Objectives

At a high level, here are our primary objectives:

  1. Develop creative, composed players who are confident on the ball and willing / able to go into 1 v 1 situations (either as an attacker or defender). We’ll focus on individual player development in the team context.
  2. Avoid prescribing specific solutions or teaching to situations.  Teach players to recognize and solve their own problems.  Soccer is a player’s game, not a coach’s game.  Most sports are far less technical and rely on players to memorize and execute specific tasks prescribed by their coach. Soccer is the total opposite (hence a player’s game).  A soccer player who can’t make his or her own decisions will never be great.
    • NOTE: This is perhaps the thing I like most about soccer and why I think it’s such a great game for children. Soccer is intellectually stimulating, teaching kids how to think quickly while under pressure.  This skill helps children in other contexts including the class room (I am convinced soccer has played a part in my own children’s academic success).
  3. Encourage players to be creative and take risks, but be mindful of where they are and make good choices.  Does it make sense to go aggressively into a 1 v 1 in the middle of the field or our attacking third?  Probably.  How about in our defending third (especially our penalty area)?  Probably not.  This logic holds whether we are attacking or defending.  Always be aware of your surroundings and, again, more individual decision making.
  4. Constantly reinforce the importance of movement, both on and off the ball, when attacking.  Movement off the ball will either create space by attracting defenders or put an unmarked player into space where they are available to receive the ball.  Either way, it’s good.

System

I prefer my 11-a-side teams play an attacking style in the 3-4-3 system of play with a diamond midfield (see download links below):

Most teams we’ll encounter will line-up in a 4-4-2, which is probably the most broadly used system in the world. We’ll rarely encounter another 3-4-3 team. Elements of the 3-4-3 that I really like:

  • It creates a lot of natural diamonds and triangles (diagonal) vs squares (straight).
  • Being an attacking team in an attack-oriented system leaves us exposed to the counter-attack, but it also means our games are both exciting to play and exciting to watch. Win or lose, it will be fast and fun!
  • Despite the attacking orientation, this system offers a strong “spine” which our opponents will have to attack through.  Most U11-U12 teams have a difficult time utilizing space on the flanks, so coaches will encourage play through the middle, thus into the heart of our formation.
  • It requires tight coordination between the defending five (Holding Midfielder, Defenders plus Goalkeeper), all of whom will need to play with their feet, make smart decisions and accurate passes.
  • It demands that Midfielders be mobile, playing box-to-box the entire match.
  • And Forwards need the ability to transition quickly from Attack to Defense and back to ensure we can apply pressure all over to the field.

That said, balancing system with what the players are able to do is part of the equation. If the team isn’t suited to the 3-4-3, we’ll do something else and may choose to try some different systems even if the 3-4-3 is a good fit (e.g. 3-5-2 with a triangle midfield and wingbacks or the U.S. Soccer-recommended 4-3-3). Playing in different tactical modes is an important part of player development because their next Club coach, high school coaches in the future and others they may play for will likely have different ideas.  Knowing how to play in different systems will only improve a young player’s overall game.


Four Pillars

Perhaps the most common soccer coaching model in America, the Four Pillars organize soccer into:

Technical / Skill Tactical
Fundamental / No Pressure (Technique) Individual (1 v 1)
Match Related / Pressure (Skill) Group (2 v 2, 3 v 3)
Match Conditions / Full Pressure (Skill) Team
Physical Psychosocial
Athletic Attributes Individual / Ego Centricity
General Endurance Motivation / Competitiveness

In particular, we’ll give extra attention to:

  • Technical:  Technique (dribbling, passing, shooting, heading, 1 v 1 attacking, 1 v 1 defending); two footedness; translating technique to skills and teaching the application of skills
  • Tactical:  Basic understanding of systems and working in groups of 2, 3 and 4; individual “soccer IQ”, vision and decision making; off-the-ball movement; speed of play; wide field on attack (creating space) and compactness on defense (closing space)
  • Physical:  Level of fitness appropriate to a full-sized field and 60 min matches (2 x 30 min halves)
  • Psychosocial:  Building confidence, challenging players and learning about “Two Kinds of Fun”
    • See also the Players page for more on “Two Kinds of Fun”

We’ll spend as much practice time as possible with the ball-to-player ratio at 1:1 or 1:2, placing a priority on touches and technique / skill and, overall, our topics list will be heavily influenced by the original BSC Curriculum.

“The Barcelona youth programme is one of the best in the world. As a kid they teach you not to play to win, but to grow in ability as a player. At Barça, we trained every day with the ball, I hardly ever ran without a ball at my feet. It was a form of training aimed very clearly at developing your skills.” – Lionel Messi, FC Barcelona, four time FIFA Ballon d’OrFIFA World Player of the Year winner


Mentality

I have witnessed a lot of questionable, unprofessional coaching behavior over the years. And, to be honest, there were times when I wasn’t particularly proud of myself, caught in the heat of the moment.  But of the many things a coach can do, perhaps the worst is prioritizing their ego over what’s right for players.  When a coach is in it more for themselves than the players, the number of negative things that can happen is nearly limitless. Still, in order to be a good coach, one must have some motivations (and a healthy amount of ambition).  I coach for the following reasons:

  1. I enjoy spending time with kids. It helps me shed the stress of my professional work life.  Practice time always brings a smile to my face because kids live in the here and now. The stories they tell, the jokes they make.  Love it!
  2. I like being outdoors.  What could be better way to pass time than running on a nicely mowed piece of grass, kicking around a ball?  Everyone should spend time in a park each day and coaching helps me (forces me) to do that.
  3. I love teaching and sharing knowledge.  I’ve put a lot of time and energy into learning the game and learning the craft of coaching.  I originally made the investment to ensure I was able to do the best job possible for my children’s teams.  Now that they are older and working with other coaches, I don’t want that investment to go to waste, so I feel compelled to continue coaching.
  4. My idea of knowledge exchange is not just with the players, it’s with parents as well.  My aim is to help parents traverse the overly complex world of competitive youth soccer and hopefully save them some of the gray hair I’ve gained as a parent over the years.
  5. I love soccer.  Growing up in the North Dakota in the ’70s and ’80s, soccer was not an organized sport.  Not in high school and certainly not club.  It was just a random game you played in Phys. Ed. like floor hockey or badminton.  I grew up playing basketball and football and running track and cross country.  However, had soccer been an option, I am sure it would have been the sport I gravitated to.  I came to soccer later in life when my kids picked up the game and I was soon smitten.  At this point, I rarely watch any other sports on TV and find myself hanging around the Broomfield Commons watching games at all ages, all levels.  I suppose it could be categorized as an “obsession” at this point with coaching my primary outlet.
  6. I like to compete and love the challenge of learning, of improving, of chasing excellence.  I also love to win.  Who doesn’t?  However, I’m also a stickler for doing things right.  I refuse to take short cuts or resort to gamesmanship even if it means losing a whole season of games.  If you win because you took a short cut, did you really win?  I’m sure some parents (and coaches) roll their eyes when I say things like that, but I can’t help it.  It’s the way I was raised.  I’m also an Eagle Scout.  What else can I say?  🙂

Ethics

A  wise man once said:

Baseball was made for kids, and grown-ups only screw it up. – MLB Hall of Famer Bob Lemon

I often feel this way about soccer. I don’t want to be one of those grown-ups screwing it up for the kids.  As part of my commitment, I believe in US Youth Soccer’s “Coaching Ethics and the Developmental Process” (see download link below):

While some of this was designed for coaches working with younger recreational players, I think it’s also appropriate for older competitive players.  I will push the kids, I will challenge them, but I will be fair and always strive to ensure they leave practices and matches with a smile on their face (super hard sometimes, but that’s the goal).