The following video is split in half.
One half is conducive to high-level development, the other isn’t.
One half is 1 in a 1000 in our country, the other is the norm.
If you find yourself nitpicking and making arguments otherwise, it’s highly likely you are THE problem.
The eternal question of course, is how does one go about achieving the good stuff? We offer our solution.
El Memo says
I believe both teams (playing possession on the first video then kickball or jungle ball on the secon video) are your team. I am so glad that you did not compare your team vs another team. THIS shows that the possession style is a personal choice. THIS shows that any team can fall into the jungle ball category. It also shows the opposite – which is what we should strive for. Players, especially youth players, will try to do what coaches ask of them. If your team is not playing possession style, then you are either not asking them to, or not showing them how. Unfortunately, coaches succumb to the pressure (usually by parents or club) to win (or, not loose). Such a shame.
I’ve been involved with teams that succumb to this pressure, I am embarressed to say. I’ve also been involved with teams that can raise above, and I’ve pushed just to have others within the organization pull us into a different direction.
Just my opinion, but possession style IS THE ONLY CHOICE. Any other decision is not in the true spirit of REAL player and team development. The only pressure a coach should succumb to is WINNING THE GAME OF POSSESSION during a match. If you are ahead at the end of the game in terms of score and your team plays jungle ball as in the 2nd half of this brilliant video, what have you really accomplished as a “coach” other than prolonging this country’s relegation to subpar quality football?
El Memo says
Agree. Especially with your last question.
You “gain” by pleasing parents and prevent an exodus from your team.
But, pay dearly (with interest) in development.
Curious Larry says
I’m guessing the 2nd half team had a different coach than the 1st half since I didn’t hear the (typical) yelling from the sidelines that I could hear in the 1st half.
Gary Kleiban says
Same coach Larry.
And coaches should be vocal on the sidelines.
In the American soccer environment, if a coach is a mute on the sidelines, RUN!
Run because it’s almost a certainty that coach doesn’t have a clue.
Curious Larry says
Thanks for the clarification Gary. Sorry. I should have been more careful watching the video before posting. Now, I can easily hear same coach’s voice from the sidelines while hearing my headphones.
I disagree. I used to be a very vocal coach on the sidelines, but then attended higher level coaching courses and got involved with some of the better coaches at the big academies. There is a time (finals) that it can be warranted, but there are a few problems with vocality:
1) The message loses it’s importance with constant repetition.
2) On attack, it’s easy to coach players telling them where to pass or even turn from the sideline. Is that “development”? I find that the players learn far more by having to make their own choices and getting feedback. However I do believe that at the younger ages key cues should be used (compress, communicate, protect etc) on defense, but with a large emphasis on cues for them to make choices.
3) Training is the time for development, playing is the time to see how whether you have been successful. How do you know if the players are truly developing if you can’t see which decisions they make in absence of the coach?
Blanket statements like ” if a coach is a mute on the sidelines, RUN” are entirely philosophy dependent.
My 2 cents on sideline demeanor. It is a question of style and it’s certainly not about being the loudest…like anything else is about quality…and every time you open your mouth you expose yourselves, so…
Also interesting to see how some of the great masters are not shy about getting involved from the sidelines…on either the tactical or emotional side
The education continues
Keep pushing ahead Gary
Coach J says
Another question Gary…..one of the biggest things you guys stress to the boys is “options and advice”. You want the boys to become an option if they are suppose to be an option, but you also want them talking and giving “advice” to the player receiving the ball. If Brian is always giving “advice” as well, doesn’t that defeat the purpose of getting the boys to give the advice?
Why is it bad to let the boys do the talking during the match and then correct them after the match as to what they did wrong if they did in fact do something wrong?
I will let Gary answer on his view but one way of looking at it is to see a game as just another training opportunity…so just another opportunity to coach and help the players develop…now as in any art it requires know how and expertise…and you do expose yourself doing it…much easier to sit down looking cool
The most powerful words come surrounded by silence. But, it’s all dependent on your philosophy where everything is driven by. I treat games as a barometer for how good my coaching is during the week. Others may use those as extra coaching sessions. No one rule can be applied to all situations, and there are positives and negatives depending on your philosophy.
Can’t think of many great master coaches that haven’t at least occasionally ‘exploded’ from the sidelines
Because coaching men is far different than coaching children, and the result actually matters?
Result definitely part of the question….the most interesting side though is that master coaches don’t seem to believe that soccer is a players
They have an idea of how the game should be played and set high expectations from their players…when things go asthray they don’t tend to shrugg it off…about age and demands that’s another all conversation
As training age and experience increases the degree to which it is the players responsibility to execute the coaching instruction grows. Of course you expect a professional player to precisely execute instructions, as the game at that level is like chess.
At the younger ages is this a reasonable expectation? If you are playing competition that isn’t at the same level (players or coaches) is it? What about a tournament? It depends on your philosophy as Gary always says, and we succeed or fail by whether our decisions are aligned to it. That’s what makes sport so interesting.
During pep’s regin at barca I think we all witnessed even at the highest level one of the best coaches in the world not sit quiet for very long always trying to tweak and giving advice all game long. Pacing back and forth all the time that brain was constantly thinking of something!!!!! Not sitting silent!
Gary Kleiban says
Thank you for contributing Ben.
Hard to know where to start as I think pretty much all the points you’ve raised are misguided.
If you have:
* 4 to 5 training sessions per week,
* residency where you can control every facet of a player’s development,
* multiple coaches with the same philosophy assisting you and your players on and off the field,
* a 1st Division team in your club inspiring your players
* 1st team and other youth players in the academy interacting with your players in residency
* videos of your matches for your players to watch on their own or in a session with coaches
* … among many many many other things ….
Then sure, go ahead and offer minimal instruction(s) from the sideline. Because you have the requisite environment to better support that methodology.
If, on the other hand, you train 2 to 3 days per week, and don’t have all those other things … your methodology MUST be different.
Training 2 to 3 times per week – which after “warming up, doing some technical activities, playing a SSG, and cooling down” – leaves you with barely more than an hour of tactical work.
To think THAT training is sufficient to translate to the field (EVER) is an absurdity. Leaving the players alone during match day is a huge mistake, and a disastrously prolific and harmful meme in US Soccer.
No. In the American soccer environment, matches are best treated as an extension of training, not the final product. When, and how often, you try to take off the training wheels (verbose sideline coach) is a function of how far along your players are (a judgement that requires expertise).
People travel to all these renown academies and come back all “enlightened”, as if they now know the way. But they don’t. And their products show it.
The reason is you can’t take exactly what they do elsewhere, and copy it here. A different environment requires a modification in methodology.
And finally, don’t think for one minute that coaches at the best academies in the world don’t ever go ape-shit on their youth players. That’s also misguided and misinformed. They do!
I think you misunderstand what I’m trying to say. My son is in a european youth academy (I know next to nothing about US soccer apart from what I read here), and they are developed in a very possession oriented way. I’m just repeating what their coaching staff have said, and from all the courses and other coaching courses I’ve done and coaches I’ve talked to, this is how it’s mostly done over here at least, and this is the rationale used.
I’m certainly not claiming that coaches don’t instruct from the sidelines, or even get mad, especially at the big tournaments. But surely you can see that it does provide a barometer for how good the coaching is. If the kids do what you want without you having to be in their ear, can’t you see that’s a good thing? Wouldn’t it be good to know what decisions they make in your absence to inform future training sessions, even irregularly?
I would really appreciate an answer to those last two questions.
Lastly, you seem to think that most European academies train far more than you and this is the reason the coach can be silent on the sideline. This is clearly incorrect. Take a look at the ECA report:
Ajax 12 years old: 3x per week.
Barca 12 years old: 3x per week.
Bayern 12 years old: 3x per week…. and it goes on and on.
Gary Kleiban says
Thank you Ben.
I’ve seen that report before, and it’s important to be able to place all that data in context.
So your questions …
Q: “If the kids do what you want without you having to be in their ear, can’t you see that’s a good thing?”
A: Of course it’s a good thing.
The issue, however, is getting them to that point. So this is a question of methodology.
Q: “Wouldn’t it be good to know what decisions they make in your absence to inform future training sessions, even irregularly?”
A: I understand the essence of this question. And I think it mostly applies to a set of coaches that have a long way to go in their development.
The problem I have with this question is it presumes 2 things:
1) That a coach can’t already have a great understanding of what his player’s decision-making level is. And
2) That a coach can’t see a player’s decisions to great degree before the action comes to said player.
And both of these are presumptions are wrong.
I’ll give just a simple example:
If the ball is making it’s way across the back 4 to the right back in a certain situation, our right winger should be losing his mark in anticipation of receiving the next pass.
If I see my winger picking his nose and not preparing to make the appropriate movements, that’s it, I don’t have to wait to see the rest of what’s going to happen. I already know. And it’s time to intervene.
And that’s just a trivial example.
Thanks for the reply.
Re the ECA report: I realise that all players over here do far more than 3x per week, but not in formal training. My boy (10) has been doing ~15 hours a week since he was about 7, but mostly unstructured play with his group of football fanatic friends. So we can’t compare to the US directly.
Regarding the nose picker, well, I’ve never dealt with that personally. But there isn’t a simple right answer there. Some people really do need a ball in the face before they wake up. If you tell them to look up before the ball is coming, have they learned anything?
I will note that there is a growing body of research in an educational setting that makes me believe there is large value in “show don’t tell”. We know that students learn significantly faster after failing, seeing the consequences, and then finding the solution. Everything from research to neuroscience (LTP in response to failure is far greater) to common sense tells us that this is the best way to form understanding. This probably forms a formal basis for a lot of player centered coaching approaches.
I realise I can’t say what is right in your environment. But I can say that while you must have a great program, like everyone else you are learning and cannot possibly have optimised everything to it’s fullest, so there are possible ways to improve. Perhaps this is one way – it must work as it’s used widely in some of the places you are trying to replicate.
Ramo Badohoun says
Coming from European system… training 3 times a week it is like the minimum also remember many of these kids from various academies are recruited from all over the players where certain talent are displayed already. Usually recruited from small clubs. It is imperative for players to get guidance on the sideline. From being a product of one of these academies everything is must be put in contest. Like Gary said it one must taken account all the others factor that constitute the development in European academies and when these international coaches give feedback it is always in their own context because they have no clue what we go through in USA so we must adapt. Of course if players are doing what they suppose what’s the point annoying them? It is like children home how many time one repeat, repeat , repeat and repeat for the them to fulfill their obligations before they get…
As far I am concern all the youth games are for development purpose and games should be viewed as another extension of training. The final product of work which is a complete player of high level if we are lucky should the ambitions. Good things that we cant claim that one approach is the absolute way because conditions and environment change…
I guess you should be flattered..topdrawersoccer picked your video up and ran with it
James Fish says
There r 2 sides to talking on the sideline…
1) To correct tactical errors in decision on the field…when consistent bad decisions are made..
2) Joy Stick Coaching…When a coach tells the players what to do every step of the way. (This does not allow for the players to makes decisions of their own) When the coach stops this behavior he/she will find that the players always had one ear on the sidle line waiting for the coach to tell them what to do. And will begin to make all the mistakes for the decisions he never had to make while on the pitch.
If training the players correctly in practice, you will find that minimal communication is necessary. But you have to demand it in the game and pull players out that do not adhere to your instructions.
The worst are the coaches that sit in their chairs the entire game without opening their mouths.
AMEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I can’t stand it especially when it’s your DOC
Dr Loco says
“possession style is a personal choice” … by the coach
US Youth Soccer looks like this:
chaotic with no intelligence
A coach can teach ‘basic’ possession-style with no training sessions just coaching in the game. I have proof. All game styles can be described with a heuristic approach but precise execution takes deliberate training and choreography.
Little Nessie says
Unfortunately we are taxed… Done. It looks like this little minnow slipped three the developmental net. After two years of developmental programs from ODP, PDP, MLS academy and ID2… We are just about done. Driving eight hours for two hour practices… Not easy… Never one complaint. Alway td to get him playing in a higher level club/program. We recently did that and he spends most of the time on the bench as a sub. See the paid club coach must have results. My little possession/tiki taka player looks like a super star at try outs and in drills but in the NPL where it’s race back and forth up and down the field and physically battle it out and launch long balls he does not do so well and truthfully does not guarantee a win. This new team just got invited to a pretty prestigious tourney and the email from coach was quite clear… Your invited but don’t expect to play much cause we go to this to win. My own fault coming from a volunteer coach program that’s not very competitive… Hey … How was this kid getting picked for all this shit when he comes from a low level volunteer program… I’ll tell you why. Because he is a natural… Lights out player that incites people she. They watch him. But that does not guarantee a win. We need more residency programs for kids besides Casa grande and magic psg. It’s just a bummer because he’s ranked right with players that all seem to be getting invites to this and that. Man … If this kid grows and they want him it’s going to be hard to hold my tongue.
El Memo says
This blog’s intention is to play soccer the proper way in order develop players. We all have seen how teams through the country pick the fastest/tallest/strongest kids without regard to skills. Most of the posts here are from people that believe they get it. That value possession and skilled players. HOWEVER, being physical is part of the game. We cannot deny this. (Look at Xuxuh’s workout and game style.) I am totally sold on possession and skills. I dove into how to coach skills and possession for the last 7 yrs! And, I don’t mean read an article here or there and copied what others said here or there. I mean, from knowing very little I really spent countless hours (hundreds). Take my son’s team/coach. They value athletic kids. They see the value of skilled players but value athletics quite a bit. Instead of getting angry/mad, I talk and work with my kid on his aggressiveness. He went from being pushed around and falling down (bottom three) to being one of the top three most aggressive kids in the team. We try to push conditioning so that he can keep up with the athletic type as they get tired after 15 mins. Again, DO NOT get me wrong, he is the most skilled in his team. And, as much as I thought at times he was undervalued (and was upset about it), we decided to put that energy into getting better on his lacking part of the game. He is becoming a well rounded player, where the others just have athletics to rely on – which will eventually even out. Will this work with my second child? Yet to be seen.
NoVa Mike says
You make a great point. There are a lot of parents who complain that their kid isn’t getting selected b/c he isn’t physical and/or aggressive enough – implying that the coach is a typical all-that’s-wrong-with-US-soccer type. The majority of times those complaints are probably well founded, but in some cases the reality is that the kids who are being selected are both skilled AND able to perform against physical play. A lot of it comes down to having a competitive mentality and being mentally tough – i.e., being a fighter, never quitting, never backing down, etc… Those character traits are essential qualities in any high level player IMO and just like anything else they need to be worked on and developed. Based on your post I am guessing you know from first hand experience that part of the developmental process is not always easy or fun – it takes a certain amount of “tough love” doesn’t it — but the reward is well worth it. As you said it makes them a more complete, well-rounded player. More importantly, regardless of what happens in their soccer careers, seeing them grow the kind of character to stand up to those who are bigger and stronger than them, to pick themselves up when they get knocked down and try even harder, .. . . those are moments that swell any parent or coach’s heart with pride. They are also traits that will serve those kids well whatever path their lives may take.
El Memo says
You described it well. It took “Tough Love.”
Athletic Players (Fast/Tall/Strong/Agressive) is NOT a problem. (Note: My kid would be considered average on the first three.) The problem is that human nature indicates that they will take the path of least resistance. Most will use their athletecism to get the task accomplished. Technical development will hurt if not handled properly. It is up to the Coach to recognize and ensure the player understands they will be asked to go out of their comfort zone and that may cause them to struggle (without an apparent need) but that eventually they will be a better player for it. If you are not Athletic, then you must become quick with the ball and mind and understand the game and be aggressive and tenacious. Ideally, you have everything (athletecism, skill, smarts) – sometimes you don’t but that is life.
Brandon Elwood says
Thanks for some feedback. I have been following this blog for a couple of years now and its steered me to many good ideals and helped me really focus on whats important. I got him with the best coaches and kids from Norcal for two of what I would consider critical age years. I suppose they all could be considered critical. I focused on the years when boys are really starting to grow because I knew if I did not do this it would be a “big problem” down the road. I suppose the culmination of all that to this date was when he was selected to the ID2 national camp and was given high marks at the tryout my the head coach Gerry Mckeown. The last two years have forced him to play physically and to learn how to turn away from pressure because he switches time from outside mid to attacking center mid depending on a 442 or 433. At this point I would love for him to come down to the Chivas academy for a guest week to play for the Klebiens just to see if its worth continuing the journey. This kids would be a great case study for soccer on size in the game here in the US. I think people are mostly just politically correct these days when it comes to diminutive players in the game… at least that the case here in the US. Nobody wants to just come out and say… hes too small… after Messi got popular. They don’t want to sound like and idiot… But too me that’s just swinging the pendulum to far the other way like we do in america all the time because we have to tradition in certain things and the game is one of them. Look at all the people trying to teach possession and it becomes possession with out a purpose. I just keep asking myself why he was ever selected at all for so many things despite his size… I know the answer… he is extremely technical and was given exit feedback from the id2 camp that he was off the chart technically with the ball…. but his negative was that he was physically unable to match up.
Dr Loco says
“Look at all the people trying to teach possession”…where?
“and it becomes possession without a purpose”…here is the purpose
sustained possession = development
NoVa Mike says
“Nobody wants to just come out and say… hes too small… after Messi got popular. They don’t want to sound like and idiot…”
They would be an idiot if they thought Messi was the only example of a small player at the top of the game. Xavi, Pedro, Iniesta, Neymar, Pedro, Alexis, Alba, Alves – they’re all 5’9″ or under. And they’d also be an idiot if they thought this was limited to Barcelona. Maradona is 5’5″. Sneider, Aguero, Silva, Navas, Rivelino ….
“Too small” is an idiotic thing to say about a soccer player, with the possible exceptions of GKs and CBs.
In the wrong system though – – one that values winning 50/50 balls more than avoiding them — bigger players definitely have an advantage. Even more so when the refs are blinded by EPL goggles.
Your right… And they never do directly say “your to small” because it would sound stupid… Today. Let’s not forget the Atomic Ant…. Gionvinco. I guess my point is that this country can talk the talk but because of club soccer and it’s coaches needing to provide results in the form of wins… They will have a hard time walking the walk…
NoVA Mike – Coaches / systems favor players who can win 50/50 over players who avoid giving it away. Great insight!
I don’t get why all coaches don’t favor players who don’t easily give the ball away? Winning it back has more to do with knowing how to cut off angles, quick feet, physically (over 5-10 yards) and mentally quick players who can instantaneously transition into defense (ball recovery mode), pressing as a unit, and desire (not laziness) to win possession as quick as you can.
Just being big is not an advantage in winning the ball back. It may be advantage in 50/50 headers. But why not do smart thing (like Barca and how I imagine La Masia and the Kleibans train) and keep the ball on the ground. Train players to avoid the situation. Avoid sloppy, uneducated play. And if you are smaller and in 50/50 in the air, you can still pester your opponent, make it difficult for him but know you probably won’t win it. But teammates around you should be smart enough to position and ready when the ball gets on the ground. Now the advantage begins to shift.
A good defense is a good offense as they say. A good defense is also making smart, less risky plays. I see so many teams give the ball away in their half because of risky plays, over touching, not thinking or being composed. I see game after game where you can tell the players totally lose sight of retaining possession. It’s get to goal as fast as you can and do every stupid foolish and risky thing you can to get there.
Totally agree that the issue is really how much turning the ball over hurts your team (as opposed to winning it back). I think we should coin a term, “fumblers”, for kids who yield possession too easily. They really need to be identified, separated and reprogrammed.
Fumblers and possessors. We need to start using those terms on this site.
Dr Loco says
If you want to be a professional athlete it would help to be athletic. There are requirements for every profession.
Now, the point of the video is not athleticism but player development based on possession. This can be achieved at any level from low to pro. It is fundamentally a coaching style used to effectively teach the game.
This week-end I watched Bowling Green State University play Ohio State. The game looked exactly like the second half in the video. Amazingly I watched BGSU play Akron last year and that looked like the first half! We know Akron plays possession and last year BGSU actually played it also. What’s amazing is that BGSU has the same coach but made absolutely no attempt to play possession against OSU. I don’t understand their thinking.
I have to think part of this is simply that it is easier to play a possession oriented game when the other team is trying to play as well. It is very difficult to play a possession oriented game if the other team is simply trying to destroy it!
When my son was 10, he had a Serbian coach that told he and his team, “I am going to teach you to play “real” soccer. You are not going to just kick the ball all over the field. You are going to learn to play possession soccer. That means you are going to learn to keep the ball. As a team you are going to learn to build from the back which means our keeper and defenders are going to have to have good foot skills. In the begining, you are going to lose the ball and we are going to get scored on but I dont care. I would rather you lose a game trying to play soccer rather than win playing ugly kick ball”. They did learn, won the CSL Silver Division that season and made the quarter finals of State Cup that year as the “B” team. Problem is not every coach has the same philosophy so as coaches change along the way (as player gets older, moves clubs or coaches change at current club), they all seem to want to play a different way. How are young players to develop when there is no consistency from coach to coach?
Gary Kleiban says
“How are young players to develop when there is no consistency from coach to coach?”
Interestingly, if you look at it a certain way, there is consistency.
>99% produce play similar to the 2nd half of that video.
So >99% of coaches are pretty much all the same.
But I know what you’re saying.
And you’re right.
John Pranjic says
Every post lately has left my mouth watering, Gary. I’m excited to see what 3four3 has in store for us in the future. PULL THAT CURTAIN BACK!
Gary Kleiban says
And I know man, I know.
Part of it is I’m scared it’s not ‘good enough’ yet.
John Pranjic says
There is a big difference between your ‘good enough’ and the 99%’s ‘good enough’. And the longer it takes you to be satisfied with your product, the more eye opening and educational it will be. I’m cool with that.
El Memo says
We call that paralysis of analysis. Can’t wait for all the stars to align.
I hear ya. I have 3four3 as one of my home pages and check it daily for new updates, replies, etc. Love this site and all the great info I have found. Videos are amazing. I’ve shown them to my high school team, it’s funny that seniors are using these 11 and 12 years as their blue print.
STL A-B says
Great 4 minute video. Should be sent out to all of the parents you coach for education. No doubt, kick/run is easier for kids…the lazy way out. Also, no doubt possession is the right way to develop. A few questions I prefer to ask my kids parents – do you want to possibly win in August (beginning of season) or develop over the course of the year, play the right way, and develop properly? Who cares if the Right Back loses the ball trying to play the right way as opposed to panicking and ‘clearing it?’ Is the goal to feel warm and fuzzy at U8 with a perception that kick/run gets wins or develop and be great a great player by U12 and beyond?
Gary Kleiban says
All good things to do with your parents. Communicate and establish that culture/philosophy over and over again.
Another important note:
The quicker a coach learns how to teach possession, and understands what can be compromised and when, the less of these types of problems they will have. Cuz you’ll win!
@El Elmo – exactly!! An exodus of parents (and players) who support jungle ball is not a bad thing. This is actually preferred. Instilling the proper culture as Gary says should be our focus as coaches. Without this, they just won’t understand the bigger picture and vision of proper football player development. If you are involved with a team that “cherishes the ball”, listen to the parents’ comments on the sidelines – they sound eerily similar to what the coach says, am I wrong?
Gary Kleiban says
I’m trying to arm you guys with material that can help educate your parents & players.
Send this to them.
Some Coach says
My only concern with coaches that try to coach possession soccer without proper knowledge is the following:
1- you see no proper penetration
2- you see player cant solve the game through build up
3- you see keep away then hit (only way to go forward)
4- you see success at U12 or U13, but then can’t mature past this
I am not saying anything about this clip, they are playing well. But I am worried about readers who will jump into conclusions.
I think the whole youth philosophy in this country has to buy into it to really see a big change. From Parents, to referees to coaches to even u4 or U6 league admins.
John Pranjic says
If someone is attempting to coach possession without proper knowledge, should they be coaching to begin with? Serious question.
We have too many fakes. Forget the side effects, the #1 problem is the coach himself. Too many coaches think they have it and don’t. And it is videos like this that will expose, and probably offend, so many coaches who believe they are doing shit right but are far from it. I love it.
Gary Kleiban says
All 4 of your points are valid.
There is a lot of “fake possession” out there.
Jon Burklo addressed some concerns here:
But coaches have to start somewhere.
And so do the players.
Burklo is in my neck of the woods. We ran across his club the other and were fairly impressed by the product. Long way to go but it appears the foundation is being built.
“1- you see no proper penetration
2- you see player can’t solve the game through build up
3- you see keep away then hit (only way to go forward)
4- you see success at U12 or U13, but then can’t mature past this”
Really good points to think about! There are VERY FEW coaches that can find success with possession at U12 or U13 and even less after U14. I my opinion, success at U12 and U13 in possession has lot to do with terrible defensive discipline/coaching by the opponent, than mastery of possession soccer. I think Gary has said that most coaches are out of their league by U13 or U14. I totally agree, and especially when it comes to attacking possession soccer. Most of the top coaches in America are good, because they have learned the basics of good defending and organization, which is their advantage. They don’t get possession attacking, they might get possession for the sack of keeping the ball, before they bang it up at best.
Possession attacking requires an expert knowledge of both defensive and attacking movements. It requires forethought by the coach, and the ability to layer and articulate the details of the game, in such a way that they are actually raising the Soccer IQ of each of their players. I’ve heard Brian say that he asks lots of “why” questions when he is coaching the boys. It’s so critical that players understand the why, because this is the key to real soccer wisdom. Knowing why you do something is the key to knowing the except to the rule, as well as the exact perfect time to do make a play or run.
dr loco says
Coaches out of their league by U13/14 definitely. Funny most DOCs take over teams at this age just to ruin them. Started laughing when top European coach told American DOC he was better suited for U11/U12 his reply was ” the problem is I focus on older high level teams.”
Gary Kleiban says
That’s right Alec.
* The game changes at U14. There’s a significant step up in speed of play.
* The game then changes again at U18 for the same reason. Now it’s a men’s game.
And yes, tons of Q&A with the players over time. And repetitive Q&As.
Could you speak to why attacking with possession seems to be the step few coaches can teacher their teams.
What are some quicker points to get us going in the right direction.
Or some pit falls to avoid.
Ok Gary. What would help for the next series of videos would be what it looks like from the beginning to develop the possession play in the first part of the video. Take a new team and progress through the process over 6 months…. that would be a wonderful framework for all of us to use and build on. I’m sure we’d all be willing to give up something dear… I offer up my 4th born child :).
Gary Kleiban says
You’re right Tyler.
That would have tons of value!
And it so happens that the Chivas U14s were just formed.
I’m going to try and get as much of the process filmed as possible.
I’ll say this, they played their first match a couple weeks ago, and it was terrible by our standards. We’ll see what it looks like in 6 months.
Wonderful. Can’t wait to watch it progress… any chance you could package the practice plans that Brian puts together from week to week? I know its a big ask, so understand if its too much, but it’d be so helpful.
dr loco says
It’s easy to teach possession and natural for young players. Problem is parents are haters and fuck shit up. They want to see direct play and lots of running and shooting. Idiot parents and coaches don’t care if the player is developing and winning…just want to see kickball from their lame kids. Such a waste of potential talent in our country it makes me sad.
Gary Kleiban says
It’s not easy to effectively teach and execute possession.
It’s perhaps the most difficult thing to do in all of soccer.
Dr Loco says
3four3 call FMF and help the Mexican national team effectively execute possession. They seem to have forgotten!!!
Dr Loco says
“By the end of the session, Byers says, EYSA’s coaches were overwhelmed — not by the challenge, but rather by the simplicity with which the style can be taught.”
Gary please elaborate.
Gary Kleiban says
The activities, along with the core tenets behind the philosophy, are in and of themselves … simple/easy/straightforward.
However, the capacity for execution of the details behind each activity, along with the nuances of the supporting philosophy, and bringing it all together … is a big challenge.
What we do in our clinics, and what we’ll be providing with our online coaching program, is get coaches on the track. We give them the core (the meat & potatoes of our methodology). Then it’s up to them to follow the track for a loooong time so they can achieve some mastery, and hence be able to execute with some mastery.
That’s the crux of it.
I mean, if a chef gave me his ‘simple’ core recipes to the letter, and showed me how he executes … that’s hugely beneficial!
BUT, BUT, BUT, I’m gonna have to put in a lot of work and repetition into what he taught me, to achieve some mastery in execution.
Thanks Gary – already sent. And when you have more material for us that is “production worthy”, please let us know! We are still learning and very eager for more information on how to do it right. My Spanish last name alone does not make me an expert!!!
Coach J says
Correct if I’m wrong, but the 2nd half of the video was your National Cup Final versus Gldn St.?? Were the boys told pregame to play differently than they normally do because of the opponent or the situation or did they just “get caught up in the moment” and revert to jungle ball?
I’m curious as to why in such a HUGE game the boys played this way. Looking forward to your answer.
Gary Kleiban says
Hi Coach (why not use your real name?),
Q: “Correct if I’m wrong, but the 2nd half of the video was your National Cup Final versus Gldn St.??”
Q: “Were the boys told pregame to play differently than they normally do because of the opponent or the situation or did they just “get caught up in the moment” and revert to jungle ball?”
A: The boys are not ‘developed’ (they are being developed), so episodes of jungle ball do make appearances in our matches. I made a clip of the episodes in that game.
Coach J says
Thanks for the reply Gary! It’s somewhat comforting to know that even your team can fall back into jungle ball at times.
It’s soooo frustrating as a coach to teach a certain style to your team and they execute it in one match and then in the very next match they fall back into bad habits and have stretches of jungle ball.
Thanks for showing that even you guys can fight that every once in awhile.
NoVa Mike says
In a way I guess that is kind of encouraging to see that even a well-coached team capable of playing good possession can revert to jungle ball on occasion, although I’m sure those occasions will become less and less frequent as time goes on. It make me feel better about my U9s, who showed flashes of the 1st half type play in their games over the weekend, stringing together several 6-8 pass sequences, with switches of play and good penetration, but then seemed to take 5 steps backwards in yesterday’s practice.
I think this is something we all must experience at some point – a frustrating “in between” stage where the teams shows its capabilities but then fails to play to them consistently. I also suspect this is where a lot of coaches who start out trying to teach possession end up losing faith and ultimately failing.
It would be helpful if you and/or Brian could share some of your insights into why teams do this, and what if any coaching adjustments can be made during the game in order to try and right the ship.
What league is this team currently playing in? Or where can I find their games, they play so much better than the majority of teams their age, I’d love to go and seem them play.
Gary Kleiban says
This team is playing up a year in the coast soccer league U14 premier division.
Here’s the table: http://www.coastsoccer.com/2013/SB140P.htm
Here’s the schedule: http://www.e7sports.us/csl/schedules.php?tid=2531
Antonio Magana says
I thought this was there schedule: http://ussda.demosphere.com/teams/60852305/61518870-61445170/TEAM.html
Definitely don’t want to go see the wrong team!
Dr Loco says
Sacha van der Most
Gary, with all these people how can Brian do his job? Who controls the team and makes decisions? Will he stay at this age group or move with team?
This is not an unusual number of people to be involved with a high level team in a professional club. Leadership includes the ability to communicate, delegate, and ensure accountability, which only gets more difficult and complex as the competitive level increases. Part of being a manager is managing a staff too.
Everyone stop this possession garbage now, it doesn’t work! We lost our first game last weekend to a team we used to beat before we started changing our playing style and development philosophy to possession. In the game we were working on building out of the back and creating attacks from possession etc…
Ha ha! Seriously though our play looked more like the first half of the video (not nearly as good but there were flashes). The other team looked like the second half of the video all the way. We lost 2 – 1 but I can guarantee you that our players learned more in 5 minutes of the game trying to play possession than the other team did in the whole game playing cagada ball.
So yes, absolutely, possession develops players far and above the other way. There isn’t even a comparison. Also, this is outside of the scope of this conversation but real futsal (not the indoor soccer with walls crap) helps develop players a lot. We’ve been having to play indoors a lot due to the rain and we switched to futsal from indoor soccer and the difference is dramatic in how the players are forced to develop when they can’t kick the shit out of a ball against the wall.
Albert Folch says
(This is not a post — please PLEASE forward to Gary, it’s important he reads this. I’m not a weirdo fan, I’m a Seattle-based writer/scientist/Barc,a fan who is trying to get his opinion on my upcoming book on the history and methods of FC Barcelona’s youth academy. The book starts featuring Ben Lederman so I would like to interview Gary to get all the facts straight on Ben’s story.)
I sent you the below email a few days ago but I’m not sure it reached you. Could you please email me back to let me know whether you are interested in a short interview? I don’t need more than 10-15 min of your time, and of course I would acknowledge you and your blog in the book.
Thanks in advance,
My son’s coach, Kyle Rodeheaver here at Seattle United (last year in U10 Copa team), spoke highly of your website and I’ve been enjoying them in lurker mode. I’m, like you, a physicist (recycled as a bioengineer) and a “soccer maniac” that lets his extra energy by writing: I’ve written two books related to soccer. The first book (“The Science in Soccer”) was written in Catalan because I’m actually *from* Barcelona. I carry the Barça DNA genes (I grew up going to the stadium, watching Maradona and Bernd Schuster … my grandfather was a soccer player in the 50s and friends with Samitier and Kubala … my dad is friends with Guardiola and I have met him a couple of times – I just saw him in June in Munich).
This little intro was just to let you know about my second soccer book, “For the Love of the Ball: The History and Methods of the FC Barcelona Youth Academy”. I think you will enjoy it. I would like to have your opinion of the book before I start e-selling it on Amazon, especially because the book, which is directed to the American public, highlights the story of Ben Lederman (the book starts and ends with a reference to him). The book focuses on the historical role of Cruyff and Guardiola in the rise of La Masia and is peppered with famous quotes from coaches and players that I have gathered over the years. Of course, I talk at length about the Barça-Real Madrid rivalry that has pushed how operations are handled at both clubs and their youth academies. I have also produced some scientific measures of success to show why La Masia is so successful (and to what extent), compared to other youth academies in the major European Leagues.
Would your email accept a ~9 MB attachment? That is the size of the latest draft of the book at present (it contains some figures). Once you have taken a look at the book (if you agree), then I would like to give you a call to confirm some of the details of the Ben Lederman story, since you were his coach (and I would like to name you in the book). That, I think, would enrich the story substantially.
Anyways, I enjoy your funny writings a lot and, since we have so much in common, I’d be curious to have a chat with you about soccer and how you went from coaching Ben to Chivas USA. Are you in L.A. or San Diego area? I go there a couple times a year because my in-laws are in Newport Beach. Would love to see you coach too!
P.S. you can find some details about what I do (research and books) in the website below, or by looking me up in Wikipedia.
Associate Professor of Bioengineering
University of Washington
William H. Foege Building, Rm. N430-N
3720 15th Ave NE
Campus Box 355061
Seattle, WA 98195
Phone: (206) 685-2257; Fax: (206) 685-3300
Albert Ben was never coach by Garry or Bryant .. I wonder if your book will tell the real FACS that went down with Ben getting his shot ..
El Memo says
So, a player who has gotten recognition and is big part of a book being written was not coached by the coaches from which the author wants quotes from? Shouldn’t the author know more details already? All very strange.
@ el memo
Ask Garry the question directly ?
As for the author no disrespect but he needs to do his homework better.. I love 3four3 because they bring a new Philosophy or idea of the game in the states .. Since day one when the 12 minute video was posted .. Everyone felt in love like I did .. All the time they refer or show examples of the same kids ..
A) we have to admit they came up on a great group of kids .
B) at times they make it seem that is all because of their coaching .. But really every coach should know if you don’t have the right material your ideas dont show in the field..
C)lets see in six months how their U14 academy team looks .. How much of their ideas and Philosophy is put into that team.. D) Who is gaining more the kids or 3four3 ? Till now I think 3four3 after posting the kids video his site took off ..
Over all great start to change the US mentally I’m tired of seeing my country get beat in the sport that I love ..
What is great is that Brian has set up a really good experiment to test how much his coaching makes a difference. In research we call it a “crossover”: one group has the treatment then it is taken away, then the second group that didn’t have the treatment gets it. The group that had the “treatment” (Brian’s coaching) is the TFA U11 and U12 teams. Last summer, they won Surf. This summer without Brian they didn’t even make the finals. The U14’s and Chivas will be the new group to receive the “Brian treatment”. That will be the second half of the crossover experiment.
Believe me, I would like to believe that my own little maradona can develop to his maximal potential under any coach (with liberal amounts of his own work on the side). However, the more that I see and read, the more I have accepted that our disposable income would be better spent on trips to train in Europe with quality coaches than on club/ODP fees in the US. If only Brian ran a 4 week camp in the summer that ran like a European academy trial…
Love the summer idea!!!!!!
Some Coach says
Still talking about the 4 points that I mentioned and the point that U14 coaches and not having many qualified or good enough coaches to coach them.
So here we go. the US, pretty large country, with 50+ states, 100’s of cities (250K and up population), so many clubs, so many so called “soccer players”.
1- How can we educate the coaches and people in these town to play the right way.
2- Like many professions, there are the experts, the rising, the amateurs, and the no clue people.
Maybe I am the rising or the No clue coach. One parents thinks I am an expert, another coach thinks am a rising expert, and one thinks that I have no clue.
Then we try to coach the GAME, we lose in U10 and U11, people say he cant coach. Some how possession clicks, and we are the only team that switching the point and building out of the back and are scoring because we our players have seen and done these patterns.
Are we developing individuals that can play in the high level ?
Coach Lee says
As Gary has mentioned earlier in his blogs, one way to improve coaching is to require the “rising” and “amateurs” to shadow or be mentored by a QUALITY coach. But there are many obstacles to this:
1. Most don’t know what a QUALITY coach is
2. Most don’t want to wait and learn (they want to coach, win the wrong way, be recognized now)
3. Most clubs won’t pay a coach to be mentored OR most coaches won’t give of their time for free to be mentored
As to your 2nd part… if you are teaching your team the proper way to possess the ball with the intention of penetration to goal, I believe you will see results way earlier than U14. Something is missing if it’s finally clicking at U14 as opposed to U11.
#10 Nate says
Hi Gary. I play for a mid-tier U-14 team in Michigan, I’m 12 and I’m co-captain. We play great possession soccer in our small-sided games, but in the matches, the players get caught up in the madness and punt the ball to the other team and chase it. The thing is, my coach doesn’t really get it. He says he wants to “play with more grit and fire in our bellies.” Sure, of course you need to be tough, but he isn’t addressing the real problem. I watch tons of European soccer and follow you guys. I am a playmaker who scores goals, and I know how to play possession. The problem is, there are only two others who know how. I am discouraged at the poorness of our play. I honestly don’t care about our record as much as possession and development because I know that the goals will come. How do I fix this? I need to change something quick, or get into a team that plays possession, which would probably be Vardar.
El Memo says
As Gary has pointed out, coaching is not just knowing a bunch of drills. You must have the right approach / mentality, only then will you be able to play the right way (possession) and be able to develop. (Assuming you have the knowledge and know how.). The same applies to players. In order to play proper soccer, you must have proper approach (value possession). If not, then they are like parrots during training but can’t translate to the game. I would like to see Gary spend some time discussing how to get players to buy into it, and I mean completely, for life. I’ve been able to do in isolated situation, but much harder in a team setting. Especially when mom and dad are telling little Johnny to score, etc.,
El Memo says
Watching Ajax vs Barcelona I mentioned to my 11yr old how Ajax had composure and came out playing and did not just kick the ball from their defensive 1/3, even when playing against Barcelona. He asked, “why would you kick it?” (Possession mentality already created for life.) I replied, well some do in order to avoid a mistake in the back, but doing so prevents from developing and displaying proper soccer. Also, by doing so you create a 50/50 ball up field. He said, “I don’t get it, you make a mistake (creating a 50/50 ball) by avoiding a mistake (giving up the ball on the defensive 1/3)”
Got to love simple quotes/questions from kids.
I get what he’s saying and it’s totally awesome that he has the mindset. But you can see why some teams think that. A 50/50 ball is less dangerous to give up than a CB trying to play a cute pass to a midfielder only to give the other team a great opportunity. That’s CL of course, not a U12,13,14 league
Long, high 50-50 balls develop the worst kind of soccer players, I believe. Lazy ones. I will tell you why I think that. I believe that kids are smart. They are either taught or eventually figure out that their best position on the field is based upon possession of the ball. There is an infinite array of possession possibilities, but the ones that matter most for the sake of kids positioning themselves are as follows 1) we have the ball 2) they have the ball 3) we have the ball but are about to lose it 4) they have the ball and are about to lose it and 5) nobody has the ball.
When #5 nobody has the ball there is very little advantageous positioning you can do. You can guess where to be but chances are good you will guess wrong. Kids are smart so you will notice soon after the soccer ball is cleared higher than 6 feet in the air they stop moving and do not move until the ball returns back down below 6 ft in the air. Even pros pause somewhat, but a pros job is not developing, so it doesn’t matter. And pros place 50-50 clearances to strategic areas like the where the mid-line meets the sideline so that their team has a general idea that any play that will ensue (their throw-in, our throw-in, their possession, our possession) will require movement into the same direction while the ball is in the air.
For development a ball higher than 6 feet in the air is waste of time, I believe, for when it comes down kids cannot reliably anticipate where they need to be so they shut down.
Hey but it wins games… nice job coach!
El Memo says
My point is that Possession Soccer must be a way of life. Coaching Possession (assuming is done correctly) is not enough! The player must buy into it, or all gains will be negated when changing coaches. We talk about coaches, but not enough about players. They are the ones on the pitch, as much as we think we “control” the game.
As a youth coach, you know you’ve done your job when your players will refuse to play jungle ball when in that environment.
Agree Memo. But do agree with others that player id is often overlooked or isn’t thought throug relevant to a philosophy.
How a US youth soccer team forms: A hodgepodge of players with different technical skills, tactical understanding, speed of play, and playing styles chosen from a 2 or 3 day tryout with the purpose of playing cohesive possession soccer. This process has high probability to result in jungle ball because no one chose players based on a philosophy (i.e.,players who are already show ability for possession soccer). My observation over the years.
There is now a U13/14 Academy, but is anyone trying to improve the pipeline feeding it? The ability to play possession soccer (and all the technical, tactical, and mental attributes that enable it) are laid down much earlier than U13/14.
Maybe the real payoff is when USSDA or some other federation makes concerted effort to improve coaching at the U12 and younger ages.
I don’t know how Brian and Gary did it, but they seemed to have did some very good player id at younger ages and instilled the groundwork for possessoin soccer at an early age (quality coaching + right players = beautiful soccer).
Would love to hear from Gary on this as I may be offbase.
Gary Kleiban says
This type of soccer has always been our team identity.
We’ve done it from U9 – U19, from Bronze level to Premier level, boys and girls, even high-school. This is not reserved for the top of the top.
But it looks and is executed best over time and with evolving the roster if it’s not up to snuff.
You’ve got the right formula.
My favorite was the English commentator confused and repeatedly saying that they are “over-playng” and “they need to play more direct”. Obviously, the mate doesn’t understand the cultural philosophy of both of those teams style of play.
Why don’t we embrace American football more as a potential model for coaching and development in soccer? It is our most innovative sport from a coaching perspective from youth to the pros and much more successful than American soccer. It embraces new ideas and change more than our other sports. e.g. Chip Kelly’s offense. Coaches have clear and distinct philosophies of play and always have a thought out plan even at the youth levels. How many youth soccer coaches come to practice with written plans for training let alone have a distinct philosophy? They have positional or specialist coaches for every unit on the field…not just one player like a goalie or QB. How often do soccer coaches focus on training the defensive unut? Would the midfield benfit from such training? American football has Xs and Os or pattern play. Soccer hates this because it is inflexible and lacks creativity. Or does it? Youth socer seems to train almost entirely in small sided drills and yet played almost entirely on full sided fields. American football is practiced and drilled more on actual field size formations.
Sure there are many shortcomings, but our football is also a complex 11v11 team sport with many twists and turns. Many of the concepts sound a lot like the ideas put forth in this blog. Could the typical resistance or even disgust with the analogy be no different than the old baseball scouts looking for five tool players before the advent of moneyball? Are we dinosaurs lacking innovation?
Coach Lee says
1. The quality of US soccer coaches is not good, therefore, the majority of players we develop is not to the quality of the elite countries
2. Any QUALITY soccer coach has a philosophy (possession based with object to penetrate the defensive)
3. Any QUALITY soccer coach puts together and maps out his/her training session… most “normal coaches” just wing it
4. American football and basketball are prime examples of regimented (plays that are called) sports, where as soccer is engrained on the training grounds. Soccer players are given patterns of play, but ultimately they are the decision makers on the pitch
5. Any QUALITY soccer club allows the use of many coaches to help out one team… goalkeeper coach, head coach and assistant coaches. All these coaches need to have the same philosophy to make the team fluid. Coaching collaboration is very important to soccer!
6. Any QUALITY soccer coach does break down the defensive shape, midfield shape, etc etc…. it’s all inclusive.
7. Small sided activities allow for more touches on the ball… there is a time and a place for training small sided and full field. Totally dependent!
Until the United States actually opens their eyes to what QUALITY soccer is and how to develop QUALITY soccer, we will be stuck in the same rut. It takes coaches like Brian to “show” what QUALITY looks like at a young age, and how they got there.
I agree a QUALITY coach already does these things and, unfortunately, most in U.S. soccer don’t. Given our eyes have been opened and we don’t have a solid framework for quality development where are most coaches of all levels to begin? This board is a great starting point and many on the board seem hungry for more materials from Brian and Gary. Perhaps there are other places to look or at least think about with an open mind as well?
My suggestion (or really just a question to think about) is to start with the one successful, innovative model we do have in American sport. Most versed in soccer reject this idea automatically, but there may be lessons to learn for a coach of any level. Not coincidentally, many of the lessons are similar to ideas raised on this board.
@Coach Lee, agreed that “Quality” coaches would already do those things you listed but IMO @Soccer Sense’s idea of using other sports (or other coaches) as an example has merit. I have a friend that coaches a championship travel basketball team and one that coaches probably the best little league baseball team in the city. We discuss methodology frequently. I learn a great deal from them.
Some of the commonalities in talking with them and reading about successful coaches is that those coaches:
1. Care about details (A LOT!)
2. Spend a large amount of time on technique.
3. Choreograph (their detail oriented nature demands perfection)
4. Break the game down into small chunks
5. Are repetitive in their training
6. Predominantly use a guided learning approach (lots of questions mixed in with commands)
7. Develop intelligent players through the very structure of their training (see 3, 4 and 6)
My point is that I think it is a very good idea to use other sports and other coaches as examples.
Dr Loco says
Alfredo, I agree with you. However very few coaches in any youth team sport possess those qualities. Most kids do not have access or exposure to these coaches only a select few. As a result, player development is the exception.
I’m not much of a fan of American football, and this probably an unpopular post, but I think there is going to eventually be American innovation in true football, maybe driven by American owners of English teams, which adapts some aspect of NFL play planning and specialization. This going to take a while as teams/coaches run the risk of being ridiculed when these plays fail and when they don’t look like traditional football (either english-style or spanish-style). I don’t think they will be incompatible with possession football, but they likely are not to look beautiful, but will work. I don’t mean trick plays, I mean a movement towards having more Rory Delaps who can throw a football across the field and turn a throw-in into a scoring opportunity, and introducing more programmed tactical plays (or better programmed). in some ways this can be an evolution of possession style, they can be possession-maintaining and opportunity creating and maybe just used a few times a game. I don’t know exactly what this will look like, it will not be easy at all and will take a Bill Belichik falling in love with true football for it to happen. I think it can be incorporated into soccer’s great possession fluidity, which as Gary makes clear is already based on intense tactical work, and if not it can certainly be incorporated into english-style football. I’m saying this more as a prediction than advocacy.
and to get an idea of what I am talking about, watch any Rory Delap video if you haven’t, or RB Leipzig’s “onside kickoff” from last weekend (very risky, would be mocked globally if it had backfired into a goal by the opponents, can’t be repeated in that form, but it worked). offensive teams on corner kicks could learn from the deceptive pre-snap active movement in american football. should these plays be taught or used in youth soccer? almost certainly not, you are trying to teach young people how to play properly which requires intense focus on possession, without distraction. are these going to appear more and more in professional leagues with mature players? yes, for better or worse: http://bit.ly/15ccIfB
sorry, bad bitly-ization, this is the link:
Possibly the most successful and “innovative” American soccer coach
10 years on from this text…Hero or villain??
(yes, yes, it’s not men or pro but his influence and following on the status quo runs deep)
The UNC Legacy: A paradox for American soccer
Tom Turner, OYSAN Director of Coaching and Player Development
The women’s soccer program from the University of North Carolina is like no other in American sport. Since 1981, when the first, and only, Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) Division I Championship was held on the UNC campus, only five other schools — George Mason, Notre Dame, Florida, Santa Clara and Portland — have wrestled national titles away from the Tar Heels. That success congeals to an air-thinning winning percentage of .783 in collegiate championships! Victory again this year has only added to the reverence afforded a school that has thoroughly earned its reputation as a storied American sports program.
To underscore the wealth of ability from which titles have been whittled, UNC alums with United States National Team experience include Shannon (Higgins) Cirovski, Tracy (Noonan) Ducar, Lorrie Fair, Debbie Keller, Mia Hamm, April Heinrichs, Tisha (Venturini) Hoch, Tracey (Bates) Leone, Kristine Lilly, Cindy Parlow, Tiffany Roberts, Carla (Werden) Overbeck, and Staci Wilson. Current UNC stars answering the call to international duty include freshmen Lori Chalupny, Heather O’Reilly and Lindsey Tarpley, and senior Catherine Reddick.
The paradox of Dorrance’s success is that while his college program has single handedly pushed women’s soccer to the forefront of the American sports consciousness, and his national team of 1991 elevated the United States onto the world stage as a major player, the recipe for success is no longer cooking up the same results for the present generation of American players at international competitions. A more deeply felt ripple is observed at competitive levels around the country where impressionable coaches, thirsting for the illusionary secret to success, eagerly attempt to duplicate the UNC model, now widely available in books and on videos and DVD’s. While the more astute practitioners eventually learn the folly of mindless imitation, the remainder of the coaching fraternity innocently colludes to perpetuate a style of play that sets America further and further apart from the norms of international soccer.
It has often been cynically joked in coaching circles that, given the glut of American and foreign national team personnel available to him over the years, Coach Anson Dorrance could promote just about any known playing system and style and still win championships; however, this simplification does not give due credit to Dorrance for the program he has created and sustained over time. The historic strategy for on-field success at UNC has been both simple and effective: Play conservatively in the back; play the ball forward as early as possible, and as long as possible; play with three forwards and isolate attacking players in one-on-one duels; organize the box for crosses; press the game into the opponents half whenever possible; defend with uncompromising relentlessness; and platoon players to maintain high intensity levels. UNC is a study of sports psychology in action, with competition mapping taken to extremes in a Darwinian process noteworthy for its uniqueness in the soccer, and perhaps, sporting-world. It is an approach that National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) roster rules and the college version of soccer’s playing laws both allow and encourage. It is a formula that the savvy Dorrance has used to devastating effect.
Dorrance is a brilliant and popular clinician, and his energy and wit ensure full houses and extensive note taking wherever he appears. Additionally, ring-wearing UNC alums have been the natural targets for college athletic departments eager to appoint female coaches to head their women’s soccer programs. With, often, only successful playing careers to draw from, the UNC approach serves as the obvious point of departure for these young women who face significant challenges in establishing a toehold in the coaching profession.
In short, the Dorrance influence on women’s soccer in the United States runs deep and wide and touches all levels.
In the early days of international competition, American individuality and athleticism were the trump cards. US teams had world-class players; perhaps, in retrospect, an ironically dangerous glut of world class players, because it has proven to be very difficult for rising young stars to usurp the Grand Dames! Athletically and physically, it was often women against girls. Add the delayed societal embrace of women’s sport in many established soccer countries and it was easy to appreciate that only the pioneers of women’s soccer had any serious hope of success. The American teams of 1991- 2003 featured a nucleus of world-class stars that all arrived in their prime together, and the results were magical! Until the 2003 World Cup, a total of five championships spanning twelve years, only Norway (two) and the United States (three) had ever won a world soccer title. The landscape has changed, and the changes are dramatic!
Before going too much further, it must be noted that women’s soccer in America, while in some peril, is not yet in serious crisis and, in reality, our national teams are unlikely to fall into the second tier of world rankings anytime soon for two reasons. First, we still have most of the best soccer-athletes in the world; and second, the sheer volume of players will always produce enough talent to keep our teams competitive. The real goal, however, is consistently challenging for, and winning, world championships and the broader developmental question begs for a revision of the type of personalities that will be required by future generations. Simply, will they be more “worldly” in their soccer qualities, or will they continue to rely on perseverance and fitness and individualism?
Today, besides the top echelon of Brazil, China, Germany, Norway and Sweden, the Argentineans, the Canadians, the French, the English, the Koreans, the Russians, the Mexicans and the Nigerians represent some of the threats-in-waiting to America’s position as a dominant world soccer power. According to FIFA’s world rankings, over 100 countries now field national teams for women. The physical and athletic differences that helped maintain an uneven footing in the 1990’s are either closing or have evaporated entirely. All the major players now field their share of physically strong and powerful women, and any continuing American advantage in physical speed is being checked by growing tactical acumen and technical cleanliness. While the remaining vestiges of America’s Golden Generation will enjoy one last visit to the world’s stage at next summer’s Olympics in Greece, the ascension of Katia, Lundberg, Meinert, Pichon, Sissi, Svensson, Wen, and Wiegmann to the ranks of international stardom present the new technical standards to which all young players must aspire. The skill, awareness and drive of these women provide proof positive that, physical differences between the sexes aside, the game is “soccer played by women” and not “women’s soccer,” as some would like to suggest. It has been a fascinatingly rapid evolution and the quality of play at WWC 03 was a strong indication of just how committed the rest of the world is to competing at the top levels.
Most worrying for our future is the seeming national detachment from the spacing and changing rhythms of the international game. With better athletes and more competent technicians, our elite rivals are now able to overcome many of the lingering physical differences by playing smarter soccer. They can possess the ball and they can counter-attack; they can defend in either half of the field; they are very economical with their scoring chances. Most notably, their understanding of roles and playing partners and spatial groupings brings them much closer to the tactical quality of the top international men’s game than ever before. While USA Coach April Heinrichs rightly praised her team’s ongoing defensive frugality and set piece efficiency, she also noted after the 2003 World Cup semi-final loss that, “The German team is a great combination team. They solve pressure in tight spaces so it is difficult to disrupt them. They buy themselves time by playing it wide. They buy themselves time by clearing the ball or playing it one touch. By virtue, they are composed. They are very calm and collected.” While the current shortcomings of the USA team are clearly highlighted when juxtaposed against the German performances of WC 2003, the long-term solutions are not to be found in quick fixes.
Dutch master-coach Rinus Michels noted in his book Teambuilding that the type of players who arrive at the final stage of a development pyramid are reflective of the philosophy and skills of the youth coaches serving in the trenches below. A sound player development process begins as young as age five and patiently moulds skills and ideas over the next fifteen years, or so. What the rest of the world clearly appreciates is that: it is simply not possible to foster creativity when young players are overcoached and over-organized; it is simply not possible to build technically sound players when outcome matters more than process; it is simply not possible to develop tactical awareness in young players without providing them with many first-hand opportunities to experience and learn; it is simply not possible to develop technical competence while playing in over 100 games each year and training only once or twice a week; it is simply not possible to take mechanical, functional teenagers and make them creative in circulating the ball and playing in combination to break down well-organized defenses; it is simply not possible to expose players to the basic ideas – never mind the subtleties – of the international game when they are substituted at regular intervals and have no sense of pace and rhythm; it is simply not possible to build an effective player development system while most coaches have no real appreciation for the technical and tactical sophistication of the world game.
On the men’s side of American soccer, Project 40, early overseas opportunities for rising young stars, such as John O’Brien, and the Major League Soccer philosophy of signing players such as Bobby Convey and Freddie Adu out of high school reflect the realization that college soccer is simply not good enough in preparing the top young prospects for the professional or international stage. That message is now becoming more pressing on the women’s side, but, sadly, the opportunity to matriculate gifted youngsters such as Heather O’Reilly and Lindsey Tarpley to the professional ranks is closed, at least for now.
Devoid of viable professional alternatives, there is much less optimism for seismic changes to our women’s game. The Tar Heels are home in Chapel Hill this month celebrating their 18th National Championship with an undefeated season, and there is little reason for them to change their winning ways. With no college teams evidently capable of mounting a serious threat to their dominance, why should they tinker with a magic formula? Anson Dorrance’s job is to run a clean and successful soccer program and graduate women into society. It is not his fault that his opponents have been unable to break his stranglehold and force an evolution in their playing style. The reason top teams must show patience in possessing the ball in midfield and in the attacking third is the wall of capable defenders blocking the way forward; the reason top teams must bring players out of the back and midfield is to create numbers for combination play when individuality alone will not suffice; the reason top teams circulate the ball without going forward is to take breathers and change the pace of play during 90-minute games when only three replacements are allowed. UNC has the speed and individuality, the quality and depth of numbers, and the luxury of college-friendly rules, to render the playing of a more international style unnecessary.
Unfortunately, the Tar Heels continuing NCAA success — and Anson Dorrance’s continuing strong influence on American player development — leaves the Tony DiCicco mantra of the USA “Winning Forever” on the international stage a much more difficult concept to envision.
So what are the alternatives?
A resurrected Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA) — or even a Women’s Major League Soccer (WMLS) — would be a very welcome first step, and that would certainly provide the ceiling. For the floors and walls, the goal of creating an environment where players with cunning and guile and technical proficiency can emerge is much harder to achieve, but the only viable direction. For that long-term goal to find footing and eventually be realized, philosophical and structural changes are necessary.
US Soccer can step forward with the vision of sewing common development threads through the ranks of its disjointed youth organizations. National coaching education programs can serve as vehicles for change by refocusing attention on players and not teams, particularly in the national youth courses. Promotional materials, such as books, videos and DVD’s, can be produced to laud a style of player epitomizing individual and collective creativity over efficiency and athleticism. Regional coaching symposia and national workshops can become conduits for dialogue and the local evolution of a technique-based development system. Continuing education courses can deliver a more focused message to advanced practitioners, many of whom serve under-educated populations at the grassroots level. And child-friendly youth development models, particularly the small-sided games initiative, can be advanced through the 55 state associations and other affiliates.
The Amateur Division of US Soccer can become more closely connected with the player-resources of the 55 State Associations and other youth entities. Playing with and against adults has always served teenagers well in traditional soccer nations and advancing the second-class standing of the Amateur Division in America would do much to develop both boys and girls in the game. With very few exceptions, the Amateur Division functions in isolation from US Youth Soccer (USYSA), the Soccer Association for Youth (SAY), the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) and the United Soccer Leagues (USL), and this lack of continuity fails to provide a natural progression for talented teens. Ironically, the USL’s Professional Development League (PDL) and W-League currently offers a youth-to-adult conduit that could serve as either a blueprint or a prototype for a broader-based structure. However, with relations between the various governing factions remaining distanced, if not cold, the prospect of any marriage of convenience appears unlikely.
Alternatives to high school can continue to emerge through elite clubs and via regional and sub-regional leagues, enabling the top teenagers a means of escape from the Black Hole season that rarely provides service to their advanced technical and tactical needs. Elite clubs, however, must also become more cost-sensitive, and more accountable for applying the principles of periodization by orienting their calendars towards a policy of less travel and competition in favor of more frequent training and rest periods.
Finally, is a residency program for girls, such as that provided to John Ellinger’s U-17 boys, philosophically sensible, economically possible, or emotionally viable? The issues for taking girls away from home without a professional future to motivate their sacrifices may overwhelmingly eliminate this option from serious consideration. However, while the onus for broad-based change must inevitably rest with club and community coaches, the potential benefits of a national or regional residency program for elite girls deserves its space on the radar.
Anson Dorrance has rightly earned his legendary status in American soccer folklore, but his job is to continue to serve the University of North Carolina and not necessarily to develop players to beat Germany or Sweden or Norway in the World Cup or Olympic Games. That task falls on all of us who impact players and coaches at the grassroots and competitive levels. It is a daunting task, but the gauntlet has been thrown and steps must be taken to preserve our long-term status as a world soccer power.
Coach Lee says
Yep Yep… I have a coaching buddy that still tries to develop players the Anson Dorrance way. He is successful in both club and high school, but is not developing his players for the next level!!!
Thank you for the video Gary. Since it’s on TopSoccer, I’m sure it will get legs. I showed it to my son and he told others about it. I hope it becomes viral in soccer world. It’s a must see for any coach, player, parent. Real eye opener.
It’s stuff like this that can affect change. Hopefully get the kick and chase coaching crowd a bit embarassed and shame them into changing. The video is likely the most powerful outcome of this blog site to date.
I know you don’t coach olders, but it would be nice to see a video comparing speed of play and movement off the ball. I see many U16 and above players who do pass fairly well, but speed of play is similair to youngers from your video. Movement off the ball is also poor. Can see no one is thinking ahead, not reading the game. As you point out, U14 and U18 are dramatic differences in speed of play. So touches need to be limited, accurate, quick. Which means reading game and moving off the ball is that much quicker. A video comparison is worth a thousand words and do so well in less than 4 minutes. But you are the first person who actually did the video comparison that I’m aware. Kudos!
Some Dad says
Sorry for lengthy post, but I have a lot to talk about and I’m going to post often.
Kick and chase, jungle ball . . . a perfect reflection of coaching. Natural selection US youth soccer style.
Possession-based, attacking soccer is for the thinking player. Strategy is to possess so opponent can’t score and you have time to read game and build, more deterministic approach. Necessitates a certain type of player, cognitive abilities and technique are his advantage. Jungle ball is natural condition, like it comes from our primitive cerebral cortex portion of the brain. Strategy is to be direct and use fast strong players to chase down balls and overpower opponents. Necessitates a certain type of player, strength, power, size, aggression are his advantage. A fox or a bull. Modern international game prefers foxes but is US youth soccer still developing bulls?
Europe and South America have evolved. Specialized to more possession based, attacking type of thinking player. Majority of USA youth coaches are still in brutish Medieval times. “Well beat them with sheer determination and strength.” Jungle ball by previous definition.
I’m fascinated by understanding why, how, when, what was the catalyst for nations like Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Germany to evolve into advanced levels of football understanding. And by extension, develop pro-centric players. These countries are consistently developing world class and professionally elite players. Why?
How many American 18 year olds from USSDA teams are ready for professional soccer (whether that be first team starter or sub or reserve side)? How many of their European or South American counterparts? I bet everyone thinks it’s a decent gap. Why the difference? Do we subconsciously defer to 22 when the graduate college? Do we need to put more emphasis on developing professionally capable 18 year olds? This doesn’t mean they need to bypass college (for those who want to purse that path). Can our clubs and coaches (especially USSDA) are capable of developing such 18 year olds? Why can’t they?
A big part of it is player id. Elite teams should be very deliberate in player selection. Are they? I don’t even see USDDA teams being deliberate. How many of them actually pick players to fit into a specific philosophy? I’m talking specifically about possession based, attacking football. For sure professional academies outside USA are deliberate. They purposefully id players with eye on professional prize years down the road (pro centric development). Not fill rosters like pay to play.
I know of clubs who profess “tiki-taka” but have wrong coaches and players. A caveman wanting an iPad when he doesn’t even have an Abacus?
Is there some unidentified knowledge at work USA hasn’t identified and collectively shared? Or is it there in front of your eyes and nose, floating in the ether waiting for our collective coaching brain to let the receptors absorb it? Something is blocking our receptors. What? Changing status quo often requires catastrophic failure.
Barcelona, for example, had an “ah ha” moment . . . a famous loss that inspired tiki-taka revolution) or how Germany evolved by opening dozens of training centers for elite players after World Cup failure. Dramatic failures influence soccer just as they shape human history and just about everything we do. Humans don’t change unless something catastrophic happens and there is a champion for that cause. Who is our champion, what pain in the backside are we hurting from, what catastrophic failure are we feeling the pain to make change?
The video Gary posted may not have been a catastrophic event for his team (micro), but at the macro USA youth soccer level, it does show the consequences of jungle ball and the inherent advantage of possession-based attacking soccer. Is this that video an “ah ha” moment in the evolution of USA youth soccer? But it requires more than clubs / coaches implementing possession soccer. Need right coaches and players. A lot of pretending going on and tens of thousands of willing dupes (parents) dropping cash on false hope.
The best youth teams I’ve seen (only a handful) have 11 thinking, intelligent players on the pitch. Each are conscious of the situation and can regulate (like a governor on a carburetor) and correct when the game is going wrong. Like a Xavi or Pirlo act as metronome / puppeteers. They don’t need the coach to constantly yell. They get it and can self regulate. Players understand spacing, movement, when to dribble and when not to, understand difference between shooting and finishing, are calm and composed, play with head up, always reading the game, and they are wired to understand possession is fundamental. We need intelligent players for this. Not brutish Medieval thugs.
Intelligent players is what I saw in the first half of the video Gary posted. Educating and developing soccer intelligent players (not mindless puppets where the coach is incessantly barking orders, thinking for them, deciding for them, not developing their situational game intelligence, not learning from mistakes) . This is a serious dereliction of duty for majority of US youth soccer coaches. Either that or malpractice, not professionally qualified. Coaching is more than “I played, therefore I can coach”. It’s so much more. Likewise, playing possession soccer is so much more than a slogan. It has to be a way of life, taught by qualified coach, and expressed by players who have the natural aptitude. Everything else is pretending.
Coach Lee says
Well said… Eyes need to be opened as Gary has mentioned time and time again!
US U15 BNT Intrasquad boys’ National team. I think there is some good and bad stuff here. You be the judges. These kids are all ‘ 97s
players born in 1996 vs 1997 featuring Zelalem of Arsenal
pg 19 says
Thank you for sharing this video. Very important to see one of the “works” in progress. The other post I really enjoyed was the suggestion of playing down in competition as a means to develop possession soccer which is contrary to what most suggest. From personal experience, there are factors that influence success in possession including the opponent, but for our high school team, playing on a narrow, high crowned football field with overgrown patches of grass making the ball less predictable than if it were in the air; well you can see how sometimes the kick and chase style of play is rewarded with wins.
You can argue that the team needs to buckle down and play better, but that isn’t going to happen within the match with a turn of a light switch or good pep talk as I’ve seen some suggest. Sometimes it simply is not “on” and it is up to the coach to learn and understand why his/her team is successful or not as in one game the team can look brilliant and the other, not so much. Ask the question “why” and find the answer.
Personally I would like to see more contribution from more of the coaches in the trenches trying to teach this to their respective teams. The worse you risk is redicule from other coaches but realistically, you’re going to learn something from every exchange. The end product is inspiring but the process of getting there is what motivates me to visit this site as there isn’t anything close to replicating what is occuring here.
Thank you for this post. I have shared it with my respective teams. Remember even the tidbits offered, such as the player picking his nose, can enlighten.
I see we come from similar situations as I coach a high school team in the Midwest. Most of our fields that we play on are the narrow football stadiums, however more schools are trying to get soccer only fields or change their stadiums to turf. I coach in a small city (population 6,000), we have about 900 kids in our school and I roughly get about 50 kids trying out for our high school teams. Currently we have 2 club players in our whole program. That is the problem we face. A good chunk of my players play other sports like basketball in the winter or baseball in the spring so individually they are not working on their skill set year round. Plus under our high school regulations I cannot coach these players outside of our fall season (which to me is ridiculous, but what can I do). So for about the 16-18 kids that do want to play soccer in the spring they form a local team coached by a parent. So for my players to truly develop it is going to be tough. We do our best though, I hold open gyms in the winter for futsal and we have practices over the summer that are optional. We try very hard to instill the possession based soccer into their heads. Most players have bought into it. They have seen the videos posted and seen the results. Our varsity team while not the most technically skilled compared to some of the schools we play, still try to pass around every team. We’ve had great results and I can only see us further developing in the future. This has been a great website though and I will continue to come back.
Dr Loco says
From my observations most sports are a coach’s game executed by players. Without the coach players are lost and cannot analyze the game in realtime. It is up to the coach to navigate players and force them to function as a team. Players on their own cannot solve complex problems while playing. Multi-tasking is a myth. It is a coach’s responsibility to provide the high level solutions implemented through team tactics, not the players’. This applies from youth to pro players.
The artwork is created by the coach.
El Memo says
Maybe so, but without players executing a coach’s philosophy is proven wrong.
I wonder, are Neymars actions fully controlled by his coach? Neymar, Messi, Ronaldo, etc., do things outside of whiteboard schematics that their coaches haven’t even dreamed of.
Yes, a coach brings it together, but let’s not be egotistical.
Dr Loco says
If you don’t have a huge ego perhaps coaching is not your thing.
Players have the freedom to control their technical movements (individual play) as long as they achieve the desired outcome as choreographed by the composer (coach).
If a player deviates from the game tactics that is something that must be agreed upon apriori with coach. Doing things outside of tactical board should get you on the bench and/or traded. It is not the responsibility of the player to call their own plays.
El Memo says
I don’t disagree. I also dislike when individuals deviate from game plan/style.
But, be careful, when restricting individual expression. Will you kill individual creativity and prevent maximum player potential? (I am not hiding behind the “they are yound so let them dribble” curtain, I just understand its value. I too dislike excessive dribbling into pressure by a single player and jungle ball.)
I like to give freedom to players that can back it up with the proper skills – yet remain within the tactical plan.
We’ll be sitting here in 20 years talking about how well the US plays possession but lack individuals that can break a strong defensive line on a 1v1, etc.,.
If “It is not the responsibility of the player to call their own plays” then we are assuming that the coach is correct 100% of the time. I’ve yet to meet such individual.
Dr Loco says
Individual expression is restricted everywhere you go…school, church, work, and sports is no different. Yes creativity must be nurtured by setting strict RULES.
Look at the Mexican National Team. They have some very ‘creative’ players with great individual skills and are about to be eliminated from the WC. On the contrary, the USMNT is almost a top 10 team.
The coach should be correct 90-100% of the time otherwise fired just like all professionals.
Coach Lee says
This is why we should have parts of our sessions dedicated to training intricate ball skills (showing and telling the minute details of each skill) and then having the players applying it in small group settings. To go above and beyond, our players should be watching it done at the highest levels so they can see what it looks like and when it’s applied.
As Dr. Loco mentioned, it is our jobs as quality coaches to engrain in our players when it is appropriate to apply those “creative” moments (ex: attacking third, flank with space in behind, etc).
This is why you need to have a coaching philosophy and decide what you value as the top priorities for player development. Hopefully, we can continue to pull back the curtain and eventually show the BEST way it can be done.
Dr Loco says
Coach Lee, not sure if you have me confused. Training ball skills should be done ages 3-6 after that it falls on the player to develop on their own.
“decide what you value as the top priorities for player development.” This thinking is flawed. Those decisions have already been made by the global standard of the sport. The educational system is already in place and has been for over 100 years. A coach cannot simply come up with their own random system just like a teacher can’t rewrite the alphabet.
There is no best way. Every team is different so must be tested and evaluated. Then a training program must be adopted for those particular players/team. Coaching is both art and science. The science keeps evolving but the art has always been there.
Please tell me there is a thread of sarcasm running through your last several posts. Why wouldn’t you teach ball skills after age 6? Why does a coach have to follow what others have done for 100 years rather than make his own decisions and find his own creativity? Why can’t players even at young ages make decisions for themselves on the field? We are talking about kids not pro teams. You can’t trade them!
And since when does art not evolve?
dr loco says
It does but at a slower rate. A good coach 100yrs ago would be a good coach today. This is not rocket surgery.
dr loco says
Ball skills are like ABCs. They must be taught and memorized at a young age. A teacher should not be reteaching the same thing year after year to a student. Progress must be made. If there is a deficiency then it should be addressed outside of team training times. In the American soccer environment a coach has <3hrs a week to teach so the focus should be team play. The problem you see in all youth sports is kids never learn their ABCs so team trainings are used as remedial programs.
"Why can’t players even at young ages make decisions for themselves on the field? We are talking about kids …"
Please reread this. When do we let kids make the decisions??? This is ridiculous. Adults make the decisions!
Creativity is achieved by memorizing strict rules so then you can break them.
Well said Dr Loco…I agree with the ball skills are like ABCs.
Coach Lee says
I also agree that ball skills are like ABCs (I also refer to them as mathematics, as the formula will never change… 2+2=4).
What I was referring to within early developmental stages of soccer (U4-U12), a coach still should be giving intricate details of how moves are done. Not all moves are learned by U3-U6, and can’t be processed with their minds. At U7-U10, a coach (in my opinion) still needs to review and add moves to the players “tool box”… most U7-U10 players cannot break down moves on their own to the minute detail (that’s why they need reminders during training). I am suggesting only the first 15-20mins are focused on the technical ball skills after the age of roughly 9-10.
I do also agree that we, the United States, are not developing ball skills early enough… too often we have parent coaching at U3-U9 and that’s where the true development of ball skills should be learned and developed.
pg 19 says
Maybe it’s literally ABC’s and 2+2 is 4, not equals 4. Does a kid need to understand that problem or just know the answer through repetitive exercise? Question I’m pondering.
In terms of kids learning at the fastest pace possible, how is that accomplished? My theory is immersion. Like learning a language, it has to be taught in that language. Not translated. Theory states that it is much easier for a toddler to learn a new language than an adult. How is that? Then why is it that an adult can learn the nuances of this game quicker than a kid?
I’ll give you a hint. Use the match as an extension of your training. Its one thing to teach something, another to perform it in a training environment. An entirely different beast to try it in a game.
I agree with a lot of what is being said here about early ball skills and usually not having the right person training at the right time… Ratcheting skills up from training session, to scrimmage, to game, to higher level competition game… speed of play increasing each time…
One very interesting point that Dr. Loco has said more than once here, is worth repeating and I essentially agree with is how creativity is nurtured by learning the strict rules and then breaking them. That’s sort of the X-factor isn’t it? Creativity. We all see these 0-0 European league games that are masterful exercises in defense, tactical movement, effort, goal-tending, etc. But could be won with one spark of creativity. An interesting statistic for a play-maker would be how many games his team was shutout versus total games played. Anyway, to sort of elaborate on what Dr. Loco said I believe the strict rules could better be described as the “parameters”. In soccer an example of a parameter would be measurements like how far a ball can dip over a wall on a direct kick. Another might be how the radius that one can pass to when facing in a particular direction. Another might be the range of possibilities for bringing a ball down from the air. I believe, there is no way to be truly creative in soccer without knowing the parameters of all of the above… and then finding a way (creating a way) to push beyond. A ball dipping more than expected is a goal. A pinpoint pass to a seemingly unseen player behind you is a goal. Turning a center-back inside out with your style of pulling a ball down is a goal too. Inside the opponent’s mind are the odds and the parameters (Dr. Loco’s “strict rules”). If you know what they are you can fake what the opponent is anticipating and then make your original movement uncontested… or even if it is contested the counter is not at the ready.
“Los movimientos de distraccion en posesion son fundamentales para la fase de preparacion previa a la generacion de jugada de ataque…”
– Leonel ‘Pipa’ Gancedo
Team and individual creativity are fundamental to attack oriented possession based soccer. I don’t think most of us have the luxury of leaving creativity to chance after the age of 6 and I live in a 95% latino community on the border. In my experience both should be taught to a certain extent as “rules” of the style. You can require that your players use creative options just like you can require them to pass to the appropriate foot. They can fake it till they make it. It helps a lot if they have learned and had the freedom to be creative in their play at a very young age but if not (which is the reality in the US), why not spend some time teaching fundamental ball skills of creativity or at least give them the tools to attempt at least up until U12.
I spent a year working on individual ball skills (manipulation) for 15 minutes at the beginning of every practice last year with my u10 girls. I picked up 5 new good players from other teams for this season. My girls from last year are far smoother and more creative with their ball skills than the new girls (during the games). They’re simply more confident on the ball.
I could be wrong but until I notice the youth in my area playing pick up games or futsal very regularly with other skilled players (not jungle ballers), I’m going to teach them some skills and make them watch clips of players with skills.
Dr Loco says
ABCs for learning. Coaches please understand this.
Coach Lee says
Here’s an insight as to what the United States is doing for development, and how they look for it….
One of the greatest players ever to wear the U.S. jersey — and perhaps the most skillful — now searches for future national team talent.
Hall of Famer Hugo Perez is a U.S. Soccer Technical Advisor — charged with identifying young talent and evaluating Development Academy clubs — and this year becomes U-15 U.S. boys national team coach after having guided the U-14s.
He knows from his own experience that it’s worthwhile to search far and wide for future stars: He got his break by responding to an announcement in Spanish-language newspaper La Opinion to an open tryout for the Los Angeles Aztecs of the old NASL when he was in his mid-teens.
That led to a 15-year pro career, which included 73 U.S. caps, appearances at the 1984 Olympics and 1994 World Cup. He played a key role in qualifying the USA for the 1988 Olympics and 1990 World Cup.
That it all started as an open tryout is something Perez, who emigrated from El Salvador at age 11, remembers as he assesses the young talent gathered at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., site of 7Up Sueno Alianza National Finals, the crowning event of Alianza’s Hispanic player identification program that began with tryouts in 11 cities.
We spoke with Perez about the current state of U.S. Soccer’s youth scouting and player development, and the qualities of good coaching.
SOCCER AMERICA: What is the charge of a U.S. Soccer Technical Advisor?
HUGO PEREZ: To evaluate academies, evaluate coaches, evaluate players — and pick players for Training Centers, for the national team pool, national team camps. We also run the Training Centers. [U.S. Soccer ran more than 200 Training Centers last year.]
SA: An often heard complaint by non-Development Academy coaches is the claim that U.S. Soccer is excludes non-Academy players …
HUGO PEREZ: That’s not true. We pick players for the national teams who aren’t in the Development Academy.
SA: Can young talent, particularly from the Latino community, with national team potential still fall through the cracks?
HUGO PEREZ: Yes. The country’s so big. Obviously the step that U.S. Soccer took with the Academy has helped. But there are always going to be players you miss. That’s a reason why I come here to Alianza.
SA: Why is it possible that exceptional players might stay under the radar?
HUGO PEREZ: Sometimes there’s not enough information for them. As you know, the American club system can be difficult to navigate. Some coaches don’t want players to find the other avenues because they don’t want to lose their best players. Some live in areas without Academy clubs.
The advantage of the Academy is those kids are seen 80 to 90 percent of the time each weekend. The ones who are not seen every weekend, we still work with clubs who are not part of the Academy.
Training Centers help us identify the non-Academy talent. And [Technical Advisors] have people around our areas look for talent.
I go to meetings, NorCal for example, to present what U.S. Soccer is doing. What the purpose is. What the goal is. We reach clubs outside the Academy and we want those clubs to send players to the Training Centers. The more we do it, the more we reach players outside the Academy.
SA: What about ODP?
HUGO PEREZ: Yes. ODP, PDP, they have players also. …
But at the Training Centers we don’t just evaluate players. When a kid comes to a Training Center, we to introduce them to what the national team does. The training, the type of soccer we want to play. We do a lot of stuff.
SA: What advice would you give coaches at the youngest ages?
HUGO PEREZ: One, to give the players confidence. Second, not to put them down when they make a mistake. Third, at those ages you don’t coach, you need to teach. And you need to teach in a positive way and encourage players to be creative. Not to be robots, but to be creative. At the youth level, we need to think about our kids first, and put ourselves second.
SA: What’s an important thing to keep in mind for coaches of players in their mid-teens?
HUGO PEREZ: A lot of things happen at those ages. Culture, peer pressure. When they start high school they start thinking differently. You’re dealing with those things. I think we can help them to maintain a balance.
We always forget that the player not only deals with soccer issues four, five times a week. There’s also the social and the private life. We’re not their parents, but I think we can be mentors. Give them give them counsel. Help them.
Sometimes we forget when we only see them for 90 minutes or two hours at practice that there’s more to it than making sure he hits the right pass.
SA: Players want to know their coaches care …
HUGO PEREZ: I talk to them individually. “How you doing? … How are your parents? … How’s school. … How do you feel about this? … What do you guys do in your spare time.” We want to know them as a person
If I see a player not talking much, I ask, “Is everything OK? Can we help you?”
David Williams says
Hi all. It was interesting to see that Rayo Vallecano out-possessed Barcelona in a recent La liga fixture. The score however was Rayo 0- Barca 4. I watched the game and Barca are at last looking for more penetrative passes to players breaking in behind opposing defences.Possession is not as overwhelming as before, but attempts on goal and variations to their playing style will make them even more difficult to play against.
Agreed that variations in their playing style will make them more difficult to beat. I think they were forced to evolve because their defensive vulnerabilities recently have become apparent. This may just be a Barcelona issue though. Really looking forward to a Germany-Spain showdown in WC 2014. I think the German’s can try to exploit that vulnerability and it will be interesting to see if it works and how Spain responds if at all.
The video is quite nice. When I watch pro at any level (MLS, La Liga, EPL, Serie A, Liga MX, etc.), I see three common things: speed of play (thought and movement), quick feet, and fiery determination / competitivness. Tiki-taka possession soccer as talked about on this forum is very small percent of teams. I’m talking about teams with 60-70% or more possession and numerous 10, 15, 20 or more passing sequences. Many teams mix possession with directness. This is more the norm. Just an observation.
As I see it, unless you are being scouted by Ajax or Barca or now Rayo Vallecano, being able to play quickly, being quick footed, and extremely competitive / driven are the traits to become a pro.
In fact, being a crazy good tiki-taka passer may even hinder many teams. I see that on my son’s team. We have 1 or 2 very good passers. They are also quick and play beautiful tiki-taka. But the coach wants more directness. So he often goes with bigger kids who can battle and throw weight around. Barcelona seems to be moving to more direct as we speak . . . even if just a bit. Change much more and that will necessitate different players. Maybe that’s whay USA soccer is still size and power?
Nah… even MLS teams play out the back nowadays often. Look at an archived game from 5 years ago and compare.
Two teams can play possession at the same time even if one is 70% and the other is 30%. It’s just that the 70% team is doing the better job of it, so I don’t get your logic for that statement either.
From the US Soccer CUrriculum of 2012
Style and Principles of Play
All teams will be encouraged to display an offensive style of play based on keeping possession and quick movement of the ball.
Things have changed and continue to change towards possession. Again there are evolutions, but Spain is still ranked #1 by Fifa. I think it’s good to have a player learn tika-taka as a fundamental. When you notice MLS mostly playing the ball out of the back and it trickles down to Youth soccer then you’ll believe I guess.
David Williams says
The future football teams could be full of midfield type players. This is from another great blog keeptheball.wordpress.com
By John Cartwright
The ’flat back four’ defensive system has been used extensively throughout the football world for some considerable time and only very occasionally have we seen alternative methods used by Clubs’ and Countries. One must begin to question whether it is time a different approach to defending is required, what this might be and how this might add specific changes to the game.
The flat defensive line was introduced by Brazil and was used to (a) increase central cover with a two central defenders and (b) to allow full-backs to get closer when marking opposing wide players. The central defenders’ role has remained much the same with defensive duties as very much a main responsibility. However, the role of full-backs has meant an increase in their attacking duties. Throughout this period teams’ have devised different tactical shapes in mid-field and in forward positions in an attempt to maintain solidity in defence whilst increasing more attacking diversity Irrespective of these tactical modifications the flat defensive line has, in most cases, remained a major defensive, organised shape at all levels of the game.
Is this reliance on the ‘flat (offside obsessed) defensive style becoming more of a hindrance than an asset in the modern game? Our game is choking on mediocrity and is in dire need of a newer, more ‘stream-lined’ game-style to be introduced. Rinus Michels, the great Dutch architect of ‘Total Football’, developed a style of play that required expansive movement in team- play but we must go beyond his coaching brilliance and uncover an even more ambitious playing style for the future of our game. ‘Rotational Football’ should be the way ahead for our game; in the street matches’ of the past, positions were exchanged constantly with even the position of Goalkeeper being filled by whoever was the deepest player at the time. I am not suggesting that ‘Rotational Football’ should go to those lengths but ‘fixed’ outfield positions should be less structured and preference given to a more ‘rounded’ football style.
In order to achieve the changes described, a ‘revolution’ in development would need to occur in order to produce talented coaches able to teach the game and who in turn would produce talented players capable of playing the game towards a new football vision. Long established playing concepts would have to be dispensed with…. for example; the ‘stopper central defender’- the ‘defensive mid-fielder’ – the ‘attacking mid-fielder’ – the ‘winger’ – the ‘front striker’……….. the ‘rotational footballer’ would cover all the roles described. For instance, players in central defensive roles must become capable attackers when opportunities occur. Instead of just full-backs surging forward down flank positions, those players that normally occupy rear central areas of teams’ must also be prepared to break forward to increase attacking play and any spaces that occur must be quickly filled rotationally by colleagues. Rotational movement by all players must be made both up and down field as well as across the field to provide cover and support for both defensive and attacking phases of play.
Straight defensive lines across the field of play, so prominent in the game today, would change and varying defensive shapes with different angles and depths would increase playing fluidity in both defence and attack. The present man-for-man ‘fight’ we see so often in all areas of the field would be a thing of the past as the frequent interchange of positions would create a more free-flowing game-style. ‘Rotational Football’ would incorporate defensive situations throughout the field of play that would satisfy playing demands as they occur. From flat-lined to balanced cover; front or rear ‘sweepers’; pressure play or retreat followed by the counter attack, alternative defensive shapes would respond to the job in hand. In conjunction with adaptive defensive play more creativity and imagination could evolve in attacking play from a system that allowed more freedom and opportunity to exploit attacking opportunities following successful defensive situations in all parts of the field. Fast overloading when defending and attacking in all areas of the field would be more achievable and more successful as players were freed from positional negativity.
We must begin to produce complete players to play fuller roles in a more dynamic game-style and discontinue with the ‘bit players’ who form the ‘patch-work’ positioned mediocrity so prevalent in our game today. ROTATIONAL FOOTBALL must be the way forward for coaches, players and fans. Intelligence and energy must be used more positively and more collectively; the day of limited ability, the big hearted 100% player who gives his/her all but who’s all contains nothing of quality, must be finally cast aside. Quality is quality and no more must anything be allowed as a substitute.
Most teams (pro or youth) are somewhere between kick and chase long ball with minimal possession, and direct soccer combined with varying degrees of possession.
Teams can be more direct or defensive or possession oriented each game depending on who they play. Barca has been the exception. Better teams tend to stick to playing style more; lesser teams more variation. I see this at every age, at every level of play or professional league.
Most youth soccer teams are closer to kick and chase than true tiki-taka.
We love tiki-taka and complain about the lack of it as if it were as easy as flicking on a light. It’s not! It’s an incremental process that often takes generations and club philosophy of playing style and player id and right coaches to bring it to a Barca level. Doesn’t even happen in Europe.
Watch any number of pro games this weekend in any league. You see very quick speed of play, quick feet (not Messi type skill, more quickness of ball movement via 1 or 2 touch passing), quick thinking (Apple computer on shoulders able to subconsciously make good decisions split seconds before play happens), and extremely high level of competiveness.
Compare that to youth soccer where non-purposeful movement off the ball and poor decision making (both fall into tactical understanding) is common and undisciplined players with way too many touches (instead of safe 1-2 passing) is often the catalyst for sloppy play and constant turnovers. Some players understand tactics, but are often mentally lazy or lack fitness. Player id!
So as I’ve been saying, I’m convinced speed of play (1-2 touch passing) and ability to move smartly and understand the game tactically at quick speed combined with competitive determination are necessities are what majority of pros have in common. It’s not Messi or Ronaldo skill. Those traits are rare.
Personally speaking, USA players are very athletic. More so than South American or European counterparts. I think more direct soccer combined with right amount of possession is best model for USA. Closer to Germany than Spain or Real Madrid than Barcelona. Let’s face it, USA is a country where short, frail skillful players will come into prominence. Bigger, stronger, faster player are more Madird, Germany model.
Alonzo said “Apple computer on shoulders”… imagine 22 Apple Computers on the field taking turns inputting and outputting the soccer ball if you can. Imagine there is some order to it. If you look at this way tactics are simple.
To me, output can only one of these five possibilities:
1) to process the ball to increase your chances to score a goal before your opponent
2) to process the ball to decrease your chance of score a goal before your opponent
3) to process the ball that doesn’t change your chances of getting a goal before your opponent
This is incredibly simplified and you can make the argument that a clearance is none of the above because it is somewhere in between 1 and 3 , but for the sake of argument let’s keep it simple. These concepts are accepted to be subjective, contextual, magic, etc but I argue they can be quantified.
From your own experience watching game after game, like I do, you can come up with rough estimates of what the chances of your team scoring might be based upon the movement of the ball through a player. I see it all the time, like a goal line cut-back then the next touch your chances scoring before the opponent go from around 50% (from the previous touch) to say 60%. It may not seem like a lot but in a low scoring game these are the odds you want on as many of the touches you can get.
I’m making up the data, but it can be quantified…
Here’s my point, we tend to focus on the player. The one person of the 22 on the field that is going to change everything with their artistry. Though spectacular, it is not the most important thing on the field most times, I believe. The most important thing on the field is the BALL and where it is at any given time and who possesses it.
If a ball is rolling into the 18 yard box should any given player touch it? If so how? If your objective is #1 to process the ball to increase the your chances to score a goal then you should only touch it if you are the player in the best position to do so. What is a good position? Facing the correct direction, unmarked, able to use a proficient foot, etc.
Coaches at the competitive level (post-puberty) should be evaluating when good and bad decisions are made for the various objectives and then support, debug, and reprogram players as necessary.
I like the computer/player analogy…
“I wish I had that much time and space.” Comments my son frequently makes when watching professional games. No matter the age, spacing is often unbalanced / clusters of players around the ball and seldom do players switch to opposite side of pitch into space.
Substitution rules enable players to run around like rabbits. Send in players to go “full out” for 10-15 minutes then sit them until next half. You get frantic confrontational games. Players diving in, running around at a frentic pace. Poor passing, rushed touches, minimal thinking become commonplace.
For those trying to win possession, it’s physically and mentally easier to go full out than it is for those trying to retain possession. Doesn’t require special coaching, tactics, or years of training. Let ‘em loose and create havoc. Jungle ball is born.
Developing a team that is possession oriented and has high ability for speed of play is many times more difficult; but many times more rewarding in the long-run (18+ years of age). They have to master touch, technique, skill, thinking, awareness, anticipation, movement, and composure. Much easier to destroy than build. But the beauty is when that special player or team comes along who can do this, they can run circles around jungle ball opponents. That’s where we need to go in player id and development.
Agreed, multiple substitution rules of American Youth/Scholastic soccer make possession more difficult for the reasons you state. What is the youngest the better nations play Fifa sub rules?
Honestly, a key to beating hyper-reactive jungle ball defense as you describe using any style, including possession, is to throw multiple fakes before doing anything. Get the rabbits hoping into each other. In possession, I think that means fake the pass +90 or -90 degrees each and every time. But fakes should be as quick as possible so as to not significantly slow the ball movement down. Also, going to ground every once in awhile helps civilize the jungle too, but teaching that is asking for an emotional response from parents and future coaches who hate foul magnification (and deep inside they hate soccer too. They must, right?).
“going to ground every once in awhile helps civilize the jungle too”
That would also require referees that call fouls appropriately. The jungle seems to have bred refs that believe in “letting the players work it out on the field.” I believe that there were 3 fouls called at my son’s last game despite the still photos demonstrating multiple instances of shirt-pulling, arm-grabbing and studs up tackling.
Did they go to ground though is my question to you?
In my son’s game U14 we actually tried it out. He’s finally comfortable running the ball through the center, and I know he is going to get banged around as long as he keeps this up. He had one early run up to the 18 from center-mid and a shot that was blocked. After that they were all over him. He went to ground twice as we “talked about” to magnify a foul. The first time the ref actually sort of laughed at him and said “Nuh-uh”. It kind of sucked because he left a big hole in the mid-field as he had to get back up. The second time the ref gave him the foul. We got a dangerous direct-kick and for the rest of the game the center-backs game him a little more space. It was late in the game so I don’t know how much it all helped… I’m thinking it is a better technique for a forward who has been completely taken out of the play. Or maybe to do it only when it is clearly a big foul (like studs up) and/or in a really dangerous area of the field. I wasn’t thrilled with him laying on the ground as the other team played the ball through his area.
I tell you all what though, there was definitely no bias from the ref who called him out on the first “magnification” and then gave him the second.
I’ve gone as far as to tell him to fall onto the ball with his hands to force the refs call if he is getting clobbered too much illegally when driving to the inside. Thing is you have to teach proper body positioning technique first or it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to take a dive on a clean tackle that is only painful because you’re not shielding the ball properly.
I witnessed my first high-school match on Friday. Just in shock with how rough it was. But not much smart use of body on the player’s behalf so WTF. I hope the refs at that level make calls consistent with FIFA standards. As much as you may hate them they work to keep the game flowing and the players safe, albeit with some distasteful drama for some.
He went to ground twice, once was in the box. Neither was a magnification-he was “taken out” by the other player. I think what you told your son was right on. Mine makes very calculated decisions during games about whether it is an advantage (free kick) or disadvantage (loss of ball and him out of the play) for him to go down when he’s being pushed. He’s never been taught this by a coach-he has learned it from watching lots of La Liga and experimenting on the field. Frankly, I think it’s brilliant but I’m a just a soccer mom, and we get no respect. Let the “diving” haters pile on!
Going to ground can help reset jungle ball.
Lack of composure and over touching the ball. These two things are critical factors in jungle ball. Conversely, they are critical factors in what we see in second half of the video (composed 1 – 2 touch passing and purposeful movement).
Rondo (keep away . . piggy in the middle) is truly good at developing composure, confidence, thinking quickly. Then bring it to small sided games and hopefully to regulation pitch.
Intensity at practice is often below that of competitive match. So composed passing and moving fall apart. Something my son always tells me.
This is why it’s so critical for player to practice like they play. Hopefully the result is more composed quick thinking play in competitive games. Players need to come ready and coach require high level of intensity at training sessions.
For majority of teams, training DOES NOT prepare players for intense game time situation. I guess that’s natural. But how to close the gap?
That’s what I’m getting at.
Composure falls apart under pressure. Lack of confidence and / or poor skills will be found out. How to fix it is key. Certainly not joy stick coaching.
Starts with focus on basics at young ages doesn’t it? Touch, passing, movement, receiving. I’m not trying to make it sound simple. Lots of piggy in the middle? Lots of quick, intense small sided games?
These are areas few coaches get players to do well. Hidden at U12 and below, but more evident at older ages. Especially by U15. I’m no longer a practicing coach for many years now, but this is a high area of interest for me.
I haven’t posted much, so have more to say . . . .
Top teams (SCDSL for example) tend to be more composed under pressure. They can stick to passing and moving. Lesser teams fall apart under pressure. Technical and tactical weaknesses are found out.
Is it player id or coaching? Lack of player working on his own to improve technique, touch, tactical smarts? Maybe a bit of everything is the likely answer.
Time to have some fun. Teams I see in NorCal (north California for non-Californians) but could be anywhere in USA. Names withheld to protect the innocent:
FC Los Locos. Win by hurting opponent.
SC Bambi. Team mom giving out oranges at half-time for U14s.
FC Craig’s List. They win lots of tournaments by actively borrowing and sitting paying regulars and think their entire roster will play in Liga MX or MLS or Europe.
United Lifers FC. Been together since U8 with same coach and damn proud of it.
FC Bait and Switch. Tiki-taka marketing, kick and chase reality.
SC Steroid. Future WWF and Navy Seals playing youth soccer.
FC BMW. Lots of money, rich parents, but lack street smarts and footballing DNA.
SC Cousin Vinny. Everyone related or close family friend.
FC Who Are You. Team dissolves yearly yet they seem to field players year after year.
SC Say What. A USSDA club but it’s a house of cards living off past glories.
FC Six Pack. Have to drink a 40ounce to see anything beautiful.
SC La Costra Nostra. Politics, competing factions, and loyalties abound.
Robin Clarkson says
After watching the clip, 2 words immediately come to mind, they being:
Confrontation and Non Confrontation
The first part of the clip is the Non Confrontation with the ball being passed to space and the second part is Confrontation with the ball continually being passed into congestion, hence players playing like startled rabbits.
The only way you can play the more hugely successful Non Confrontation style of game is through discipline, for without it, it doesn’t happen.
Therefore the question really is, how do you create skilful players who’s first consideration and option is to play non confrontational in terms of the style of play?
For if you can answer that question you’re on your way for one clue is, it’s not to do with the physical it’s all to do with the mind.
pg 19 says
Finally some contribution in numbers from many readers. Like seeing the different ideas and beliefs. They definitely differ. Each has their own concept of how to get to the Klieban standard. Dribbling and ball handling as the foundation. Moves. To one or two touch soccer.
Personally, I thinks is mixture of all. Without great ball handling ability on the individual basis. Without the great striking ability of a solid passer. Without the great receiving ability of a player, possession soccer at best will be jungle ball as regardless of intent, if the execution of skill isn’t on in any of these situations, it will be a fight to retain possession. With all these attributes, you have the start of possession ability and the focus can start shifting more toward thinking (tactics and strategy).
Personally I like knowing every player I have can win the majority of their 1v1 duals, and I make them in games. A handful win the majority of their 1v2’s. One or two win the majority of their 1v3’s. A side note. There is nothing ever greater than a 1v2 in soccer as only two defenders can simultaneously attempt a tackle for the ball which even in its own regard, is very infrequent.
In terms of passing, I’m very picky that my players make a good sound pass; one at the correct pace and space. If a player needs to take 4 touches to settle the ball before a quality pass is made, then they take 4 touches to settle the ball before they make the pass. But at the same time they have to be prepared for the defensive pressure that will likely collapse upon them so they do compound their situation. But, if they have the ability to beat a defender, then they have the time to get off a good pass as anything less than a good pass, regardless if its one touch or multiple, is jungle ball. Rather keep possession individually than errantly give it to the other team because we don’t have the mental confidence to deal with a pressuring defender.
Agreed with much of what you said and found some of it novel and thought provoking, however, I believe that there is nothing more unsettling, from a macro-viewpoint, to the other team than your team moving the ball quickly from one dangerous spot on the field to another with coordination. This is most easily done with 1-2 touch passes. A passed ball moves faster than anyone can run. This how you wear opponents down. This is tika-done well. This is possession.
All of this obsession with 1v1 and 1v2 though as satisfying to watch as the ending of the hypothetical movie “Die Hard with a Soccer Ball” does very little except push the ball carrier wide seeking open space and a chance to lift up their head up to dump the ball. It harkens back to the days of Brazilian dominance and showmanship which I thought was great while it lasted but in-theend inappropriate for a sport with 22 players on the field. When it’s 1 v 1 what are the 20 other players supposed to be doing? I tell you what they should do in youth soccer while the coach’s son or the ball hog gets to play watch me . They should anticipate the ball likely going wider and wider and the defense adjusts and anticipate a spastic desperation pass at the end of it.
Now teaching your guys to play the ball out of the back 1 v 1 to make that pass to the open player in the middle is a different story. Or 1 v 1 making inside cuts is something else all together. However, that is usually not what I see being taught or practiced. It’s hopefully carrying the ball into pressure and trying to glory run the ball into the goal. In these cases the ball just stops moving from a macro-viewpoint…
Solutions: wait to teach 1 v 1 to older kids when you can explain importance of cutting inside and taking some hits… or save 1 v1 for futsal. Or keep U11 and even U12 small sided like 8 v 8 to force 1 v 1 and 1 v 2 situations. Otherwise too much 1 v 1 is a ball movement and team coordination killer IMO.
I like your point on how it’s either 1 v 1 or 1 v 2… never 1 v 3+. Will chew on that for a while …
pg 19 says
One thing I believe is a pass is significantly more dificult than to dribble the ball. I can list a number of reasons why. Here’s the obvious; unlike a 1v1 attempt where a second or third chance is often presented if the ball is still within play of the player, there is nothing that can be done to correct a poor pass once executed. If mentally a player can’t “think” their way through pressure, their great passing ability often becomes an errant one sent too far, or lofted, or weakly kicked, or under cut, or wrong side of the teammate, or etc, etc, etc.
You have to have players that can, under pressure, still execute good technique. How do you develop that? By telling them they only get one or two touches with the ball or can you get there by getting them to a reset mentally so they understand the pressure they are in, understand how to get out of it, understand that they can get it out of it and ultimately are composed knowing all that they understand?
The more the player is confident with the ball at their feet, the more likely they are going to be able to make decisions that are correct relative the situation they are in. Primarily because now they can divert attention away from the ball and start seeing other elements of play such as the second defender (1v2’s) and the second attacker (2v1’s).
El Memo says
Dribbling is significantly more difficult than passing. Anyone who has played the game knows. That why this needs to be mastered prior to passing. Be independent prior to being interdependent. I do totally agree that confidence with the ball allows for better decisions. Again, ball control and dribbling.
Though I agree with the essence of what you are saying by, “One thing I believe is a pass is significantly more dificult than to dribble the ball.”, allow me to nit-pick for a second.
I see (and teach) that all touches on a soccer ball are passes. It comes in various forms; i.e. pass to another player, pass at the goal (shot), pass to the back of the net (goal), pass out of bounds, pass to open space (clearance), pass to front of net (cross), etc but this also includes PASS TO ONESELF. This includes what you are calling dribbling, but it also includes first touch… which of course sets everything up. I like to lump these motions all together as “passing” because they all essentially pose the same challenge and this gets players more in a passing mindset.
The challenge, which I don’t think gets enough appreciation, is that passing a soccer ball in any of these manners while mobilizing using the same anatomical body parts (your feet) is one of the most amazing technical skills in all of sports. That’s why soccer is so interesting to me. These guys are simultaneously running and passing using their feet almost exclusively. How do they do it?
A big part of the answer to that question is that most of us don’t do it well. Basically if you can get a defenders feet moving he is ridiculously simple to beat. Defenders especially have a hard time coordinating ball touch and running simultaneously. Again, this is why I advocate keeping the ball moving.
However, to your point PG19 receiving a pass is a whole other ball of wax, especially while running. I think this is where ideals of possession start to fall apart and the ugly reality of jungle ball feeling right starts to prevail.
Some Coach says
When a team is trying to play (building out of the back, ..etc) playing VS a Stock City type side (hit it, run, hit the players, …etc), and a Referee is allowing tackles left and right, tackles that targets ankles, pushing, shoving .. So the game becomes hocky like or rugby like game.
How do you prepare your team to still play their game and not get caught up with this type of soccer?
Gary Kleiban says
Don’t hold on to the ball. Move it.
I truly love this site! Been reading for several months. My son’s coach is typical as described in these posts. We have maybe 2 gifted players. Very smart, rarely give the ball away, quick, composed. But they aren’t tall, big or overly physical (but they are competitive). They sit the bench. Play 20-minus in 80-min match. Meanwhile, the worst non-thinking “fumblers” in key possession retention positions (CM and holding mid) play the whole game (the smart talented players on this team are on the flanks, and rarely get the ball due to the CM and holding-mid inability). A perfect storm for sloppy soccer. To make mattes worse, half the defenders boot the ball up field constantly. Holding mid and CM over-dribble, don’t play quick passing, don’t spread the ball, always creating problems rather than being the catalyst for opportunity or possessing. The lack of quick 1-2 passing gets them into bad situations. The coach doesn’t see that. The smart “possessors” come on and dynamics change. More chances, better passing, more composure, quick movement into space . . . too bad they never get the ball. Then they’re back on the bench in 15-20 minutes. The coach is poster boy of kick and chase. Doesn’t understand possession soccer, can’t teach it. Too many years of kick and chase engrained in his brain. So frustrating!
I’m coming to the conclusion that it is not the coach that matters for your child’s teach so much as the trainer. Most trainers get the possession thing. They might not have been raised under the same zeitgeist but they see it every week on TV and every few years dominating international soccer.
Coaches are a different animal. Many American coaches were brought up playing kick-and-chase or worse. I know I was. However, at some point I swallowed my pride and realized that everything I was taught was to play a different game. Scholastic soccer in the 80s was something other than soccer. It was a competition. It was fun but it was not really soccer. Many coaches come from this background and stubbornly think they know better (maybe they do). It’s like playing baseball all your life and then coaching cricket. You probably have some fresh ideas but mostly you are going to be revealed as clueless by people who know cricket.
The best way, I think, to convert stubborn coaches is to insist that they reinforce the players who best comply with the trainer’s desired skill set. Trainers are expensive. For all of these kids to be spending all of this time and training resources to play boot-and-chase on the weekend is a huge inefficiency. Point that out to your coach. Point that out to your league.
If the trainer(s) are not teaching the skills needed for possession then you have to switch your child’s team. The sport of soccer evolves fast. There is no need to waste time with trainers who don’t get that.
I’ve noticed fumblers have poor technique (passing, receiving, shot taking) while possessors tend to be good at this. Possessors tend to be level headed, fumblers get into arguments and hot headed. Possessors tend to have great tactical understanding and game awareness. Possessors avoid problems. Fumblers create problems. Compare teams your son plays on or look to pro soccer to validate any of these examples.
Forgive my ignorance but could you elaborate on the role of a “trainer” in your club? Here we just have a single coach per team. There are private trainers that work independent of clubs, but that is extra $$ outside of club fees/structure.
In the last 4 or 5 years, in an effort to minimize the influence that parent coaches have on the long term development of club soccer players, each team my sons have been on, including recreation team, have been assigned professional soccer trainers hired by the clubs. We have had a similar experience with two different clubs having moved from one town to the next 3 1/2 years ago. I thought the trainers just magically appeared at age 9 or 10 years old and this was normal, but I’m realizing by your question that this may be a product of the local clubs trying to outdo and keep up with each other.
When we moved 3 1/2 years ago we played one full season in our old town. It was hard to leave such a positive experience and one trainer in particular. Even after we switched clubs we would seek out the trainer in the off-season. In our new club there were professional trainers offering one session per week, but they weren’t nearly as good. We endured a couple of seasons with them but then they hired a really good full-time trainer and his staff for our new club. That was great but we were no confident that our younger son would get access to the trainer as much as we like because of “A” and “B” team politics and allocation of club resources. Meaning we feared that the “A” team would get more hours with the good trainer. So to avoid another wasted year for him we moved him back to our old club where we knew he would be with our old favorite trainer. It turns out we were correct that the “B” team in our new club is getting crappy trainers, so he’s back with our old club and a wonderful trainer. He loves soccer again….
Of course, professional youth trainers have their own motives… like bills to pay, but rarely is it about winning at all costs or glory to my offspring at all costs which plagues American soccer. I think most of these guys want to be able to follow the progress of their proteges through the highest levels of soccer competition; i.e .D1, professional and semi-pro soccer. Then tout themselves as capable of making your child like their past successes.
My point is that there are good professional youth soccer trainers out there. We happen to know two of them and will do whatever we can to have our kids spend a day a week or more with them throughout their youth development years. Getting playing time on Sunday to try out the news skills is nice, but not necessarily the highest priority.
Getting yelled at by the coach on Sunday for “fiddling around with the ball in the middle” after it being the lesson from the team’s trainer during the week has been learned to be ignored.
To me learning the skills from professionals is building a compounding investment in the future. Without a good trainer that knows how to work with kids steps may be missed and the performance as a young man on the soccer field might be sacrificed. For what? Feeling like the kings of a mid-level league game when you are 11 years old?
‘Glory to my offspring’ is an accurate description of youth sports – not just soccer! One of the worst scenarios is when there are co-coaches with 2 kids that have to start and play the whole game. My sons have played on teams with trainers and without. The trainers should work with the Coaches for best results- when Coaches look at trainers as a way to take a day off from practice there is no consistency and the players are sent mixed messages. Or if the trainer does not come to the games. A one day a week trainer might not be worth breaking up the practice program, provided the Coach has one!
Having dad as a coach is the magical white unicorn for many players. Had two years where assistant coach and coach had kids on team. Both their kids were captains. Now one of those kids at MLS academy because uncle is technical director. Kid is average player. Attitude and laziness when things don’t go his way. It’s who you know. Even now, my son has an assistant coach who steps in when main coach is coaching his other team. Of course his son plays all the time when he coaches. To make it worse, the kid comes to practice about 1 out of 3 times per week practice. Sometimes he misses 1 – 2 weeks. This is on USSDA club. Politics, politics, politics!
El Memo says
Works both ways. I Assist with both my kids and I am hardest on them. I don’t decide playing time. I do give input on position – guess what, neither plays Forward. I expect my kids to play hardest, smartest and be most skilled. They are not a lot of times and we then discuss how to do so in future.
I’ve noticed some coaches are hard (sometimes over the top, too invested to be clear minded) on their kids, some who pander to them giving chance after chance. But in close to 10 years of competitive soccer and two different clubs with two boys who play, I’ve yet to see a coach who sits his kid for long periods of time or doesn’t start him. I’m only talking the average to poor players who’s dad is a coach. There are some kids who are very good and happen to be coach son, nothing wrong with that. My hats off to you El Memo if you are the rare exception.
I have to dis agree with el memo. For those exceptional kids with parent coaches…. Imagine how much better they could be if the did not always feel so safe. I know some parent is going to say “I tell my kid to step it up or else….” Does that ever happen…. I doubt it seriously. Our club team has five volunteer parent coaches. Makes for great traveling rec team and great memories. But can’t compete at a high level. They won’t even enter a top level tourney and get spanked to try and get better because they are protecting them. Try outs are a joke if you have four or five kids that know they are going to make the team. It’s a terrible recipe for a team that wants to truly compete at a top level. That being said… It can be quite a fun team if you set your expectations correctly.
El Memo says
There is certainly a “dynamic” at play with a Parent Coach. Can’t deny it. Some good, some bad. (I’ve done plenty of the bad.) But, Do you want your kid to play for a Coach that is not committed (cancels training, won’t do extra sessions in the winter, etc.,)? Or, that only wants to win to build their resume without regard to long term development or playing style? I’ll be the first to step to the side when I see a Coach that “gets it” with regards to game style.
I’ve never had a problem with a comp paid coach canceling practices. As far as “developmental commitment” … I would go with the latter as “parental commitment”. I’m not sure a parent coach can claim the title of being solely developmentally committed over a paid club coach.They can preach it but who is there too question it? Elmemo obviously I can’t claim this is you but I would confidently say this is the case in most parent coach clubs which are typically volunteer, therefore no parent is going to question coaching and are simply happy there kids is on a team, having fun, chillin at the hotel with buddies and hitting Fud Ruckers on Saturday night after the last game of the eve at a tourney. When kids go comp… The club needs to research a paid coach that goes along with the clubs mission statement.
How about you get the person most qualified. You want to pay a parent fine, or someone else. But hiring someone because they aren’t the parent to coach is stupid. If the guy/girl does the job and is better qualified, let them coach. Would you not have Brian coach your kids because his kid was on the team? Or would you rather the club hired some English, 23 year old out of “University”? Or let’s go get a college player and have them coach.. you think they know development, they understand kids? Coaching kids isn’t just about the X and Os, or the futbol “development”, its also about encouragement, engaging them individually, holding them accountable… being a father figure. Not many 20 year old kids can pull this off and a big reason our “development” sucks. To have a NO parent coach rule is stupid… why set that in stone and lose your chance to have something special for your club. Are there bad parent coaches? Yes. Obviously there are a hell of a lot of bad “paid” coaches too. I’m a parent coach some of the time, so I am biased. But if I can work circles around that 20 year old or 40 year old paid coach… what are you paying for? It think if you are a parent coach, the bar is higher for you… and if you suck, you’ll get washed out by parent’s leaving/complaining.
You bring up some interesting points. I say consistency or no consistency give my kids the trainers as much as possible especially early on. There will certainly be inconsistency from coach to coach as the kids change teams when they get older. At least the trainers I’ve seen have a thread of consistency amongst themselves; balls skills early, positional and tactical as they get older.
Very interesting point about it not being just soccer rigged by coach/parents to build the legend of their own children. My biggest issue is that this is acceptable amongst any other sport besides soccer. What other sport has the universal appeal, accessibility, the number of participants, applies equally to both genders and has the high level of competition like the World Cup every four years?
Go hijack lacrosse you over-achieving parent hoping to craft the some early soccer confidence in your kid that you think will spill over into their other endeavors. Leave soccer to those who respect it enough not to exploit it by trying to rig it.
Too many of these kids who really suck think they are great even after they quit around age 14 when it gets to be serious soccer. All that wasted training money spent on those kids… and how about the training dollars wasted on the late birthdays and skills kids who never got the confidence because coach’s kid had to have the ego boost for all of those years.
It’s not just soccer, but stay away from soccer. That’s why the need for trainers…
Early on, coaching should be very similar for all of the kids. So, not sure what a trainer is doing. If the coach isn’t working primarily ball skills early on they don’t know what they are doing. I see trainers often as hired guns to come in and work technical skills… they don’t know the kids, what their personalities are or what they do on the field. Often, I’ve noticed they don’t create practices that require “thinking” either. I believe soccer starts with the head. If you don’t eventually introduce pressure, 4 goals, etc., you don’t get thinking players
I’m not sure if I understand your point about the early soccer confidence deal… But confidence comes from being challenged and then succeeding. It is a very important part of soccer or any athletics. About kids and soccer being more than soccer. Read the philosophy of La Masia, read the book Senda De Campeones by Marti Perarnau, the kid comes first at Barca… his person, values, etc.
Those kids that do quit at 14 may have gotten something great out of their experience – but just don’ t have the skills/athleticism/knowledge/talent. Hopefully they have the love of the game and can elevate the culture in the U.S. even more when they have kids. Not everyone has to go on to be professionals, but if we didn’t have kids playing where would we be. Those trainers you mentioned get paid from these kids too, which makes them available for you to purchase their services… if they didn’t have enough demand, there wouldn’t be a market for the trainers. If only the kids played soccer that you deem good enough/or the right kids with the perfect situations then you wouldn’t have teams to beat.
If you are on a team that has a sucky parent coach, leave. Its pretty easy – thankfully soccer is popular and there are lots of teams and clubs to choose from.
Parents don’t educate themselves enough and then they don’t speak up. Too much political correction.
Dr Loco says
Trainers are needed because coaches don’t know what they’re doing. Let’s teach coaches how to train first. Or, how about you get rid of the coach and just having training sessions?
Sure there are lots of ‘bad’ teams and clubs to choose from. Perhaps it’s better not to choose any and have the kids train on their own for free. Why throw money at problem that has a simple solution?
pg 19 says
A player made a neat comment about the set tactical training we’ve been doing. Kind of like we are working on a move to beat a defender, only using the entire team. Simply, yet it resonated with the rest of the team in terms of understanding what we were attempting and doing.
Gary Kleiban says
Now that is good.
Things I’ve heard kids say and other sayings I like:
“He’s such a bad player. How is he on the team?”
“Well, he’s big.”
“I sometimes like to sit on the bench and watch and listen to the coach I learn a lot from mistakes everyone is making.”
In response to a coach saying so and so is a good player as he was being substituted: “Then why did you sub him”? Well, I have to play everyone equally or I’ll get in trouble with parents.”
I want to take the time to thank you for many posts that get to the heart of problems in youth soccer. As one of the “old timers” on this site, there are so many things I’ve learned. If you could condense these into a short book or presentation, it’s a wonderful learning tool for clubs, parents, coaches, players. These topics are insightful.
You may not see it this way, but to me it represents a body of work no one else seems to have compiled. The varying opinions contained in each post make it that much more insightful, thought provoking. Some of my favorites include:
Physically Maturing Early: A Double-Edge Sword
What’s An Elite Player?
What Everybody Ought to Know about Possession
Work Ethic – An Elusive Player Trait
The Cream Isn’t Rising to the Top
Possessoin Soccer: What Does it Take?
Fundamental Guide to Soccer IQ
Is it Difficult to Identify Elite Soccer Players?
and skipping forward in time because there are so many good posts . . .
Quality Pro Player Development or Recreation: People Don’t Know the Difference
Pro Development Answered in 4 Minutes
Why Does the American Soccer Community Hate Spain?
You’ve also done a great job at instilling that quality coaching is quite possibly our #1 problem, culture is important, and most recently bloggers identified “possessors” and “fumblers”.
Gary Kleiban says
Thank you Kana, that really means a lot!
And suggesting which articles have been of most value to you is super helpful.
eBooks, and an “organization / concentration” of content, is in the works.
Brandon Elwood says
Recent development. US soccer development academies are not letting there kids participate in PDP or any other programs. Bummer for PDP. In norcal its on of the most top notch things going. These guys have already shown there ability to identify and produce talent. Just cant see the logic. I understand the though of staying stream line but my god… we are not making robots. These kids loved coming to this program. It was a way for kids across twenty counties to make contact and connections. Kinda not understanding it and mostly worried that it was a big farce when they said they would not just look for kids from a DA for potential national team inclusion. Sounds like ODP part two with more funding…
You complain so much! Do something about it! I’ve been following you for a couple of years and understand your frustrations. Big or small, soccer is soccer. Do you have relatives anywhere further south ? Send him there. How do you expect to become a great fisherman living in the desert? I watched your last video and the level of play your son plays with and against is to be nice, Terrible!
It’s now time to begin calling people out for adding little to no value to the “cause”. Your son is small, short, tiny, slow, fast, fat, skinny, tall, …. It’s not always the system. Make an effort to change your circumstance or stop complaining! Build a team yourself and hire the best coach or trainer. Pick kids up for practice if you must. Please stop the comments about the overlooked small kids. Complaining on this blog will not get your son an invitation anywhere and it might possibly prevent it. You have many valid points and gripes, but at the end of the day they’re just excuses. Take action! and good luck. TIc tok, tic tok, tic tok.
Albert Folch says
I’ve been enjoying this website for a long time … Living in Seattle, I’m actually one of the few readers here that is from Barcelona so I enjoy all growing enthusiasm for possession soccer in America. The confusion around the subject brought me to actually write a book on the history of FC Barcelona’s youth academy and its methods, how they scout, the economics of youth development, etc. Since it’s my first soccer book, I’ve made it really cheap ($2.99 at Amazon in Kindle format, “For the love of the ball”). Please let me know if you like it (or not). I hope it’s appropriate to post this in this forum — this is not so much an “advertisement” as a “letting other possession soccer fans know of an interesting book out there”.
Gary Kleiban says
I love that you guys are here, but I ask that you please help support our comment policy:
I think I’ve been fairly liberal with everyone’s contributions, but when comments go off the topic of the article it undermines what 3four3 is trying to accomplish.
Here’s an interesting clip
Here’s a thought:
“square pegs on round holes”
Curious Larry says
This weekend, my son played the stopper position. In one situation, my son had to fight off one opponent by shielding the opponent near the left touch line (while facing his own goal). Our sweeper worked back to support my son .. w/ #9 striker in hot pursuit. My son decided to play the ball backwards to the sweeper who played one touch to our goalie on the run; the goalie played two touch to the right wing back to feet & away we went up field. Overall, it was a positive play where 4 players were involved.
Guess what!? There were multiple parents on the side line that sounded like they just got kicked in the gut when my son passed back to the sweeper (e.g., aaggghhh) . In addition, our coach was silent during this play (instead of providing some positive reinforcement).
I have it on video tape if anyone is interested in seeing and hearing (i.e., observing) this play 🙂
My comments about the video, …, there was some really nice ball possession & rotation .. lets keep it up but try to move it a bit faster next time. I see light at the end of the tunnel.