English Premier League – The Best of the Best and All the Rest

A comprehensive championship for Chelsea and while the Blues were singing this year plenty of teams weren’t.

Here’s my statistical tale of the tape in Possession with Purpose – leading off with the most important question – is the Index relevant, and if so, how and with resepct to what?

EPL COMPOSITE PWP INDEX

The Index speaks for itself – there is simply no greater publicly generated Index that more accurately represents the English Premier League Table (without including points earned) than this Index… a .94 Correlation Coefficient is simply stunning and while I won’t offer the Indices (here) from the Bundesliga or La Liga, both of those Indices ended up showing an “r” of .94 and .93 respectively.

 

Need to fix the typo………..  should be “r’ instead of “r2″….

Soccer in the United States is Getting Better

Some may disagree with this but I sense it’s true – not just from what I’ve seen but statistically as well.

At no point in the history of Major League Soccer have we seen more teams win with more controlled possession; a trend occurring in Europe (in the strongest domestic leagues) a swell as internationally during the World Cup.

For me

As each year passes better coaching, better analyses, better scouting, and better money is finding its way into Major League Soccer; nevermind that some of the better coaches are finding there way out too… Martinez, Berhalter, and Marsch to name a few.

I’d also offer the base of the training pyramid is starting to get better.  Having recently attend USSF coaches training I can offer the ‘play – practice – play’ approach is working; at least from my first person view.

No longer do we see pedantic ‘drills’ set up in a non-soccer playing environment.  It helps no-one to teach a player how to turn the ball if they don’t get why, when and where that turn is best suited.

Improving Possession with Purpose

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:

  1. Passes Attempted across the Entire Pitch
  2. Passes Completed across the Entire Pitch
  3. Passes Attempted within and into the Final Third
  4. Passes Completed within and into the Final Third
  5. Shots Taken
  6. Shots on Goal, and
  7. 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:

  1. Possession Percentage
  2. Passing Accuracy across the Entire Pitch
  3. Passing Accuracy within and into the Final Third
  4. Percentage of Passes Completed across the Entire Pitch versus Passes Completed within and into the Final Third
  5. Shots Taken per Passes Completed within and into the Final Third
  6. Shots on Goal per Shots Taken, and
  7. Goal Scored per Shots on Goal (times 2)

The two categories making up the new Index composition are highlighted in boldface font…

Why?

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)

 

 

US Soccer – The State of College Soccer in our United States

Editorial.

I’ll open by first acknowledging that there are many superb things going on with soccer in this country – it’s grown – not by inches in the last few years – but by leaps and bounds.

And a huge amount of that growth is down to the owners, of not just MLS teams, but those looking to bring the sport to cities through NASL, USL, and other Club level Leagues…

That said, it’s takes Two to Tango and the collective ‘we’ representing the other ‘one’ are the supporters of soccer/football in this country.  It’d be rude not to recognize how much the collective ‘we’ bring to this country in following, with their hearts, the best individualized-team sport in the World!

But, alas, with strength comes weakness – and with all that growth I would offer there is some irrational thinking occurring within umbrella of College Soccer in United States.  To begin…….

College Soccer – NCAA Rules and Regulations versus that of US Soccer and the rest of the World:

First off, being going all negative, it’s still a good thing that the NCAA provides an organized style of soccer – that’s not the issue – the issue is the inane rules and regulations governing the sport and how that not only affects plaeyrs, but coaches and, yes, referees.

I’ve heard there may be as many as 1,100 organized teams in the NCAA; that’s huge for the sport in general but what about the environment in which they play?

With roughly 1,100 organized teams that’s about 25,000 soccer players/students who are learning to play a tactically flawed game given current substitution rules.

This is not supposition, through interviews with a number of Head Coaches, to include those in MLS, NPSL, PDL, and College Soccer, they indicate the style of soccer played in College simply does not match that of the professionals.

Why?

The high volume of substitutions and the ability of a player to actually come off the pitch, get a rest, and then go back on!

And that higher frequency of player rotation results in at least three separate issues.

First and foremost is the common style of play that occurs when teams have substitution capacities that exceed what is required for the rest of the World.

Games played are frenetic, fast paced, high pressure events (across almost the entire length of the pitch) that end up resembling direct-ball festivals where long passes are the norm and results of those long passes mean a constant barrage of deflections, rebounds, 2nd chance balls.

In other words there’s minimal tactical nuance (time and space) for players to really master critical skills they’ll need when trying to transfer to the professional ranks.

In addition, it also means that College Soccer Coaches are always forced to try and run the same tactical approach/system – leaving them no room to grow and experiment with different tactics and strategies.ends up driving the tactics of the game towards frenetic play – with no concerted possession-based attacking.  Put another way – the style most often seen in College Soccer is direct play, (long passes) that result in deflections, rebounds, 2nd chance balls and disrupting tackles that often turn into rough tackles resulting in injury or suspension.

If you want to visualize a game like try to get your hands on the Seattle Sounders vs Portland Timbers US Open Cup game last night – great result for the Timbers but a blindingly poor result in trying to sell the beauty of soccer in this country.

Even College Coaches interviewed have expressed concern with trying to tactically manage teams (that need to win) in styles that go against other previous training outside of the College environment.

So why would it be good for the development of US Soccer or the NCAA (a learning environment) to have upwards of 1,100 clubs with as many as 28,000 soccer players, 44,000 coaches (both Head Coaches and Assistant Coaches) plus (perhaps?) 20,000 Referees operate in a constrained environment that completely ignores how the rest of the World plays soccer?

I’m not sure – but a few more thoughts from another angle.

As USL, NASL, and other Professional Leagues and Clubs begin to develop more players, outside the structure of the NCAA College Soccer, the ability of students (players) playing College Soccer, and then transferring to the professional ranks, will get smaller and smaller.

Meaning a potential hot-bed for talent will see fewer and fewer highly qualified coaches resulting in a lower educating environment that will drive the creation of more players with lower quality skills – with an end state that will enhance an even worse tactical style of play.

Consequently there will be less value from those 1,100 teams, 28,000 players, 4,400 coaches and 20,000 Referees… basically translating to an idea that if NCAA College Soccer continues to ignore US Soccer and FIFA rules and regulations they will become extinct.

Here’s a different question…

If the NCAA is really about educating and helping students better prepare themselves for the professional ranks of their chosen field then I think it’s about time the NCAA reorganize and educate/help their students prepare for professional soccer; if that’s a chosen professional intent.

And, if US Soccer is really about promoting the growth of soccer in America then they should begin asking tougher questions of the NCAA and how (they) intend to plot a future business plan that not only fits into qualifying as an Official Amateur League(s) but ones that can then join the likes of everyone else as they compete for the US Open Cup.

College is, after all, a learning environment – and what better way to educate the players/students about professional soccer than to have them play by those rules?

USL – Competition versus Development:

I get it – the development of USL is a good thing – and so is a more competitive environment for MLs teams to develop players in an effort to make them “MLS ready”

But after conducting a number of interviews with teams in the USL, these past few months, I’ve reached the conclusion that there are two types of teams in this league.

Teams, whether well-intentioned or not, are either 1) set up to compete with the intent to make a profit and eventually get promoted (if you will) to MLS versus teams or 2) set up to develop players for either a) the MLS first team, or b) to loan and/or sell-on as a way to try and turn a profit in a sport where profits are really hard to come by.

For example, when one team was interviewed a few weeks ago they offered that when playing “MLS team #2 type team” the player personnel fluxuated considerably – in other words sometimes you’d get players who are really trying to ‘develop’ versus players who are not regulars on the first team but do fit into the ‘first 18’.

Meaning that some USL ‘competitive teams’ are not playing the same level of quality players in “MLS team #2 teams” as other ‘competitive teams.

So while USL shows all the trademakrs of being a highly competitive league that has equal status as a US Soccer “League Division 2”; it’s really not what’s it’s advertised to be.

I don’t offer this as a negative to MLS franchises – they are merely trying to set the right conditions to get younger players the best competitive environment as possible – the problem is – not all MLS teams treat their ‘team #2 teams’ the same way.

US Soccer – US Open Cup:

US Soccer uns the US Open Cup that is not “open” —> it’s geographically controlled where zones have been created to filter and drive specific match-ups.

The US Open Cup permits (in essence) non-competitive (more development like) MLS team #2 teams to participate, and part of that participation means (outside of the final US Open Cup) a ‘team #2’ cannot compete with a ‘team #1’.  What’s open about that?

In essence what US Soccer is allowing for is Arsenal the opportunity to play the Arsenal Reserves in the English FA Cup Final at Wembley stadium… WOW!

That’s like ignoring the fact that Formula 1 teams don’t try to ensure their #2 driver doesn’t get more points than their #1 drive if a win in that race secures a Championship for the #1 driver… go figure?!?

It also means that if the two organizations get both their teams in teh US Open Cup semifinals the ‘team #1’ has to play the ‘team #2’ of the opponent in the Semi-final…. again not an ‘Open Cup’ kinda competition.

The US Open Cup is one of the oldest competitions in the United States – and it beggards belief that today, with all the professional soccer on TV we have yet to see US Soccer secure either 1) a significant sponsor, and 2) a TV contract.

What could be better for soccer in the United States than a televised fourth round match (on national TV) between a team like the Pittsburgh Riverhounds and DC United?  Or for that matter, what could be better for US Soccer than to see a 4th round match between Seattle and Portland ( a potential Final match) that occurs in the 4th round?

Seems like a very good and very reasonable way to really promote the growth and development of Soccer in US Soccer!

US Soccer – Foreign Nationals:

What is the point of foreign player limitations in this country if this country is built on the fact that competition, free enterprise competition, is the foundation for capitalism?

It’s like the US Government telling Ford Motor Company, or Boeing, Nike, or Intel that they can only employ “x” amount of foreign employees in the United States and that anything greater than “x” must be filled by Americans… how long do you think that would last?

It simply isn’t reasonable that teams in any professional league in this country are hamstrung to employ a minimum number of ‘americans’ – especially when the only real American source for soccer players gets its foundation from Colleges – where the NCAA doesn’t even play by the same rules as the rest of the Soccer World.

I don’t propose to have all the answers but in my view, I would suggest US Soccer and the NCAA take a REAL HARD LOOK at how they govern the world’s greatest individualized-team sport in this Country.

If the INTENT is to develop players to create a “learning” market of soccer that fourishes, not only professionally, but for pride at World Cup type events, in the United States then US Soccer and NCAA have some pretty tough questions to answer when asking themselves how they can get better in order for soccer to get better in this country.

If you’ll notice I excluded mainstream media from this effort – why?

Pretty much because much of mainstream media, for this sport, is behind the ‘educational’ power curve on all the nuance of this sport; (perhaps???) it takes others,  who have a passion and blog about this sport, to really plant the seed for other, more known journalists – like Grant Wahl – to call-out what looks pear-shaped.

Nevermind that some of the major news media outlets still consider Soccer as an “other sport” on their websites —> yet, now, there are more youth playing soccer than any other sport in this country… and no – Ann Coulter is not the answer either; she already proved her ignorance of the sport during last years’ World Cup!

What are your thoughts? 

Best, Chris

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:

Background:

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.

 

 

 

@USSoccer Continues to Fail in Following the Concept that Possession is Nine Tenths of the Law

While many offer the US Men’s National Team needs to be better in attacking, or defending, or showing more “courage” the real issue remains, and always has, one of possession.

If you can’t (mentally and physically) control the game by showing you have solid control of the ball you’ll simply never ever be good enough to win at the very highest levels.

Yes, they are teams who win on the counter-attack – we’ve seen Liverpool, Atletico Madrid, France, Croatia, and others play winning soccer through counter-attacking football.

But each of those teams, when needed, will control the game through controlled possession – coaches and organizations who play that style recognize/understand these basic concepts:

  • The precision and control you need with your first touch in counter-attacking is harder to execute than playing possession-based soccer.
  • The precision and control you need to complete accelerated/difficult passing angles in counter-attacking are harder to create and execute than playing possession-based soccer.
  • If you can’t accomplish those two simple aspects of the game (the most frequently used aspects of the game) in slow motion you’ll simply never-ever be able to accomplish those two simple aspects playing quickly.

In other words it’s HARDER to play creative and effective counter-attacking soccer than it is to play controlled, possession-based soccer.

You can’t be good at “B” until you are good at “A”.

This isn’t rocket science, you don’t need a bunch of statistics to tell you this – all you need to do is watch player movement with and without the ball to see if the current national team squad has the talent, nous, mentality, to play patient, controlled, possession-based soccer.

If they don’t, stop selecting them or retrain them – go back to square one and learn to play the frigging game appropriately.  Even now, as a member of the Portland Timbers Youth Coaching System we are advocating controlled, possession-based soccer by playing from the back.  Professional teams recognize this – why the hell doesn’t US Soccer?

Let me put it another way – the word ‘entitled’ surfaces a lot in our country when it comes to youth soccer – the pay to play program has parents convinced their child is entitled to start/play because the parent pays good money.

The same principle applies to the US Men’s National Team only with a twist…

US Soccer feels and thinks they are ‘entitled’ to play the most dynamic and most difficult style of soccer because they’ve spent an appropriate amount of money on athletes

 

good enough to go directly to playing counter-attacking soccer because they have spent the appropriate amount of money in their program to warrant playing that style; i.e. the knuckleheads running the program think they are ‘entitled’ to play the most dynamic and difficult style of soccer because they’ve paid good money

– players have ‘gone through the system’ and paid good money to get to the level they are – but the overwhelming majority of those players are NOT GOOD ENOUGH to play in Europe.

 

What’s the Latest on Possession with Purpose?

Sorry it’s been awhile since offering up results on Possession with Purpose analysis – I’ll try to put together something here in the near future.

Between now and then here’s a link to my latest efforts in doing podcasts and appearing (monthly) on the TV Show Soccer City PDX:

Yellowcarded Pod (Stephen Brandt and I regularly talk footy with guests ranging across teh entire spectrum of football in the US;  featured guests have included Chris Canetti (President Houston Dynamo), Bill Peterson (NASL Commissioner), Preki, along with a large number of Head Coaches and staff across MLS, NASL, USL, PDL, NPSL, and College Soccer).

Rose City Soccer Show – A panel discussion about the Portland Timbers, panelists include myself, Kip Kesgard, Will Conwell, and our moderator Dan Adams.  We dig deep, tactically and strategically, into the Timbers while also looking to offer a blend of humor to go along with our combined passion about football and the Portland Timbers.

Soccer City PDX – New this year for me is appearing as a TV pundit, along with Kip Kesgard and Will Conwell, on the Comcast Sports Northwest.  Like our Rose City Soccer Show the three of us offer up our thoughts on the latest topics in Soccer City (Portland).  The show, superbly hosted by Dan Sheldon, airs monthly on cable TV, parts of that show can be watched by clicking on the link provided – air time on TV is the first Wednesday of each month throughout the summer.

Statistics Update:

 

Using PWP as a Youth Coaching Tool

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.

In closing:

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.

Best, Chris

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.

 

 

Soccer Parents – Are You Getting What You Pay For?

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?

 

 

Gifted Players.

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.

 

In closing:

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?

Best, Chris

If interested, here’s my approach on Coaching Youth Soccer Part I and Coaching Youth Soccer Part II

If you have questions or need assistance let me know. @ChrisWGluck

Gluck: Fourth Year Anniversary Edition

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.

In Closing:

  • 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.

Best,

CoachChrisGluck