Wednesday, February 29, 2012
As you are likely aware, Jürgen Klinsmann, the U.S. Men’s National Team Head Coach, spoke at the US Youth Soccer Workshop in Boston last week. It was a wonderful opportunity for those of us there listening to Coach Klinsmann. He was open and communicative with the standing room only audience. You will soon be able to see video of the presentation on the US Youth Soccer website and YouTube channel. Coach Klinsmann spoke of his comparisons of the full national team and youth soccer. I have taken one small except from his presentation to share and discuss with you here.
Klinsmann on Style of Play:
- Youth Soccer
- Think long-term player development
- Be comfortable on, off, and with the ball
- Speed of play
- When and how to support on offense and defense
- Winning is not the same as developing a style of play
- Example of training to style of play: U.S. Soccer Coaching Cirriculum
Reading the key points he wants to get across to the adults involved in youth soccer, the idea of long term player development is not new but one that we must all rally around to embrace and enforce. That work begins at the team level, then onto the club level, then the state association and finally the national board of directors. The effort to work diligently on long-term player development must be a two-way effort – from the bottom up and the top down.
Being comfortable on the ball and learning where to go when you don’t have the ball is part of that long term player development. Players will never be comfortable on the ball as long as parents and coaches keep yelling "Kick it!" every time a child has the ball. At the U-6 and the U-8 age groups, the comment from the touchlines needs to be "DRIBBLE!" Let them make mistakes as they learn to play on and off the ball. That’s an important part of learning the game – trial and error.
Speed of play is first and foremost mental, then physical and then technical. Playing fast with the ball without a good thought in mind as to what and why you are playing fast is just kick ball dressed up in a soccer inform. Coaches and parents, to help our American players improve their speed of play, understand that it is really about decision making. So coaches, teach your players how to think for themselves. In this way our speed of play will increase tactically as well as technically.
How to support on either side of the ball begins at the U-8 age group in partner play. Then at the U-10 age group, let’s work more in groups of three and start intentionally playing in triangles. The number of players and the group shape around the ball gradually become more complex as they age.
Winning is a good thing. Striving to win is a better thing and winning with a good style of play is the best. We do want to try to win the matches we play, but not at the expense of how we play. That means Fair Play, it means letting players explore with new skills and tactics and it means keeping winning and losing in perspective. On this notion, here’s a thought; a poorly played win is worse than a well-played loss.