Since the inception of Possession with Purpose one of my goals was to try and develop a strategic set of indicators that can be used to assess team performance in both attacking and defending.
The idea that it would garner the global interest that it has is unexpected – since publication the approach has been presented at the 2014 World Conference on Science and Soccer and the accompanying academic paper is scheduled for publication later this year through Routledge. Needless to say I’m pretty ‘chuffed’ with those results.
But here’s the thing – I didn’t create my analytical approach for publication, I created it to be used by those who teach/coach the game of soccer to our youth.
Bottom line for me is an approach like this is intended to reinforce two things – 1) soccer is more than a sport it’s a passion, and 2) there really is more to this team sport than simply scoring goals. And our youth will never – ever – get better if all they think about is being the one player who scores the goal!
So where am I going with this?
Over the course of the last three years I’ve been approached by three different youth organizations, or coaches who coach youth soccer. In those discussions the coaches wanted to take my approach and apply it to their team. Needless to say I was interested in how those efforts took place and offered that I would publish an article, at their behest, to document their observations (un-edited) on the approach and how they gained value from the approach.
So that said, Mr. Carr has provided me this feedback for your consideration. What follows below is a direct quote from his document he sent me today:
I’d been keeping rudimentary statistics for my son’s club teams since his last season of U9 Academy. At first it was something I did because of my interest in sports statistics, and it kept me occupied during games instead of getting too engrossed in the game like some parents get.
But the stats I was collecting weren’t telling me anything other than what was obvious: goals, shots, etc. Then I read Chris’ Possession With Purpose, specifically in his blog post, “Getting Better as a Youth Soccer Coach”. In my son’s second U10 season I began to track events in the game as stated in that article and was able to not only track more events during games, but was able to identify trends in our own team as well as the opponent for future reference.
I track each game live (no video review) so I may miss an event here or there, but it doesn’t really affect the overall trends. I share each game’s stats with the coach after each weekend, and also when I identify any trends that he might find useful in what he instructs. He loves the information and builds elements of it into his training plans.
For example, when I first started tracking I noticed we were letting too many pass completions in our defending third and he worked more on defensive positioning, anticipating passes and closing down defenders to some good results. He can also see how the stats correspond to what he observes during the game.
We don’t share the information with players because they’re too young to really grasp it yet, and he feels it interferes with them focusing on the important items of individual player development (touches, foot skills, patterns of play, etc.) For older youth players it may have more value to the players themselves. We mainly use it to identify points to work on and to establish a general style of the opponents we play for future reference.
It hasn’t been shared outside of our team yet because I wanted to get enough data first to see how it worked with our team. I do share with a couple of parents on our team who are stat junkies like me and they like what it shows. Sometimes it tells a story that contradicts what they saw at the game themselves. The great thing about PWP is that it’s team based — even though I track individual stats they aren’t the focus; it’s the team stats and trends that reveal the most about each game and season.
What I’ve been able to determine from our team over roughly 30 games is that total possession and passing accuracy don’t mean as much as you’d think in terms of determining a win versus a loss. For our team it’s final third penetration (pass attempts and completions in that third) as well as limiting too much possession in your own third. If your final third penetration (number of pass completions in final third divided by total pass completions) is 20% or above, you have a really good chance of getting a result in the game.
The former stats are important, as in you’d rather possess than not, but it’s not the tell-all stat that most think of when they watch halftime stats on TV. My son’s team has moved from a season of 6v6 at U10 to 8v8 at U11, but the overall trends are basically the same, even with the addition of two players on the field and larger field dimensions.
I’m hopeful that others will take the thoughts offered, and analytical approach used through Possession with Purpose, and build from it.
And while some may think the outputs stemming from Possession with Purpose can’t be used, at the very highest level of domestic soccer in the United States, be advised – it’s not true.
You can follow me on twitter @chrisgluckpwp
I also co-host the YellowcardedPod as well as the Rose City Soccer Show, and appear, monthly, on Soccer City PDX, the local Comcast Sports Northwest TV show covering the Portland Timbers.