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May, 2018

An American Tragedy - mindless players playing the ugliest of games.



This is probably the most important post on this site and it has been delayed because it's possibly the most abrasive as well. This evening I again ventured out to watch a U12 game as one of my "students" was playing. This was a Club team/game with players well along their "soccer journey" as some have played a few years now. The typical journey might be considered U6 or U8 - U18 but also realizing most quit by 7/8th grade which is U14/15. So some might be more near their end than others.

Interestingly, a former "student" was on the other team so it was nice to watch two kids I worked with in the past. It was nice to see the one parent which I had not seen for awhile. After the game she quickly commented how it was still the same type of "ping-pong, whack-a-mole, Helter-skelter" sloppy type of game her son had been playing for a few seasons. We had talked about this in the past and could discuss this reasonably by understanding "style of play" to a degree. This is something most actually don't understand at all.

This is the case for a simple reason - something can be considered "good" or "bad" only when actually being compared to something else which creates a standard, so to speak. Both these teams were very much similar to each other and probably similar to the other teams they both would play this season. For sure some would win and some would lose ... but all will have more similarities than dissimilarities.
Sadly, both these players could play a more sophisticated game but not by themselves in such a setting. This would require other players that could reciprocate and a coach with a vision implementing such a game type. So neither were able to play to their actual strengths and in these typical games physical strength dominates in a less skillful fashion most of the time. The team with the bigger/faster kids usually will win. 

As for the "style of play" ... was it "good" or "bad"?

First consider the following. If you watch a typical U8/9 game you will see the ball being exchanged from one team to the other about every 5 seconds or less. These are turnovers but we don't keep track of them in soccer. Passes or "whacks at the ball" will quite often go directly to the other team's player. Many kicks are in a froward direction and it's obvious the player isn't seeing or aiming really at all and the ball's destination shows this. The goalie is kicking the ball to the sky ... not playing to a close teammate which is easier but has risk. Throw-ins will be forward to a herd ... not to the open teammate with better chance of keeping the ball. Passes actually to a mate will be way to forceful or will hit them oftentimes in the chest area or other body parts bouncing off their teammate to the opposing team. Passes will be way off or too hard and go out of bounds. More passes will be whacked to space (forward probably) than a teammates foot, with the hopes that their mate will chase it down vs. the opponent getting it. A chase to the ball ensues and its an ugly mess when two players collide ... but someone ends up with the ball ... then looses it anyway. This is the "kick and chase" method which is not really the same as passing accurately.

Additionally, an individual with the ball will constantly go forward and usually collide with traffic even though there might have been better options than this forward path? As well, there were probably too many players in that forward space but the players going ahead anyway and while this is happening his closest mates are converging towards the ball which will cause additional crowding reducing space even if there was any. ( Watch closely and this always happens.) And about this dribbling, is there any player that looks like they are confidently and comfortably moving with the ball in different directions through out the game?

Now the reason I'm discussing these U8/9 game details is because the same exact events were consistent with the U12 game being watched today. The kids were bigger but the game was basically the same. Sadly, the same is true about the U16 girls game that was being played on the immediately adjacent field. I was watching both games today and part of another U16 game before the U12 game. They were all basically the same "style of play" but the size of the players was different as were the size of the usual collisions.

So I'm not saying I have a higher understanding or unusual insight about these games but after watching dozens upon dozens of games over the past almost decade ... it's obvious that in this game the team/players either control the ball or the ball controls you! More specifically, learning to control the ball as a player or group is actually about being able to possess the ball and in most games no team ever actually ever truly possesses the ball at all. That is the true American Tragedy and as stated elsewhere in other posts it's not the kids fault.

So again -



Aside from the visual appeal that comes with stringing together five, ten, fifteen or more touches while the other team fails in it's attempt to recover the ball, here are a few vital things to consider:

1. The more you have the ball, the less opportunities your opponent has to hurt you.

2. The more you have the ball, the more you physically wear down your opponent.

3. Psychologically, the more you have the ball the more demoralizing it is to your opponent.

4. Generally, the team with greater possession (ball control for our discussion) usually wins.

5. With possession you control the ball and usually the game.

6. For younger players ... all are involved and it's usually more FUN!

So sadly the "style of play" of the U12 game as well as the other surrounding games that day and as well as MOST games played day in and day out are really of a low level type if were truly discussing skilled soccer abilities. Athletic soccer players are a far cry from highly skilled soccer athletes and that's why we have what exists mostly.

Is the goal to constantly rush the ball forward with the hopes of a goal to win the game the main priority ... hoping we eventually figure out how to play a better game along the way (99% of games) or is the focus of actually mastering control of the ball as a group and individual realizing that obtaining goals is not so important? One method is possible without much seeing or thinking (IQ) and in the other seeing and thinking is absolutely required. This is the critical difference between the two choices or "styles-of-play."

"Learn to play keep-away really, really well and eventually you will get a lot more goals."

With this understanding it can be said, unfortunately, that young players are actually learning to play two completely different games. The two U12 players mentioned, one on each team, were able to play a possession type game but since neither team was playing this way their possession skills were useless as were their chances to improve upon these skills.

Revo hopes to change this and the beginning methods of this process are simple if we understand this difference while guiding young players.

What type of games do we really want and with which type of players? Brains or brawn ... force or finesse ... cunning and creativity or collisions constantly?


Similar perspectives on this topic-

US. vs. Spanish soccer abilities

Passing Ability

Is It Skillful

Tennis Anyone

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