As the first round of the 2016 European Championships are upon us, one of the games I was most excited to watch during the opening weekend was the German National Team opener against the Ukraine. Recently, I read the book "Das Reboot: How German Soccer Reinvented Itself and Conquered The World." I collected some of the most interesting highlights of the book that I found can help in our development of youth players in America.
Belgium Double Pass System and how it changed the Bundesliga Clubs
- Today, Double Pass (via its subsidiary Foot Pass) judges the clubs performance centers on 250 criteria, ranging from infrastructure (minimum requirements of four training pitches, including one made of Astro Turf) to personnel (at least one sporting director with a UEFA A-level license, a minimum of two coaches with a UEFA Pro license, at least on A-level coach, one goalkeeping coach, two physiotherapists), performance diagnostics and the adoption of a uniform philosophy or blueprint throughout the club. Their ratings system follows that of Michelin - three stars signify educational excellence.
- In the initial ratings period, 2007-9, seven Bundesliga clubs were awarded three stars by Foot Pass, the top mark. By 2011, eleven top-flight clubs were rated excellent, and in the latest round of testing (2014), fifteen out of eighteen Bundesliga clubs were awarded three stars. A bonus star is available for performance centers which produce a high number of first team players.
Struggling to score goals
- At the World Cup in South Africa, Germany had converted 37.2 percent of their goalscoring opportunities, more than a third. That figure had fallen to 28.6 percent at Euro 2012. Germany had needed thirty-five chances to score ten goals in that competition....
- Specifically devised training exercises in South Tyrol were supposed to encourage quicker, more decisive shooting. The players were made to score under pressure, in internal competitions, and with a shot clock running. Bierhoff: "When you do something on a daily basis, it becomes a habit and part of your mentality. We had seen before how dangerous it was to play without that final bit of determination to score that goal at all costs.
Finishing is a mentality. Goal scoring is a mentality. Bierhoff said it best. PlayMaker Training focuses on the training habits of players. Repetition breeds success. Good habits breeds success. PlayMaker Training breeds successful players.
Das Reboot on Thomas Muller
- "Muller was to describe what constituted 'a team' as part of his homework. 'Togetherness', 'always fighting' and 'don't grumble if a teammate makes a mistake' were Muller's answers.
- 'Its not easy to find somebody who plays this strangely,' Muller said of his own positional vagueness. 'I'm not great at following orders, I follow my instinct, it's something deep inside.'
- But Low had found thatt he could once again rely on Muller's sixth sense in Brazil. In him, he had a player who never stopped running ('He did a great job up front,' Low said, 'he kept on creating openings for others') and hassling defenders until they lost the ball or their head or both. He never got injured, and, most importantly, he never seemed to feel any pressure. Low: 'He has the unbelievable quality to never choke or show a nervous reaction in front of goal.'
Das Reboot on Jurgen Klinsmann
- 'Are you prepared to suffer to reach the ultimate target? Are you ready to run up and down the pitch once more, fifteen minutes into extra-time? Do you completely identify with your task, are you prepared to sacrifice yourself for the team? Or will you only give 90 percent?' These were not just questions for professional athletes, he says. 'I've always been fascinated by people who find satisfaction through total commitment in their jobs. They could be bakers, painters, or footballers. The painter who comes up with a new color he's truly proud of is as happy as the striker scoring goals. Maybe even happier.'
- Football, he believes, remains a 'player-driven game.' Americans sometimes find that hard to understand, Klinsmann says, because most team sports are considered coaching-driven there. 'You'll often see players look to the coach for direction. But football doesn't work like that, because it's too fluid. You need players to take charge.'
Football/Soccer doesn't have timeouts. They don't have a particular offensive play that you can run. The game is fluid. The game does not stop. This is why having a player first mentality in terms of player development is vital. Is your club developing teams? Or are they developing players? Players must come first, team success will follow.
Sami Khedira on being a PRO
- A key moment in his career was turning up late for the team bus as a teenager and being left stranded. He's been punctual ever since, a fully-paid up defender of the Swabian work ethic. 'You'll never get beyond a certain level as a professional athlete if you're sloppy,' he said. When a serious knee injury at eighteen threatened his career, he read books about leaders in business and politics in order to find the secret of inner strength. 'Successful people have similar strategies. Success always starts in the head.'
Joachim Low's Training Style
- The sessions mostly consisted of short passing games. We had to keep the ball on the ground. Jogi would say it incessantly.: 'I don't want any high and long balls. It's much easier to do something with the ball if you keep it on the ground.'
- With Germany, though, the training games would be stopped every time someone played a long ball. Every single time. There were clear instructions to build from the back, through the two center backs and midfield, and then to move out as a team. Jogi didn't stand for it if somebody didn't follow that plan. Eventually, playing that way becomes second nature to you.
- Teams were most susceptible straight after losing the ball. We concentrated on those moments of transition. It was imperative that we all moved up as a unit, it was just as important as all of us coming back to defend. Those drills were being repeated again and again.
- There was, however, as Schott is keen to point out, no comprehensive master plan for the technical education of Ozil, Gotze etc. 'Some people felt that we should provide a full, binding curriculum of lessons to be taught at the academies. Others said the coaches should be given free rein to allow for individualism and prevent everyone doing exactly the same thing. Those were the two extreme positions. We met in the middle. We came up with a framework of basic objectives that should be met, without being dogmatic. I don't think that was very important, though. The biggest, most decisive effect resulted from the increase of full-time professional youth coaches. In 2000, we had about a hundred, FA and clubs combined. Today, there are four hundred- four hundred licensed coaches who do nothing else but to think about coaching youngsters football every single day. We provide them with platforms of regular meetings, for the exchange of ideas. As they get better and improve, so does their training and the players they develop.'
- 'The football that is being played today has nothing to do with different training plans for a "more modern football."' Schott reiterates. 'It's simply due to talented players at eighteen, nineteen or twenty having enjoyed between 50 and 100 percent more training sessions in their lives than those who came into the league at the same age fifteen years ago. Elite youngsters trained three, at most four times a week. Now it's six to nine times a week, with full-time professionals who don't just happen to know football but can also teach it.
- The biggest, most eye-catching day-to-day change on practice pitches Kersting can attest to is the prevalence of individualized drills: 'Footballers spend nearly as much time on the ball by themselves now as playing with the team.'
The amount of training isn't even close to good enough on the world stage. Our highest boys level, the Development Academy, mandates 3 training sessions a week. Germany did that when they were failing. Now they are training 6-9 times a week. Impossible for American clubs to provide that. That's why outside training is needed. Hence, PlayMaker Training.
The last point is all I care about. The player on the ball. They dictate the game. If they take care of it, we have a chance to win. If they are careless with it, we have a chance to lose the game. Simple.
Foreigners coming into the system and taking spots from German youth players.
- The German FA were initially worried that the clubs would fill their academies with foreign teenagers. They therefore imposed a minimum quota of twelve Germans in any class of twenty. In practice, their fears have proved unfounded. 'Ninety-five percent of all academy players are eligible to play for Germany.' says Schott. It's telling that Bayern Munich, the country's wealthiest and most successful club, stopped scouting for youngsters in South America altogether in 2011, opting to concentrate on the talent coming through on their own doorstep, in Bavaria, instead.
- Two-thirds of all Bundesliga professionals were German in 2013-2014, and more of them than ever before were native youngsters. Sixteen percent of U21 players were on the pitch that season. In 200-01 that figure was 8 percent.
Soccer training in the 21st Century and beyond
- 'Finding new ways to improve a team has become more difficult. But it is possible.' Future increases in the playing tempo are more likely to come from quicker minds than quicker feet, he says. At his clubs, the emphasis has thus shifted yet again, to cognitive training and the optimization of thought process through video analysis and special video games. 'The biggest untapped potential lies withing the footballer's brain,' says Rangnick. 'To get better in the modern game translates into taking in things more quickly, analysing them more quickly, deciding more quickly, acting more quickly. We need to increase the memory space and the processing pace.'
A lot of great content in that book. As you watch Germany play during this summers European Championships, realize that it was a long process. One in which they first realized that there was a problem in what they were doing, and they clearly took the appropriate steps in fixing the problem. Enjoy the 2016 Euros!