Learn. Play. Conquer.
General information and goings on at NJ Dynamo, Youth Soccer in NJ, and other Soccer related topics.
“Did I win? Did I lose? Those are the wrong questions. The correct question is: Did I make my best effort?” If so, “You may be outscored but you will never lose.”
This is a quote I like and a great way to put in perspective the concept of what is success. The differentiation between "losing" and "being outscored" it's one we could use when analyzing our performances as coaches and players.
The danger is that many coaches like to use common phrases as an excuse. "We are developing so don't care about winning", or "the game is the best teacher, so I dont do much and let the kids figure out".
And same thing happens with the players making excuses about their performances "The coach doesn't like me" "The coach asks me to get rid of the ball and not try skills"...
For everyone involved in soccer, it's "Tryouts time".
This is when our young players look for options to continue their soccer careers, some of them are as young as 10 yrs old attending their 5th tryout, but this is a whole new post.
I have conducted tryouts for many teams, clubs, town programs, and the main issue I see with the usual process is
LACK OF A UNIFIED PHILOSOPHY...
I am a professional soccer coach, with over 15 yrs of experience, I hold the USSF "A" License, the NSCAA Premier Diploma, the NSCAA Director of Coaching diploma, plus other certifications. I have coached and trained over thousands of boys and girls, all levels and ages.
But I still get amazed about how we (parents, players, coaches) fail to recognize what is truly "elite", and what it takes to get there.
This includes everyone involved, for example, we all heard this from the mouth of our parents, coaches, players.
- "My daughter is a flight 1 player"
- "My U14 team is #9 in the state"
- "Send it, send it, goaaaaal"
- "I have started as a right defender all my life, I don't play right midfield"
- "My son is gifted"
- "We did all these drills and you guys aren't doing what I asked you to do when we practiced Thursday"
- "Winning isn't important"
- "Not much more I can do if the kids don't train at home"
- Etc, etc, etc
Don't get me wrong, I see many really good players and teams, but are they truly "Elite"?...
I wrote a previous post about the relationship between learning and struggle, it can be found here.
A blog I follow regularly posted a great article that relates to this concept, and talks about "Why parents shouldn't help their kids too much". Here are some excerpts of their post, and how we can apply it to soccer.
One of the hardest things about parenting and coaching is avoiding the Helpfulness Trap: the temptingly wrong idea that parents should assist their kids through their struggles: i.e speedily intervening when they show frustration, smoothing over rough patches.
Read this parent letter entitled...
Old? New? for the last few years the world of soccer has been amazed by the "Barça way" of playing, as it's some new formula, the combination of passes, fluid movements, triangles, skills, which became known as "Tiki Taka".
Yes, the magic of Barça also resides in the fact that their players come from a Youth system, La Masía, so there's much more to analyze than just the way the 1st team plays, but Im talking about the "possession" soccer.
This blog is a tribute to one of the best teams that this sport produced, the Hungary team of the 1950's, and the influence they had in these great teams of today.
Some people refer to them as "The best team to never win the World Cup", they achieved winning the 1952 Olympics, a record unbeaten run 1950-1954, being the first team to beat England at Wembley and 1954 World Cup Finalists....
From Wikipedia "Learning is acquiring new, or modifying existing, knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, or preferences and may involve synthesizing different types of information"
And Struggling? "strive to achieve or attain something in the face of difficulty or resistance.
I think go both hand in hand.
Read this interesting article I came across about the difference in learning in Western and Eastern cultures....
Im going to start this post talking about one of the greatest players in the history, the great Alfredo Di Stéfano. Born in Argentina, he is most associated with Real Madrid, where he won the trophy in 5 consecutive years back in the 50's.
He was nicknamed "Saeta rubia" ("blond arrow") and he was a versatile player who could play anywhere on the pitch. In November 2003, UEFA selected him as Spain's Golden Player, the most outstanding player of the past 50 yrs.
He was voted 4th as a player of the Century, and considered by many (including Pele, Eusebio, Maradona) as "the most complete footballer in the history of the game"
But this post isn't about his history as a player, but to talk about a curiosity. Don Alfredo Di Stéfano built a statue at his house in Madrid, it's a soccer ball with the inscription "Gracias vieja", which could be translated as "Thanks old lady".
And this is what I want to do today, to thank the soccer ball for all of the amazing years I have spent playing soccer, watching soccer, coaching soccer. And for the many more to come....
Dear soccer players,
A great way to improve outside of "on the field" soccer training is to watch and analyze games.
Nowadays many tv stations and websites showcase the various leagues and cups, so there's always a chance to watch a game of soccer, check which formation they are playing, what's their playing philosophy, who plays in your position, etc.
Another way to learn is to come up with your own possible game scenarios, you can write them up or picturing them in your head.
I came up with a few, check them out and let me know which answer you think it's correct. Let's start!...
DO WE SEE GAMES AS A BATTLE BETWEEN US AND OUR OPPONENTS, OR A COOPERATION BETWEEN THE TWO?
WHICH ONE WOULD BE MORE PRODUCTIVE TO LEARN AND IMPROVE?
Recently I came across two different scenarios, but I realized that at the end they had similarities.
Basically they were about the importance of the weekend game, with all that this means to a regular soccer person. The standings, the refs, the league name, the coaches giving instructions from the sidelines, etc....
As a coach, we should always be looking to learn and improve.
Im constantly asking myself questions, if what Im doing is the right thing, if what works in other countries in terms of soccer development works for our kids.
One aspect where I play my own devil's advocate is running. Yes, if to have the kids run without the ball during portions of the training or not.
I am a firm believer that everything should be done with the ball, to use every opportunity to refine the technical side of the game. Touches, turns, moves, fitness with the ball....
As a continuation to my previous post, about how we get used to things without putting much thought on what they mean, I wanted to write about common terms and instructions we often hear at most soccer fields.
My opinion is that these words have serious implications on the way we teach our players, and the type of soccer we produce.
- Send it
- (I, you, they, we, he, she) Deserved it
In my years around youth soccer I have met a lot of parents, coaches and parent coaches who bring up "experience" as their main attribute. Being to coach, train, or provide a qualified opinion.
~"I have played soccer back in (insert foreign country here, High School, College, etc) so I know what this is about, my son and the team should play this way and you have to do this and this"
~"I've been around soccer for many years and won a u16B State cup in 1989 with this style of coaching, so I know what Im doing with these 10 yr old girls"
Yes, experience its very valuable in everything we do, but the demands of the game change, the players change, the methods of teaching/coaching change, and we change.
Jorge Bucay is an Argentina writer, journalist, and psychotherapist who wrote this short story
(Wife cooked a delicious ham for his husband, not the first time she made it but yes the first time she made it for her husband)
As I explained on my previous post I come from the school of "keep it", not the one of "kick it".
Soccer is the kingdom of subjectivity, it allows us to remember and value performances not only for it's achievements, but also for our impressions. Few sports have the particularity in which the game stats are largely irrelevant when predicting an outcome.
In tennis, it's likely that the winner will be the player with more "winning shots", better percentage of first serves and fewer unforced errors. In Volleyball it occurs something similar with the percentage of good receptions, even with basketball the outcome will probably be determined by the effectiveness in throws and how many rebounds.
But not in our beloved soccer, there's no statistical combination that would ensure a result. There were teams that lost games with 80% of possession and more shots on goal, and teams who earned a victory with just one attack.
Still, it's hard to disagree that a team like Barcelona plays a "beautiful" game, so here are my questions.
- Why not looking to play that style with our young players?
- If a coach wants to play like that, but their teams can't do it, who's accountable? the teacher or the pupil?
- Why can't we see more teams playing a "beautiful" game, and instead our eyes hurt when we see most games?
Im going to write a series of posts around "Possession Soccer", some observations as a fan, and as a coach.
I will talk about the objectives of playing possession soccer, also what's required to play possession soccer, and how "possession soccer" it's the main way to measure if a coach is good or not based on his/her team's ability to keep the ball.
So, let the ball roll then, from one player to the other, none of that "Send it" stuff!!
PART 1: "Our ball, My legacy"...
I have received a few emails and requests about writing a post for coaches, share some of my ideas and thoughts regarding training sessions and game coaching.
Often coaches are looking for that new exercise that will help their team improve, but unfortunately many fall in love with a particular training activity and replicate that exact same session without putting any thought behind it.
This post won't give you exercises, but hopefully it will help coaches to run more "effective" training sessions for our players, and not just putting down a few cones and replicate the Bayern Munich's 1st division combination play drill we found in Youtube.
CYCLE OF COACHING - Analysis and preparation
~The Game: Evaluate performance and identify the problems
~ Analysis: Review problems and determine priorities
~ Training: Develop training and correct problems
..... back to the Game, and cycle continues.
My soccer library consists of over 100 books, everything from coaching manuals (KNVB Dutch, Brazilian, USSF, Spanish Federation, etc), Biographies/Auto Biographies (Alfredo Di Stéfano "Gracias Vieja" is probably my favorite), Documentary books ("Senda de Campeones" comes to mind), and many more.
I have the advantage of being bi lingual so besides the regular US & UK Amazon shopping sprees, I find myself buying many books from Argentina, and Spain.
But the genre I usually enjoy the most are Soccer "Fiction" books, stories where one can find the relationship that soccer always had with arts (music, poetry, movies, etc), with friendship, with culture, with our everyday life, etc.
This post is about a personal memory of growing up playing fútbol ("jugar a la pelota") in the streets of suburban Buenos Aires, on how to follow your dreams, and a couple excerpts from a favorite book of mine called "Soccer in sun and shadow"
~Speed of play
~ Soccer IQ
Anyone who has played, coached, or watched soccer Im sure heard those terms.
These are maybe the qualities that more than any others separate the levels at which you will be able to compete as a team or individual player.
The question is that these are hard to quantify qualities, and only truly expressed in real match situations.
So today, we will let a soccer maestro guide us on a master lesson....
“It’s not the will to win that is important. It’s the will to prepare to win”.
Last week I shared some thoughts and observations about game day for the parents, today Im going to write about the player's and coaches role when it's match time.
There are many articles and research in the area of Sports Psychology about how to mentally prepare and perform, I have compiled some of them, plus personal opinions.
Let's start by defining what constitutes a "Winning team"
- Game day performance
Even though we will focus on game day, it's important to understand it would mean nothing without talent, good preparation and the right attitude. Of course, on the same token you can prepare all of this and still have an unhappy game day experience.
Let's think at what coaches usually do to prepare their teams:...
I must say that I have been very fortunate with the parents of the players I worked with during my many years of coaching soccer in New Jersey. I believe some of the reasons are my professionalism (regardless of the level and age of the team I trained/coached I always took it equally serious), my willingness to talk and explain (always at the appropriate time and place), and that I really cared for the growth of their child.
Now as the NJ Dynamo Director of Coaching I have the responsibility to ensure that our coaches follow this same path, respect for the players and open communication and feedback with the parents.
A recurrent topic of conversation amongst coaches, and many articles and books are written about it, is the influence that the parents have (or can have) on their child's sports experience.
"What's all that noise from the sidelines?"...