When I was a Soccer Youth Head Coach, in England and America, I sometimes struggled with how to manage the well-intentioned, high level of energy, that parents and/or guardians brought to the Soccer pitch.
At that time I hadn’t concieved my Possession with Purpose analytical approach, but if I had, I would certainly have followed it.
Why, because I think and feel there is great value in understanding some of the basic activities of soccer, mesauring those activities, and using those results to drive improvement. And the earlier in the development of soccer the better in understanding that while this game is measured by wins, draws, and losses, it isn’t just about scoring goals – it’s about preventing them too.
If you’re an aspiring soccer Head Coach, new or old, I think this approach in leveraging parents/guardians to help you help the team is a great step towards getting better.
If that resonates with you, or even if it doesn’t, I think it’s worthy you take a few minutes to consider what I offer.
Before digging in, you should know up front, this entire approach works from my Strategic Possession with Purpose Family of Indices; the same analysis offered up at the 2014 World Conference on Science and Soccer.
And the same analysis used to evalute professional team performances within Major League Soccer, the English Premier League, the Bundesliga, La Liga, World Cup 2014 and the UEFA Champions League.
The End State is to measure team performance – ignoring results (points in the league table) in order to track and trend (analyze) individual and team performance with the intent of driving towards improvement.
In statistical terms the relationship (correlation) of my analyses (the Composite PWP Index to Points in the League Table) without counting points is (R2) .86.
In other words 86% of the time my own Index reflects the outputs in the League Table without counting points.
AND…. 86% of the time the winning teams execute the steps within PWP better than the losing team!
With that said here’s what to do.
- Split the pitch into thirds and place one parent at the entry point into your own defending final third and one at the entry point into your opponent’s defending final third.
- Next, place two parents at the middle of the pitch.
- Then place one parent at or near the end line on your defending side of the pitch and then one parent at the same position on the opponent’s defending side of the pitch.
- Give each parent a clipboard and pen (waterproof if necessary) and have them begin to count and keep track of certain ‘team’ data points.
- The two parents in the center of the pitch are to count and document (all) passes attempted and passes completed for each team (throw-ins and free kicks included) across the entire pitch. If you have four parents then have two track passes attempted and two track passes completed, one for each team.
- The two parents at the entry to the defending final third are to count and document passes attempted and completed (within and into) the defending final third for each team. This also includes all throw-ins, crosses, corners and free kicks that are not specific shots taken on goal. If you have four parents/guardians then have one each track passes attempted and passes completed separately for each team.
- Finally, the two parents on the end lines are to count and document shots taken, shots on goal, and goals scored for each team.
At the end of the game you will have a complete data base (by volume and percentage) that gives you the information to identify your team’s possession percentage, passing accuracy, penetration per possession, ability to generate shots per penetrating possession, what percentage of those shots taken were on goal and what percentage of those shots on goal that scored goals (your team attacking).
And since you collected data on your opponent you will also have all the data on how well your opponent did in those same categories against you (your team defending).
Pretty much meaning you’ve just captured the ENTIRE bell curve of activities I use to measure team performance at the very highest level in the World.
With that data you can now determine, analyze, and document/chart/track ways to improve your attacking as well as defending team performances. And as each game occurs you continue to build a data.
This information is then used to help you develop new training plans that look to help the team improve where weaknesses exist.
I do not recommend keeping track of individual performance unless you have enough parents and players who are mature enough to deal with individual weaknesses.
This approach should have application at any level of soccer – to include premier, as well as select, recreational, ODP or elsewhere. As a matter of opinion, I’d offer the closer you are to a higher level of play the more important this approach becomes.
Outcomes from this approach give data to set targets for improvement and the ability to measure the success in that improvement.
In addition, this approach also reinforces that Youth Soccer Development is not all about winning, it’s about getting better while trying to do the things teams need to do in order to win.
If any team wishes to take on this challenge, as a youth club, anywhere in America, send me your data and I will give you one month of analysis that includes preparing products I develop in my analysis of professional football clubs.
I may even publish those products, as examples, for others to learn from in future articles.
And if you are located in the Portland or Beaverton area send me a note and I will make every effort to visit a training session, and or game, to help better explain this approach.
Finally, my general analysis may also include some recommendations on what training plans/programs may help focus your team on key areas to improve.
Bottom line at the bottom:
There is value in understanding and tracking the basic activities that occur in a game of soccer. It not only helps the players understand their larger role in this team game it also helps the parents understand the greater detail and responsibility you have as a coach to help others get better as a ‘team’.
In case you missed it; this year four Head Coaches from teams who finished near or bottom on the CPWP Strategic Index have already been sacked in MLS:
And last year five of the six worst teams in performing the PWP steps had the Head Coaches sacked!
Pretty compelling evidence that teams who perform better have Head Coaches who last longer… if you want to have success as a Youth Head Coach then I strongly suggest you adopt the measurement methods and analysis associated with PWP; with or without using Parents/Guardians.
If there are every any questions please feel free to contact me through Linked-in or through twitter; my twitter is @chrisgluckpwp.
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NOTE: Updates for the Red Bulls v DC United and Sounders v Dallas match are at the end of the article.
The Predictability Index itself is the CPWP Index data minus Goals Scored / Goals Against and is split into two diagrams – Home Predictability versus Away Predictability.
Here’s the CPWP Strategic Predictability Index for teams at Home:
Here’s the CPWP Strategic Predictability Index for teams Away from Home.
Note the significant differences in how the teams are predicted to perform at home versus on the road; four teams really sucked at home this year, while four teams were expected to perform quite well on the road.
Here’s how it works; I will compare the two digit number of the home team with the two digit number of the away team.
Whichever number is higher it’s that team which is predicted to win… again… based upon their history of team performance in overall attacking and defending, exclusive of goals scored; this year.
And now the PWP Predictions:
FC Dallas versus Vancouver Whitecaps matchup. FC Dallas at Home (0.00) while Vancouver on the Road (-.11) FC Dallas wins.
FC Dallas key indicators are ceding possession and creating quick counter-attacking scenarios that use time and space created by Vancouver being too aggressive in attack.
Vancouver key indicators are maintaining patience in possession and not losing position in defending – they are one of the top defending teams in MLS; they will need to be at their best to beat Dallas.
Next up; New York Red Bulls versus Sporting Kansas City. New York at Home (0.10) while Sporting Kansas City on the Road (0.05) New York wins.
New York key indicators are their attack from a number of different angles. They are simply one of the top attacking teams in all of MLS – they need to attack, attack, attack, and hope, with all their hope, that they can keep Sporting KC from scoring a goal.
Sporting KC key indicators are their ability to defend; they are still one of the best defending teams in MLS. If they can control the wide open attack, I’d expect from New York, and their propensity for fouling in their own defending final third, I can see some individual talent from Zusi or some set-pieces giving them the edge to win.
Columbus Crew versus New England Revolution. Columbus Crew at Home (0.06) while New England on the Road (-0.08). Columbus wins game 1. Columbus Crew on the Road (0.06) while New England at Home (0.23) -> New England wins game 2. I offer Columbus advances over New England on away goal difference.
Columbus key indicators include being one of the most consistent teams in overall attacking and defending team performance in MLS – with this being a two game set I’d imagine consistency in attacking and penetration as well as consistency in defending the danger spaces will see them through.
New England key indicators are slightly changed with Jones on the pitch – his leadership may give the edge to a Revolution team who are, in my opinion, outgunned in almost every other category. They are a big under-dog in my opinion but not everybody rates Columbus as strongly as I do…
Real Salt Lake versus LA Galaxy. Salt Lake at Home (0.33) while LA Galaxy on the Road (0.12). RSL wins game 1. LA Galaxy at Home (0.19) while Salt Lake on the Road (-0.01). LA Galaxy wins game 2. I offer LA Galaxy advance over Real Salt Lake on away goals difference.
Salt Lake key indicators include, as noted, a stingy defense at home and a propensity to win in Rio Tinto. They also have pedigree not unlike LA Galaxy, and perhaps an even more veteran line-up when it comes to big games. Lest we forget Salt Lake could have done much better last year and didn’t – they will have added energy that might surpass the emotions LA bring with them in pushing to help Donovan raise the Cup once more.
LA Galaxy key indicators are pace, possession, penetration and all around purpose that operated at peak performance for almost the entire year. It should be noted that they didn’t collect the silverware last week and in all likelihood they could stumble here as well as they may look past Real and consider the Cup is theirs… So arrogance is an enemy as is the continued lack of mental awareness by Gonzalez…
More to follow after the games midweek after seeing who qualifies to play Seattle and DC United…
As for my own personal predictions I can see New York advancing as well as FC Dallas but the Vancouver defense is very good as is the Sporting KC defense.
I will go with Sporting over New York and Vancouver over FC Dallas because I think those team defenses are better – and for me it’s all about defense.
With respect to Columbus – I agree with my PWP Prediction model for that game as well as the game between LA and RSL… and in this case I also happen to think the defenses for Columbus and LA are better.
More to follow:…
Seattle Sounders at Home (.22) while Dallas on the Road (-.20). Seattle wins when playing at Home. FC Dallas at Home (.00) while Seattle on the Road (-.04). FC Dallas wins at home. Seattle advances on away goals difference.
For me, I can see Seattle beating FC Dallas at home and on the road. Dallas may be a bit tired for game 1 and the Predictability Index hasn’t been built to address ‘tired legs’…
At the end of the day this should be a clean sweep for the Sounders…
DC United at Home (.03) while New York on the Road (-.03). DC United wins at Home. New York at Home (.10) while DC United on the Road (-.08). New York wins at Home. New York advances on away goals difference.
For me I can see a clean sweep here as well – it may be surprising but I can see New York, riding the wave of Phillips and, most likely, the last season for Thierry Henry, all the way into the Finals. This is not intended to diss DC United.
They are a very good team but somehow I don’t see the ‘tired legs’ syndrome impacting the Red Bulls as much as Dallas… too much at stake for a team that has invested huge money in their players and program.
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For many years Total Shots Ratio has plodded along as a good indicator of team shooting performance, not overall team performance, but shooting performance.
It’s a good enough indicator that its found its way into generic match reports for professional soccer teams and has good visibility on Opta – a well recognized soccer statistics company now owned by Perform Group.
But with all that publicity and ‘useability’ that doesn’t make it ‘right’!
Why do I say that?
Within a game of football there are always two teams playing against each other – so team performance statistics should not only take into account what the attacking team is doing – they should also take into account what the opponent is doing to the attacking team.
So what do I mean about modernizing TSR. Most define TSR has simply the volume of shots one team takes versus the volume of shots another team takes. That’s okay but the end state is excluded – the result – a goal scored.
So my new vision of TSR centers around the end state as well as the volume – in other words the equation for Attacking TSR (ATSR) now becomes Goals Scored/Shots Taken and then Defending TSR (DTSR) becomes the percentage of your opponent’s Goals Scored/Shots Taken.
Finally, in looking at how well Composite Possession with Purpose correlates to Points Earned in the League Table I would create Composite TSR (CTSR).
Before getting to the numbers – some history first:
I built Possession with Purpose using this philosophy and if you’ve been following my efforts for the last two years you know that my correlations to points earned in the league table are extremely high… To date:
- MLS 2014 = .86
- Bundesliga = .92
- English Premier League =.92
- La Liga =.91
- UEFA Champions League =.87
So let’s peel back the regular way TSR correlates to Points earned in last year’s MLS – when viewing the old way (Total Shots only as a percentage for both teams) the Correlation Coefficient “r” for the entire league was .32.
My new way of calculating CTSR with the End State of Goals scored has a correlation coefficient “r” of .75
Far higher… now for some data.
Here’s the correlation of the my new TSR Family of Indices shows with respect to Points Earned in the League Table – the same analyses used with respect to CPWP above:
- MLS 2014 ATSR .74) DTSR (-.54) CTSR (.75)
- Bundesliga ATSR (.53) DTSR (-.41) CTSR (.68)
- EPL ATSR (.86) DTSR (-.35) CTSR (.76)
- La Liga ATSR (.88) DTSR (-.77) CTSR (.92)
- UEFA ATSR (.64) DTSR (-.40) CTSR (.65)
Like CPWP the correlations vary – in four of five competitions the CTSR has a better correlation to points earned in the league table – while in one case (the EPL) ATSR has the best correlation.
So how do the numbers stack up for some individual teams when evaluating ATSR, DTSR, CTSR, and CPWP compared to those teams points earned throughout the season?
In other words what do the correlations look like (game to game) through the course of a season for sample teams within each of those Leagues?
In almost every sample TSR (now ATSR) has a lower, overall correlation to a teams’ points earned in the League Table than CTSR (Borussia Dortmund and Barcelona being the exception) – this pattern follows the same pattern seen with CPWP almost always having a higher correlation than APWP and Goal Differential almost always having a higher correlation than Goals Scored.
I’ve also taken the liberty of highlighting which Composite Index has the best correlation to points earned between all four categories – in every instance either CTSR or CPWP is higher than TSR. But, as can be seen, sometimes CTSR is higher than CPWP…
What this proves is that there simply isn’t one Index that is far better or far worse than the other – it shows that different teams show different styles that yield better relationships to points earned in different ways —> meaning there is not only room for improvement in current TSR statistics but room for the inclusion of PWP principles within the Industry standard.
I would offer – however – that even when you create CTSR the backbone of that data can’t offer up supporting analyses on how a team attacks or defends. It’s still only relevant to the volume of shots taken and goals scored.
And while the volume of shots on goal and goals scored appears to be a constant across most competitive leagues (average greater than 5 and 2 respectively for teams winning on a regular basis) the average of shots taken for winning teams is not as constant… (Expected Wins 4) —> why I favor PWP over TSR – nothing personal – just my view…
I’m not sure I did a good job of comparing what I view as the old way to calculate TSR (the way that ignores the End State of Scoring a goal) and how an update to it can help tell a better story that actually correlates better to the complexities of soccer.
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In my previous series on Expected Wins Four – probably more appropriately entitled “Expected Points” – I’d taken a look at how the general tendencies of four primary Leagues in Europe (England, Germany, Spain, as the UEFA Champions League) compare to Major League Soccer – Is European Football Really Higher Quality than Major League Soccer?
This time I’m focusing strictly on Europe and offering up how things stand in PWP with the season coming to a close soon. But before digging some things to share about PWP to date:
A reminder – PWP is about two things:
- The End State in that the final Index comes as close as possible to the League Table without using points earned in any of the calculations, and
- Recognizing that soccer is a game that is played in a free flowing environment – picture two amoeba fighting against each other in a confined space…. There is attempted control by the Head Coach that includes tons of preparation to set the stage for ‘an approach’ to earn three points – and then there is the game itself where there is but one time out (halftime) – no namby pamby huddles or official stoppages of play between possessions. Meaning these guys play a full-on, in your face (sometimes literally), non-stop, constantly thinking and reacting to the game that can literally see the ball go in any direction at any time… not purely random but close.
Given that, PWP attempts to tone down all that volatility and parse out general tendencies that fall within the bell curve of activities – it’s not perfect – but it’s bloody good… and yes – I have made a few mistakes along the way (if you don’t work you don’t make mistakes). The latest has been a technical mistake – the relationship of CPWP to the League Table is not an R Squared number (Coefficient of Determination) it is an R number (Correlation Coefficient).
For the stats followers that may be an issue… but even with the Modernized TSR (read here) the CTSR “R” is still generally lower (team to team) and certainly lower (table to table) than CPWP – meaning there still remains room for both statistical analytical approaches in a gmae that is played across the world…
Also, my thanks to some great research by Rob Lowe, a mate with the same passion for footy, who has asked to collaborate with me in the future. He has done some additional regression analysis on the data points of PWP with respect to goals scored and points earned. I should point out that his results show that not all six of the data points in the PWP equation independently-directly relate to goals scored or points earned. For me that is okay – and actually great news for a few reasons…
- Both of my two new statistics (Passes Completed in the Final Third per Passes Completed across the Entire Pitch – Step 3 of PWP) and (Shots Taken per Completed Pass within and into the Final Third – Step 5 of PWP) did statistically relate to Goals Scored and Points Earned (independently). Meaning those new statistics are relevant – both within the context of PWP and outside the context of PWP. It’s this statistical regression type information that should solidify these two new statistics in the world of soccer.
- For both Possession (Step 6 of PWP) and Passing Accuracy (Step 5 of PWP) – as you will see a bit later – those two derived data points were never supposed to directly (independently) relate to goals scored or points earned as a matter of course I have advocated for quite some time that they shouldn’t. PWP was built with the intention that the six derived data points only needed to relate to each other in a stair step relationship recognizing that in every game a team needs to possess the ball, move the ball, penetrate the opponent’s final third, take shots based upon that penetration, put them on goal, and score goals – all while preventing the opponent from doing the same thing.
- Another view on the outcome that Rob has noted – it’s unreasonable to analyze a game of soccer without taking those activities into account. Rob’s positive feedback was that both possession and passing accuracy act as a “smoothing agent” within the Index – I agree but with beginning to learn the nuance of writing an Academic Paper I would put it this way.
- Possession and Passing Accuracy stats have limitations when vewing overall regression analysis relative to goals scored and points earned – but those limitations actually give the overall analyst of soccer a much better understanding about the context of activities that occur when a team is performing better than another team.
- In addition, Passing Accuracy statistics provide a coach a great measurement tool for how well some players may develop and progress into higher levels of competition – to exclude data of this import really ignores some of the most fundamental training aspects a team needs to do in order to improve.
- Also, there is excessive volatility in the percentages associated with Shots on Goal versus Shots Taken and Goals Scored versus Shots on Goal – if I only look at those two things then evaluating a game is all about (pass-fail) – granted winning and losing is pass-fail. But to develop a “winning culture” a grading system perhaps more appropriate is A-B-C-D-F – in other words there are levels of success above and beyond pass-fail – especially when you are a team that isn’t at the very top of the league.
- By having Possession and Passing Accuracy in the equation you get a much larger (explanatory) picture on the culture of success – and as things appear to take shape, the Index itself, gives better clarity to that level of success for teams that are mid-table as opposed to bottom dwellers or top performers…
Now for the grist in Europe – first up – England:
Note that the first two diagrams (in each four diagram grouping) highlight where the highest quantity and highest quality occurs within each competition – after some growing pains (earlier Expected Wins measurements) all four competitions now see the teams that win having the highest averages, in all categories, for both quantity and quality… proving (for the most part) that more is better and more results in more…
All told the correlation, at this time, remains very strong – note that the “R” has replaced the “R2” in my third and fourth diagrams.
If I remove Possession and Passing Accuracy from the CPWP Index – the R value drops to .78 – statistically reinforcing that the Index, itself, better represents the standings in the League Table by including Possession and Passing Accuracy data. Proving yet, another way, that goals scored and shots taken simply do not provide adequate depth on what activities occur on a pitch relative to earning points in the League Table! And if you’ve read Moderning TSR this doesn’t mean ATSR/DTSR or CTSR doesn’t have value – it does…
As things stand today Chelsea take the League and since Man City, Man United, and Arsenal round out the top four (different orders) in both CPWP and CPWP-PI I’d offer it’s those four that advance to the UEFA Champions League next year. The bridesmaid looks to be a two horse race (Spurs supporters may argue that) between Liverpool and Southampton.
Note that Southampton edges Liverpool in CPWP but that Liverpool edges Southampton in CPWP-PI – meaning when excluding Goals Scored – Liverpool has better quality than Southampton – so for Liverpool it’s more about converting Shots on Goal to Goals Scored – while for Southampton it’s more about getting clean sheets and scoring at least one goal; at least in my view – others may see that differently?
In retracing the earlier discussion on the data within the six steps of PWP – as you can see in both the first and second Diagrams (for all competitions) the Exponential Curve (Diagram 1) and well as Power Curve (Diagram 2) the stair step relationship between the data – point to point – are incredibly high… Even more intriguing is how close those “R2” numbers are for both winning, drawing, and losing… really driving home the point, in my view, just how small the margin of error is between winning, drawing, and losing.
For goals scored (for or against) we really are talking about 5 or 6 standard deviations to the right of the bell curve…
Perhaps the most intriguing issue this year isn’t the FC Bayern story – it’s the lack of goal scoring in Borussia Dortmund – when viewing the CPWP Predictability Index clearly Dortmund is offering up all the necessary culture the team needs in order to succeed – with one exception – goal scoring…. wow!
Another surprise may be Wolfsburg I’d pick them, and Bayer Leverkusen to finish two-three in their League Table – both show pedigree in team performance both with and without considering goals scored…
Barcelona and Real Madrid are locked in for the top team battle – my edge goes to Barcelona. I’d offer more here but I’m simply not up on the La Liga as much as I’d like to be…
UEFA Champions League:
The top eight teams that advanced are identified above – given the general success of CPWP relative to the top eight I’d expect FC Bayern Munich, BArcelona, Real Madrid, and Juventus to advance to the semi-finals.
My first of at least 4-5 Academic Papers is soon to be published – my thanks to Terry Favero for helping me work through this new experience – his support, patience, and knowledge in navigating all the nuance associated with writing an Academic Paper has been superb!
All four European competitions show more gets you more – this was not the case for Major League Soccer last year:
When more gets you more in MLS then I sense MLS has reached the BIG TIME – until then I think it’s a great breeding ground for Head Coaches that simply can’t get a job with a soccer club that has huge pockets of money.
Put another way – and many may disagree… I think a Head Coach who really wants to challenge their intellectual grit against another Head Coach can have greater opportunity to do that in MLS than they can by Head Coaching most clubs in Europe.
Why? For at least one reason – a Head Coach in MLS really has to do more with less…
Errata – the first MLS slide indicates 654 events – the correct number is 646 events…
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Throughout this three year effort I have always wanted to take time to make time to review the process and look for ways to improve the output while retaining the integrity of the End State (create an Index that matches, as close as possible, the League Table without using points earned).
A critical part of this has always been to ensure that the data points used within the Index had relevance (made sense) to how the game is played.
For three years my data points within Possession with Purpose have been:
- Passes Attempted across the Entire Pitch
- Passes Completed across the Entire Pitch
- Passes Attempted within and into the Final Third
- Passes Completed within and into the Final Third
- Shots Taken
- Shots on Goal, and
- Goals Scored
My new and improved PWP Family of Indices will continue to leverage these relevant data points but I am making a modification with respect to the measurement of quality given those data points. The new modifications end up seeing the overall measurement of PWP being:
- Possession Percentage
- Passing Accuracy across the Entire Pitch
- Passing Accuracy within and into the Final Third
- Percentage of Passes Completed across the Entire Pitch versus Passes Completed within and into the Final Third
- Shots Taken per Passes Completed within and into the Final Third
- Shots on Goal per Shots Taken, and
- Goal Scored per Shots on Goal (times 2)
The two categories making up the new Index composition are highlighted in boldface font…
Well for me – in how PWP has developed – I don’t think I quite captured the mroe significant intent of a team to penetrate (given any style of attack – direct, counter, or short pass type of engagement given conditions on the pitch) nor do I think I really captured the considerable value of a goal scored – in any fashion (be it in run-of-play or via set-piece).
I don’t think this violates the integrity of the general tendency of teams and their behavior – I think it actually better represents the importance (weight) of a goal scored as well as the considerable advantage some teams show in being mroe accurate (in passing) as space on the pitch diminishes.
Finally, in making this adjustment I don’t violate the integrity of the original data points collected – I just am finding a better way to translate that quantity of information into a different output relative to quality.
So how do these changes manifest themselves in the data outputs? I’ll let the diagrams and Correlation of Coefficient (R) speak for themselves.
Major League Soccer 2014: (Before and After)
English Premier League: (Before and After)
Bundesliga: (Before and After)
La Liga: (Before and After)
Major League Soccer 2015: (Before and After)
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.
Are you wondering whether or not the money you are investing, to help your child learn HOW to play soccer, is giving your child the best return?
If you are (perhaps?) these questions may add value in your decision making.
- Does the head coach have a training plan (curriculum) set up for the next year and do they make it available to you?
- Does the head coach have a performance plan set up to measure how well the child progresses as part of their individual training plan?
- Does the head coach keep game statistics like passes attempted/completed both across the entire pitch as well as within and into the attacking final third?
- Does the head coach constantly ‘direct’ (tell/yell at) players on where and when they need to be in certain places on the pitch?
- Does the club, the head coach works for, have a training plan (curriculum) set up for each years’ expected development of the player and do they make it available to you?
- Does the club Coaching Director have a history of dropping by training sessions to assess their head coaches?
- Has the Coaching Director/Club published their coaching philosophy?
- What is more important to you (as a parent) having your child on a “winning team” first, or first ensuring them the best opportunity to develop all their skills, regardless of result?
Now, the less obvious questions.
- Does the head coach offer verbal guidance to players (on a regular basis) during training sessions?
- Does the head coach watch and offer singular words or phrases during a game, to remind players about fundamental thinking they should be performing while playing the game?
- These catchwords or phrases should not be ‘directions’ but key words that have meaning and help support their in-game thinking.
The most frequently used skill by a youth soccer player is not first touch, passing, shooting, running, or dribbling; it’s thinking and making decisions; what I call “mentality”.
In an 80+ minute game your child will probably make as many as 5,000 decisions with about 98% of them occurring while playing ‘without the ball’.
In other words they need to know where to be, when to be, and why to be where they need to be.
Don’t believe that?
Look at it this way.
- In an 80 minute game most youth players average 50 or so touches (time where they possess to control the ball).
- That’s roughly three or four total minutes of possessing the ball – in real time – per player for both teams per 80+minute game.
- Said differently – for roughly 77 minutes during an 80 minute game players are playing soccer without the ball. Every time a teammate or opponent touches that ball during the 77 minutes the child is making a decision on where to be, when to be, and why to be relative to ball location, their teammates and opponents.
- And since 21 other players have an opportunity to touch that ball during those 77 minutes that equals (3 decisions – where, when, and why) times 77 minutes times 21 other players who could be possessing the ball.
- Roughly 4,851 decisions without the ball.
- That doesn’t take into account the decisions the child has to make while in possession of the ball.
A few other thoughts for your consideration.
Fact: When I attended a training session run by the Coaching Director of a local soccer club, associated with the Portland Timbers, he told me that when his team loses (in a Developmental Soccer Academy league) the next weeks’ training is nothing but running.
I watched that training session and he was right – they spent ages running.
- After 45 minutes or so of just running the lads split into 5 or 6 aside teams where two teams played and the third team ran.
- The losing team of the small sided game than ran and that rotation lasted for the rest of the training session.
- At no time did the coach provide any verbal guidance on any aspect of play.
My takeaway was winning is more important to this coaching director than child development.
I would not want my child anywhere near this coach. And yet, he’s the coaching director?
How long do you think a coach in Major League Soccer would last if all their team did was run the following week after losing on the weekend?
To many times I see one or two dominant (athletically gifted) youth players who ‘control’ the ball (and game) through extensive dribbling against other players not as gifted.
What this really means is the other eight or nine field players on the team are simply ‘watching’ that player win them games.
If you happen to be the parent of a player who is athletically gifted, great, but help influence the coach to help them learn team play by playing in other areas of the pitch.
Good scouts will always spot athletically gifted players no matter where they play on the pitch.
The more they learn positions other than the dominant striker position the more prepared they will be to play at the next highest level.
If you happen to be the parent of a player who is not athletically gifted – neither you or your child should give up.
Encourage them to master the mentality part of the game quicker – there is always room for mentally strong players – the greatest example I can offer to local soccer supporters is Jack Jewsbury.
Never blessed with great speed, Jack just seemed to know where to be, when to be and why to be where he needed to be.
Many will disagree – but I’d offer it’s better to have a star player on a team where they don’t always get the ball in the attacking final third and score goals.
The more often a coach relies on one player to win the game the more the coach enables selfish soccer; selfish soccer doesn’t create great team players.
If you’re a parent who pays to have their child trained in soccer, and the coach gets paid for providing that service then you have every right to ask they provide you their training plans and published philosophy.
It would be rude to your child if you didn’t.
Thanks in advance for your patience – this may have been more than you wanted to know?
If you have questions or need assistance let me know. @ChrisWGluck
My thanks to everyone who has supported my web site the last four years!
It’s been a learning experience for me and, I hope, for you too.
As the new year starts I’ve got at least five new articles planned; here’s a quick synopsis on what to expect:
- Following up on Coaching Youth Soccer Part I and Coaching Youth Soccer Part II, I’ll be offering Coaching Youth Soccer Part III – digging into which team statistics to use, why, when, and how to use them. For those who don’t know me these three articles highlight my coaching philosophy into one three word catchphrase “muscle memory mentality“.
- Two new individual soccer statistics: This (may?) be controversial – My intent is to submit two new, professional level, individual, soccer statistics that could transform the player market value system.
Said differently; are private statistics companies, like Prozone Sports, OPTA, and InStat (along with player agents) manipulating the player market value system by ignoring what might be the most logical, intuitive, individual soccer statistics ever?
- Expected Points – An updated version of my previously created Expected Wins series of articles. A follow on to what was offered at the World Conference on Science & Soccer 2017, Rennes, France.
- Expected Goals – A new way to calculate this over-hyped soccer statistic that brings it a bit closer to reality.
- World Cup 2018 Total Soccer Index; to include predicting the winners after round one is complete.
For now, in case you missed one or two, here’s my rundown on the top five articles in each of the last four years.
- World Conference on Science & Soccer 2014 – a power point presentation of what I offered as a guest speaker at this prestigious event. #2 All Time.
- Is European Football Really Higher Quality than Major League Soccer – a look at possession with purpose across Europe as compared to MLS. #5 All Time.
- On Fire – or Can’t Hold a Candle – Are Chicago Fire Burning at Both Ends – a look at Chicago Fire in 2014 and their woes in not winning.
- Possession with Purpose Revised Introduction – my second update to PWP; the most accurate, publicly generated soccer index. #1 All Time.
- Major League Soccer – Week 25 – Portland Finally Show Up
- Possession with Purpose Revised Introduction – two years running in the top five.
- Busting the Myth of Moneyball in Soccer Statistics – my take on the flawed reasoning that individual statistics actually add great value in evaluating player effectiveness. #6 All Time.
- Redefining and Modernizing total Shots Ratio – Debunking TSR – note this statistic has now been shoved to the side. #8 All Time.
- World Conference on Science & Soccer 2014 – two years running in the top five.
- Is European Football Really Higher Quality than Major League Soccer – two years running in the top five.
- US Soccer – Improving College Soccer in the United States – peeling back issues with College Soccer – a topic with a very high visibility rate now. #4 All Time.
- Moneyball 2 – Soccer Statistics Taking it to the Next Level – thoughts and ideas about the next iteration of individual soccer statistics. #7 All Time.
- Training Soccer in America – God Smackingly Obvious Or is It – my first article highlighting my frustrations with US Soccer Youth Development – a topic with a very high visibility rate now.
- Busting the Myth of Moneyball in Soccer Statistics – two years running in the top five.
- Possession with Purpose Revised Introduction – three years running in the top five.
- Porter Pulls out of Portland – Caleb Porter resigns. #3 All Time.
- Updated Possession with Purpose – four years running. Update includes a revision to my Total Soccer Index. Two new algorithmic revisions have the correlation (r) to points earned in the league table exceeding ‘goal differential’; the benchmark statistic of modern day soccer.
- Getting Hot in Portland – On a poor run, Portland Timbers head coach, Caleb Porter publicly humiliates some of his players during post game press conferences – the first article in America projecting he may be out by the end of the season.
- Portland Timbers hire Gio Savarese – Caleb Porter’s replacement; no frills from an MLS shill here – let’s wait till the end of year 1 before drawing any conclusions or over-hyping what he offers.
- It’s not just US Soccer that Needs to Wipe the Slate Clean – The first article offered in the US Soccer media environment that publicly slams mainstream soccer media for inadequate journalism – a topic with a very high visibility rate now.
- I called for Jurgen Klinsmann to be sacked after WC 2014 because his tactics and in-game adjustments weren’t up to snuff. Three years later the rest of the american mainstream soccer media world agreed and Klinsmann was sacked.
- I called for Sunil Gulati to be ‘ousted’ after WC 2014 because his leadership in helping youth development and head coach selection weren’t up to snuff. Three years later the rest of the american mainstream soccer media world agreed and Gulati is out.
- In hindsight – I wonder where we’d be in youth soccer development if we’d have made those decisions three years ago?
- No, I do not favor Caleb Porter as the next US Men’s National Team head coach. I like Caleb, he’s a stand-up guy and always took time to share and listen. That said, in my opinion, he’s not (consistently) good enough at reading in game situations and making tactical adjustments that lead to better performances; the exact same issue I had with Jurgen Klinsmann. .
- I’m hopeful either Eric Wynalda or Steve Gans are elected as the next United States Soccer Federation President; electing Kathy Carter is a NO-GO in my view as there’s perceived ‘collusion’ between MLS and SUM. As a retired Air-Force veteran perception is reality until proven otherwise – some may disagree?
I wish you all the best for the new year.
The Portland Timbers have opened their season no different than the four previous seasons under Caleb Porter – on their back foot. But is there something different about this years’ team that may cause one to wonder how this season ends?
Here’s why – and yes it’s down to statistics. At no time in the previous history of the Timbers have they started so low when it comes to statistical team performance. Evidence for your consideration is provided below:
Note this is big picture – what I feel and think the senior leaders should be viewing to get a feel for how the Timbers are working, as a team, versus the quality and quantity behind those numbers. Have no fear I’ll get there too.. Let’s not kid ourselves – the Timbers have access to this information and much more – so this shouldn’t be new news to the Timbers front office; it should be an early warning sign of a potential earthquake that could shake the foundation of this team.
For now let’s take a look at what this data offers…
So with those big picture stats offered – here’s some deeper grist for grinding the teeth if you’re a Timbers supporter:
Passing volume in total:
Passes outside the attacking final third:
Passes within and into the attacking final third:
Shots on goal:
Percentage of passes within and into the attacking final third:
Percentage of shots taken per completed pass within and into the attacking final third:
Percentage of shots on goal per shots taken:
Percentage of goals scored per shots on goal:
I don’t dig into this part of possession with purpose too much as it’s more relative to betting than anything else. But I do think it’s worthy to show others what the Timbers predictability index offers.
As a reminder the PWP Predictability Index is the PWP Index (minus) all activities relative to a goal scored – a real prediction model does not use the projected end-state data to predict the future end-state – it uses the data leading up to the end-state to predict the future end-state. So all those who track Expected Goals – it’s not a prediction model at all…
Now the tough questions:
Or……… Is Caleb Porter really just tinkering as he prepares the Timbers for CCL and the stretch run through the hot part of the season?
Or……… Is Caleb Porter human, like the rest of us, and he’s scratching his head as much as we are about what isn’t working this year that worked previously?
As a previous youth head coach and general manager I think it’s a little of both – there are times, early in the season, at any level, where it’s worthy to try out different things. An offshoot on doing that is the team gets to gel and work out kinks that are likely to help them take more points as the season progresses – or in the case of the Timbers – not only help them make the top six in the Western Conference but also help them in CCL.
That said I do think it’s worthy to bring up one point about this year versus last year – Jorge Villafana is missing.
I don’t say this to personally dig anyone this year – instead two diagrams for your consideration – on how I think last year is different from this year:
Left fullback area in red for last year – a no go spot for most teams in attack – i.e. where Portland was inordinately strong in defending. Ther ewere games last year where Jorge Villafana had virtually no defensive touches in a game – this year the left fullback position cannot say the same.
So with the opponent now having a complete width of the pitch to use the Timbers defense is stretched – not unnaturally compared to any other team – but unnaturally compared to last years’ team…
And that’s why I think their is considerable cause for concern this year – the Timbers simply don’t have the shut down capability on either wing to decrease the size of the attacking space the opponent has available. And with that normal size of space the opponents are now getting better shots on goal.
Path forward – with Jorge Villafana out I am stead
I don’t have the answer to that question but here’s what my early tea-leaves look like when viewing Possession with Purpose.
Unlike Major League Soccer – parity isn’t present when it comes to this competition.
If you’re a betting person it’s likely one of those top three teams (Brazil, Mexico, or Argentina) are going to win this tournament… provided higher levels of possession and penetration result in more goals scored.
On the other hand – if you’re thinking a team who cedes possession has a chance – then teams like Peru, Colombia, or the United States might finish up top.
The other two odd ones are Venezuela and Chile…
In looking at the overall statistics note that Composite TSR has a lower correlation to points earned than PWP – the point here is that shots, alone, do not tell the story…
Like the European Champions League, Men’s World Cup 2014, Women’s Cup 2015, English Premier League, Bundesliga, and La Liga, total shots do not tell the appropriate story.
The same cannot be said for Major League Soccer – at least not this year…
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