After recently playing with a variety of new teams in a new city, I was surprised of the level of talent floating around Canada. More and more players are learning skills on their own and practicing tricks they’ve seen online. Not that long ago players had to learn tricks other ways but now thanks to youtube and other such social media tools, this footage is more readily available than ever before. However, what has also become more clear is we are developing many individually skilled players that have little to no idea how to play the game as a team.
I recently came across a player who was very able when it came to dribbling on the offensive but he had no idea of the positioning of his teammates on the field, when and where to make his dribbles and or pass the ball. Quite frankly, he was an unpredictable player for both teams with solely dribbling in mind. Even when he tried to play the game properly it was clear that he wasn’t thinking fast enough or ahead of time and kept resorting to dribbling as his number one option.
This brings me to the ever increasing problem of our soccer system in Canada. Yes players need to learn the fundamentals of the game and how to dribble and create opportunities for themselves. If fact, we encourage this. But many players truly do not understand the game. What needs to change is at the coaching level. Our coaches need to learn from the European model, specifically the Dutch football model, and do their best to explain to share this theory with our youth. This way, when players move on from different levels and change cities, leagues and move on, they can start with a solid base to continue the growth and developmental of their game.
The same idea is supposed to take place in elementary schools…for example with the subject math. If a student changes schools or cities (within the same province) then at least he should be able to continue in math without missing a major concept. All the teachers are to chronologically follow a guideline of topics that are planned out for them in advance by the school board. This same model should be implemented in our soccer system for our youth. It may take a long time to implement but the shear idea of just playing so you can dribble a player 1 versus 1 is for the playground alone. There has to be a greater purpose if you want to grow a player, a team and as a coach.
Here are but a few examples that many youth coaches never even discuss with their kids : where to be positioned on offence with/without the ball, on defense with/without the ball; how to defend as a unit (in the different thirds of the field); how to attack as a unit; movement off the ball including overlapping, small exchanges, diagonal and behind defender runs and when this should take place. A good player will have a solid understanding of these areas of the game so that wherever he goes he can become an effective.
At the bottom line, soccer is a team sport and this philosophy needs to be shared and understood with our youth.