… and work on them.
These are our U11s during a friendly over a month ago – versus San Diego Surf.
The interpretation of speed of play in general can be dangerous. We have to be careful here.
One of the biggest problems with US Soccer at all levels is that we have our teams run in 1 gear all game long. That gear is fast, fast, and more fast. One Dimensional … and wrong!
We must learn to identify when to speed up and when to slow down. We must feel the rhythm of the game under differing scenarios, and adjust appropriately. Our players must learn these things.
R10 fan says
When I played soccer I always had the problem of playing it fast all the time. Regulating the speed actually makes me play better especially if I can control it. I hate the constant play fast fast fast. Even worse when a football turn high school soccer coach tells you that’s how you should play. 🙁
Your Argentine roots coming out. 😉 A very traditional Argentine concept- the pause and letting the game breathe. It is often accomplished through the traditional 10 and Riquelme is a master of this. And I agree, it is a very underrated,understood,and underemphasized part of the game. I have a player on my youth team who is a master at this, and it serves so well to rebalance the team. His ability in this regard is not recognized or appreciated by other coaches like it is by me. I liken to the purpose it serves for a soccer team to what a rider does when riding a horse in dressage: before changing a gait (going from canter to trot or walk to trot, etc) the rider does what is called a “half-halt”. It’s a subtle but important centering and balancing of the horse and rider before the change of rhythm to another gait. The pause, letting the game breathe, in soccer does the same thing for the team that the half halt does for horse and rider- it allows rebalancing and centering before striking out again. Learning when and how to do it is very important.
Gary Kleiban says
Love that you get it man! Well put.
And I learned something new about horses!
Seriously though, there’s an angle there. How many can deeply understand and appreciate:
(a) the details of horse racing (pretty much just get a fast horse and win, right?)
(b) the complexity in MMA (bigger, stronger, faster, … right?)
(c) the nuances in golf (practice, practice, practice … right?)
How much thought, mentoring, practice, experience, etc … must one have to achieve global and nuanced expertise?
Just like anything that’s beyond a conveyor belt job … A LOT more than people think.
Gary Kleiban says
Oh, but let me add.
The ‘pause’, isn’t just an Argentine practice.
All top class countries, coaches, players, etc … also do it and get it.
I think being able to control the tempo of a game really messes with the other team too. Showing confidence and knowing you can keep possession and not constantly being frantic in the push to score can really unsettle the opposition.
No audio? Would love to hear what you said the the boys.
Gary Kleiban says
I know man …
We will be outfitting ourselves with mics soon.
Dr Loco says
Great stuff Gary!
Like this video too.
“Get your athletes to dance”
Nice discussion. Using a pause so you can adjust, as a team, to a more desirable rhythm of play. More like chess, perhaps, but definitely not MMA! I have never seen it taught in this country at the “system” level like that. And the problem I see more often is on the individual level.
The problem I see is with the frenetic “headless chicken soccer” that is often taught here, with little guile in player movement: the players give away their intentions and the defending team adjusts. Space disappears before it ever opens up. It is so discouraging to hear a coach or a parent scream at a kid to “pick it up” or “run faster”, when the kid is merely timing his run, as Cruyff would say, so he can get to the right place neither too early nor too late. Lots of kids figure this out to some extent, but they seemingly are discouraged from doing the right thing by everyone around them!
Spot on Gary! It frustrates me to end to watch the unsophisticated coach who constantly values the frenetic paced player who flys down the the field with seemingly no thought in his or head than to just run straight ahead. The player with the superior soccer brain understands there is a rhythm to the game and knows when to run , when to slow the pace and when to calm his team and stop the game.
I have often thought of the similarities between Jazz and soccer in their learning and execution. Reading the following article on successful Jazz playing it struck me how much it could equally apply to soccer and in particular speed of play issues.
Tips for Successful Jazz Improvisation by Bob Hinz
1. Less is always more. This is an important, though difficult lesson to learn, and it is possible that it may take many years to learn—if you are lucky enough to ever learn it. There are many reasons why this works, but one that is the most important is that the less notes you play the more you swing and the more accurate your rhythm. Faster rhythms, such as sixteenth notes (or even eighth note triplets at a fast tempo) are very difficult to play in time (unless, of course, you are Oscar Peterson). Conversely, the more notes, the less you swing, and rhythm and swinging are the most important things in jazz. Actively practice playing less. You have to over compensate this way because the tendency is to play more notes, especially when you play with other musicians in front of an audience.
2. Use space. Accordingly, it also follows that the more space you leave between phrases, the better your rhythm and the more you swing. This is because you have time to listen to the flow of the groove and to plan your next phrase. This often leads to an approach where your melodic ideas are based on motives, which use specific rhythms to develop pitch relationships. This makes the music more coherent, and more interesting to listen to. Improvise using rhythmic and motivic relationships, such as repetition, variation, and contrast. Experiment rhythmically with repeated groups of notes. Try developing a rhythmic idea, and shift it in relation to the bar line. Working with short motives and melodic fragments is always fun for the player and accessible to the listener.
3. Breathe. Think about how the breath supports the phrases that you sing. This allows for a natural approach to phrasing, and a vocal, melodic quality. Remain aware of the contrast between sound with silence: the notes of the improvised melody with its rests. Notice the phrasing of the original (composed) melody of the tune.
4. Let it happen. Don’t play the music—let the music play itself. Don’t make it happen, let it happen. Get out of the way of the music. This is a simply way to say that you don’t want to think too much about what you play while you are playing. Most of what you will play occurs as a result of the habits that you acquire during practice, drilling, and training. In performance, things occur in real time, and happen too quickly for you to control except in an overall manner. If you try to interfere with the body’s wisdom (acquired through practice), you’ll mess things up.
5. Keep your place. Regardless of what you play or don’t play, always keep your place in the tune. This is, perhaps, the most important aspect of all in ensemble performance. If you lose your place, apply methods and techniques that will help you keep the form. For example, keep the composed melody of the tune in mind as you play through your solo.
6. Rhythm is #1. Do all of the above with rhythmic spirit and vitality. How you sing or play something rhythmically is almost always more important than what notes you play. Blues and swing go together like milk and cookies (pardon the lame analogy). If you want to add more rhythmic vitality to your phrases, use blues oriented figures. Also, remember that playing rhythmically does not mean playing constantly. It is easier to create and maintain a strong rhythm with shorter phrases rather than longer ones.
7. Listen. When you solo, train yourself to listen before you start each phrase—give yourself time to play: pause, then execute; pause, then execute, etc. This approach will attract the attention of the listener. For example, if they expect your entrance as a soloist, and you don’t immediately start to play, listeners get drawn in and really want to hear what you have to play!
Dr Loco says
This sounds to me like Sir Alex not knowing how to leverage Veron. He knew Veron was a great player, but had no idea how to use a player with his qualities. It’s sad Sir Alex is hailed as such a great coach and he couldn’t even use one of the best players to ever put on a Man U jersey, it’s also sad his players had absolutely no clue what Veron was doing on the field. But as long as they keep up the great marketing I guess it doesn’t matter…
At a college game I went to, one of the coaches had a major obsession with the word “fast”, so much so that a guy next to me marked everytime he heard him yell it and it came out to 117 times in 95 minute game (5 minutes into extra time they won 1-0). This was just another example of coaches not understanding speed of play and rhythym, another issue not brought up yet I feel is the 1 and 2 touch. Fast and 1 and 2 touch MOST of the time? Absolutely! But all the time? Absolutely not! And it seems to be 100 percent of the time that coaches around the country want fast player and 1 and 2 touch maximum, no room for improvisation, no time to slow down and think, no time to allow movements to develop, and no time to put your foot on the ball and let the game breathe when the game gets frantic, when the other team starts dictating play, or whatever the case might be, just fast, fast, fast, fast, and that is why we don’t create thinkers and players with brilliance. Technical and athletic perhaps but not truly class/elite players with vision, understanding of the game, and tactical awareness.
Speed of play has nothing to do with fast fast fast, hurry hurry hurry. How quickly the brain analysis the picture the player sees is speed of play.
Agreed full. For me, “Speed of Play” is not how fast you are, or how fast you can kick a ball….it all starts with how “fast you THINK”. If you can THINK the fastest, you can then play fast….or as pointed out….decide when NOT to play fast. The decision does not always have to be to play the ball quickly, but the decision itself needs to be made quickly.
You need to have the techincal capability to play fast as well….but I will submit that is the easier task !!
Clarify something for me please… you tell your Center Back to take “10 touches”.
was that meant to take ten passing sequence touches or actual individual touches on the ball? Im asking cause before he gets the ball you ask them to play fast.
How did you correct this problem in the upcoming practices?
He was telling him that he is taking 10 touches every time he receives it and he wants him to make decisions faster.
Gary, This is a great coaching point spotlight on “Speed of Play”. Keep sharing these little tips.
Setting “high expectations” is an important coaching principle as well. American society as a whole today is too willing to accept mediocrity.
Gary Kleiban says
I’m trying to strike some balance for all of you between abstract thought provoking philosophy, more tangible philosophy, general soccer people are ‘novices’ (ie US Soccer problems), and more practical stuff.
Approaching 200 articles here, and I haven’t even begun. Overwhelming when I think about it. So … little by little. 🙂
I’m going to be exploring your very last sentence with hundreds of posts! It is at the core of everything!!! But one modification to your sentence is required. More fundamental than “acceptance” of mediocrity, we actually work very hard to produce compliant, mediocre people. I’m not talking soccer-specific, I’m talking general culture.
But please let’s not take this tangent here. Let’s wait a little bit until I post something on the matter. Deal?
Deal and agree with your added precision to my last sentence!
NOVA Mike says
Coaches must be very, very careful to make sure they learn this themselves before trying to teach it, because this is one of those things that teaching it wrong is a lot worse than not teaching it at all (i.e. – letting players develop their own feel for the game). The vast, vast majority of U.S. coaches do not understand this at all, let alone have a sufficient enough grasp of it to try and pass it on to their players.
To me the absolute master of controlling and manipulating the tempo of a game is Xavi. Watch every game that he plays. Step 1: When you are able to recognize that he is slowing down and ramping up the speed of play on purpose – by design, that’s a beginning. Step 2: When you can appreciate and understand when and why he is doing so, that’s progress. Step 3: When you can watch a game and actually predict when he is about to speed it up or slow it down, and for what purpose, maybe you are ready to teach it.
Personally, without ever having played the game at a high level I’m not sure I’ll ever get to step 3, but for me the most important thing is that I can recognize and appreciate a coach who can, b/c that’s who I’ll trust my son’s future to.
I also think in large part the problem w/ most US players is that they aren’t even capable of playing truly fast when they need to, b/c other than yell “faster”, too many coaches have no clue how to actually train that skill.
Dr Loco says
don’t know how to watch the game,
don’t know how to enjoy the game,
don’t know how to play the game,
don’t know how to teach the game.
3four3 is setting the standard.
Agree with you about US kids and playing fast. So many European players can dribble as fast as they can run w/o the ball. I don’t see that in MLS, even with foreign imports. This is one of the reasons I think we need to spend way more time at U12 and younger on ball mastery and ability to dribble with your head up, change direction and speed without looking down and with control. If we can make even a 10% improvement on this, the level of play will increase and it will pay dividiends at older ages into professional level. Pick a world footballign power (Italy, Germany, Argentina, and so on) and pretty much all their attacking players and most defenders have this skill. Outside of Donovan, I dont’ see it with US kids.
Dr Loco says
“the most important thing is that I can recognize and appreciate a coach who can, b/c that’s who I’ll trust my son’s future to. ”
Nova Mike you are so fortunate to have such options.
Joe Fabian says
So, we have talked about the speed of the game and how important it is to slow down (pause) and speed up the game when appropriate. Now, let`s look at another aspect of speed, the speed of the individual player. Theoretically, there are four different types of speed: pure speed, technical speed, analitycal speed and mental speed. Look at how Diego Armando Maradona Franco used all four types of speed to beat opponents. More importantly, please, pay attention to how he used change of speed. How he slows down and then accelerates at the right time to beat his opponent, sometimes more than once against the same player. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZ3M6zN8c20
Dr Loco says
Fabian, thanks for the video.
From what I see in the video, and this may just be my own obsessions coming through, is a lack of mental speed and indecision as a result. The centerback didn’t have a plan in place for where the ball was going so he was uncertain and hesitant about what to do. That looks different than a player waiting for people to arrive in the right position before making a pass.
If you watch closely, you can see the best players analyze the field on the fly, lining up their options even before the ball gets near them. By the time it arrives they already know which of those is best and can act on it immediately.
CarlosT, your observation is spot on and exactly what Gary is trying to highlight, a “speed of play issue”. Part way thru the video he pulls the two players who are keeping the ball for too long, the “speed of play issue” you are commenting on, to coach and correct the issue. A lot of the comments on this post missed the teaching point Gary is trying to make because they either don’t get it or got distracted with the discussion of change of speed which is a different element than Gary’s point in this post. Gary does mention that change of speed can be good at the right moments in a game. Glad you got his main point. Hopefully more people did even though they commented on their own ideas instead.
No Wolfgang YOU missed his main point: This is his post:
“One of the biggest problems with US Soccer at all levels is that we have our teams run in 1 gear all game long. That gear is fast, fast, and more fast. One Dimensional … and wrong!”
“We must learn to identify when to speed up and when to slow down. We must feel the rhythm of the game under differing scenarios, and adjust appropriately. Our players must learn these things.” Can the point be more clear?
Being able to make the decision to change the pace/rhythm successfully takes SPEED of thought to do successfully.
As Rinus Michels wrote, “Furthermore, it is of vital importance to a team that a player who can make his mark on the speed of the match guides the build-up. This could be by one-touch, but also by consciously slowing down the speed of the match to give teammates time to get in the correct position. Players who can set the pace of the match are the diamonds of the team… Examples of such diamonds are; Guardiola (FC Barcelona), Litmanen during his stint at Ajax-Amsterdam, Hagi (Romania), van Gastel (Feyenoord-Rotterdam) and of course the star player of the World Championship of ’98, Zidane (Juventus and the French national team). Almost every top team has this type of player at its disposal, although there are differences in the level of quality. How well he is able to function under a great deal of defensive pressure determines the difference in quality. In fact you can find this type of a player in every team at all levels, even in youth and amateur teams, but only a select few are good enough to reach the top.”
Hincha, you are correct that Gary provides a warning after his video. And I am not arguing against the importance of a player on a team that can dictate tempo. In my mind the VIDEO is the main post and the message after is a warning to not mis-apply what happens in the video. In the video the players highlighted as poor examples are holding the ball too long “every time you get the ball you ten touches”. Their speed of play issue is that they are holding the ball and stagnating the entire team while they decide what to do which is much different than choosing to hold the ball for a moment or longer to draw a defender out of position or to give an off the ball run time to develop or changing pace with the ball. I am not saying all the other great ideas shared are wrong. Rather the video is highlighting something very specific that coaches need to identify and correct without over correcting as the warning note after the video reminds.
What center defender are you talking about? Look closely and you’d see Maradona I mean Diego Maradona!
Catch my drift? …there is a danger when the simple game of football is overly analyzed. Instinct, instinct instinct that comes from hours of playing not because you are training for some auspicious career in football but because you fell in love with playing football.
People, it is a simple simple game. Lets not complicate it with all these pestilent over study.
Dr Loco says
“People, it is a simple simple game. Lets not complicate it with all these pestilent over study.”
YES, simplicity leads to elegance.
In Gary’s video.