I’ve decided that I’m a pretty good soccer coach. Maybe even a very good coach. I don’t say that with great confidence but my confidence is growing.

Over the past couple years I have given my players the bulk of the credit for our winning. They deserve it. They and the length of time they had played together were the primary reasons we won. And won. And won.

They had a great time together. Most were friends off the field. We were a tight group.

And we won.

This season I was not going to coach. My boots were falling apart and had been hung up for good. Then the call came. There was nobody available with the training to coach. My wife didn’t like it but I said yes.

She now says it was the right decision.

This team was not mine. The bulk of the players were not mine. Mine had moved on, too old. We had only four returning players that included my oldest son. My youngest son joined us ‘for fun’ while still playing club ball.

My goal for the season was to have some fun, get my boys some touches on the ball, help those who would be playing for the school in the spring and maybe win a game or two.

After losing our first game 2-5 I hoped we’d at least win one game. But then we were missing three key players that game.

Our team consists of the four returning players plus my youngest son so five players I know. Ten players who just moved up from u12, three players who have never played soccer before. It’s a big team.

As I write we are 4-1 outscoring our opponent 32-2 in the game since our loss. We have ripped off three straight shutouts.

This is a smart team. I give them credit for coming together as a team, paying attention in practice and working to be a very, very good team.

Here is where I start examining my involvement.

It’s easy coaching a team when you’ve been coaching most for 3-4 years, some for eight years. It’s easy for them to play together, to know and understand each other.

Getting a group of unknowns to work as a team, that’s another thing.

I’m a defensive minded coach so my first thought was how these players would fit into my system.

They didn’t.

Our defense was weak. We had two strong defenders and fortunately a very good keeper.

As we went through practices it became evident that we were overloaded with attackers. Time to rethink our entire system.

I decided to move away from the 4-4-2 Diamond that we’d used for years and move to a W-M. This way we were able to utilize more of our attacking talent forward and in midfield while having numbers back when needed.

Our attack became relentless.

Evidence of Brilliance #1 – Recognizing your team’s strengths and designing a system to help your players excel.

Our new system allows us to easily transition into a M-M with our stronger defensemen moving up to control midfield allowing for a five man attack.

They are a very smart team and picked up on this concept quickly.

Evidence of Brilliance #2 – Applying the Pareto Principle. Two years ago I changed the way we trained turning our focus to the 20% of soccer that makes up 80% of the game. Yes, the Pareto Principle is the name for the 80/20 rule.

Trapping – Passing – Moving are the elements that make up the majority of a soccer game. Dribbling, shooting, fancy tricks, those are all great skills to have but they are such a small piece of the game.

On average a professional soccer player will; move over 7km, possess the ball less than two minutes per game, travel 191m with the ball, touch the ball twice per possession traveling 3-5m during each possession lasting about 1 second.

Trap. Pass. Move.

Why do we train our young players to dribble so much? Why do we run shooting drills in practice so much? And why are we involving defenders in shooting drills?

Lazy, unimaginative coaching.

Evidence of Brilliance #3 – Constant research and growth.

Why did I change my training philosophy? I constantly research, how do you think I know the above stats? Those specific numbers come from a French Ligue 1 study. I look at how the Brazilians train their youth, how Ajax trains at their academy, how Spain and Portugal and Argentina teach their kids.

Two years ago we changed 90% of our training. I wish I could go back ten years and start anew.

Evidence of Brilliance #4 – I have a great deal of respect for our players and expect the same in return. We have fun. We are a loose bunch. Organized Chaos. No matter how chaotic we may seem the players know their place on the team, they respect their teammates and they respect those training them.

I am more interested in our players becoming upstanding young men and women than good soccer players. Character is paramount, respect, appreciation, confidence, humility, gratefulness…..

The season’s not over but I now confess that:

  • This is my team.
  • This is a good team.
  • This is a smart team.
  • This team makes me look good.

Players can make a coach appear to be good or not. Right now I’m thinking I’m pretty good.

Rocky at the Candle Cafe

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