Thursday, May 23, 2013

Children Soccer Development - Best Practice

 
Question:

I am told that the best way to develop young players is to have them PLAY IN THE SAME AGE GROUP. I believe that it is more important for them to PLAY IN THE SAME SKILL GROUP. Who is correct?

 
Answer:

We believe soccer is based on four pillars, at the individual AND at the team level:

 
  1. Technical Skills 
  2. Tactical Understanding 
  3. Physical Conditioning and Game Readiness 
  4. Mental Understanding and Game Readiness
 
Underneath each of these pillars are various attributes, such as:
 
  
Technical - ball receiving, passing accuracy, ball control, shooting, heading, 1v1 moves, etc.
 
Tactical - formations, own position, other positions, running patterns, pressuring, balance, etc.
 
Physical - speed, strength, agility, flexibility, etc.
 
Mental - maturity, emotional control, anticipation, decision making, reaction, movement without the ball, etc
 
It is the combination of all of these that make up a player and a team. It is important that each child gets the opportunity to develop. By definition then, they should all get the opportunity to get as many touches on the ball during practice and in games as possible.
 
Some people think that grouping children by age is the way to ensure that all the players are fairly evenly matched. Age mostly addresses mental development and physical development. Only if kids have grown up playing the same number of hours every week since age 3, one might infer age is an indicator of skill and possibly tactics. But even the mental and physical development assumption could be wrong. A lot of organizations play boys and girls together and group ages, like 4 & 5 year olds together. A smallish 4 year old girl and a physically advanced 5 year old boy are significantly different and chances are that in a game, the 4 year old girl doesn't get much action. Now if you only play boys together and we are talking U 13 then age may be a reasonably grouping. If you add that this is a competitive U13 then skills and tactics should match. 
Other people think that skill should be the matching factor. Probably be more appropriate at the youngest ages. But skill alone could be detrimental. We have seen 7 year old boys who have more skills than some 11 year old boys. But in a game, the 11 year olds would likely dominate simply because of sheer physical advantages.
  
In the end, the goal should be to have balanced teams with children that will have a fairly equal chance to get touches on the ball. The best organizations use this approach:
 
  • They split boys and girls at a very early age, some as early as age 4/5 - U5. 
  • They group them in single age groups, not combining ages. The difference between a young three year old and an older 4 year old in a combined U5 team could be huge.
  • They asses the abilities of players in pre-season evaluation sessions and identify the exceptionally talented players - the ones that would be good enough to control the ball most of the time in a game. They then selectively put these exceptional kids in an older age group to level the playing field. Messi was such a kid - playing 2-3 age groups up. 
  • Finally, at age 10 and up they split their teams into recreational and competitive/travel.
 I hope this answer gives you some idea about the complexity of trying to do the right thing for the children.

Coach Tom
 
 
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Saturday, June 09, 2012

Possession vs Fast Break Soccer

The final results are in after compiling statistics from 306 games from the Germans Bundesliga's 2011/2012 season.

The teams with the majority of posession:
  • averaged 56% possession
  • averaged 6.0 scoring chances per game
  • averaged 1.33 points per game (win=3, tie=1, loss=0)
The teams that had less possession:
  • averaged 44% possession
  • averaged 4.7 scoring chances
  • averaged 1.41 points per game
The non-statistical observation was that two teams, Munich and Dortmund, had over 60% possession in many of their games and won. We suggest the same would be true with high possession teams like Barcelona. These teams are so good that it doesn't matter what style they play, they will win.

What the analysis suggests is that dominating possession is no guarantee for winning games. Quite the contrary, fast break soccer, meaning quick transition, is a recipe for success.


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Friday, December 30, 2011

Possession Soccer Does Not Equal Winning


We have analyzed published results of a major European soccer league after the first half of the season. For each game we reviewed the ball possession (%), goal chances, and wins/losses, awarding three points for a win and 1 point for a tie. The results conclusively prove that domonating possession does not guarantee winning games. We found quite the opposite:

The teams that had 50% or more of ball possession generated 5.93 scoring chances per game and achieved 1.24 points per game (winning 32.7% of their games). The teams that had 50% or less possession generated 4.61 scoring chances and achieved 1.51 points per game (winning 41.8% of their games).

The results indicate that possession leads to more scoring chances but not to more wins. Why is that? We have long held the opinion that the quality of the chances makes the difference. Why would more possession generate poorer quality scoring chances? Extended possession allows the defending team to organize their defence. Therefore the attacking team has to work hard to find openings and quite often is forced to take shots from difficult positions, longer distance, or poor angles. A team that believes in fast break attacking after gaining possession does not allow the opposing defence to get into shape and balance. Hence the final passes set up shots for players with a clearer path to net. Therefore a fast breaking team will create better quality chances, score more goals and win more games.

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Dynamic Warm-Up For Soccer

We have developed a dynamic warm-up routine that can be used in conjunction with our soccer practice and soccer drills books or on it's own. It is on one page and can be taken to the field. The page also has a link to a web site that shows video clips of all the exercises. Click below to access it:

Dynamic Warm-Up Routine: Soccer


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Thursday, August 25, 2011

soccer coaching supplies | soccer equipment

We have partnered with amazon.com and several other suppliers to offer one-stop-soccer shopping on our web site.

Click on:

Soccer Shop

Monday, July 04, 2011

possession soccer or fast break soccer ?


There has been a lot of international soccer in the past few months, starting with the Champions League final between Barca and ManU, through the U21 Euro, the CONCACAF Gold Cup to the current FIFA Women`s World Cup.

While the soccer has been entertaining and at times of excellent quality, the "expert commentating" has been lacking, in my opinion. Even downright annoying.

Watching Barca playing the typical Spanish national team style of keep away (possession) soccer has all the commentators in a rage that this is how soccer needs to be played. and they criticize any team that doesn`t. The best example are the Canadian commentators slamming the Canadian women`s team.

There are two main issues to consider when talking about soccer styles of play. First is the skill level of your team and second is the attractiveness of the play.

Very few teams, including ManU, Germany, Holland have the skills to play the Spanish possession game at this very high level. Even if they did, should they?

From a results perspective there is no correlation between time of possession and winning. What seems to matter is whether or not whatever possession time you have is effective, i.e. are you generating chances and converting them or just pushing the ball around. Again, if you coach Barca, it doesn`t matter which style you play, you`d win anyways.

Contrasting the Barca - ManU game with another very entertaining game, the Gold Cup Final between Mexico and the U.S., is a good way of understanding soccer.

Mexico and the U.S. played fast break attack soccer. Play was direct and vertical and lots of scoring chances were generated. 6 goals were scored and there was never a dull moment. Fans were on their feet. Barca and ManU, to be honest, was a very boring match to watch, despite the goals scored.

Yes, Barca players have a high level of ball skills and can play keep away soccer and it works for them. But it doesn`t mean that this should be the standard of soccer. All soccer players need to continue to develop their skills and then apply them in a way that makes the game exciting, fast, and fun to watch.

Imagine if a team like Barca played a fast attacking game - scary....


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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Soccer Sense - How it impacts player performance


Have you ever wondered why all of your practicing with some of your players, or your entire team, is not translating into game performance?

For example you practice finishing with your strikers and in the next game they miss an easy chance, an open net. You practice passing and in a game your players are striking the ball too hard, too soft, or simply into the wrong direction.

You practice with your defenders not to dive into tackles, only to see them lunge at an attacker in the next game and be easily left standing behind.

We have heard a lot of coaches give us these examples asking us what they can do to avoid these errors and improve their team's game.

The first thing we need to state is that the difference between practice and a game situation is the opposition. Typicall in practice, you start drills with little opposing pressure, i.e. your players have all the time in the world to execute a drill. Typically with this time they can hit the net, deliver a pass, control the ball. As pressure increases, this becomes more difficult and mistakes creap in. But you are limited what you can practice by the skill of your team. If in competition you never play a better team, a team with more skilled players, stop reading now. You probably won't recognize the issues we described earlier. Although I would say that unless you have won the championship every year and have won every game, you probably want to read on.

In a game there are two key differences to a practice:

First, your opponents are determined to make you fail. They will put on pressure and thus take away the time your players need to execute. The better the opposition, the less time your players will have on the ball.

Second, the mental pressure to perform in a game puts stress on individuals. Fear of making mistakes actually causes mistakes. Under stress, people generally tend to fall back into bad habits. In other words, they lose control.

So how do you fix these problems?

Before you can solve a problem, you need to identify it's root cause. We suggest that poor execution of skills AND tactics in a game is caused by a lack of soccer sense. We define soccer sense by the intuitive knowledge a player has to allow their body to function automatically based on stimuli received and/or decisions made, consciously or subconsciously. An example would be for a striker approaching the goal to see the goal, the open space of the net, the keeper. Without pausing physically or mentally the player strikes the ball into the upper corner of the goal. The player didn't spend time thinking about where to shoot or how to execute the shot, it "just happened".

Well, it didn't really just happen. We teach mental speeds in our soccer programs and have identified the following mental speeds:

Perception

Anticipation

Reaction

Decision Making

Perception is seeing what is going on around you during the game. Seeing the ball, seeing players in motion, seeing spaces open and close.

Anticipation is sensing what is going to happen next before it happens. What is the player with the ball going to do? If a player has the ball, it is them anticipating a run by a team mate before it happens and playing the ball into that run.

Reaction is to quickly adjust to what actually happened. "I thought the opponent was going to pass so I anticipated intercepting the pass. But they actually took me on in a 1v1 so now I have to get into proper defensive position...".

Decision making is deciding what you are going to do well in advance of the ball being played by an opponent. If you are about to receive the ball, then your decision as to what you will do with it has to be made well before you receive the ball.

In sum total, soccer sense is the intuitive execution of these four mental speeds of soccer in any sequence that the game calls for. No time to think through them. You perceive a situation, anticipate the play, decide what you'll do, and react/execute. All automatically.

How do you develop players to get there? Run specific soccer drills that teach these mental skills over and over and over again. Ask your players to play pick up soccer with friends, over and over, and over. Ask them to train the technical fundamnetals over and over and over again so when the subconscious decision to (for example) take a shot is made, the body has enough memory to actually deliver the shot where the brain decided it should go.

You can't demand soccer sense from players, they either have it or they don't. Your job is to assess who has it and how much of it. Then decide if you need more and commit to training it.

All our practices train mental speeds of soccer.

Our Practice Books And Resources


Kids Soccer Drills & Practices

Youth Soccer Drills & Practices

Competitive Soccer Drills & Practices

Fast Break Soccer - Competitive Pro

Soccer Goalie Drills & Practices

Indoor Soccer Drills & Practices

Soccer Systems Of Play

Soccer Fitness Training

Soccer Skills Training