Best month ever at CBA Soccer Blog

Following our most successful summer of camps ever it seems natural momentum would carry over to the blog. September saw us have the busiest single day in our history and as we close out the month it will go down as our best in the history of the blog as well.

I have received some inquiries about writing a book based on my postings here. I am taking this under serious consideration. I find myself thinking along two different themes for a book. The one most seemed interested is a book on my coaching methodology and theory. Another I am considering is a chronicling of the past 12 years focusing on our 3 sons playing high school soccer.

Our family has almost made it through the final high school season of our youngest son.  Those 12 years have seen some good times in high school soccer. They have seen some very painful times as well. Overall, there can be no doubt our club soccer experiences have far exceeded our high school soccer experiences. That would need to be part of the story as well.

I wish to extend a heartfelt thank you to the readers of this blog.  I tend to use it both to pass along information and as a means to vent my frustrations with soccer related circumstances that arise in our lives. One lasting impression I am struck with is the devout loyalty to one another of our players. There is a deep and lasting bond established on our teams that endures.  Those I have coached know I consider them as extended family. My wife and I refer to them affectionately as our adopted sons. The success of our teams is grounded in the knowledge that we are family and have one another's backs in soccer and in life. 

Committed people view training as an important investment.
Resistant people see training as a dreaded sacrifice.
Jeff Janssen

Garrett Brinkman Scholar Athlete of the Week

Watch the feature on Elida High School and Grand Lake United goalkeeper at the link below


Garrett is fine young man who I have had the distinct pleasure honor and privilege of getting to know through soccer. The video provides a small glimpse of this.

Well deserved honor.

Congratulations Garrett! 

The Commitment Continuum.

I have read several of Jeff Janssen's books and one of the concepts that has really stuck with me is the Commitment Continuum seen above. I have thought back and applied this to teams I played on and to teams I have coached. Janssen has gotten it basically right.  A successful team needs players in the Compelled and Committed ranges.

One train of thought I have followed is the value of the Commitment Continuum in high school sports. In the coaching groups I communicate with via emails this is a fairly constant topic of discussion. In general these discussions center on the value of athletes who come to the first day of practice well conditioned or where soccer falls on an athletes priority list.

Through the course of these discussions my mind has traveled back to the countless hours I spent working on fundamental skills on my own.  At a rather early age I recognized the value of having similarly motivated players on my teams.  I carried these ideas with me when I began my coaching career. One of my first priorities with any team is to identify the self-motivated player.  If a selection process is involved I want as many of these players as possible on my team.

When coaching high school we are often called upon to work with whomever shows up to play. There will be compelled and committed players but also a lot, perhaps a majority, of players who fall lower on the Commitment Continuum. I have found for best results it is prudent to rely on the compelled or committed player over pure athletes who are compliant or existent on the commitment continuum. I will build my teams around the compelled and committed players and fill in the holes as necessary with the remaining players.

For high school teams I tend to give preference for starting positions to the players who also play club soccer.  I choose to build my teams around the soccer players instead of the athletes. It's great when the soccer players are also great athletes, but this is soccer and so we should want those whose priority sport is soccer playing the game. I look at this as valuing game intelligence over athleticism. An athlete may play harder, but the soccer player plays smarter. The soccer player understands the game and need not rely on frenetic play to accomplish what needs to be done. The soccer player is more likely to play in calm and poised manner.

I once had a player on club whose high school coaches openly called him lazy. They complained that he did not often enough run hard nor exert the same amounts of energy as his teammates did. The fact of the matter is, he didn't need to work as hard as his high school teammates because he was always 3 or 4 steps ahead of them in his thinking of the game, his game intelligence. While his soccer teammates were off playing basketball and baseball or running track, this young man was playing an additional 40-50 games of soccer each winter and spring.  Over the course of a high school career that equates to playing an additional 12 high school seasons.  Yeah, I want that experience front and center on my high school teams.

There is no substitution for experience in the game and it is the compelled or committed players who will have the most experience and who will have accumulated the most game intelligence. These are the players who should be the foundation of your team. 


Coaching Tips

Coaches spend a lot of time evaluating individual players, teams, opponents, team shape and systems of play.  I wonder how many of you spend time evaluating your own performance as a coach?  This thought came to mind as I analyzed and evaluated my own recent training sessions.  As coaches we have a responsibility to continually improve upon what we do. How can we realistically expect our student / athletes to put in the time to become better if we ourselves are not willing to do the same?

Seven things that can help you be a better coach:

1)  Have a  defined  Coaching Philosophy

2) Thoroughly plan.  You should have a season-long comprehensive plan outlined for training. Within that plan must be a certain amount of flexibility to allow for varying numbers in attendance at training. Planned progression through techniques and tactics with perhaps 3-5 areas to strongly emphasize throughout the season. Strong elements of continuity and consistency must be present. For example, utilizing the same warmup/stretching routine on a daily basis. Variety must also be present to maintain high levels of concentration and interest.

3) Keep and maintain a Coaching Journal complete with practice plans, reviews of training and notes on individuals, small groups (Goalkeepers, Defenders, Midfielders, Forwards), and the collective team as well as on yourself and the coaching staff. This "self-evaluation" technique can be very enlightening.

4) Learn from the players.  Question and answer sessions that allow players to provide input on identifying problems and on how to solve the problems they encounter on the field can provide valuable insight to use as a coach. It can also help to establish a sense of ownership among the players and when they feel they have a vested interest, players tend to be more committed to the team. 

5) Become a student of the game. Coaching courses, Coaching clinics, mentors, video, books, the Internet are all readily accessible. Invest time in continuing education. The moment you think you know all there is to know about coaching is the time you should walk away from coaching.

6) Ask a fellow coach to observe your training session and provide feedback.  We provide input to our players all the time. It's a good thing to have someone else provide you input on your peformance.

7) REMEMBER ALWAYS that soccer is a GAME to be played.  Games are supposed to be FUN! Do not be afraid to laugh at yourself, temporarily abandon your well-laid plans and just let the kids PLAY every now and again.


Conversion Rates

In baseball, basketball, football and other team sports there are established success / failure rates that define the game and those who play it.  In baseball a Batting Average of .300 or 3 hits in 10 at bats establishes one as a great hitter or an Earned Run Average of 3.00 per nine innings establishes one as a great pitcher.  In basketball converting on 50% of field goal attempts or 33% of 3 pt field goal attempts are standard measures of success / failure.  In football averaging 5 yards per carry is an accepted measure of success for a running back.

What about success / fail rates in soccer?

I had once been told that converting 1 of every 10 shots on goal was an acceptable rate of conversion in soccer. A shot on goal being defined by the NCAA Soccer Statisticians Manual as being a shot on net (see Section 3, Article 3). An article at Soccer Analysts  makes a case for a rate of 10.8% or one goal in every 9.25 shots on goal with a median of 1 goal in every 11 shots in the 4 professional European leagues they tracked. So, 1 goal from every 10 shots on goal wasn't a bad number.

Now, if we refer back to the definition of a shot on goal we discover that "results of a shot on goal must be either a save by the goalkeeper or defending team or a goal by the attacking team. This would indicate the save percentage for goalkeepers should be fairly high and if we check the MLS statistics we find typical save percentages for starting goalkeepers consistently in the low 70's percentile range. 

I have never quite bought into the 10% conversion rate for scoring goals. In the interests of consistency and fairness I took a look at MLS conversion rates and discovered the top goalscorers are actually converting at a far higher rate than 10%.  In 2012 leading goal scorer Chris Wondolowski converted on 27 of 55 SOG or an eye opening 49% conversion rate. The league conversion rate was 29.8% or nearly 3 of every 10 SOG resulting in a goal scored.

It would seem logical to look at what percentage of "shots" are actually "shots on goal".  This number is actually quite low at 25.6% for the 2012 MLS season or a little better than 1 of every 4 shots taken are actually shots on goal. If we look at the conversion rate of goals in the context of total shots taken the number drops all the way to 7.6% which is a little worse than the 1 in 10 number originally quoted to me.

What does it all mean?

I am reminded of hockey great Wayne Gretzky's quote, "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."

Quite simply, one must shoot if one wishes to score, but accuracy of shooting (shots on goal) is extremely important as the conversion rates referenced above attest to. The more shots taken that a player or team can put on goal the better the chances are for scoring. Common sense stuff, correct? 

Be Cool Coach!

Good coaches know that their attitude filters down to their players. When a coach is calm and poised their players tend to be as well and play reflects this. These teams overcome adversity by “playing through it”. They tend to be empowered problem solvers, creative and resilient.

If a coach is constantly yelling, arguing with referees and seemingly angry about every little thing, his team will be as well. Play is often rushed, desperate, out of control and punctuated by “unforced” mistakes. Everyone is blamed but no one is held accountable.

Not only will players follow the coach’s lead, but so too will parents. The coach who berates officials, yells at his players and is quick to find fault is likely to have an unruly parents sideline as well. There is often a general sense of unhappiness and anger that permeates the entire team. Soccer becomes a chore instead of being fun.

Calm, poised and in control does not equate to being cold, emotionless and overly analytical.  It simply means being in control of those things that can be under your control.  I’m not sure if I have ever witnessed a referee change his call because he was berated by a coach or parents, have you?  Yelling at a player for every mistake he makes is hardly a good way to go about instilling confidence, is it? Blaming your team for playing poorly is certainly shirking responsibility on the coaches part for it was his responsibility to prepare the team to compete, correct?

Good coaches maintain an even keel when coaching. They don’t get too excited when goals are scored and do not get too down when goals are allowed. The adjustments made are of a thoughtful and reasoned variety instead of knee jerk reactive decision rooted in the emotions of the moment.  Good coaches tend to use their heads more so than their mouths.  Thoughtful analysis when assessing on-field in-game situations instead of panicked chaotic solutions thrown out hoping something will eventually work.

I try to always keep in mind that my teams are never as good as they appear to be when winning and never as bad as they appear to be when losing. Teams are generally somewhere in the middle of the peak performance and worst performance. It’s important to be realistic about your team and focused on continuous progress and improvement over the course of a game and a season.

Even in the most dominant wins there are weaknesses to be found in your team’s play. And in the most lopsided losses there will have been some positives. It is important to recognize both positives and negatives in-game, but equally as important to share them with your players after the match has finished.

Do your best to remain calm, cool and collected for the good of your team. Don’t cast blame. Do empower the players to embrace on-the-field problems and adversity that they can solve and overcome these things. Do not become angry at players who are giving the best effort they have that day. Encourage players struggling with their play by lending them your confidence and letting them know you believe in them.

Have a vision for how you want your team to play and conduct themselves then be the embodiment of that vision for them. Lead by example… for that is what you do regardless of how you act. Be a positive example, a positive role model and your team will fall in line behind you. Success and wins will follow.

Playing Soccer and Driving Cars

As I was watching film from high school matches a rather strange, yet very pertinent, thought crossed my mind.  What if the players drove their cars in the same manner as they play soccer?

Think of the player who receives the ball, does a U-turn and runs right into on-coming defenders?  It's kind of like doing a U-turn in your car, ignoring the wrong way signs and causing an accident, isn't it?

Or the soccer player who is going at full speed towards goal right into multiple defenders in front of him. A wrong way driver on I-75?

And what about the player with ballwatchingitis?   Nothing like parking your car in the middle of a busy thoroughfare so you can watch the chaos of honking cars going on around you, right?

These are the thoughts bouncing around my head as I watch players and their teams "play" at the game of soccer. There are so many different paths to goal but so many only see the most direct route.

When I am driving to the same destination repeatedly I often find alternative routes to take. Just a change of scenery. Soccer should be like that. Sometimes we take the direct expressway route. Other times we take a (possession) scenic route. When the preferred road is closed we detour and meander around the obstruction until we find our path once again - we find the path of least resistance to the goal.

Isn't it better to actually play soccer instead of creating chaos in the game environment by playing at soccer? When you drive your car there are accepted standards that allow you to have an enjoyable experience while making your way to the intended destination. When someone deviates from these standards it can result in chaos on the roadways. Attacking soccer is very much like this - there are proper techniques and tactics - soccer standards - that must be adhered to or chaos ensues on the pitch.

A smart driver will map out his route before starting his journey.  He will have a plan but be flexible. If he encounters congestion on the roadways he will alter his route. The driver of a car strikes a balance between speed and arriving safely at his destination. Rules of the road are followed and perhaps sometimes bent, but when broken often come with severe consequences. If the driver does something stupid he will draw the ire of others on the roadway - honks, gestures and or screaming? When the driver arrives safely home he is warmly greeted and if it's been a while there might be quite the celebration.

Yeah, soccer is a lot like that.

REACT & RID - Poor First Touch

I am resurrecting a feature focusing on coaching yourself in the game.  Each day we will look at a frequently encountered mistake in the U13-19 game and how the individual player can analyze and correct these mistakes in real time, in the immediate moments after the mistake or delayed after the game which we will refer to as RID.   We’ll call the feature itself, Recognition And Corrective Training or REACT for short.  The hope is to instill accountability for your play and provide you a means to accept responsibility for mistakes you make.  In the end, it's still up to you.

REACT moment.

Ball bounces too far away when attempting to receive the ball

Real Time:
Did I have a plan beyond being first to the ball?
Was I properly prepared to play the ball?
Did I extended the receiving foot to greet the ball and then draw it back to welcome the ball to me?

Remind yourself to take and release a breath as the ball approaches.
Remind yourself to welcome the ball and not confront it.
Extend your foot and draw it back a couple of times during the next dead ball situation. Do this on the half turn as well.

Practice receiving passes with pace against a kick back board or with a partner. Incorporate changing the path of the ball and your direction.  Focus on preparing to play before receiving. Know what you want to do with the ball before you receive it. I particularly like to place a player inside a small grid with benches laid on their sides along each side of the grid.  Pass the ball against, turn the ball on the reception and play it immediately against another bench.  Even better, of course, is to work this in a group of five players!


Poor First Touch

I might have titled this article Sequence of Touches for proper use of the sequence of touches will prevent a lot of poor first touches on the soccer ball. Everyone can identify obvious poor first touch. In watching a match today time and again players for one team had what their coach refers to as a heavy first touch. This simply means the first touch a player has on the ball is played too far away from him to control the ball.  In effect a 50/50 ball is created by the players first touch.

That's the simple description or observation.  We must once again revisit my favorite question if we are to solve this problem?  Why do the players have a heavy first touch? 

Too often the player receiving is unprepared to receive the ball and has no idea what he will do with it once he does receive it.  A common scene is a heavy touch back in the direction the ball just came from. This isn't so much a technical consideration as it is a tactical consideration.  If the player knew his next play before his first touch he could prepare for it by properly positioning himself to execute that play. Then instead of heavy first touches right back into pressure we might see the proper sequence of touches being utilized.

There is also a shared responsibility with the passer to deliver a proper pass.  The pass needs to be to the correct foot leading the receiver into his next play. The pass must have proper weight behind it - pace. And when you pass the ball you must also pass information to the intended target.

These are but a few of the technical and tactical considerations that make the difference between a successful pass and a lost possession. One of our camp themes is based on pace of play and involves playing two-touch and eventually one-touch soccer. I warn coaches this camp experience will start off U-G-L-Y but with patience by midweek we will turn the corner. The reason for this is breaking down old habits and forming new habits. We basically retrain individual players and the collective teams brain - the way they think about passing and receiving. In doing so, things like heavy first touches disappear over the course of a few short camp sessions. We then leave it up to the coaching staff to continually reinforce the basic tenets of our philosophy on passing and receiving.

And trust me, we haven't re-invented the wheel. What we do is not radical and shouldn't be considered revolutionary. We simply teach the kids the proper details in the process of passing and receiving the ball in a manner that they take to with eagerness. The vast majority of players never learn these methods coming up through the youth ranks. As a result, key components in their thought process take place out of sequence with results like poor first touch.

Interested in learning more?  Contact us and allow us to help you and your team out.




Obstacles are not there to prevent you from reaching your goals
Obstacles are there to allow you to demonstrate
how much those goals mean to you.

Lasting Impressions of Leadership (updated)

A friend recently asked, "Good and bad, who were the most memorable athletes you have coached?" Surprisingly to me two names immediately came to mind, Morgan and Ryan, although Ryan I had not actually coached much at all.  The common trait between the two is leadership. One a negative leader who held her team back. The other an extraordinarily positive leader who raised his team to achieve more than anyone expected possible of them. Both strong personalities, but each with far different agendas.

Morgan was a good player on her team but clearly not the best player. She is also a megalomaniac. At some point before I arrived on the scene Morgan had realized she was not the best player and therefore would never receive the recognition or power associated with being "the star" so she did the next best thing. She became the best friend of the person who was the star. From that sidekick position she manipulated things to always be in and remain the center of attention even to the detriment of the team. It should be noted that Morgan considered it to be her team and often to referred to it as such.

Ryan was an exceptional player who realized he needed the team as much as the team needed him. He worked diligently to include everyone in the team, to make sure everyone knew their contributions, no matter how minor, were vital to the team's success. He sacrificed for the team and in turn was rewarded by and through the team's success. Ryan received numerous individual accolades but always credited the team for his success.

Both Morgan and Ryan recognized the power of effective leadership but took very different approaches. Morgan's was self-serving and quite destructive to "her" team while Ryan's approach was one of service to and for "the  team".  For obvious reasons both players remain memorable.

A good player does not necessarily equate to being a good coach.  Ryan was one of the top player leaders I have ever encountered.  As a coach, thus far, he has proven to be quite inadequate as a leader.  I myself am guilty of assuming his leadership qualities would transfer seamlessly from playing the game to coaching the game.  You know what they say about assume?  It makes and ass our of you (u) and me.  Such is that case here for I recommended Ryan for a coaching job based on his leadership skills as a player that included coaching on the field / in-game.  His first season as a head coach was a failure of substantial proportions.  The truth, trust, belief that he was able to channel as a player to those around him were absent in him as a coach.  At this point, I am unsure he is capable of becoming even an average coach.

Morgan?  I recently saw a YouTube video of her. It was about sky diving.  She needed one more credit hour to maintain full time student status. Her choice was to take a class on sky diving.  She displayed the same "me first" attitude as always in the video.  All about the attention being received instead of what was really at hand.  Once a megalomaniac, always a megalomaniac in this case.  No amount of giggling and batting the eyes can change the reality of that, imo.


Warm Up Time

"We tell our players
that the warm up time
usually depends on their mentality.
Warming up the body
takes a short amount of time. 
Warming up the mind
takes about as long as you want it to."
Randy Hanson ~

Decision making and it's impact on the game

I have been mulling over how to approach writing an article about decision making in soccer. I firmly believe the difference between being an average player and a good or even great player is found in the player's brain, his decision-making ability. Beyond that, the team that makes the most good decisions (limits mistakes) exponentially increases it chances of winning. Decision making is such a broad topic though; on-the-ball, off-the-ball, defending and attitude are just a few areas of decision making that can impact the game. Put all these areas together and we come up with something called Soccer IQ.

Another way to look at decision-making is to think of it in terms of choices. We can decide between having a good attitude or a poor attitude, for example. We can decide to dive in or play patient defense waiting for the correct time to tackle the ball away. For the purpose of today's writing, I am going to concentrate on decision making when an individual is in possession of the ball. This may well turn into a series of posts and I will quite likely digress onto other decision making tangents before completing today's writing. Be patient with me.

From the individual in possession of the ball perspective the process might look something like this:

When do I shoot?
When do I dribble?
When do I pass?
When do I cross?
When do I play a drop pass?
When do I play the ball out of bounds.

I think there are some basic cues or guidelines that can be applied in a general sense. For instance, if a player is in position to take a shot on goal, he should shoot the ball. If he is not in possession to take a shot, can he make a pass to a teammate who is in a goal scoring position? Or if a player is facing his own goal and under pressure does he utilize a drop pass to preserve possession or does he kick the ball out of bounds to allow his team the opportunity to regain shape and defend back to their own goal?  And so on as we check down the list of options or choices listed above.

However disagreements can also arise about the proper course of action based on systems of play or even philosophy of play. Should I take a quality shooting opportunity when a teammate is one short pass from a better opportunity? Or with today's zonal defenses executing early retreats as a strategic ploy should I really dribble the ball through the open space in front of the backs when passing the ball advances it so much faster?

And what of game situations?  Do the same set of decision making guidelines apply when your team is up 5 - 0 as when the score is 1 - 2 with 10 minutes left?  Should the rhythm or flow of play impact the decision making process? If your team is under duress from the opponents attack should you attempt a difficult pass or perhaps whack the ball out of bounds to give time to reorganize?

I believe the correct decision when in possession of the ball will result either in a goal being scored or possession of the ball being maintained.

Even as I write this I am considering the message being sent for it sounds as if I am advocating a low risk, possess the ball strategy that we can easily recognize as being limited in its chances for success if success is defined as scoring goals and winning games. So, there is a risk / reward factor involved in the decision-making process. Yes, we love to utilize low risk possession oriented decision-making to lead to goals and this sometimes does occur. However, many times risks must be taken and possession put in the balance as we seek goal scoring opportunities. A proper balance must be struck and  the position of the ball on the field is of vital importance in determining this.

When in your own defensive third, low risk decisions are the norm.
When in the middle third of the field moderate risk decisions are appropriate.
When in the final or attacking third of the field high risk / high reward decision making can be utilized.

And then we have the decision for when to change the pace of possession.

When in the defensive third quick passing and or clearances are the mandate.
When in the middle third of the field where possession is secured and established a rhythm develops for the attack.  Slow, moderate or fast - it should differ from possession to possession
When in the final third the dramatic change of pace occurs as teams seek energy and explosiveness to goal.

I'm drawn, as I often am, to the wisdom of Johan Cruyff  who captures the essence of proper decision making with these two quotes:

"Soccer is a game played with the brain"

"Playing simply is the hardest thing to do"

I will leave you to ponder today's thoughts on decision making before delving further into the topic tomorrow.


Great defensive teams move on the movement of the ball.
Poor defensive teams move on the completed pass.

Great offensive teams move before the ball moves.
  Poor offensive teams move when or after the ball moves.

It is written on the locker room wall.

For the strength of the pack is the wolf,

and the strength of the wolf is the pack.

Captains and Standards

The Way We Do Anything
is the
Way We Do Everything.
Standards are so very important to a teams success so it makes sense the selection of the standard bearers, or Captains, is one of the most critical decisions to be made.  I know some coaches who allow team members to decide by vote who will lead them. Other coaches refuse to allow the players to make such a crucial decision fearing a popularity vote instead of a serious objective vote. Other coaches will take a blended approach - the team votes in one Captain and the coach appoints another Captain.
In the end, the standards set for the team and enforced by the Captains are the foundation that will be built upon. Hopefully the program will have strong traditions to help guide the Captains. If not, there exists the added opportunity for your Captains to build tradition through their leadership of their team.
One of the things my teams hear ad nauseam from me is to hold one another accountable. I urge them to not allow corners to be cut in even the simplest activities. They are constantly reminded that if they cut a corner in training, they will most assuredly cut a corner in the match for the way we do anything is the way we will do everything.
Your Captains should be the players who hold themselves to the highest standards and demand that everyone else adheres to those standards as well. Only then will you have a team capable of achieving to its full potential.

The same standards apply to all.

If you are regular follower of the CBA Soccer Blog you will know I am a fan of the University of Michigan. This dates back to my early childhood and the legendary American football coach Bo Schembechler.  I remember being captivated by the tradition he accentuated for and the honor he demanded of those who donned the Maize and Blue. I first heard the term "Humble Pride" used to describe how a "Michigan Man" was to carry himself on the field and on his walk through life.
"The fastest way to demoralize an entire team

is to make exceptions for the stars.

Everyone sees it; everyone resents it."

~ Bo Schembechler ~

Best Motivational Speech I have seen recently.

Ok, I know it's pointy football, but this kid just gets it.

If you aren't pumped up about LIFE after watching this something is seriously wrong with you. 
Makes you want to get the kit on, lace up the boots and go kick some butt, don't it!


90 yard (82 metre) goal by Moritz Stoppelkamp.

I LOVE stuff like this.  Was it just a clear?  I don't think so.  I think Moritz Stoppelkamp knew exactly what he was doing. I think he knew the GK was out and took a chance.  Simply BRILLIANT!

And it's not a in some 3rd tier pub league either. This was

in the Bundesliga!


After a bad result.

One of my weekend soccer conversations was how to help a team rebound from a bad result.  First of all, "bad result"  is a relative term. The team of the coach I was speaking with was coming off a 1-2 loss to a team he felt they should have beaten, easily. That's one end of the spectrum.  On the other end of the spectrum we would find both Van Wert and Bath.  So, a bad result really is a matter of perspective, but the way to move on remains a consistent - focus on positives.

Coaches of teams on the losing end of a bad result must find positives to hold onto. They need to examine the details of the process for positives to motivate and inspire their team to improve. These positives should hopefully be found in the outline of your season plan.  What are the points of emphasis you identified for your season?  Find positives there and identify them for your team. Discuss the improvement in these areas. Re-energize your commitment to continuous progress improvement in these areas. Then get to it with enthusiasm!

The mistake coaches will make is being disheartened and focusing on all the negatives they have perceived in their teams play. "Where do I start?"   I have been there. It's definitely not my "happy place."  It is a place fraught with danger for coaches.  If we allow ourselves to be swallowed by our frustration over poor play we have lost the battle ... and have probably lost our team as well. 

I walked off the pitch after our first match at the Galaxies College Showcase this past spring (a 0-2 loss, IIRC)  with "Where do we start to put this right?" racing through my head.  I had to go off by myself to calm down and think things through because we had two more games to play in the next 18 hours. I had a roster full of all-state, all-district, all-league players. These young men were highly skilled, intelligent soccer players.  Even so, my 3 points of emphasis in the season plan for them were fairly simplistic and focused entirely on the transitional phase of play moments:

1) When we lose possession, 3 players press and 8 get behind the ball ASAP.  We fill from the back forward regardless of what position an individual player was assigned to.

2) When transitioning to attack, we play to the targets feet.

3) Ball movement is predicated on player movement.

Within those three ideas we worked on technical aspects of the game that directly applied. When we came back for the second game I emphasized specific points in our play from the first match where what we had been working on was in evidence. We may not have executed well in those moments, but I applauded the attempt, the thought, the effort.  I gave the players positives from what we had worked on in training to boost their confidence, to motivate them to continue working hard in these areas and to inspire in them belief in our system of play.

The second match went much better.  Although we didn't, we certainly could have won it. It was one of those games where you walk away thinking "Dang, we were the better team out there, but it just didn't go our way."  In our third match we defeated a team that had previously beaten the first two teams we played. The keys to the turn around were two-fold.  First we were gaining experience playing together as a team.  Secondly I got a hold of my frustration, cleared my mind and stayed with our season long plan. We did not abandon all we had worked on indoors for the past 3+ months and go off on some other path. We stayed the course.

Interesting side note to that weekend was we found ourselves in reversed roles the next weekend at the Early Bird Classic. We played the Croatian Eagles from Wisconsin. They came south to get out of the snow. Our match was their first outside last spring.  They came out and went up 2-0 on us by virtue of two of the best goals I have ever seen from high school aged kids. Absolute lasers from 35-40 yards out. I found myself thinking the rout might be on and just wanting to get to halftime without any further damage being done.  Our kids kept their poise and we got on the board just before half time to make it 2-1. Still, I held no illusion about who the better team was - that Croatian Eagle team was the best collection of teen aged athletes I had ever seen on a soccer pitch.  Our half time, run pretty much by the players, was as usual calm, confident and productive. We identified areas we had to shore up. Then we identified our successes. We then went out and scored two more goals to win that match 3-2.  The points of emphasis the kids brought up during that halftime were what we had been focusing on throughout winter training.  Their confidence was based in our training. They found their motivation in the successes that training was beginning to deliver to them.  They found their inspiration in being able to execute our system when down 0-2 and being on the verge of getting blown out.  That goal just before half time was the single most important goal of the season. It cemented the course our season long plan set for us.

Not every team, not every program, can measure success the same way our Grand Lake United team did. Not every team is going to win the vast majority of their games as we did.  Every team can improve upon their season long goals. Success can be measured by improvement made. In fact, this must be the cornerstone for building your teams platform for success.


Postional Duties

Strikers:     Move, Receive, Finish

Midfielders:     Build, Connect, Support

Defenders:     Deny, Destroy, Develop

Goalkeepers:    Sweep, Save, Start

Five Golden Rules of Soccer

Previously we looked at the 10 Commandments of Soccer and the 7 Deadly Sins of Soccer  so I thought I would present the Five Golden Rules of Soccer today.  As with many rules, there might be exceptions, but these are good rules of thumb to keep in mind when playing.

1) The key to scoring is controlling the ball.

This is true from both the individual (first touch) and collective (possession) perspectives.

2) Make sure your teammates know where you are or can find you easily.

It's all about support.  Constantly ask yourself, "Where on the field do I need to be in the next 5 seconds?"

3) Don't dive in!

Is it ever wrong to play contain or delay defense?  Remember the cues for when to attempt a tackle: if the ball is between the attackers feet you can be beaten to either side.  Wait until the ball is outside of the attackers foot prints or he misplays it too far away from his feet.

4) Receive the ball away from Pressure.

Use your first touch to change the direction the ball moving it away from pressure and out of the pursuit path of the defender. Receive the ball across your body whenever possible.

5) Keep your photo album updated.

Don't get caught watching the ball or the action around the ball.  See the whole field.  Constantly survey the pitch to know where your teammates are, where available space is and any danger the opponents might present.

Key Considerations for Alignment and System of Play

Key Considerations for Formational Alignment and System of Play

1) If the other team cannot score, they cannot win.

·        We need to be secure defensively

·        The alignment of players within the defensive system of play must consider the attacking abilities of each player as well

·        Line of confrontation – where do we wish to win the ball?
·        Where do we want to funnel the opponent / where do we wish opponent’s shots to originate from?

·        What is the strength of our goalkeeper? What type of shots does he handle best? How can we best funnel the opponents attack to our goalkeepers strengths?

·        How can we best funnel the opponents attack to best create the space we want to use in transition and attack? Can we play 3 to 4 steps ahead defensively to set up our transition to the attack?

2)  If we cannot score, we cannot win.

·        Identify the players with the best attacking skills and finishing ability

·        Identify the players that form the best attacking combinations

·        What space must we open up for the best attackers / combinations of attackers to play in?

·        How do we best position the best attackers / combinations of attackers defensively to move them as quickly as possible into the space from which they can best utilize their attacking abilities?

·        We must recognize that variety of attack comes from not establishing a single pattern of play – that how we attack down the left flank might differ significantly from how we attack down the right flank and that how we attack through the middle should be a constant variable both player based and availability dictated.

3) Rate each player on the team based on individual strength and weakness.
·         Determine overall strength of the team and overall weakness of the team.

·         How can we best play to our strengths?

·         How can we best limit the opponent’s ability to expose our weakness?
Never empower the problem.
Always empower the solution.

I'm taking on Hope Solo.

I have refrained from commenting on Hope Solo's domestic violence case because I prefer to concentrate on the game itself and how players perform in the game. Unfortunately off the field issues do intrude at times.

For the record, I am not a Hope Solo fan.

She has had more "indiscretions" and second chances than most anyone would be allowed because of her talent as a goalkeeper. She abuses her standing as a member of the USWNT and the gift of being able to earn her living playing soccer.  Let's not forget her teammates kicked her off the 2007 World Cup team.  Or that she appeared on the Today Show drunk as a representative of the US 2008 Olympic Gold Medal team.  Or that she has thrown multiple teammates under the proverbial bus over the years with denigrating comments about them.  Now she has been accused of Domestic Violence against her half-sister and a nephew. 

What Hope Solo has done makes headlines in men's sports but is largely ignored because she is a woman soccer player.

Well, here is the indisputable fact, Hope Solo has a problem.  There exists a trend of increasingly disturbing "indiscretions" and it's time she is held to the same standards society is demanding male athletes be held to.  Hope Solo should be suspended from all professional and national team play until her case is resolved.

For all the outcry about Ray Rice and Greg Hardy nothing much has been said about Hope Solo.  Does society really feel woman on woman violence is different than man on woman violence?  And we must not forget the accusations against Solo also include assault on her 17 year old nephew.

Just as the NFL is striving to get it right, FIFA, US Soccer, the NWSL and the Seattle Reign need to strive to get this right in Hope Solo's case as well.  There are no acceptable excuses that can be made for Hope Solo's alleged behavior. She must be dealt with swiftly in an appropriate manner.  The organizing bodies of soccer are already tardy in dealing with the domestic abuses charges. How much further does Solo's negative behavior have to escalate before the soccer authorities take notice.

Enough is enough.

U.S. Soccer continues to make the WRONG call on Hope Solo

Looking for Change in all the Wrong Places.

No, this is not a takeoff on an old country song. Nor is it an expose' on how to find loose change with a metal director or in the nether regions of your car seat or sofa.  In watching soccer matches this week I have noticed teams making changes to formations and personnel.  With the season now more than half over I found myself wondering about the motivation to make changes now.

Injuries could certainly be a reason to prompt personnel changes and perhaps to a lesser degree be a reason to contemplate a formational change. Other than that, I can only think of dissatisfaction with how the season has progressed thus far as the reason to be changing personnel and formations this late in the season.

Have shortcomings just now revealed themselves?  Or have issues plagued your team from the onset of the season?  Has the coached recognized, but stubbornly refused to address personnel and formational issues to this point?  Perhaps the coach only recognizes that something isn't quite right and is attempting personnel moves or changing formations to spark better play?

In the end, I think one running theme is the coaches level of ability to correctly analyze play. If there is a second running theme it is personalities - sometimes a coach will have a "pet" player (s)he plays over someone who is obviously better in the minds of teammates and casual observers alike. Or a coach simply does not like a player and either doesn't play him or doesn't play him in a preferred position. Maybe we are touching on a darker side of coaching, but no one can deny that these things do happen.

One of the hidden gems of coaching wisdom I learned at a very early age from an old pointy football coach was the need for the head coach to be a stable rudder throughout the process of a season. Set your course and only minimally adjust your tack to stay that course. Starting over in mid season is not a prescribed coaching methodology.

Analyzing play is an art form and one that must be worked at to be developed and maintained. The coach has to analyse the scientific data and convert it into coaching and training programs to help develop the athlete. This analysis process relies heavily on the coach's experience and knowledge of soccer and the athlete concerned.

One particular team really stood out to me this week. I have seen them 3 times this fall and each time they have employed a different formation with personnel in different positions.  Yes, they are struggling, but it's not due to personnel or formational issues. No, the problems are much more basic than those. I almost immediately recognized this particular team could benefit from one of our Pace of Play camps next summer.  I have presented the coach with my business card.  This team's problem is not related to deployment of personnel or team shape as defined by a formation. They have trouble with preparing to play the ball, proper touch, sequence of touches, recognizing their next play before their first touch and properly executing a pass.  That can be fixed. I can help fix that for them. Attempting to address these issue by changing personnel and formation is not going to yield the desired results.

So, let's take a brief introductory look at how to analyze a soccer match.

How to analyze a match is one of the most frequently asked questions in coaching clinics I conduct. One might think there is a standard response, but it isn't that simple. To begin with, does the questioner wish to know how to analyze the match in its entirety or is he asking how to analyze specific parts of play? Does he want to look at his own team or the opposing team? Does he wish to analyze individual play, positional unit play, how players or units link together?

Why the coach wishes to analyze play is as important to ascertain as is what portion of play he is interested in analyzing.

Does the coach wish to analyze play in-game so he can make adjustments to the game plan?

Does the coach wish to analyze play so he can address issues in training sessions in the days after the match?

Perhaps the coach wants to attempt to do analysis for both in-game purposes and post game purposes.

More often than not, the coach will not have thought this out as thoroughly as he should have before asking about analyzing the game.  This is a topic that invariably dominates discussion once it has been broached. Today, I am going to walk you through some basic ideas on how to analyze a match.  As with any undertaking we need to establish a solid foundation for our efforts and so this is where we will begin.  This is also where I lose many of the coaches who initially show great interest in learning to analyze a match.

Know the game.

This may seem like an obvious statement to make, but it is the cornerstone for being able to analyze a match properly. Knowledge of the technical aspects of play is a must. From a tactical standpoint a coach needs a vision for how he expects his team to play. Determine what your team is, then set the course for where you want to take them.

Know your own team.

If you are going to analyze your own team, either individual players, positional units or in its entirety, you must first know your team.

What is your base formational alignment?

What are the variations to the base alignment or alternative alignments you employ?

What is your system of play?

Does your system of play and formation(s) compliment one another or are they at odds with one another?

Does your formational alignment and system of play fit the strengths of a majority of your players?

Do the skill sets of your players fit the system of play and formation you wish to employ?

Have you defined specific roles for each position and positional unit within the formational alignment and in tune with the system of play you desire to utilize?

Have you aligned personnel within the formation in such a way as to play to the strengths of the individuals?

Does your system of play factor in how to link the positional units and within that context how to link your best players within each unit - you do want your best players getting the most touches on the ball, don't you?

Do your players know, understand and appreciate their roles within the formational alignment and system of play?

You may or may not be surprised to learn that many, perhaps even a majority of, youth coaches never consider these questions with specific intent. I find that many wish to begin the process of analyzing their teams play by beginning in the middle of the analyzation process. This, of course, will not work.

I suggest coaches begin learning to analyze play by learning to analyze their players technical play first and how this is impacting the teams ability to execute tactically.  Fix the technique necessary to perform the tactic. Then you can move on to adjusting tactics be that through formation, shape or system of play.  Look to first make change where your team can most beneficially do so and then take a look at the larger picture. 

With our spring team I will use our indoor practice sessions to focus almost entirely on technique.  Over the course of the first few sessions I will identify specific techniques to be focused on. Then I will use our first college showcase event to analyze our formation and tactics. By the second college showcase event I have set the teams seasonal course. Adjustments after the fact are minimal. I want to provide a stable environment in training and in play.

This is who we are.

This is what we do.

I feel drifting of course with personnel and or formation changes can send the wrong message to the team unless the reasons for doing so are made crystal clear.  The last things you want is to have players questioning the coaches judgment or even worse, the coaches confidence in the players. Choose your course wisely. Select the provisions you will need - a season long training plan to achieve your vision. Provide a confident, stable rudder for your team as they navigate towards fulfilling your vision for them.  There are going to be rough seas. The key is to not allow rough seas to blow you off course. Stay true to the seasons course and come out of those rough season having made progress in the process. Come out stronger, wiser and with the experience of having done so. This is how you grow a team. 


"Diving is worse than shirt-pulling or tripping.
It's betraying the players/referees.
I'm in favor of red cards for diving."
~Sepp Blatter ~


You're a much better coach than you used to be.

I recently ran into someone I coached back in the day. He's been reading this blog and has arrived at the conclusion I am a much better coach than when I coached him.

For goodness sakes, I should hope so!

My first experience as a soccer coach was in 1993. I knew next to nothing but was put in charge of a group of 5 year olds. Among that group were some boys who went on to become very good high school athletes. One in particular was David Monteleone. He was the best player in the area and scored goals at will for that team. We went undefeated and my soccer coaching star shone brightly.

Yeah, right.

I still knew next to nothing about the sport of soccer.  I did recognize the need to learn more about it though and so began a process of accumulating knowledge about the beautiful game. Today, I quite literally have hundreds of DVD's, books, coaching manuals, and materials saved from over 20 coaching courses and countless coaching clinics, symposiums and presentations. 

This process began by going to the local bookstore and buying anything and everything I could find on the sport. Some were an absolute waste of good money. Others were most beneficial. Three of my all-time favorite books on the subject are The Complete Book of Coaching Youth Soccer, the NSCAA's Coaching Soccer and Zonal Defending: The Flat Back Four. These were among the first books I purchased on soccer.  I look back upon them as being the beginnings of my foundation of soccer knowledge.

Still, it wasn't until I began observing the local high school team that pieces began falling cohesively in place. And the process did not truly gain momentum until I was offered the opportunity to attend their team camp conducted by Mr. Graham Ramsay. It wasn't long before I accepted a position as an assistant coach with that high school team and was put in charge of goalkeepers. 



I new next to nothing about goalkeeping.  Back to the bookstore and the emerging Internet in search of knowledge about the art of goalkeeping.  A stroke of blind luck saw me in my first ever coaching course, the old State Level NSCAA Goalkeeping I Course held in Columbus, Ohio and conducted by legendary goalkeepers Tony Waiters, Tony DiCicco and an up and coming star by the name of John Murphy.  They lit the fire and my passion that has carried me ever since.

Still, as a high school goalkeeper coach I had a steep learning curve. I had to work at it and it wasn't always smooth sailing. By continuing with and completing all the NSCAA goalkeeping courses, buying virtually every book and DVD about goalkeeping I could find and learning to analyze (Thanks to John Murphy!) goalkeeping play I became better over the course of time.

It was while working in this capacity that I had driven home to me how little I still knew about soccer in general. Yes, I was becoming a good goalkeeping coach, but there was still so much to learn and especially about the game in general.  One lasting memory I have is of a coaches meeting where we were discussing how to penetrate our biggest rivals defense.  They played a diamond stopper / sweeper man marking system and did so really well.  It was the strategizing that went on that day that brought new light to my inadequacies as a coach. Not that the other coaches were so far ahead of me and talking over my head. No, it was the obvious absence of knowledge in that room of how to deal with the opponents defense that woke me to the fact I had so much more to learn.

Looking back on that day now, I wish I knew then what I know now.

And that's the point.

No, Brian, I am not the same coach I was back in 1993.  I am not the same coach I was when I first began coaching high school goalkeepers back in 2001. I am not even the same coach I was last spring in club soccer.  I continue to seek knowledge. I continue to evolve. I am getting better at coaching soccer each and every day because I continue to pursue and share knowledge and insights about the beautiful game.

I fell in love with the small round sphere...

"Unconsciously, I fell in love with the small round sphere,
with its amusing and capricious rebounds
which sometimes play with me."
~ Bathez ~
Fabien Barthez is a former goalkeeper for the French National Team with whom he won the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000. and reached the finals of the 2006 World Cup.  He also played for Marseille and Manchester United.

Single Forward Formations and Systems of Play

The 4-2-3-1 and other single forward formations and associated systems of play are the current trend in high school and cub soccer. I am seeing some teams employing these systems really struggle to score and others utilizing these systems scoring seemingly at will. Is there a common theme that separates the two?


A friend who coaches college soccer believes if you are going to play a single forward system you must have an absolute stud playing forward. I do agree that this makes it a lot easier. Our spring club had two absolute studs to man the position. We could be a very prolific scoring team and rarely did we really struggle to mount dangerous attacks.

That said, it is my belief that you need an aggressive, disciplined, physical and speedy player to man the forward position in a single forward system of play. He does not necessarily need to be a dynamic goal scorer.

My son's high school team plays a 4-2-3-1 but is struggling to score goals.  In my mind, the main issue is their two best options for manning the target forward position are not doing so.  One is playing center back. He is a workhorse.  Matthew played back to goal target for our spring team and did a really nice job. He's not the type who can receive and go to goal, but he improved his discipline throughout the spring season, is ultra aggressive and plenty physical and speedy enough to man the position.  The second player is a foreign exchange student by the name of Geovanni.  This kid is bigger physically, has a good sense about back to goal play and is a rugged player. Again. I don't think he has the skill set or pure speed to be a dynamic scoring threat by himself but he does create scoring opportunities and has an ability to get crosses off under pressure.

The player my sons team is using as a target plays back to goal well, but he is not the physical presence nor does he possess the speed necessary for the position. He is in fact a center back for his club team. Jack gets by as a target forward because he's smart. He plays the position with his brain and is disciplined in doing so.  That makes him passable as a target player. It's probably not his ideal position though. And if we are honest about it, he is not a good fit for the target position in regards to how the outside midfielders are manning their positions in his teams system of play. 

Ideally the central striker or #9 position will be manned by a player with the following qualities:

1) Great first touch
2) Speed with the ball
3) Ability to shield the ball
4) A solid understanding and command of combination passing
5) Technically and tactically sound passer
6) Ability to cross, shoot and head the soccer ball
7) An understanding of positioning
8) Competent decision making
9) An aggressive mentality
10) Supreme self-confidence.
11) A tireless and relentless work ethic.

No player is going to possess all of the above, but if you are going to run a one forward system you need a player who can fill most of the above with a reasonable degree of aptitude.

One of the first questions to be answered when deciding on a single forward system must be, does the team have a player who can play effectively as the single forward?

The Soccer Goalkeeper.

Law # 3
A match is played by two teams, each consisting of not more than eleven players, one of whom is the goalkeeper.

The soccer goalkeeper is only position on the team allowed to use his hands to play the ball during active play on the pitch.  This makes the position a highly specialized one and demands specialized training.  Unfortunately, the goalkeeper position is also the most ignored position by most coaches when it comes to training players.

I spend nearly every day during the high school soccer season watching matches. If it is a Saturday, I may take in multiple matches. I am continually amazed by the number of goalkeepers I see warming up without the assistance of a goalkeeping coach or any coach at all for that matter. And even when a coach is present to help the goalkeeper warm up many of the exercises I see goalkeepers performing are so fundamentally wrong I do think to myself it might be better if the goalkeeper were left to his own devices.

One of the basic truths to goalkeeping is the fact the feet get the hands to the ball yet so few goalkeepers have footwork exercises as part of their warm up.  It's mind boggling to me.

The goalkeeper may use his hands to stop shots and for distributions. These are different ways for playing the ball than any other player has, yet the goalkeepers always seem to warm up like their teammates do.  I rarely see goalkeeper specific stretching. Even rarer re warm ups designed to prepare the hands for playing the position.

It's important to think of these things in the context of the goalkeeper being the last line of defense. Shouldn't this player receive special attention in training and pre-match warm ups?  That would be the prudent, the intelligent course of action, would it not?

The goalkeeper is also the first attacker.  This makes goalkeeper distributions extremely important.  The goalkeeper may use his hands to distribute the ball.  There are proper technical ways to roll and throw the ball. Should these be part of a goalkeepers pre-match warm up routine?  They must certainly should be, but in watching high school matches this fall I have come to the sad realization that in many instances proper technique for goalkeeper distributions are not even a part of goalkeeper training for many.

So, if the goalkeeper is not getting specialized training in the two most important facets of their game - footwork and handling the ball - can we hold any expectation that they are receiving proper instruction on the more technical aspects of playing the position?  Does your goalkeeper know the proper technique for a collapse dive and does he practice it on a daily basis?  Is this a part of his pre-match warm up?

Does your goalkeeper know the proper techniques and tactics for challenging break-aways?  Let me phrase this one a bit differently for you. Did you know that goalkeepers have died on the pitch due to improperly contesting a break-away?   Did that get your attention?  Yes, it is true. I have video showing the instantaneous death of a goalkeeper in a match due to his having utilized improper technique in challenging a break-away.

If my child were a goalkeeper, I would want to know that (s)he was receiving the best and fullest training available.  Yet in most cases youth and high school goalkeepers receive little if any actual training and what they do receive is often not well thought out, planned or executed properly.  If that doesn't catch your attention as a parent, it should.

The goalkeeper should receive a minimum of 45 minutes of specialized training per session and at least 1/2 hour of specialized pre-match warm up.  If your goalkeeper is not receiving this time devoted solely to him, the coach assigned to goalkeepers is being negligent to his duty and responsibility as a goalkeeper coach. That is provided your team actually has a goalkeeper coach.

And a goalkeeper coach is very much like a goalkeeper.  Both must possess a passion for the position. Coaches, parents and goalkeepers, take a look at your daily training and pre-match preparations.  Keep in mind that failing to prepare properly is preparing to fail.  Is your teams goalkeeper, is your son or daughter receiving proper attention to the details of the goalkeeping process?  If not, things must change for both performance and safety's sake.

I learned attacking soccer from a goalkeeping coach.

One of the first coaching courses I took was the old NSCAA State Level Goalkeeping course.  I was extremely fortunate to have Tony Waiters, Tony DiCicco and a young man named John Murphy as the instructors for this course.  Tony Waiters and Tony DiCicco were each stars in their own right before becoming clinicians and I thoroughly enjoyed their presentations and learned so much from each of them about the fundamentals and some of the nuances of goalkeeping, but it was John Murphy who stole the show, in my opinion.

Before becoming the National Soccer Coaches Association of America's first Director of Goalkeeping, Tony Waiters had a long and distinguished playing career in England before turning to coaching / managing. He coached Team Canada in the '84 Olympics and '86 World Cup.   Waiters is the founder of World of Soccer which led to Total Player Development which in turn spawned  Byte Size Coaching.

Tony DiCicco is probably best known as the coach of the United States Women's National Team compiling an impressive record of 103-8-8. A lesser known aspect of his career is he started as the USWNT and Men's Under 20 National Team goalkeeper coach before getting the head women's job. In 1982 DiCicco founded Soccer Plus Goalkeeper School.  In 2006 he succeeded Waiters as Director of the Goalkeeper Institute for the NSCAA. 

John Murphy has coached in the college ranks and is currently at Anderson College. At the time of the coaching course I took he was the goalkeeper coach for the New England Revolution and soon to become goalkeeper coach of the Columbus Crew. Murphy has also coached Livingston of the Scottish First Division and in doing so became the first American to coach British professional soccer. Murphy remains on the National Staff for the NSCAA.

So, yeah, I was not exaggerating when I stated I was extremely fortunate to be a member of that particular goalkeeping course. I was also not kidding when I stated John Murphy stole the show.  The one point Murphy made and illustrated for us in both film sessions and on-field work was the fact that to be a good goalkeeper you must understand attacking soccer. In the film sessions Murphy broke down goals allowed by tracing them to their point of origin out on the pitch. More often than not he could trace a goal to a specific breakdown 30, 40 or even 50+ yards out on the pitch....  but he didn't just focus on the defensive break down. No, Murphy was interested in what the attacker(s) had done to create or force the break down.  Then he would look for, define and detail what defenders could have done differently to recover position preventing a cross or shot from being taken.  Murphy would then show us film of defenders and goalkeepers making the correct plays in similar situations.

The bottom line for me was coming out of that course with improved knowledge about goalkeeping and a vast appreciation for becoming a student of the art of goalkeeping and the overall game. Any goalkeeper I have worked with over the last couple of decades will surely tell you that I make them analyze every goal scored in a match - both allowed and scored for their team.  We trace goals back to their point of origin on the pitch and discuss what went right and / or what went wrong on the play. It is through studying the game from this perspective that I have come to understand attacking soccer.

Knowledge has a ripple effect as one thing learned leads to another avenue to explore. The cycle of learning never stops. And so it was that I realized there is real value to rotating players through a variety of positions. The back line positions are especially valuable in helping players learn a broader perspective of the game. Think about it for a minute, the whole of the game is before the backs. They are able to see the game unfold before them and if they are astute and wise, it is a learning experience for them in terms of attacking soccer as much and perhaps even more so than learning to be a defender.

This, of course, goes back to the idea of Total Soccer that advocates a nearly complete interchangeability in players manning positions on the pitch.  Versatility combined with specialization is the epitome of a modern soccer player.  It goes back to the 1980's business mantra of cross training employees in various roles within a business. Each player has a role to fill, but each players value is enhanced by his ability to fill multiple roles.

I have learned if a forward is struggling, the key to unlocking his potential might be a stint as a back and vice versa. We must be able to learn from the players we play against and then apply that knowledge against them. Some high school players are exceptional at this while others will obviously still need to work on developing this ability.  Make no mistake that as the modern game continues to evolve the value of an individuals Soccer IQ continues to increase in value as well. Close no doors to education. Kick them all in and learn as much as you can from every available source. That is the lasting lesson one John Murphy imparted to me.