“If You Can’t Pass, You Can’t Play”



How many times have you seen a soccer game and thought to yourself, “Wow! This is painful to watch.”?    When a game is littered with turnovers, as teams smash the ball back and forth struggling for possession, it’s difficult for a game to have any type of rhythm. The beauty of the game is completely lost due to the lack of flow. Yet it’s only a matter of time before athleticism wins out.  The big fast kid playing up front or the kid who kicks the ball harder than anyone else saves the day and everyone pats themselves on the back.  To make matters worse, we congratulate the coach for a job well done and another great result.

There are few people who, whether a fan or not, can argue with the beautiful display put on by Barcelona and Spanish National Teams in recent years. “Punching and jabbing” opponents to death, like a skilled boxer. Connecting passes, and keeping long stretches of possession.  They make their opponents chase the ball from side to side, end to end, wearing them down.  It is a true joy to watch! The “Barca Way” epitomizes the three seeds of soccer…Technique, Coaching and Patience. Their style has become en vogue with so many teams trying to replicate it. So why do we find it so hard plant these three seeds at the youth level?

Winning on the weekend is winning out over cultivating the three seeds. Very few of our coaches are educators. Many of our coaches are unable to properly demonstrate technique. Coaches aren’t focused on developing players’ skills. Do they even have the tools, knowledge or skills themselves to do the job?

So many of our coaches are thrust into the job of “COACH” because no one else would step up and take the job. Overwhelmed with the responsibility, they scour the internet for drills to run, which are mostly cosmetic. Looking organized from a distance but with no real substance.  The sooner they can scrimmage the better. Now the practice becomes a lesson in tactics. “Looking at the players I have, where can I put them on the field to win on the weekend?”  Not much teaching, demonstrating or coaching going on here. The result? The hope of a game win on the weekend means the players lose today.

As with anything in life, the more you do something, the more proficient you might become.  In reading Daniel Coyle’s ‘The Talent Code,‘ he identifies deep practice as a key to success. In this article, deep practice applies to both coaches and players. Without quality practice, proficiency never comes. Unfortunately, unqualified and inexperienced coaches working with our youngest players often short cut the “practice” process.  They instead default to what’s easiest…winning.  We need to understand and embrace that developing skill in a educational environment, one which promotes playing attractive soccer, is a process that takes time.  To cultivate the three seeds of soccer success we cannot be in such a rush to make youth soccer look like the grown up game.

If you are a coach working with our future, simplify the process while taking the time to focus on the three seeds.

  1. TECHNIQUE: Show them the “how to” of passing & receiving  with the inside of the foot 
  2. COACHING: Incorporate that technique into as many components of your practice as possible. Make it the highest priority of team play.
  3. PATIENCE: Don’t get bogged down in all the different components of the game you think should be addressed.  Pick one or two (passing & receiving) and hammer that point home as often as possible.