I think we can all agree that taking what they do elsewhere in the soccer world and applying it here, is not easy.
But the reasons behind that aren’t necessarily what you think.
Perhaps the biggest and least understood reason for the difficulty is interpretation.
You see, reading or witnessing something, and properly interpreting what you read or witnessed, are two entirely different things.
The director of the Ajax youth academy is Jan Olde Riekerink, [...] who spends much of his day walking from field to field, observing. [...] “He is always watching, like a spy,” …
One Sunday in March, I was on the sideline of a game — Ajax’s 15-year-olds matched up against the youth academy of another Dutch professional club — when I noticed Riekerink behind me. He was by himself, bundled into his parka and writing in a small notebook. With the Ajax boys up two goals and dominating the action, I told him I was impressed by their skill. (I was always impressed by the quality of play at De Toekomst.) “Really?” he responded. “To me this is a disaster.”
That is an excerpt from a long form New York Times piece from over 3 years ago.
And while everyone stateside was saying how amazing the article was, it seemed as though they missed the single most revealing insight of the whole thing – contained in that excerpt.
It’s an example of just how important context, and a capacity for it, is.
What does this mean for you?
You are in the American soccer environment. You are not at La Masia, or Clairefontaine, or Ajax, or anywhere else.
Of course there is value in reading books, and articles, and quotes, or even going to those places and witnessing sessions and talking to practitioners. All great stuff. All part of the learning process. But it’s just that, a process. Doing those things does not give you the recipe.
The first problem, as we noted above, is a capacity for proper interpretation and context.
The second problem, involves taking what you think you understood, applying it, trying to find out what seems to work, what doesn’t … and then modifying or deleting. This is the trial and error cycle.
Each cycle lasting many months to years! And it never ends (unless you settle).
To think the methodology they apply at those places is directly transferrable to your environment is foolish. Actually, to think one fully understands their methodology from reading and anecdotes is pretty foolish too.
Why their methodology does not apply
Assuming their methodology can be encapsulated in some recipe (which it can’t), you can not just take that recipe and apply it here.
- You train twice a week, they may be training 4.
- You have no assistants, they have an entire club of assistants.
- You have commuter players, they may have some form of residency or ownership.
- You have parent intrusion, they don’t.
- You have no first team inspiring your players, they do.
I could go on forever, but you get the idea.
Well, you’ve got two choices.
- You change the environment to match theirs.
- You morph the methodology.
Good luck with the first. I suggest the second.
Technical, Tactical, Psychological, Physical
You may be familiar with these four fundamental properties that make up a player. That each are important, that each are linked, and that the challenge is in how to develop each (ie methodology).
A large chunk of 3four3 is dedicated to the following assertion:
It’s the brain!
It’s game understanding, sophisticated decision-making, and in the “psychological” sense … a professional mindset.
So the challenge for our coaches and clubs at any level is in how to get our products as close to our international counterparts in those areas.
How does one extract and properly implement the right components from our international colleagues and apply them here?
After just a couple more articles, we’ll be offering the very basics of our implementation.