CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION
In any teaching model the prevailing compass for outlining the “curriculum” is the underlying question, “what is being taught?”. West Side Alliance Soccer Club has adopted a “player-centered” model for all programming, including instruction of players, and in fact including education of coaches and parents.
Thus, within the WSA model, the question can be reexamined further, with, “who is being taught?”.
FIRST: WHAT IS BEING TAUGHT?
The sport of soccer is a “game”. It’s components are at first glance complicated, but upon further examination, soccer is as simple as a game can possibly be. The objective of moving a round object called a ball, past a line, without using your hands, might seem oversimplified, but in purest form, is a very real and comprehensive definition of the game of soccer.
The game has evolved to include rules, which have been carefully constructed to maintain a very critical component of the sport, “universality”. Guidelines set in place on field size, size of the goal, specifications of the ball, equipment, length of games, numbers players allowed, all allowed the game to be played universally and globally. As the game evolved further rules were generated to maintain the integrity of the game and probably discourage playing methods that had evolved that took advantage of the rules. The appeal of watching aspects of the game, likely were also the genesis for rules such as offside, indirect and direct free kicks, yellow cards and red cards, and all of the tournament rules applied to calculating standings, promotions and relegations, etc…
When a game has “rules” this normally suggests there is competition for a “winner”. Thus, to become better at this game, one must understand the rules, and understand the objective, and then understand how to reach the objective and prevent the opponent from doing the same.
Soccer is a game that is active, continuous, confrontational, dynamic, team-oriented, relies on unnatural eye-to-foot coordination, and is very “player centered”. There are not timeouts, stoppages, or commercial breaks, and the majority of the game is played without using hands to manipulate the ball. These hallmarks of the game require a teaching perspective that embraces the challenges the game presents.
Success in the game is predicated on it’s hallmarks.
HALLMARKS vs SUCCESS
Active: athletic players are more successful
Continuous: thinking players are more successful
Continuous: aerobically fit players are more successful
Confrontational: competitive players are more successful
Dynamic: creative and innovative players are more successful
Team Oriented: servant and selfless players are more successful
Eye-to-Foot Coordination: skilled players are more successful
Player-Centered: problem solving players are more successful
SO WHAT ARE THE OUTCOMES DESIRED?
WSA Soccer embraces a “player-centered” model for all programming. Thus, it is important to define who the “successful player” would be “ideally”, and then identify who is being taught.
So considering the “hallmarks” of the game of soccer (above), we can begin to define a successful player as one who is:
Creative and Innovative
This list is no way comprehensive, nor is it the “end” of our exploration of “who a successful” soccer player is. Players may attain their success by extraordinary giftedness in one of those areas, or mediocre giftedness in multiple areas. Players, however, may not always define their “success” in the sport of soccer based on how proficient they were at mastering the inherent challenges of the game.
It is very important for the leaders, the parents and coaches, to define success healthily on behalf of the player. It is not healthy to impose a “standard” of success on the player. It is very critical for parents and coaches to meet the player at the level of the player. Encountering the player at the “player’s level” enables a configuration of expectations that is more likely to frame an enjoyable soccer experience for the player.
The game and socialization of being a part of the team, we believe should be a constant avenue to greater experiences and lessons in life. So defining success in the game, cannot be restricted to governance by just the practical principles of teaching success in “the game”. Success for some players might be social, meeting and engaging in friendship relationships; or emotional, an improvement of self-esteem by a sense of self worth as a part of a team; or physiological, a means to maintain healthy fitness. Any of these standards of success are certainly virtuous, and certainly outcomes that we should seek on behalf of our players.
WHO ARE WE TEACHING?
WSA’s teaching paradigm considers first and foremost the player. WSA focuses on teaching “young” soccer players. The program model initiates at age 2 and ends at age 20. Most players “graduate” the program at age 18 and then enter training full time collegiately or professionally. However, WSA does still train some players for brief stints during the first years of their college experience, and does employ an “offseason” training program for college alumni.
The range of spectrum of players must be considered and the player’s age, gender, and level are the parameters used for identifying the spectrum of the players who will fit within the WSA training model.
When considering the age, gender, and level, a more prevailing identifier surfaces, and that being the “developmental level” of the child. To measure “developmental level” a few key indicators of the player are considered:
It is important to note, that much subjective analysis is used to ascertain “developmental level”. The only real tool the coach can apply given normal coach credentials is “observational” research. The key is that the coach is aware that the player is an emotional, social, physiological person, and the development of these components of the child’s nature are varied, diverse, and often irregular. Understanding the “typical” characteristics of the age of the child’s “development level” will be of great assistance to the coach “meeting the player at the level of the player”.
Generally speaking, when teaching children, it is key to consider the social environment of the child, and the child’s desire to fit in with and be accepted by their peers. It is key to consider the mental aptitude and cognitive ability of the child, and their ability to process auditory, visual, and written communication in the learning environment. It’s important to consider the social and psycho-emotional development of the child and their perception of constructive criticism, praise, and feedback. It’s important to consider the moral aptitude of the child and their ability to perceive their role within the context of team and “others” and their application of “rules”.
It is of paramount importance that in teaching and coaching through the “player-centered” model, that the “child” is considered first and foremost, and not the “game”. It is not as important, for example, that the coach insures the player understands the correct stage of the game to apply combination play, as it is that the coach considers the child’s ability to process spatial understanding and sharing the ball. When the child is the forefront of the model for teaching, the coach will meet the player at the player’s level, and the experience is enhanced.
CHAPTER 2: THE TEACHER
PRINCIPLES OF COACHING
Best Interest of Player (safety/well being)
Interest of Team
Building Self Esteem
Managing the Team
CHAPTER 3: THE GAME
PHASES OF PLAY
The game of soccer is played in three different phases, which can be “distinct” and “certain”, but at times can be “indistinct” and “uncertain”:
A large component of the game is “forecasting” which phase of the game will happen “next” for your team. Also, a large part of the match renders situations called “50/50” situations, in which both teams have a 50% probability of transitioning to the possession or non-possession game phase. For example, a possible “errant” pass may move a team from “Attacking” to an outcome predicated on the winner of the “50/50” challenge. The “50/50” moments of soccer require players to forecast what is likely to happen, and prepare for the outcome of the winner of the 50/50 ball, based on the forecast, the current game situation, and the consequences of the “Risk v Reward quotient”.
For example, a team protecting a 1-neil lead is in possession of the ball, and the right back chooses to skip the center channel to drive in a long, diagonal ball to the left forward. If the right back hits an errant pass, creating a 50/50 situation between his left forward and the opponent’s right back, then the right back’s teammates might begin to “drop into defending shape”, and give up the chance at a “2nd ball win”. However, if the match were level, then the reward for winning the 2nd ball might outweigh the risk of losing “defensive shape”. However, if a draw pushes the team into the next round, and keeps the team mathematically alive in tournament play, then the defensive shape, rather than the 2nd ball win might be preferred. Taken a step further, if the game is in the 20th minute, the decision would be different than if the match were in the 85th minute.
PRINCIPLES OF PLAY
The “phases of play” are guided by some fundamental “principles” of play. “Principles of play” are considered key factors to success in the sport of soccer. They have been identified as the fundamental basis for the phases of attacking and defending. We have introduced the “principles of transition” into consideration as well. These principles provide a platform and launch pad within the realm of “coaching and teaching” the game to expand conceptual and tactical teaching.
PRINCIPLES OF PLAY: ATTACKING
PRINCIPLES OF PLAY: DEFENDING
PRINCIPLES OF PLAY: TRANSITIONING
Principle Mode (pass, dribble, play long, etc)
Risk vs Reward Quotient:
The risk vs reward quotient measures the possible outcomes for the “risk taken” against the possible outcomes of the “reward earned”. Outcomes will have different values for different team systems, different methods of play, different match situations, and even different team personnel. The risk and reward could be assigned “values”. While the value for each situation, each coach, each team, would be unique based on multiple external factors, the “value” of each risk outcome could be compared to the value for each reward outcome, to derive a “quotient”.
So, for example, Manchester United places high value on quality services. If the holding midfielder can spray some passes into the wide channels, Sir Alex Ferguson, might assign a value of 8 out of 10 to this outcome. However, if in attempting to do so the holding midfielder must hold the ball a bit longer to create the proper angle for the delivery, he would slow down the speed and pattern of play. The “risk” of slowing down speed of play, might be valued at 4. The “risk-reward quotient” then would be 4:8, with much higher regard given to the ability to find the wide channel.
However, at Barcelona, the same scenario may play out and Pep Guardiola may place the value of a wide service at 6 out of 10. This is a modest value, and sensible since Barca has few giants in the area to claim a service. Coach Pep may place a risk value of interrupting speed and tempo of play at 7. Thus the Risk-Reward Quotient for the exact same scenario that Man United measured as 4:8 (risk:reward) would be measured for Barcelona at 7:6 Risk:Reward.
HYPOTHETICAL EXAMPLE RRQ FOR WIDE SERVICE QUALITY
Manchester United: 4:8 ** More likely to take risk to gain quality services
Barcelona: 7:6 ** Less likely to take risk to gain quality services
The “risk/reward quotient” (RRQ) will impact decisions of the player. And the RRQ likely impacts the structure of the sessions. Sir Alex may spend a higher percentage of training time on final third activities, to refine and polish the delivery of wide services. Barca’s training ground may spend more time on their “Tiki-Taka” method.
There are some commonly universal applications. For example, dribbling against pressure has an inherent risk. The risk outcome is a “turnover”. There is also a potential “reward” which is to earn space or time, or possibly force a shifting and reshaping of the opponent’s defense by beating an opponent. While the “reward” value in the final third might be 9 out of 10, and the risk of a turnover might be 3 out of 10, then “reward” value for dribbling in your defending third might only be 4 out of 10, and then “risk” value might be 9 out of 10.
Final Third dribbling Risk-Reward Quotient: 3:10, so we encourage players to take the risk. Defending Third dribbling Risk-Reward Quotient: 9:4, so we discourage players to take the risk.
HYPOTHETICAL EXAMPLE RRQ FOR SITUATIONAL DRIBBLING
Attacking Final Third Dribbling: 3:10 ** Encourage players to dribble
Defending Final Third Dribbling: 9:4 ** Discourage players to dribble
Stages of Play:
The game at the 11v11 level, on a full-sized field, contains three indistinct, but fairly defined “stages” of play:
Decision making (RRQ), application of technique, application of concept, and speed of play, are all influenced by the “stage of play”. For example, the final third may require quicker decision making, with less deliberation, while the midfield third may require of a player a bit more deliberation. The technique used in the attacking third sometimes is improvisation, ahead of careful execution, while careful execution might be more the order of the day in the midfield third. There are no defining marks to represent each “third” of the field, and in fact “third” is often a misnomer. Some coaches reference the final 18 yards as the “final third” both defensively and attacking, leaving the other approximately 74 yards (110 – 36 yards) referenced as the “midfield third”.
Stages of play will direct and guide coaching the game at more advanced levels, and amongst more experienced players. Time spent on different “stages of play” may be directly related to a teams method and style. If the team is “direct” and bypasses the midfield, there may be little emphasis in training placed on deliberate possession, a common characteristic of the midfield stage of play. If a team has a schedule of dominant opponents on the horizon, the coach may ask the team to spend time in training on defending the final third.
It is very important for coaches of advanced players and more experienced players, to explain training activities as representations of a certain “stage of play”. If a team spends 75% of their sessions in non-directional games of “possession” it would be natural for the players to believe this is “important”. Coach is spending a majority of our time on this “practice” and the player believes this must be applied on match day. For practical application, the players may take the principle to the field, and play “side to side” and around the park, always “in possession” but with no real true “direction” or “goal” to their play. To eliminate this unwanted bi-product of training, the coach must make the “possession practice” applicable to match play – players should know they are training the “midfield stage” of play.
Elements of Play:
There are generally speaking five major “elements” of play recognized:
Technical – how a player performs a certain technique of the game
Tactical – the comprehensive container of player decisions throughout match play
Physical – the ability of a player to physically move, coordinate, balance
Psychological – the ability of a player to mentally engage in the game
Creativity – ability of player to innovate and problem solve in the game
Factors of Play:
The external “factors” that govern match play are long, varied, and this list is likely non-exhaustive:
Age and Level
Fitness of Team/Players (injuries included)
Match Consequence (league, tournament, showcase, development)
Time of Season (middle of season, pre season, post season)
Type and Condition of Pitch Surface
Night Time or Day Time
Interim Before Next Match
Interim Since Last Match
Game Rules (overtime or can end in draw)
Opponent Strengths & Weaknesses
Style of Play
Method of Play
Opponent’s Style/Method of Play
Key Players (i.e. game changing players in either side)
Previous Encounters w/ Same Opponent
Personnel Available (key players injured)
Teaching Objectives Given by Coach
The internal factors that govern play are normally referred to as the intrinsic motivations. Possibly a team or group of players have missed the “final” each of the two previous years, so there is “heightened awareness and focus” during a semi final tie. Or possibly it’s the players’ first appearance in an elimination match, and there are “nerves” and “anxiety” that permeate the team because of the “unknown” or “inexperience” in that match atmosphere.
Intrinsic motivations often dictate the overall focus, attitude, drive, and attention of a team and players. These are often the more difficult to identify since they are not readily observable and non quantifiable. However, a coach who has his/her thumb on the pulse of the team will be able to include these factors into his evaluation of the team, and allow this information to influence preparation for the match at hand, and evaluation of match outcomes.
Summary of Introduction: “The Game”
Game Play Phases:
Stages of Play:
Final Attacking Third
Final Defending Third
Elements of Play:
Fundamental Drive: Risk vs Reward Quotient
Factors of Play
External Factors (long list)
Internal Factors (intrinsic motivations)
CHAPTER 4: LEVEL 1 thru LEVEL 4
LEVEL 1: Age 2
LEVEL 2: Age 2
LEVEL 3: Age 2 (2-3)
LEVEL 4: Ages 3-4
LEVEL 5: Age 5 (4-7)
LEVEL 6: Age 6 (5-8)
LEVEL 7: Age 7 (5-9)
LEVEL 8: Age 8 (6-10)
LEVEL 9: Age 9 (7-10)
LEVEL 10: Age 10 (9-11)
LEVEL 11: Age 11 (9-12)
LEVEL 12: Age 12 (10-12)
LEVEL 13: Age 13 (11-13)
LEVEL 14: Age 14 (12-14)
LEVEL 15: Age 15 (14-16)
LEVEL 16: Age 16 (14-17)
LEVEL 17: Age 17 (14-18)
LEVEL 18: Age 18 (15-20)
LEVEL 19: Age 19 (15-20)
LEVEL 20: Age 20 (15-20)