Being versatile has always been something to be proud of. It allows you to be a complete soccer player first, positional player second. Being versatile can also be a curse. If you are a player that plays the 10 but can also play the 6, 7, or 11 and the other player that is competing for the 10 spot can only play the 10, you'll be the one that is sacrificed to the 6, 7, or 11 and the other player will be put in the 10.
This week I've been doing 1v1's with nearly every group. This particular 1v1 requires a lot of work and skill to be successful at. It requires having to beat the defender several times in different ways. You have to be able to get behind them AND turn them to be able to score. I have training clips in the NOT FOR EVERYONE video below.
Since this format of 1v1 requires a LOT of hard work, players that are losing tend to give up rather quickly. Twice this week in two different sessions, I had girls that asked if they could QUIT doing the drill once they got down by two goals, we were only playing to THREE. This brings up an entirely different problem that I've noticed throughout my coaching career that I covered in this video linked below from a few years ago. Throughout all of the levels of coaching, ONLY 1 level of female players actually enjoyed 1v1's to the point of calling out teammates to challenge them to the duel.
Now 1v1's are a regular staple at PlayMaker Training but I actually prefer creating a 1v2 environment where the player on the ball has to take on two defenders because in a game there is always a second defender, anyone can push a ball past a player and run by them, but can you keep it from going out of bounds (a second defender)? Can you keep it under control enough so that you can avoid the second defender? We MUST develop players that have the mentality to take players on. Develop players that can take on several players at a time and come out with the ball. Players that shock everyone watching and shout "How the hell did she come out with that?!"
I used to work for a coach that would tell players "there is always a man on." This has always stuck with me in all of my training when player seem to take their time on the ball. "Time" never means take your time.
I constantly talk to my players about having an internal clock in their head about when and where pressure will be coming on them. To me, its much like an NFL quarterback in the pocket after three seconds, eventually, they are going to get killed. To work on this, I often countdown from three seconds when a player receives the ball.
Three seconds.. that can be an eternity on the ball. You can take up to five touches in three seconds. Yet we teach speed of play as playing in fewer touches. This is counterproductive. Some players NEED that extra touch to keep possession. Some players NEED that extra touch to allow their teammates run to develop behind the defender. Yet we brainwash players and drill into their heads that SPEED OF PLAY is playing in one and two touches.
Work on the internal clock. Work on time restrictions on the ball rather than touch restrictions.
Coaches need to make sure that their players know that "PLAYING FASTER" and "PLAYING QUICKER" does not mean taking fewer touches. Sometimes, three touches can be quicker than playing two touches.
It's almost as if being a versatile player that can play in multiple positions is a CURSE. It's a curse because more times than not, the versatile player that can play in multiple positions is forced to play the position of need, rather than their best position.
If you're not versatile, you are usually pigeonholed to your one position and not allowing the versatile player to play the position you play even tho the versatile player may be better at the position, more dynamic, and a better player all around.
This is especially prevalent at the youth level. Being a versatile player is usually not rewarded until the collegiate level.
To me, there are THREE different ways to teach and work on the art of dribbling.
The first, and one I focus on the least, is what I call RUNNING NEXT TO THE BALL. This is when you are dribbling into space and take larger touches into space. Often times, a player takes a touch every 3-4 steps. I think this is honestly the most common type of dribbling that players are comfortable doing.
The second, is what I call RUNNING WITH THE BALL. This form of dribbling is also into space, but where you are taking a touch every step. This is what Cristiano Ronaldo is most commonly seen doing. The focus on taking a touch every touch allows a player to stop or change direction on a dime.
The third, most vital, and least focused on type is DRIBBLING UNDER PRESSURE TO EITHER POSSESS OR PENETRATE. This is used when taking on multiple players in tight spaces where you are trying to MOVE or beat an opponent. The key words there was "MOVE an opponent". Too often, we teach dribbling as beating an opponent to get behind them. What we need to focus on more is the ability to move an opponent to set up a passing, crossing, or shooting avenue. I also considering the ability to properly shield a ball to kill a game off is also this skill. I've lost my love affair with stressing 1v1s and have focused primarily on building confidence with being able to keep possession of the ball with 2 defenders trying to steal the ball from you. The reason its beneficial to work against 2 defenders is because often times, players push the ball too far after beating the first defender, so I always teach to dribble while having the SECOND defender in mind.
So next time you're focusing on dribbling, determine which one you want to work on, and always have the second defender in mind!
I was training a nine year old and they felt that one of the drills was boring. I then asked if they played any musical instruments. They did. I then asked if they ever had to practice the same song over and over again? Then it clicked, yeah like REHEARSAL?
Last year in 2019 I heard about a camp that was 6 hours long and consisted of 4 hours of scrimmaging. What good is that? This is part of the reason why I truly don't support the idea of long day-long soccer camps and often choose not to run one.
I have an inner battle with the idea of Captains Practices for upcoming high school seasons.
On one hand, it fills a void of something that is greatly missing in the American soccer culture that is "Street Soccer" or "Pickup Soccer." They can be a ton of fun and a tool for team building. I remember my very first captains practice, as a freshman goalkeeper I was terrified of some of the shots I was facing from the seniors. Some of them could literally make the ball whistle through the air.
On the other hand, who is running them? What size field are they using? How long are they playing for? Who is and who ISN'T invited? I remember driving by one last year and the numbers had to be 12 v 12 on a full field. I've heard of a local High School having secret captains practices and excluding half of the program this summer.
I believe this is lost time. In Michigan, high school coaches are allowed 15 training days during the summer. When I was an assistant at a particular school, we would take advantage of those 15 days and have over 60 kids getting a meaningful training session in and tons of playing time and it still created a team building environment. If your state doesn't allow you to work with your players, I would instruct players to make smaller games, 6v6, go set up pugg goals on a basketball court somewhere or take over a parking lot. Play futsal. Thats real street culture. Develop a winner stays tournament. Keep stats and keep track of wins throughout the summer. It can be better than 12v12 or even worse, 8v7 on a full field (which I've also seen).
Last year I was training some middle school aged players that are honestly severely behind. They brought up during training how during their middle school soccer season they would have "Fitness Fridays" where the entire day was all fitness.
Now, when I was with varsity programs, at the NCAA Division 1 level, ECNL and DA teams, and at the professional level ABSOLUTELY we would dedicate days to fitness. But these players were middle school players that are behind. They cannot control the ball whatsoever. They have a hard time keeping the ball inbounds. Accidental touches all over the place and the inability to clean up the mess quickly. And yet, a coach will waste an entire training session dedicated to fitness. This is a major problem all over the USA.
I consider myself a soccer teacher. Not a soccer coach. Many coaches will tell a player what to do, when to do it, and where to do it. My focus is to give each of my players the WHY.