning season and that was at Sporting Libson!

    You can introduce tactics to youngsters, but as they get older it becomes more difficult to teach individual skill, individual creativity and flair.

    In a recent Soccer America article Dutch great Dennis Bergkamp argues in favor of individual development. “You have to create the environment where they can be unique and not a clone… Sometimes you put your strongest player on the bench just to let others shine. Or you put a right-footed player who can’t do anything with his left on the left side and force him to use his left foot. Of course in that game you will probably lose because you don’t use your strongest players in their strongest position, but in the end you have a player who used his left foot when he was 12 and 13 and 14, and he can use both feet when he comes into the first team. That’s what we have at Ajax and I really stand behind that.”

    It is important to note that without Rinus Michels and Cruyff, Barcelona wouldn’t be what they are now. Cruyff is the founder of the Barca youth academy system and after several decades of work Cruyffs vision is coming to fruition.

    • says

      I know these positions/arguments/opinions well.
      I’ve been swimming in this stuff forever!

      As I stated above, and elsewhere, different environments require different methodologies.
      The American environment is not La Masia.

      I’d be astonished if anyone with soccer chops would think of “pigeonholing” after seeing our product. I wonder what Dennis or Cruyff would think …

      I know what current FCB, Ajax, Madrid, Man U, Man City, among others think of our work.

    • Cali-951 says

      Coach W it is a pernicious thought to compare the slums and streets of soccer hubs to those of the states. Those players developed their own style on side playing without their coaches forcing 30 minute juggling sessions. When boys get picked up by these giant clubs, they already have the naturalistic ability to dribble prior to any coach’s interference. Ultimately, Gary mentioned that coaches should POLISH individual talent rather than form. Besides, rather difficult to find whole communities of kids sporting in football at our local parks when compared to other American sports, mate.

    • Kana says

      @Coach W. — “I am arguing for individual player development rather than team development because rarely are entire teams kept together from U11 to U18.”

      That very issue is maybe #1 or #2 reason I’ve seen players leave coaches. Square peg in round hole. When players are with a coach who’s style of play and philosophy are a match, everyone will be happy. The trick is to find that, but the dynamics can change yearly as coaches come and go. That’s why aligning the right coaches to club philosophy is so important.

      • pg 19 says

        I have coached players that are very athletic and with very decent individual skills, but they never seem to be in the right position at the right time. They appear to space out, not recognizing the queues of the play or being able to anticipate what is about to occur, either in the attack or defending. They are very reactionary. To me, you can teach this player every minute in training, how to become a better individual player, but it’s not going to matter much if they are rarely in a position of opportunity. Often when they are, it’s accidental, it’s not something that they helped occur by making a run off the ball or reading a series of passes that may put them on the end of it.

        Contrast that to teams I’ve coached from youth to high school, where the same players are on the same team; often these player with time “gel” and can anticipate the play of one another and learn the tendencies of their teammates. As a result, they appear to be a step or two ahead of their opponents and eventually find significant success in spite of not being the most athletic team. I always thought it was due to the skill training that I hammered in on them. But the reality is they could have all the skill in the world, but they would never be able to use it if they didn’t “fit” within the team and learn how to play “off” of one another. Considering we’d pick up an odd player every once in awhile, the odd player was often always “odd”.

        To me, having a system and style of play that is clear that is taught from the youngest youth team all the way up to the senior team, creates more universal players. Players capable of playing with unfamiliar teammates because style wise, it is the same. As a result the tactical piece improves. As a result, being able to anticipate the play of teammates means you are able to be set up or you are setting up a teammate for the creative individual play that everyone believes has to be established before tactics can be applied. That tactics somehow are the killer of individual skill development.

      • dr loco says

        ” When players are with a coach who’s style of play and philosophy are a match, everyone will be happy.” — not true

        “That’s why aligning the right coaches to club philosophy is so important.” — rarely happens from youth to pro

    • dr loco says

      “I am arguing for individual player development rather than team development”

      This is a problem the Mexican NT is facing now. Lots of talented individual players in Europe but no sense of team and identity. Individual skills mean nothing if you don’t know how to play the game as a team.

      Piojo is not calling any European based players (most talented) to the elimination games against New Zealand.

      Team development is the most important thing in ‘team’ sports. If you think otherwise go play ‘individual’ sports.

      • jesran says

        “Team development is the most important thing in ‘team’ sports. If you think otherwise go play ‘individual’ sports.”

        This is a very good point. There are so many popular American sports at the extreme end of individualization; boxing, wrestling, tennis, golf, cross country, track & field, bowling, and more. It seems that team sports are less common; soccer, football, baseball, basketball, lacrosse, field hockey, ice hockey. I argue, that the sport most dependent on cooperation for success is soccer. This is because of the size of the field, the number of players and most of all the “no hands” stipulation which gives the advantage to the defense.

        Some other team sports offer success in individualized roles within like pitching in baseball and goalie in hockey, soccer and lacrosse. I believe that if your mindset is individualized in nature it’s probably best to play an individualized sport or at the very least specialize at the individualized roles of the teams sports, like soccer goalie.

        I think that the innate ability to cooperate is a good attribute for a soccer player. Or put another way, the innate ability to be a good teammate is extremely under-rated in American soccer, especially at the youth level where we they are always looking for a kid to be “the solution”. And either too quick to discard a kid when their not, but may be suited for another role, or conversely they hang on to the kid forever even as the sport of soccer slowly betrays them and they quit or the team disbands.

        You can see from these 3 Four 3 videos that there are so many kids offering so many solutions at different times. A large part of it is having a good team philosophy and enough kids that are proficient at being good teammates in that system. Of course there is rank. All of life is ranked, even if inaccurately. We all figure out where we stand in the pecking order somehow; first/second team, playing time, favored positions… at a higher level it’s salary. I guess I’m just saying that being a team player should be an individualized skill in and of itself in soccer.

    • Wolfgang says

      @ Coach W
      “There are no tactics on the streets of Paris or the slums of Sao Paulo.”
      I am not sure your background but I would suggest that if you honestly believe your above statement you are missing a lot. There are most definitely tactics on the streets of Paris and the slums of Sao Paulo when it comes to pick up games of football. Every time the 9 year old holds the ball to long instead of passing it to his brother or the open player there is a 12 year old giving the 9 year old some very direct tactical advise. You see in the streets of Paris there is always an older kid or some elderly observer who played pro back in the day or didn’t quite make it because of s bad knee or a vicious tackle just as he was reaching his prime teaching and passing down tactics and technique and culture and knowledge and … All elements that are missing in the sterile wasteland of the USA.

      • Wolfgang says

        An add to my wasteland comment. This applies to the suburbs of America (where I spend a lot of time). As Gary points out below there are “streets of Paris” environments taking place in the USA outside of the suburbs. Unfortunately it is the suburbs who permeate and fund the pay to play model and subsequently lead us on toward mediocrity.

        • Coach W says

          I agree with your sentiments. I should’ve qualified my statement about tactics in the streets. I meant to say tactics in the form of structure implemented by a coach. You are correct when you mention tactics in the streets. I simply meant a uniformed approach that is consistent every time they step on the pitch/court.

    • Jason Seabury says

      Coach W:

      Your arguments have an appealing logic. I do think kids benefit from exposure to different coaches and systems along the way. However, I think there are holes in your assertions.

      First, my understanding of the Ajax system makes me conclude that the comments of some of the Ajax coaches that you quote can’t possibly be used to support you assertion. The Ajax youth academy exists to support the club’s first team. Players in the academy are slotted for certain positions and each age group is “staffed” with certain numbers of players who play certain positions. Sure, maybe a player who is being groomed to play outside right back needs to get better with his left foot so for a match every once in a blue moon he is asked to play on the left side. But the bread and butter, day in day out development of that player, certainly from a tactical standpoint, is for the position of right back. I have in fact recently read an article on Cruyff’s blog about the importance of individual development. But it talks about the context in which that is to occur: while serving the interests of the team…the system. Single quotes are dangerous when the entire context is misunderstood.

      On another point: Most of us learn in a linear fashion. My understanding of addition forms the basis of my understanding of multiplication. Just about every new problem I solve is first analyzed through the lens of some other similar problem that I already know how to solve. I simply work out the differences between the problem I know how to solve and the one I don’t, then I start tweaking the solution to address those differences.

      It’s the same way with giving young players a detailed, choreographed tactical framework in which to play. Having a tactically rich understanding of one system of play is more predictive of being able to adjust to a different system than having no tactical understanding of any system. Having a tactically rich understanding of my role as an outside back also means that I have a similarly rich understanding of the roles of the players I most frequently interact with on the field…the center backs, the central midfielders, the outside midfielder or wide forward on my side of the field (depending on the system used). If I have to play with them in a choreographed system, then I know how to step into their role, at least intellectually. Sure there are specific skill sets that players in particular roles have to develop more so than others. But that’s probably much less the case than I suspect you would argue.

  15. Coach W says

    You make an excellent point in using different methodologies in different systems. There is a certain universality to the possession game and pigeonholing may or may not occur, but I can only go off of the highlight tapes you’ve provided. It would be very interesting to see how these players develop or turn out in 5-10 years. Only time will tell.

  16. Albert M says

    Ah yes, La Salida LaVolpiana

    First time posting, long time reader. Completely agree that there is only excuses to not playing possession based soccer. I honestly think that the main reason is that coaches are too fucking lazy to put in the time and effort to do it. I read a long time ago how when LaVolpe was the head coach for the Mexican National Team he would work with his back line daily for over 30 minutes just on properly playing the ball out of the back because it was precisely those details that mattered the most. Just like you say all the time Gary, “details, details!”.

    I did it with my u8 team and with my older u15′s (in part thanks to 3four3) after a season of ABSOLUTE shit jungle ball with their high school coach where all they heard from the sideline was “send it up!”. Also did it to some extent in one season with my u18 girls only to have them start high school season and have it all go down the drain (all girls from same high school and all on varsity). But wait! They went three rounds deep in the playoffs making school history. Not bashing the players one bit, strictly the coach. That coaching mentality is exactly what pisses me off, not caring about style of play as long as your jungle ball is winning and is effective. Jungle ball is a very sharp double double edged sword because if you win with that style of play, then it creates a shit mentality where you are satisfied with very little and your players are the ones losing in the long run. One tweet that I absolutely loved from John Pranjic a while back is when he said, “dont tell me you won 10-0, SHOW me why you won 10-0!!”

    Having learned so much from 3four3 up to this point and being able to implement it with my teams, I’m super excited to see what’s in store for the coaching membership. I absolutely love the product you guys put out there because even though I wholeheartedly agree with a lot of the things you say, I find myself having to sit back and question my own ideas/philosophy which for me is the best part, that and continually learning . So when its all said and done, I guess it pretty much comes down to what you have been trying to say for the longest time…

    What’s your bullshit excuse for not playing possession based soccer?

    • Lost in the Trees says

      First time posting…Thanks to all of you.

      Hey Albert and (the rest of the coaches),

      Can you explain in more detail how you worked with your U8s? You said you did “it” with your U8s, what is “it”? If “it” is “teach possession soccer”, can you share the details? I am just a parent/volunteer U7 boys rec coach who never played soccer. However, I did complete the E course. I just finished my 2nd season as head coach and I would like to TRY to teach “it” to my kids too.

      Looking ahead at the spring U7 season, what do you coaches expect that us rec coaches should be doing? What drills/activities/etc. Remember, there are kids with drastic differences in their abilities. One kid on my team cries when I ask him to do toe taps, because he can’t do it. Another plays up with the U8 pre-travel team.

      In general, I have 5 very solid kids. I encourage them to take on any opponent 1v1. I encourage them to think about the risk of taking two players on (I tell them to get their head up and make a decision). I encourage them not to take on three defenders (I say if there are three defenders on you, someone needs to be wide open. Find him). They understand shape…two wide and one long, but they can’t get too forward as they must support the player with the ball. I tell them it’s not about how many goals we score. It’s about how we played (did we control the game, did we make good decisions, did we work the hardest). They pass a lot…almost to a fault. It’s like I created a monster. Anyway…We work on dribbling/footskills/shielding at every practice, then I alternate the focus of each practice between 1v1 activities, passing and receiving drills/activities, and keep away games (3v1 2v2v2, etc). At the end, we scrimmage and I focus on what we practiced. When we focus on passing and keep away games, I often put my best kids against my weaker kids during the scrimmage, because that’s how we play games (A team and B teams). However, I restrict my A team to 2 touches.

      I would really like if you coaches can offer real, practical advice/activities/etc. I am a blank slate that hopes to pass along some kids ready to play some beautiful possession soccer to the U9 travel coaches in a year and a half. Guide me or else it’s just going to have to be jungle ball. :)


      • Marco says

        You seem to be doing good stuff! I would say determine your philosophy (how you want to play) and then make it happen. That’s the “it’.

        WIth the players you describe, I would personally make sure they get lots of touches, play small sided games, work on basics such as trapping and passing and understanding movement and space, and don’t over-coach too much at this young age. Let them learn by doing, having fun, and gentle recommendations to consider something different if what they are doing isn’t right.

        If you can get a handful of these kids to be good enough to transitoin to a competitive team in 1-3 years, you have done your job. If you can develop good players at the rece level, you have also done your job.

        • dr loco says

          Not to sound like an ass but…..

          “Let them learn by doing, having fun, and gentle recommendations” — so soft like a babysitter

          “If you can get a handful of these kids to be good enough to transitoin to a competitive team in 1-3 years, you have done your job” … poor job as a teacher to only improve a few

      • pg 19 says

        So much context to clear. This is what I had suggested to my club.

        U6 we play 3v3: I suggested no passing at all, players are encouraged to dribble, their teammates without the ball run behind the player with the ball. Creates more 1v1, 1v2, 1v3′s compared to 1v4 and 1v5′s as teammates will try to take the ball away from each other and sometimes get into positive space creating additional obstacles for the player with the ball. Simple tactic that can be understood by 4 and 5 year olds. For all the teams I’ve coached, this is HUGE compared to the parent that cheers for “booting” the ball on a very small field often going out of bounds.

        U8 we play 4v4, no keepers. I have used the above methods to train the kids I’ve coached. Works incredibly well, simple tactic and the players develop into monsterious ball hogs with tons of ball confidence and capabilities. (Hence why I tried it with new to soccer older teams).

        What I have proposed for the U8′s, is that they use a diamond formation. That they work on passing patterns in training that resemble the build from the back Set Tactical Training piece outlined on this site, only with one less center back. The powerpoint animation I put together (similar to what Jolley did) included a consolidation phase with a shot into goal.

        The intent of the “passing pattern” was to introduce the concept of building from the back in training, but in games, I did not suggest pushing it to be used. Primarily at this age I suggested working on imprinting the pattern of play so when the players advanced to U9/10 (6v6 w keepers) that the players are familiar with the build up and consolidation phases of play and the reliance of the pass could be implemented with a strong foundation of individually skilled players.

        What I suggested was made about this time last year. Having no kids of my own at these ages within the club I coach at, it wasn’t tested by me nor was it implemented by the club. Unfortunately, it is simply theory.

        • dr loco says

          “Unfortunately, it is simply theory.” I’m tired of theories ;)

          Can’t wait for the real thing.

          “We’re in countdown mode to launching our online coaching membership. In it – we show in 101 fashion – the core of how we’ve done it.”

      • jesran says

        US Soccer Curriculum of 2011 by Claudio Reyna
        Style of Play:
        “All teams will be encouraged to display an offensive style of play based on keeping possession and quick movement of the ball.”

        Main page:

        Age group breakdown

        Training exercises:

        It’s all there Lost in the trees. There are several very good things about standardizing your own coaching on the US Soccer Curriculum:
        1. You can assume that what you’re teaching your youngest players will be probably be highly valued, sooner or later, by their future coaches as this philosophy spreads.
        2. As soccer evolves (and it will) this document, theoretically, should evolve too.

        By all means check out what Kleiban has to say too because my money in on him being very influential in future editions of the Curriculum.

        • Kevin says

          The doucment on suggested activities exposes a mindset that is at the root of the problem. Have you read it?

          One of the activities Reyna lists is 3v1 keep away in a 6×6 grid. SIX YARDS! Another calls for 14 players in what amounts to a U8 field. FOURTEEN!

          The USSF ruebrick for a practice basically boils down to the following:
          1. Technical warmup.
          2. Soccer thought experiment SSG executed on a postage stamp.
          3. Scrimmage with the players being left to figure things out on their own.

          This coaching methodology cannot possible impart to the players a possesion based style of play which requires an entire team working in concert. True possesion requires set tactical training.

          Could you point me to the page in the USSF Coaching Ciriculum that says anything about set tactical training? At least mentioning that in a document intended to serve as *THE* guide to coaches all across the country would be a good idea, don’t you think? The first part on style of play says the right sort of things, but IMO the methodology does nothing to establish the concepts listed there.

          • jesran says

            I did read it actually… not every word but certainly the bulk of it. I skipped the unrelated age determined portions not overlapping with the age of my children. I figure I will get to it when they get to that age. You got me. I’m lazy.

            I do in fact, every year print out and hang on my wall the appropriate Season Plan for my children. Then I look at it every so often to make sure he is on course and judge his team, coach, and teammates by it. One easy criticism of the document that I have come to realize after having two older boys and then a girl is that the document doesn’t distinguish gender. So all of this time I’m buying into the whole cycle and sort-of accepting that a developmental psychologist must have been consulted to know so well what window of soccer development opportunity opens when in a boys lifetime… then all of a sudden I’m looking at the same document hanging on my wall wondering how it is possible that a U12 girl could be presenting the same? That’s got to be fixed.

            Anyway, you seem to profess that “set tactical training” = “possession” which I am not sure if I know how you made that leap of logic, but there is a whole section on Attacking Principles and another on Defending Principles under the heading Tactical Terminology. These areas of focus are quite good IMO, but in and of themselves do not = possession.

            You mention criticism of the postage size stamp practice area with lots of players being a bad thing for possession. I urge you to watch this short Barcelona FC video:

            You are watching 11 of the greatest soccer players on earth, some of the greats to ever play the game, playing keep away using a single ball in a postage stamp sized area. This is not a warm-up. This is what Barcelona does in practice. Notice the coaches watching every touch. They are training for possession soccer. Possession is also about foot skills, thinking ahead, faking, etc. It’s not entirely about set tactical training.

            You might argue that the document does not emphasize tactics enough, in which case I urge you to provide specific alternatives, try them yourself, tell us what happens. Like I said in the original post the Curriculum is most likely a loving document, but as it evolves you can evolve too and still stay in step with a growing number of others. Some of us need to push the evolution along too…

            Thanks for your thought provoking reply.

          • Wolfgang says

            I am hoping that most of the readers on this blog understand that the Barca rondos posted in Jersan’s video above and the drills described in the US Soccer Curriculum are two very different things and do not share the same outcome and development results.

            I am also hoping that readers are starting to understand set tactical training as a tool. Set tactical training is an important tool to develop possession based soccer. Set tactical training does not = possession soccer. Set tactical training can be a valuable tool for any tactical approach to the game. An example, practicing with you team how to set a wall and defend a free kick around the box is set tactical training. Conversely practicing and choreographing corner kicks as the attacking team is set tactical training. I chose set play examples on purpose. For many teams and coaches, set plays are the only place where set tactical training takes place.

            Going back to the rondo drill Barca has made famous, rondo drills do not = possession either. I watch tons of teams utilize rondos as part of their weekly practice routine and as part of pregame warm ups with out ever utilizing the skills developed from that drill out on the pitch.

            While I would be ecstatic if everyone decided that possession soccer was the way to go, coaches do me a favor. At a bare minimum pick an approach to the game and then align your coaching and practices to what you expect your players to do in the game.

          • Coach J says

            @ Wolfgang…..your comment “coaches should pick an approach to the game and then align your coaching and practices to what you expect your players to do in the game” is spot on. If you, as the coach, want yor team to play out of the back, you better teach them exactly HOW to play out of the back. A simple “keep away” drill is not going to do it. You have to rehearse it exactly how it should be done. Not a drill that kinda shows it, no, it needs to be executed at practice exactly how it should be done in a game.

            Too many coaches just do drills that while they are good at developing skills, they don’t teach the player a concrete way to play. So what you end up with is a bunch of individually skilled players that have no clue how to play the game in any tactical sense. They don’t know how to move the ball across the back line because they’ve never been taught to do it. And if they tried, it wouldn’t work because their spacing wouldn’t be right and their movement off the ball wouldn’t be right.

            If you want your team to play a certain style, you better be coaching that style at practice and not just running some drills and then expect them to look like Barcelona. The practice should mimic what you want to see in the game.

          • Kevin says

            Wolfgang and others probably have responded to you much more articulatly than I could hope to.

            I did not intend to say that SSG are not important or should not be used. In fact, they should be used and are a very important tool for player development. However my opinion is that, philosophically the leadership in the USSF looks at them as the end all and be all of soccer.

            I believe that to truely achieve possesion based soccer, you need to use set tatical training to give your players a framework for how to use the skills developed in SSG to work as a team. USSF coaching materials are absolutely devoid of any discussion regarding set tatical training.

            So, following USSF:
            1. Technical warmup.
            2. SSG, maybe followed by a different SSG.
            3. ?????
            4. Possession!!!

            So apparently between #2 and #4 some magic happens because “the game is their teacher” or “they figure it out” and possession results. In reality SSG do not fully prepare the players, so they fall back to donkey ball in the games, and the end product is crap.

            My son plays for a club who talks endlessly about how they “play possession”. His coach follows the USSF method, and their practices are technical warmup, SSG, SSG, scrimmage.

            Now a goal kick occurs during their game, and the centerbacks spread wide towards the corners, fullbacks higer on the touch lines. Goalie plays the ball wide. Step #1 in Gary’s simple activity. YAY! Possession! Unfortunately step #2 never happens. Why? Because they coach has never even so much as discussed step #2, they are too busy playing SSG in practice.

            One particular Saturday morning, after the team was down 3-0 and had turned over the ball in the corner off of a goal kick for the 11th time because the center back could only think to clear the ball or dribble through pressure, I decided to speak up:

            “Little Johnny centerback don’t lose the ball in our defensive third. PASS THE DAMN BALL. Little dumbass holding mid (my son), check your lazy behind towards him to give him a forward diagonal instead of standing there watching. Little Juan the winger, give him an option down the touch.”

            Shocked that they would be expected to do certain things, the kids tried what I suggested. The team connected 4 passes and moved the ball into the attacking third. Later I recieved an email from the coach on how I should not coach the kids because I might disrupt his “let them figure it out” coaching method, learned in the USSF C license course.

          • San Diego USSDA says

            Don’t feel bad, my son is at a USSDA U15 side and all they do is play Small Sided Games. No tactics! Forget psycological. Coach is very rigid in his old fashioned ways and likes to yell meaningless things the players don’t believe in. Players complain, but the coach could give a s@#t. The boys had prior coach who did get tactics and possession. They are waiting for the year to end so they can get that coach back at U16 Academy. Completely wasted year!

          • Coach J says

            Last weekend was my first weekend towards getting my D License and it’s all about # 1 Warmup #2 SSG #3 ESG #4 Scrimmage…….that’s THE way to run a session straight from USSF. I asked one of the instructors about playing out of the back and how he would train his team how to do it. He said he would follow the #1, #2, #3 and #4 system that he is teaching us. I asked him if he believed in rehearsing the way in which a team would play out of the back or if he believed in pattern passing. He said no. The only time he would do any type of pattern passing would be in the warmup and that is only 10-15 minutes of the practice.

            I passed this on to Gary and he said, “Now you know why nobody plays out of the back.”

            The SSGs are good to do, don’t get me wrong. BUT, to really teach a team how to play out of the back requires Set Tactical work……and a LOT of it! Just following #1, #2, #3 and #4 at a training session will NEVER get a team comfortable playing out of the back.

          • VDub says

            Coach J – that kills me! I feel that these licences are a complete waste of time and meaningless when you hear stories like this. Can you debate with the instructor or would that jeopordize your passing the course? I have not pursued anything past my E license because I feel that these ignorant coach/instructors cannot think outside of their little box/protocol.

          • Coach J says

            The only difference between the E License and the D License is that the E License is one weekend and you are tested on your ability to do the #1 and #2 of a topic they give you. At the D License it’s two weekends, you have to submit 5 practice sessions, following the #1, #2, #3 and #4 format and then you are tested on your ability to do the #3 and #4 of the topic they give you.

            I did ask the instructor a little further about Set Tactical work and he said, “Kids only learn when they are under pressure from a defender, that’s why you have to do the SSG and ESG for them to get better. The only time you can do unopposed work is in the warmup”. I just left it at that.

          • says

            USSF National License courses are not a waste of time, but they are an acquired taste and do not give a coach the entire tool set they need, but are a decent framework to start with. The USSF courses are changing significantly, and the latest C and B courses offer much more depth in game analysis and bring more meaning to the ESSG and 9v9 (c level) and 11v11 (b level) tech/ tact evaluations.
            I am not a huge fan of the courses as a source for all soccer solutions, and I do see a gap in the development of functional training, but the basis of technical warm up (themed to the topic you are teaching for that session), through SSG, ESSG and no restriction 11v 11 is decent. The thinking coach can make sure that if the theme is, say, train two central midfield players to improve team defending, then you could easily apply sound set plays in open play thinking to that session without creating what USSF call a managed scenario. I find it a little frustrating that you have to somewhat disguise that you are thinking about set functional plays, and others have commented that there is a big mistake in excluding this, but it is possible. I coach 4-2-3-1 as one of my favorite formations and when I have the players that allow me to play that way ( yes they do need a good technical base) I use extensive set plays in open play, and a lot of functional training. USSF are realizing that connecting lines, and possession based soccer is important, and this can be seen in the themes that they present students with for their practice and final field exams. Emphasis on the principles of attack really do lead to possession soccer when you think about width and support. Discussion at USSF is also now talking more about defending higher rather than deeper, or earlier as they word it, rather than later. This alludes to a high pressing game, which is a key component of possession soccer; one of the pillars of Barcelona and many other top European teams. Slowly, USSF is coming round to understanding the need to develop core technical skill as well as tactical awareness. I don’t think it will be long before we see their courses morph again to introduce functional training within approved systems of play. It will take a while, but it is coming. In the mean time I encourage all coaches to seek training and get the nuggets of goodness that is there to be had, and add their own style and passion to the mix.

          • hatrik says

            I don’t see why standard USSF methodology can’t be applied to the topic of playing out of the back and possession. While I’m sure this methodology is taught in various ways by various instructors of varying quality, the main concept of the methodology (as it has always been explained to me) is not to have some kind of rigid rote laws of how to run a session. The main gist as I undestand it is NOT that you must work from #1 to #4 for a set amount of time in each and every session. The main gist is that you work from simple to complex, less pressure to full pressure, fewer and easier decisions to more complex decisions. That’s just a teaching fundamental that works well in teaching many complex subjects, not just sports. So maybe you have to heavily overweight the shadow play/patterns (#1) for a while and it takes many sessions to get to phase #4, but after they get the basic movements down you HAVE to add some kind of pressure (time /opposition) and add decision making and game like pressure or your players are in for a rude awakening when the whistle blows. So you could go to phase #2 by having the back line and keeper try to move the ball out of the defensive third against an increasing number of opponents who are looking to win the ball and score. then you can go to #3 by adding in the holding mids and more opposition and try to get the ball into the opposing half. Even the USSF is now saying that as you move from phase to phase it needs to look as much like the real game as possible (no more contirved games with 50 cones laid out… keep everything in context). As far as SSG’s go, More touches is only one of the arguments in favor. The other is painfully more practical: unless you have 22+ players on your team, EVERY game-like activity you do is going to be short sided by default. I’ve done a lot of coaching with and without using the USSF methodology, and I’ve found that it’s like any other coaching “system” it’s garbage in-garbage out. Apply it well by being organized, having a plan, and teaching the right things the right way and you will have success. Be unprepared, teach the wrong things, or teach the right things incorrectly with the wrong insights, and you will flop. So whether you use the Ajax method, the USSF method, or the Klieban method of organizing a session, the success of your session is still going to depend mostly on your own ability.

          • Kana says

            @Nick Barling, nice post. Many coaches do want to play high pressing defense, building from the back, winngbacks pressing high like wingers — however, not having the technical core and tactical awareness is a factor. Players (especially the #6 and #8) lack these essential abilities and makes the 4-2-3-1 impossible. It works on training pitch but falls apart in competitive match. This comes down to not having the technical core, which leads to loss of confidence, and defaulting to kick and chase. If you peel back the onion enough, it can be traced back to the U5 – U12 ages where no one really focused on building the technical core.

          • Alfredo says


            I am seeing this with my team currently. In your experience what would you say are the primary core technical skills to focus on to get kids to the level they need to be able to execute?

          • dr loco says

            Kana & Alfredo, come on guys!

            “The point here being you do not need master class technical players to successfully implement winning possession-based soccer.”

            It’s not about you as a coach building a technical core. The players have to do it themselves individually. As a coach, based on the level of your players skill, you have to train them to play. It’s that simple. If you don’t like your players get rid of them or move to another team.

          • says

            Kana, Alfredo,
            A couple of points. I think that to play 4-2-3-1 you do need certain types of players that fit the rough style of player you need for the key positions. Quick, skilled wing backs on both flanks are a huge part of making this system work. They both need to be able to run with the ball at pace and be able to control the ball with cutbacks and crosses, as well as play wall passes and give-and-goes. If they can shoot as well then you have a thing of beauty! They also need good game intelligence, such as realizing when the opposite flank is attacking to tuck in on their side and become a supporting central support defensive player. They have to be athletic and able to pressure high to regain lost possession quickly, but also have that box-to-box endurance. Of course we don’t all have those players and any reduction in those core skills reduces the effectiveness of flank play.
            You mentioned 6 and 8, both super important and they need great game awareness, communication, stamina, and marvelous first touch and passing skills. One more defensive than the other, or two defensive, is a matter of taste. But if your 6′s first touch is 6 feet then you will struggle to play out of the midfield through that player. If 8 cannot be a link to 10, 7, 11 and 2 and 3 then you will struggle to create width with good mobility. I am lucky, I have good 2, 3, 6, 8 and an amazing 10 ball player, so i can make this system work most of the time. As Gary says though, you need the right technical touch in tight spaces and if you step the level of competition that exceeds your players first touch and decision making speed, then this system unravels quickly.
            Core skills are first touch, vision (knowing where the ball needs to go before you receive it), correct kicking technique with inside of the foot, body shape, playing back foot and front foot passes to the correct foot of your partner, recognizing penetration passes and possession passes, and the ability to do these things quickly with little space. Drills for this are both technical and tactical, but mainly technical. We have a thousand touch rule at every practice session and we work for a good period of time of passing, receiving, moving the ball, close control, small group technical work, tricks, such as stepover turns, scissors, fake and take, maradonnas, cruyff turns, and more, to build confidence and excitement. We have small 5 by 5 coned areas opposite each other, with a fan of cones coming out at 45degrees from each box at the front corners, facing the opposite box. We have the players pass between boxes and shout left or right and a number to their partner BEFORE they play the pass. The partner receives the ball in the box, taking it in the direction called, with a touch carrying enough weight to move the ball to the numbered gap in the cone fan. They then call left or right to their partner, plus a number, and pass the ball back through the cone gap into the center of the box with the second touch. The partner receives and it start all over again, with players cycling through the box. This is an excellent drill for first touch, vision, anticipation, playing off the correct foot, weight of pass, communication and movement. 20 minutes of this and you will see who can bring all these elements together. Of course there are many, many more drills we do, and the functional plays for the wing backs and mids as well as the central defenders, striker, set plays for corners, free kicks, zonal etc. But, it all starts with core skills. Can your players receive and pass a ball accurately to various targets, using different surfaces and hit different ranges of pass too. Then there is defending……. another topic and also very technical :-)

          • Kana says

            @Nick BARTLING, you said it more eloquently than I but that is where i was going with my earlier comment. You just went into way better detail. Thank you!

          • Paul says

            A friend of mine has a son who played on a well known D1 school two years ago. He didn’t realize until well into the season that the coach had style of play that didn’t fit the style that was better suited for him. He moved to another D1 school in sophomore year and things couldn’t be better.

            This true story highlights misalignment of player, coach, playing philosophy that is seldom discussed. Most coaches lack a philosophy. They recruit and release (remember the gold standard) based on winning versus molding a team by identifying players who best suite playing style / philosophy. This, for example, leads to issues like not being able to play a 4-2-3-1 the way it’s supposed to be played wing high pressing wing backs. The coach either identified wrong talent or doesn’t have a philosophy to guide player id. So for example, a talented wing back stuck in a 4-3-3 formation that plays traditional holding backline. Right player, wrong system! I see this all to often, especially at older ages where players “settle” for coaches / teams largely due to the scant few viable options in the youth soccer market.

            It’s not as easy as finding another club. It’s difficult to truly know a coach and what he’s about w/o being there some weeks or months. Unlike college or pro, youth clubs aren’t on TV and you can’t Google them to research. Trial and error, club hopping is result. We’ve tried to research but always disappointed. So too is my son. I only know of 2 clubs in SoCal who have truly great age specific coaches and play possession soccer. Unfortunately both are 2-hours away and one of those would be Brian’s U14 Chivas side.

          • Paul says

            On my son’s team this is the situation for a few players. The coach doesn’t want the outside backs to press. So he forces the decent LB and RB to stay and defend deep and replaces the quick, skillful ones with the slower taller ones who naturally stay back. My son plays on the wing and sometimes forward and this really bothers him as he feels the team isn’t optimized. “Pick a style of play and stick with it” he says to me complaining abou the coach. Instead we have a hybrid team that is very inefficent becaue it lacks an identity.

        • Kana says

          I agree with you on shortcomings of the document. Nothing on the “how”, “where”, and “when”. Just the “what”. The art of executing, applying real world to theory is missing. And so to is crucial content on philosophy. These areas have that non-qualitative impact. This is an area 3Four3 is doing an excellent job. Application versus theory.

          USSF is best to promote a vision. Like promoting a common playing style / philosophy (e.g., attacking minded possession soccer with quick 1-2 passing); implementing this style / philosophy at various national team levels; promoting this style / philosophy at USSDA clubs.

          I’ve found in my professional life that leaders at the top promote the vision and leave enough flexibility for tailoring to unique needs / situations of each club. That works well when there are fundamental standards / expectations to keep tailoring from turning into something else.

          Take Barcelona as an example. From youngest players La Masia, they play 4-3-3, possession soccer (tiki-taka), identify players who mentally and tactically fit best, and bring on coaches and technical staff who have to live within philosophy constraints. But each coach can and does have room to tailor. As we’ve seen recently with Pep, Tito, and not Tata.

          • Coach W says

            As you mention USSF. Did you ever research the president, Sunil Gulati? From what I’ve read he only played up until high school. Now keep in mind there are several successful people in the game who never played professionally; however, Gulati’s expertise is in economics aka making money! From what I’ve seen he’s only concern with growing the game to make a profit rather than the development of the youth system and the individual. It’s no surprise the US has been doing so poorly, granted things have gotten better, it elects non-soccer minded people!

  17. Marco says

    Been reading for a while. This site has broken down so many myths and opened our eyes to proper footballing. Possession, thinking, culture, philosophy, environment, standards, etc . . . .

    Irrespective of style of play, when I see good teams / players, there are commonalities: orchestrated defending, attacking, build-up; play within roles and responsibilities as a team; simple passing and moving; everyone tactically aware; speed of thought and play; the basics are right (trapping, passing, moving); they are composed and know when to slow it down and when to speed up; they know when to switch and when to be direct; and I could go on but you get it.

    When I see poorly developed teams / players, the commonalities are: erratic defending, attacking, build-up; playing as individuals, dangerous passing; sloppy passing; static movement; players in varying degrees of understanding the game around them; slow and erratic speed of play; basics left wanting (trouble controlling the ball); lack of composure and play is fast, faster, fastest; ball seldom switched; always going direct and long balls.

    This comes down to coaching. Expectations and standards. Just watch a handful of U14 and above games for any league and you will see large variability and it’s from poor coaching at younger ages. Lack of standards, expectations, common playing style.

    Improving coaching standards will push the curve, make the average Joe better. But it likely won’t produce world-beaters like we see coming from the powerhouse countries and professional academies. US youth soccer cannot compete at that level for numerous reasons (financial, cultural, environment, MLS not at that level, coaching talent needs to improve ten-fold, mentality of rec soccer in guise of competitive pay to play has to change, college has to change). Developing world-class players is a different beast to conquer. But we can’t do it if grass roots doesn’t first change.

    • dr loco says

      Marco, like what you said.

      Fundamentally this is the problem I experience “mentality of rec soccer in guise of competitive pay to play.” Most youth clubs are amateur in nature and main purpose is to provide extracurricular activities for kids. Until youth clubs make this clear and parents understand the program little progress can be made.

    • dr loco says

      “If they play everyday, good players will be much better” What about bad or average players?

      You are leaving it up to chance and random probability. That’s like saying “if kids do homework everyday they will be much smarter”

      You need ‘quality’ instruction to produce quality results with proper testing and evaluating progress.

      • Tim says

        Dr. Loco,
        Enough of the “yoda” talk and riddles. I get it, you’re smarter than me. By the way, it’s not random that kids completing homework daily compared to those that don’t have a higher chance of completing college.

        • crollaa says

          It is easy to sound smart by speaking vaguely. There’s a huge difference between merely pointing out flaws and providing solutions.

          In this context, kids playing daily pickup games is absolutely better than not getting any touches at all. No, they aren’t getting the greatest tactical instruction. However, they are building individual ball skills so I don’t have to waste my time teaching a kid the physical mechanics of a Cruyff turn and instead can teach him where on the field to do it and when within the context of the current gamestate.

  18. Junhua says

    True, good instruction and coaches are important. Outside the club training and games, kids are not playing much soccer in US. I think it is a soccer culture issue. In south America, I can imagine kids just love playing soccer everyday. kids with very good skills and creativity will emerge in that kind of environment.

    • says

      That’s another fallacy.
      It is mostly applicable to the American ‘suburban’ demographic.

      But it is not true of the enormous multi-generational soccer demographic that already exists in the US. That demo is playing all the time outside the formal training environment.

      So, it is a cultural issue for just one demo in our country, not everyone.

      • David Williams says

        So you have a large pool of talent to pick from, probably why in 15 years you will over take England as a football nation. . Here in the UK, almost every football session involves adults. Those hours spent with friends playing is a big part of youth football, which is lost in our over populated island, where either it is too dark to play in the winter months, too expensive to hire 3G pitches and parents dont let the kids out anymore.

    • dr loco says

      “Outside the club training and games, kids are not playing much soccer in US.” — true that is why quality training is even more important. Coaches can’t be wasting practice time on meaningless activities like running laps.

      An intelligent coach can recreate an environment for optimal learning.

      Kids playing everyday is a random activity with low yield rate. It’s about quality not quantity.

      Freestyle vs Choreography
      Random vs Planned

      Train to perform like a pro from a young age and stop making excuses.

        • dr loco says

          Team sports is about planned choreography that is rehearsed over and over much like these little kids dancing.

          Until coaches get this they will only be able to rely on freestyle and deliver random performances that will leave much to be desired stylistically.

          And…yes, I am making this crap up but who cares if it ¡¡¡works!!! That’s the difference between practice and theory.

    • Dino Zoff says

      Yes! Exactly! I just crossed the border from Texas into Reynosa, Mexico. Immediately you can see the difference in style, standards, and culture.

      My boy and girl were born in Mexico, my wife is from their. They have the benefit of seeing and experiencing the USA and Mexico, every year. They are bilingual, too. We spent 5 weeks in Brazil for the recent World Cup, also.

      By exposure, he certainly will pick up some of the passion for soccer that is hard to get in the USA. My hunch is that most coaches trying to implement possession soccer prefer some young latin kids because they are likely to be stronger technically. Why? Touches and culture.

      We must hope and do everything possible to see that the soccer ball becomes the toy of choice for young kids, and not an ipad. If they are using an ipad, we hope they are watching Barca, Xavi, Messi and Iniesta highlites on Youtube!


  19. Frank says

    So much work goes into teaching how to keep the ball but what about when you don’t have the ball.
    Do you wait for the other team to make a mistake?
    Do you apply high pressure?
    Does the way the opposing team play dictate how your team wins back the ball?
    Or is it not important enough to talk about

  20. Some Coach says

    What specified topics would you try to hit in your seasons trying to achieve your goal? Its too general to say to possession.
    Can you list i ? For example would this be on the right track : 1- Building out of the back 2- Building using the outside backs 3- The role of the holding mid to keep possession in the def third 4- The role of the holding mid to keep possession in the attacking third 5- involving the outside forwards to expand the field. …etc

    Can you please your topics or major points you try to paint the picture for in your training?


    • says

      Well, this depends at what stage the team is at with respect to the ultimate vision.

      If you’re just starting out … then sure, general:
      1) Build out of the back
      2) How to transition from the back into attacking 3rd
      3) How to press the opponent

      We’ll dive into some more of the specifics here soon, as that is what the coaching membership contains.

  21. scooter says

    Question: is it possible to develop a kid tactically outside of the team context? Not technically, but tactically.

    Say your son is on a jungle ball team. Nice coach, good kids, terrible soccer. Without finding another coach/team, is it possible to teach tactically rich soccer to my son IN SPITE of his team and his coach? Where would you start? You can’t really do choreography with just one player can you? You can watch games and videos (we do), you can go over things on the playground (we do), but on a deeper level, is it possible?

    Because of family relocation, teams not re-forming, etc, my son is playing on his fourth team in 4 years. Out of the dozen or so head/assistant coaches, only 1 has been worth anything. I’ve not seen anything better with any opposition. One coaching friend told me, “Same shit, different shirt”. So I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s virtually impossible to find tactically-rich, possession-based, knowledgeable coaching in american youth soccer, and the best/only way might be to take matters into my own hands.

    Which leads to my desire to circumvent the coaching hegemony on an individual level. Is that even possible? As a nation, we can’t all just wait around for the “incumbents” to change their spots, can we? Curious on people’s thoughts.

    • says

      That’s a good question.

      Short answer: I’d say no, you can’t teach tactically rich soccer outside the team context.

      You might be able to ‘tell’ a player what’s up – he may even comprehend it ‘intellectually’ – but without the player consistently putting that into practice … you gain something, but never come close to achieving potential.

    • dr loco says

      Say your son is on a jungle ball team…

      Without finding another coach/team…

      I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s virtually impossible…

      Which leads to my desire to circumvent the coaching hegemony…

      Do the honest thing and tell the player to stop playing on a ‘comp’ team and focus on individual training and academics.

  22. Marco says

    My kids have played for well known clubs in San Diego / SoCal. Two USSDA sides. No matter the marketing nonsense on their webiste and so and so coach with so and so credentials, it’s still rec soccer in guise of competitive. Some reasons:

    - Still see awkward players at older ages playing that should be AYSO
    - Coacihng styles (philosophy) isn’t consistent. Differnt flavor each year.
    - No one teaching tactics, movement, core training (i.e., building as a team, possessing as a team, attacking as a team, learning how to possess by passing and moving and thinking).
    - I still see tall, strong players with minimal skill or tactical ability playing on U16 and U18 academy. It’s all about size!

    Somewhat related, but jumping clubs is almost hopeless. Even surrounded by USSDA clubs, the choices are poor. Coaching still sucks. I’ve found you just trade one headache for another. Jumping from a ship with 5 holes to one with 3 holes, but they are all taking on water and they aren’t bailing fast enough. Now we’ve come to sad acceptance that coaching just sucks. Not getting anything other than amature stuff.

  23. Marco says

    It’s like a pipe-dream to have a coach who gets it. Teaches tactics, movement, thinking. The who, what, where, when , why, how. Has a passion and committed to developing and identifying talent. Has a philosophy and knows how to execute against it. Understands his job is to provide the opportunity for young players for being tops in their chosen sport at U18 through knowledgeable coaching, committment, passion for what he does. A coach who has a development plan for his team and players and communicates it and provides feedback regularly on how the players are doing. One who sees real talent and goes out of his way to make special things happen for those players. A coach who understands how to get the best from his players.

    Someone like the Kleibans!

    • tim says

      “A coach who has a development plan for his team and players and communicates it and provides feedback regularly on how the players are doing”
      I hear this a lot and not sure why the parents need a report card for their child. Do you not watch the games? If the ball is bouncing off their shins then they probably need to work on first touch. If they are standing around on the field then they should consider moving off the ball to help a teammate. Do you really want your coach wasting his time writing a stupid? I played baseball and never received a report card. If you always strike out then you better work on batting. I never received a report card when playing football. When I was knocked down and run over I knew I should eat more and begin to lift weights. When I played tennis I never received a report card. When I double faulted 10 times in a row I knew I should work on my serve. ???? SO why in soccer do parents want report cards and conversations about their child’s progress? For the most part, the kid usually knows why he is sitting on the bench. You should ask open ended questions to your child. You will be surprised by their answers.

      • Wolfgang says

        You are correct Tim, there are a lot of bad coaches in every sport in America who FAIL to teach kids how to improve and just consign some kids to the bench. Never heard Marco ask for a report card. He wants a coach that will provide constructive feedback regularly to the player in the course of practices and games which is equivalent to asking for a coach that will develop the player.

        • tim says

          I was probably over the top on my reply to Marco but wanted to make a point and a point that is often glossed over. The Kleibans have hit on this subject many times but they can only fight the fire from so many angles. Personal accountability!
          I have a problem with your opening statement, “You are correct Tim, there are a lot of bad coaches in every sport in America who FAIL to teach kids how to improve and just consign some kids to the bench”. In many ways I think this view is counter in many ways to what America actually represents and embodies (not in a government way so lets not stray from athletics). At what age is a child accountable to wanting to be the best at something? At what age does a parent tell their child he sucks because he isn’t giving the effort.
          Your statement is giving both the parent and child a free pass on poor coaching. There must be accountability on their end regardless of good/poor coaching. 95% of kids are waiting to be told what to do and their are parents are excepting this to be ok. Kids need to figure some shit out on their own too!!
          Believe it or not folks, there are many very bad soccer players in Germany, Spain, England, and Brazil too. Why? They have culture and coaching, right?
          The lost art of “trial and error”. Nothing will be learned if the child doesn’t put in the work alone first.

          • Marco says

            @Tim. Accountability is spot on. I’m a proponent of that and always talk to my son about it. But when it’s a one-way street, it can be problematic.

            I almost get the feeling you are accepting of bad coaches and your answer is “get on with it.” Resign ourselves to inferior coaches? Accountability is a two-way street and I just feel we give coaches too much of a pass by attitudes such as yours. If the kid fails, it’s his fault. That can be true in cases, but also the coach can be the blame. At youngre ages (U12 and below) I would put more blame on coaches. When kids reach certain age, it’s more on them. But if they are in a system with a poor coach, a player can do all he wants and it will be in vain if the coach is poor.

        • Marco says

          You’re correct Wolfgang, constructive feedback is all i’m asking. Seems some coaches think players can develop themselves w/o any sort of feedback. Not “hey Johnny, you’re doing bad or good”. I”m more asking for “hey Johnny, do you think you should have held your run for a second more . . . ” or “you got beat becasue you were out of position . . . .” or “next time, stake 2-3 steps into space and move diagonally as the winger is about to send in the cross.” Something constructive. But a lot of coaches just yell meaningless, non-tactical stuff. Either that or they just sit there and never follow up with working on things at practice. At least that is my experience.

          • Kana says

            @Marco, @Tim
            My son is at USSDA club in SoCal. The boy’s DoC is trying to make change, but far from nirvana in coaching ranks. Bronze standard at best.

            Agree with player accountability, but agree with Marco it’s a two-way street. One-sided accountability doesn’t work too well. I’ve personally seen players who practice on their own all the time, are serious about the game, but stuck with dead end coaching. As my son says “there’s nowhere to go” in terms of finding a decent club.

            I remember reading on tihs forum about a year ago that modern, young players are more astute than many older coaches. More exposure to different styles of play, broad TV coverage, growing soccer culture in USA, exposure to possession soccer, better fitenss and nutrition, and so on.

            There is definitely a gap in player and cocch from generational sense.

          • Wolfgang says

            Both are needed if we are ever going to hit the gold standard in the USA. If either is missing we will never get there. Both the player and the coach are 100% accountable for their part of the equation. Neither can be excused when the other is falling short.

      • dr loco says

        ” Do you really want your coach wasting his time writing a stupid?” YES

        “For the most part, the kid usually knows why he is sitting on the bench” Really? Ask small players. Ask slow players. Ask dumb players. Then tell their parents!!!

        A coach is 100% responsible for the learning and development of players. If you don’t believe it stop coaching.

        • tim says

          Dr loco,
          So are school teachers 100% responsible for educating our kids? Glad to hear parents and students can simply sit back waiting for the information to flow in.
          “A coach is 100% responsible for the learning and development of players. If you don’t believe it stop coaching”
          Dude, I don’t coach because of parents with your thinking! Do you really believe that crap? My point to previous comment was our kids don’t have the time for the system to improve. I want coaching to improve but it’s years away! This blog is the bible for the next generation not if you currently have a 13 yr old at home.
          Dr Loc0, you have been inconsistent the last couple of months. Take a deep breath, back away from the computer, and organize your thoughts.
          How many slow, fat, and dumb kids are playing competitive soccer anyway?

          • dr loco says

            Coaches and teachers set the standard. Parents and coaches form the foundation.

            I am a coach first.

          • tim says

            Ok coach. As you’re now 100% accountable for the development of the players you coach, how’s it going? Any national team players yet?

          • dr loco says

            No national team players because I don’t work with players of high technical qualities. But trust me I have been able to work magic with slow, fat, dumb kids. Parents have ruined my coaching experiences. Now I’m trying low-level HS ball so we’ll see how much I can transform the worst team in the league.

          • tim says

            Dr. Loco,
            Have you ever considered you might be part of the problem? How about taking the best team and making them better? or a middle of the pack team? Are you so afraid of failing you eliminate the possibility before you begin? You’re better than that, I know it.

  24. Temujin says

    Since this post is a ting philosophical, I thought I’d share:

    Teams train all the time, but go to games totally unprepared.

    Most know the way of possession soccer; few can actually walk it. But as Barca has shown and 3Four3 is helping us understand, a single candle can light a thousand others.

    Develop the mind as much as the physical.

    Philosophy = a particular system of thought, study. A system of principles.

    Every coach should believe that jungle ball and Route 1 soccer is out of date, obsolete. But truth is as real as their delusion allows. These foolish ones are trapped by it, unable to liberate themselves.
    I often wonder what it is that bounds some coaches. It’s not chains or cuffs or locks. They are bound by mental chains.

  25. Kana says

    “Develop the mind as much as the physical.”

    That was insightful in light of Gary’s recent article. And so is much of what else you said. It compliments much of what we talk about here.

  26. Kana says

    Ok, thanks dr. loco. you’re getting carried away and misunderstanding my point. no need for me to try and explain. not worth it.

  27. Kana says

    Just read in Soccer Nation about Brian Kleiban’s U14 Chivas team. Uneaten in USSF Academy league! And Brian is very young (34). It’s obvious that at such a young age he is superior than coaches 2x older. I don’t think Brian recruited a bunch of players with superior alien DNA from Krypton. My guess is the credit goes largely to Brian and coaching abilities. Teaching properly from a young age, selecting the right players to execute. Other coaches should be looking in and thinking introspectively, questioning what they are doing. Same for other clubs and DoCs. Brian has the recipe right and they don’t.

  28. Rob A says

    Thanks for this post. Unusually, my team struggled this season, and a big part of it is that I’ve always expected my teams to play out of the back. In short, I didn’t coach them well enough on this aspect and, in most games, we spotted the other team one or two goals off the bat due to mistakes of playing out of the back.

    It’s going to be fixed this coming season.

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