Train in Chaos...Soccer is Random

The following excerpt come from the May 2016 issue of Amplified Soccer Training Magazine. This issue features ideas on the future of soccer coaching, periodization, speed development, psychology, soccer drills and more training resources to take your game to the next level.

Content contributions come from some of the top professional training, nutrition, mental game and fitness leaders in the industry. Get it now.

By Ian McClurg, Founder of 1 v 1 Soccer, UEFA “A” licensed coach and former Toronto FC Academy staff coach.

The game of football (soccer) is random. The field and goalposts stay fixed, the lines on the pitch don’t move, and the ball is round — but that’s about it. Other than that, things are pretty chaotic. The ball moves, teammates are all over the place and so are the opposition. Players have to make decisions in milliseconds, and we as coaches and parents expect them to make these decisions correctly and to execute on them successfully.

Soccer might be a simple game, but it is very difficult to play it in a simple way.

train in chaos

We as coaches stress the importance of young players learning good technical skills. However, it is also very important that we equip them with the tools to process information — both quickly and correctly. So how can we as coaches help our players to learn to cope with the game’s challenges? If the game is random, then we must train in a random way. A key component of our training is practicing in very tight spaces with lots of players making turns and executing moves close to each other. Our typical warm-up involves as many as 28 players dribbling and executing moves at game pace within a tennis-court-sized area. Players must learn to keep their heads up to find space to move into or they receive instant feedback: a heavy collision with a teammate. They quickly get used to having many players around them, in tight spaces and they must constantly control and navigate their ball away from trouble. This experience mirrors the real challenges they face when playing the game. For them, it’s best to learn how to cope with these challenges in practice, on a regular basis. The old cliché that “if you can’t do it in training, you won’t be able to do it in a game” is absolutely true in this case.

Those often-seen line drills, while very effective at teaching basic skills through repetition, do little to help our young players cope with the chaos of the game. They may, in fact, be partly to blame for our players at later ages thinking and playing in straight lines, rather than seeing all the possibilities that can open up during a chaotic match.

This article is an excerpt from “Play the 1 v 1 Way: Soccer Tips From and Emerging Talent Centre.” This book is aimed at parents, coaches and players, and details both McClurg’s philosophy on development, as well as practical tips for building young male and female players looking to take their game to the next level. This article can also be found along with more coaches training resources in the May 2016 Issue of Amplified Soccer Training Magazine.

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