Gluck: Coaching Youth Soccer Part III

I’ve waited a few months to put pen to paper on Part III, Coaching Youth Soccer because I wanted some more practical experience in our current environment – especially with the US Men’s National Team not making the World Cup.

For me this gets down to the nitty-gritty on teaching tacticsMore and more we see individual player performance evaluated through the use of individual statistics; so much so that the practice has found its way into youth development.   

I see this as a two edged sword:

  1. Good Side:  There is value in preparing players for professional development and the rigors they will face if they reach the highest levels of the game – video analysis is now part of the game as much as teams measuring player heart rate and kilometers traveled.
  2. Bad Side: There is some value in preparing players for professional development when counting event-based statistics.

Why the bad side?

Decisions made in soccer are constant and only some decisions result in an event-based statistic.

  • Sometimes the tackle not made adds far greater value than the tackle made.
  • Sometimes the shot not taken adds greater value than the shot taken.
  • Sometimes the backward or lateral pass adds greater value than an unsuccessful forward pass.
  • Sometimes the substitution not made is better than the substitution made.

All told, the best types of individual statistics are those that measure decisions made and whether or not they are successful or unsuccessful in preventing the opponent an advantage that leads to a goal.


  • Event-based statistics are an outcome based upon a decision relative to the linear play of soccer where it’s assumed that progress is either measured by:
  1. Forward ball movement
  2. and regress is measured by negative ball movement

As such, I figure my next in the series of Coaching Youth Soccer is discussing statistics.

  • Which and why to use,
  • When, and
  • How to apply them.

In case you missed it here’s my first two articles in this series:


I’m good with some individual statistics, like heart rate, kilometers traveled, finishing (Quality = goals scored per shots on goal) and goals scored (Quantity = number of goals scored).

As for ALL the other individual (event-based) statistics?

After five years of research, NO INDIVIDUAL (EVENT-BASED) SOCCER STATISTIC, outside of goals scored, has EVER had a strong correlation (an “r” > than .4 or < -.4) to points earned in the league table!

Soccer is a game where decision making at the highest levels drives results.

Event-based statistics don’t measure decision making – they measure an event AFTER a decision is made.

Sometimes the lack of an event-based statistic tells more about a player.

Most professional soccer games are made up of 13,500 to 18,000 decisions, per player, per game.

With 22 players on the pitch that’s roughly 300,000 to 400,000 decisions made (by both teams)  not counting the referee, linesmen, or coaching staff.

Opta usually measures about 80 possessions per player, per game.

With 22 players on the pitch that’s roughly 1,760 events occurred (by both teams) not counting the referee, linesmen, or coaching staff.

1,760 events occurred divided by 300,000 decisions made means (potentially) only .59% of the game is truly measured.

Are we measuring the tail of the dog, instead of the dog, when we rely solely on measuring event-based statistics in soccer?

So which statistics should we measure to try and capture what isn’t measured on the soccer pitch?

  • Team wise – these:
    • Possession
    • Accuracy
    • Penetration
    • Creation
    • Precision, and
    • Finishing

These team statistics measure event-based activities that can be used to intuit good or bad decision making in three areas of the pitch, the defending third, the middle third, and the attacking third.

These team statistics measure quality, in other words they intuit success equals a good decision.

These same statistics also provide quantity – the greater the quantity the more likely a team will make a mistake, yes?

The answer, for the most part, is no…  teams that show greater quantity also show greater quality and better results over time.  Why?

Those teams can afford to pay for players who are not only technically gifted but also mentally trained to minimize making mistakes by (consistently) showing greater control of the ball.

When you cede possession you cede control – when you cede control you increase your opportunities of making defensive mistakes that will cost you the game.

When do these team statistics get measured?

Every game – both your team and your opponent.  Possession with Purpose is built on the foundation that both teams play the game – therefore it’s just as important to know the success of your opponent, against you, as your own success against them.

In every instance, in every year and league measured, the difference between the two teams performance measurements has a greater correlation to points earned than either your attacking statistics or your opponent’s attacking statistics.