Many people have wondered what will happen with Spain once Xavi and Iniesta leave. Without those two creative forces in the midfield things look bleak. Fans of Spain fear they will tumble back into their previous identity, which was a talented team, lacking the few players good enough to put them over the top. The Golden Era of Spanish football, and world football for that matter, has been led by the Spanish team since approximately 2006. With their short, precise passes they have set the standard for possession play. Whether you encourage a style of play that emphasizes possession or not, you need the players to bring the game plan together. As far as possession goes, Xavi and Iniesta were so good at keeping everything together, and managing the game, that, without them, it seems impossible to continue this dominant trend they have set. For fans of Spanish football there is hope as a twenty-two-year old midfielder has emerged. It's as though Figo and Xavi have been placed in a drink, mixed around, and, now you have it: Isco. He plays midfield for Real Madrid, currently alongside fellow midfielder Kroos, leading the game with a sharp awareness of defenders around him, passing the ball off to teammates within inches of the opposition's outstretched foot. He doesn't just pass to his teammate, but, he seems to pass the ball in just the right place, allowing his teammate to continue the next move; something to be expected from Madrid midfielders, including Luka Modric and Wesley Sneijder, two recent holders of that responsibility. His dribbling is creative, thoughtful and seemingly untouchable, as he maneuvers around, seeking out perfect opportunities to pass. He represents what every midfielder should encompass. He has the knowledge of the game, crafty skill, finding the right rhythms to pass, while placing passes in just the right position, and, the ability to make his teammates look good, putting them in advantageous situations. Without midfielders like Isco, Valderrama or Breitner (sure, I went back a few years), the forwards everyone becomes familiar with (C. Ronaldo, Messi, Eto'o) cannot do what they do. If he manages to avoid any major injuries the next ten years look very good for Spain's midfield.
Shane Stay on National Public Radio, with host Mike Collins, tomorrow!
Charlotte talks, WFAE, Charlotte's NPR News Source, Charlotte, North Carolina.
To air on the morning and evening broadcast.
I'm usually not talking until 6 or 7PM
This will be fun!
Speaking with experienced coach and former player, Michael Briceno, founder of Briceno Soccer Club, the topic of mistakes came up. As he put it, there needs to be room for players to make mistakes. The player has to be able to recover psychologically from an error. In America, youth players tend to be perfectionists. This is good to a point. He and many other coaches have found over the years that American players - at times - let their need for perfectionism get in the way of their ability to create on the field; they sometimes become robotic; they lose that knack to try and dribble past somebody. It's always necessary to reach for perfection but having the ability to fail along the way is crucial for the growth of a player's confidence. Many would argue it's better to try and be a perfectionist as opposed to letting loose, going wild on the field. But players also have to be able to try new things, and test the waters of their abilities. Within the system of players trying to get everything just right, there is also the larger system of coaches and parents that insist on perfectionism. Again, it's good to an extent but if coaches and parents have an up-tight attitude toward "error" in general, then a negative environment is often the result which leads to players being cautious, rigid, and, for lack of a better word, boring. On the other hand, if coaches and parents accept mistakes and allow some wiggle room then players know a few mistakes is not the end of the world. In this sort of atmosphere players are more relaxed and more confident. That's what you want. You want players to know it's okay to screw up every once in a while. At the top professional levels there are mistakes all the time; anything from mis-traps, to bad passes, to lapses on defense. What sets most professional players apart from others is their ability to come back the next play with the same confidence they have always had. Of course, some pro players and youth players - however good they are - will go through slumps, doubting their personal abilities. Tell the players they're going to make mistakes. They have to anticipate this. As they start to see what caused the error they should be able to improve off of that, hopefully eliminating future mistakes. Most importantly, they have to shrug it aside, getting ready for the next situation. Because no matter what, any player, at any level, is going to have the ball hit off their foot awkwardly, going out of bounds. How you recover from mistakes like this is the key. Mentally, you have to come back stronger on the next play. Once players have this mindset their confidence will grow as they approach the field for any game.
As a player you should first have personal skill. When you step onto the field you should want to show that off. Second, you want to combine your ball control skill with your dribbling skill and with your passing skill. You can do this combining with your teammates. The teammates you have should be willing to accept the idea of one for all, and you should be looking out for one another offensively and defensively. This can be tricky as some teammates are looking out for themselves, as they only care about promoting themselves to another “better” team, for instance. A team game like soccer requires that all team members be on the same page for success. If some players are not on board then this may be a recipe for disaster. Everybody needs to look for opportunities to get on the same page at practice, and combine the ideas of the game together there, in preparation for the games. In the games, everyone needs to bring out the best of the practices to the match. Mistakes are okay, combination play is good, dribbling is good, playing across the field is good, looking for opportunities to create danger in the opponents end is good, fast breaking first is good, and half court offense is to be expected if the fast break is not on. Fakes, deception, and shots around the box are all good too. First having the skill is a must. Even as an adult the skill needs to be rehearsed over and over again, for one, to make it better, and, secondly, to discover new skills you didn’t know about. (Possibly you’ve reached a point where you know all the skills. If this is the case, there are a lot of those skills to keep fresh.) Youtube Zidane playing indoor in a home video with what looks like acquaintances in a private gym somewhere. He’s playing with guys who are fun loving amateurs but you can see Zidane at his best; dribbling, using fakes, passing, scoring, creating chances for others. He’s just having fun, bringing all aspects of the game out naturally. If you ever get lost and wonder what you’re supposed to do in a game, this is a good reminder of what you need to bring to the field. Bring your skill and try to combine your teammates together and make them look good! It’ll all come back around and make you look good!
If you watch old Real Madrid games you’ll see Zidane, as the creative leader of the offense, very relaxed in games – almost too relaxed. Which is a good thing. You need examples to see how the game should be played. Zidane was influenced by the guys before him. He copied what he saw, making it his own. Just as Socrates, Zico, Mattheaus, Ronaldinho, Neymar, Messi and others were influenced by players before them. If you’re playing now, you should look back to Zidane – or any number of players – for tips on skill, body language, and confidence. In big games he’s relaxed. You don’t have to be pouncing on your toes, drooling, for big games. Defensively you should have that sort of attitude. But offensively, you should remember you have to approach the game like an artist; you have to be creative; and you have to work with your teammates to reach this state. When the stakes are big being creative can be difficult. This is why practice is so important. You have to reflect the same attitude and approach in practice that you will in a game. Practice is your chance to rehearse everything, and get on the same page with the other players. It’s your time to get in a rhythm together. It’s the coaches time to bring the rhythm, chemistry and over-all game plan together, and everything should be repeated over and again so that it is engrained into everybody’s psyche. You can’t just ask a team out of the blue at half time to improve their half court offense. This would be insane. This should already be worked out in multiple practices. Playing across the field to possess the ball incorporates (or encompasses) so many things. One of which is to go any direction. You don’t always have to go forward. Just going forward is a miserable idea. It’s a terrible idea. You can go backwards, and continue going backwards, and then go forward in an instant. The idea that going backwards (or sideways) is negative soccer is really bad thinking. The best of them including Zidane, Platini, Xaxi and others, often had to admit defeat and go backwards. And often they realized that a simple backwards pass may give their teammate the right moment to hit a through pass for a one-on-one with the goalkeeper. Going forward all the time is just not possible. Going backward creates chances. When you make a backward pass the player receiving the ball has the luxury of seeing the whole field. He does not have his back turned to the field of play. Going any direction on the field will free you up to maintain better chances with keeping possession. If you always force the ball forward you are simply forcing potentially bad situations, where your teammate will be forced to cough up the ball. Think of passing and dribbling in terms of going "any whichever direction" that is best available to you at the moment. Going sideways or backwards will inevitably put you in the best situation to go forward. The right moment will present itself, and you’ll know what it is. Call it possession with purpose. Call it what you want. You first have to possess the ball before possession with purpose can be implemented. And, most importantly, possession with purpose should come naturally, after first possessing the ball. I tried to evaluate all the ways in which proponents of possession with purpose would counter my stance. I think the best way they might win an argument with me is to counter by saying: if you only have possession for possession’s sake then the players will become robotic, missing opportunities to go forward. This argument makes sense. It’s difficult for players, on their own, to be trained to possess the ball non stop, and then be expected to attack when the opportunity presents itself. As a coach (or an observer of the game in the stands or watching on TV), my viewpoint of an opportunity to attack may be different from their viewpoint of an opportunity to attack. When a player is coached, or trained a certain way, this model of the game gets engrained into them. It becomes hard for them to break way from this instruction they’ve received. One good example is the fact that American youth players are raised to avoid dribbling in excess. They are turned into passing robots. The result is their creative side to the game is destroyed. When they become adults they carry these habits with them. It’s similar to Sea Biscuit. In the early days, he would practice against the prize horse and be forced to lose at the last second, so the main horse would gain confidence. After time, and some retraining, Sea Biscuit learned how to win again. The same can be done for players that have been taught passing is the “only” way; they too, can remember how to dribble again. But, as it is today, when they have to dribble they are uncomfortable with it. They create a defensive shell around themselves. Their body language is negative. And you can’t rely on passing alone to win games. So for a proponent of possession with purpose to say possession for possession’s sake is negative I get where they’re coming from. But, they’re just plain wrong. We as Americans haven’t yet conquered possession for possession’s sake. We don’t dribble. We’re rigid. We’re unsure of ourselves. When asked to keep possession with a lead we’re not sure how to do it and enjoy it for long durations. This is probably the key problem with much of American soccer. The idea of enjoying and appreciating possession is not yet something Americans embrace. Americans want goals. They don’t want possession. They want goals and they want them now. They’re used to big scores in football (event though a result might be 2-1 in soccer terms). They’re used to big scores in basketball. They’re used to small, soccer-like, scoring in hockey, but at least in hockey you get to smash some guy against the boards, and you can fight, so they’re content with that. As fans of the game, once Americans get on board with appreciating good possession, soccer will change in big ways for America. Part of winning the game in soccer is two-fold: one, the score, and, two, outplaying the opponent with possession. If you outplay the opponent with possession and you happen to lose the game, this is okay. You can grow on this success for the next game. If you continually outplay the opponent with possession and you lose some games, this is fine. Over time success should come your way. Sometimes the counter attacking team wins a game when they don’t deserve it. That’s just how soccer goes sometimes. Your long-term success will be better if you stick with possession oriented play. If you’re not out-possessing the opponent, and you’re continually trading punches with the opponent, and you’re losing games (which is probably the case), you will continue down this path and you’ll never be a long-term contender. You’re just a good sparing partner for the better teams.
Americans like goals. They like shots on goal. If you have good possession you will undoubtedly improve your quality chances on goal. Quality shots will increase. If you’re rushed, your shot selection will decrease in quality. Bad possession will not lead to good quality shots on goal. I’ve been with plenty of teams that rushed everything and the possession was non-existent. It was always a terrible experience. You’re playing because you have nothing else better to do, but the game is no fun whatsoever. Then when I play with a good team I wonder why this can’t be the same way every time. Whenever a team rushes things the game collapses. When your play is rushed the shots are rushed. If you are poised in possession the shots become more relaxed and confident. It’s just like in life. Studies show that if you treat a kid poorly a majority of them grow up with issues, some ending up going in and out of prison. If you treat a kid with positive reinforcement the majority of them end up living a positive lifestyle. Bad possession and rushing things is just disrespecting the game. It leads to bad, awkward shots. Good possession brings about good results.
Soccer isn’t primetime in the United States, like basketball or football, because the majority of Americans don’t see the U.S. as true contenders yet. They want shots and the quality shots will improve once the possession end is embraced mentally by the players and coaches within the game. Fans can sense the U.S. is the underdog in each game not only by what the pundits are saying but through watching the tentativeness of our team compared with others. Our players, coaches and fans alike have not yet embraced the subtle nuances to the game leaving our players in a place on the field where they cannot confidently own the game in terms of possession as they have been raised in a rushed approach to playing the game. This is not to say that any U.S. player would not be able to fit in with FC Barcelona, or Bayern Munich, and adapt to their system. They can. You can take someone like Dempsey and place him on Barcelona and he’d fit in. Even our least talented U.S. player can fit in, play a role and belong on the field. Obviously, as an individual performer Barcelona might want to select another player, from wherever, but they could fit in nonetheless.
So the question arises: what makes the “other” player Barcelona might select a better player individually? They want someone who is tractable to their system, the passing game, with the knowledge of the game (which the American players lack in comparison to other players from Spain, Germany, Italy). They want someone who can match up offensively and defensively, in one-on-one situations, with any player in the world. Offensively you have to be sound at dribbling the ball, and poised in tight traffic; something most Americans have been raised against doing. The American approach to the game looks down on dribbling, and fears tight traffic possession; Americans want to play in “open spaces” practically all the time, and we spend far too much time idling away on perfecting set pieces. If you’re really good at set pieces, Barcelona doesn’t care. They have someone like Messi or Iniesta who can take a free kick. Set pieces are really not that complicated. Usually somebody draws their foot back, then they kick the ball. On corner kicks the ball is lofted up to a particular point in the box, which the other team is fully anticipating, manly chaos ensues, and typically the defense clears the ball. They want you to be good at playing the game, which accounts for the important majority of the game itself. Defensively, they want someone that can win tackles, handle tight one-on-one encounters, using their body and anticipation to free up loose balls for turnovers. The American teams can do the following: keep games close on the scoreboard. All of the American defenders are good defenders. They’re bad attackers. They’re bad possessors of the ball. Their skill is weak. Their knowledge of the game is weak (partly because their skill prohibits them from exploring wider options offensively). Their offensive confidence is weak because deep down they know their individual skill isn’t where it should be and they’ve been raised to only defend. They have the athletic talent to keep games close but the American team keeps getting outplayed, and the chances of winning a World Cup are very slim. In order to improve on this Americans must eliminate the traditional defenders. One way to accomplish this to replace all central defenders with central midfielders. What do you do for new central midfielders? Find new ones. What about the central defenders? They can go play another game, I guess. Handball. Bocce Ball. Something with a ball. You have to find skillful central midfielders who are above six feet tall, place them in central defense and train them to control the game in possession, and to move forward with the attack as Beckenbauer did. There have to be more options joining the attack, other than just the forwards and midfielders. The way to have defenders join the attack is to start with the defenders setting the tone with possession. If they can’t be the base for keeping possession moving smartly and skillfully, then everything unravels. When things unravel what you have is a competitive team that uses its athletic prowess to keep games close, creating rushed opportunities around the goal, depending on set pieces to get by, and losing will become something this kind of team gets used to doing.
Possession kills the other team’s will. If they don’t have the ball they become defeated mentally. And slowly, they also become defeated physically. Taking away the other team’s will is great. This is what you want to do. When the other team finally gets the ball, they’re so used to chasing it and not having it, that they become rushed and panicked and everything falls apart. When your team gets the ball back, the players should be poised and ready to begin possession again, dismantling the opponent even more. At this point, the other team knows they are being outplayed, they become disappointed and their will dissolves even more, giving you the advantage as the game continues. And this gives your team an advantage for the games in the future as your team knows they have a sound system to rely on, giving them confidence moving ahead.
Possession is probably America’s biggest obstacle to the game. We don’t like it. We get bored with it. We want to avoid it. We want to go forward quickly, all the time. We’re impatient. We want shots “now.” We want to win and go home. We rush things. We eat power lunches. We have restaurant chains that name meals after “home runs” and “grand slams.” Before we avoid possession we have to over use it first, then move on from there.
Possession With A Purpose
It shouldn’t matter who scores the goals. The important thing is what got us to the goal. The American view toward soccer, and what makes a good player, puts too much emphasis on the goal scorer. Who can finish around goal? Who has got the big shot? Who can put it in the back of the net? Everybody wants to be the goal scorer. All the players have this attitude. They think they won’t make the team if they don’t score. This creates an “atmosphere of me,” causing everyone to forget what is more important: the build up to a shot. If there’s a shaky build up then few good chances for quality shots will occur. All players should be able to finish. All players should have big shots. You need a firm line drive hit with the instep and a subtler bending passing shot hit with the inside of the foot. This should be a prerequisite for being on a team. A big problem American soccer faces is there are usually one or two goal scorers the team leans on. And the guys who are supposed to be creating aren’t that good at creating in the first place. So you have a crazy mix of guys trying to get the ball down field, to a couple players who are given the responsibility to score, and everything looks forced and predictable. Other teams see exactly what’s happening. On the other hand, if everyone can score then it doesn’t matter who scores. At this point, you have to strip the ego of the players and they have to realize that the action of swinging the foot and putting the ball in the net is not that important. What’s important is the way they got to the shot. To a player, goals should be the most boring thing in the world. You’re just kicking the ball. How you get there is what’s important. Enjoy the possession. Good possession leads to more shots and more goals. It doesn’t lead to boring soccer. It leads to more goals. There is a line of thinking that criticizes “over possessing” the ball. If you’re over possessing the ball this is a good thing. It’s definitely a good thing; versus, if you’re under possessing the ball you’re likely losing the game, sitting around wondering why the other team was so much better than you. It means, for one, that you can over possess the ball. If you can’t over possess the ball you’re in big trouble. It means, for two, that if you can over possess the ball then you can turn it up a gear and attack, playing “free flowing” soccer like Brazil 1970, satisfying the critics of your “boring over possession.” The critics of over possession are just that – critics. They need anything to complain about. If you’re not possessing the ball they’ll say you lack the skill to possess the ball; they’ll compare you to a good team that possesses the ball, saying you need to be more like them. When you play possession soccer they’ll say you lack the ability to attack with a “purpose,” or with “free flowing soccer.” No matter what, they’re not satisfied. What they don’t seem to realize is that over possessing the ball leads to more attacking soccer. It’s a little like trying to be the best guitar player around. Do you think Eddie Van Halen would have a hard time covering any other artist in the world? I doubt it. I think he can hear any song, any solo, and recreate it with ease. Who are the musicians having a hard time covering every song they hear? They’re the ones trying to be like Van Halen, but they’re not quite there. As an individual player you should have all the skills, including tricks whether it seems pertinent to the field of play or not. You need to have all the dribbling moves down (of which there are a minimum of thirty), whether you use them or not. As a team you have to be able to fast break, and you have to be able to over possess the ball. So many teams enter a World Cup – of all places – not being masters of possession. If there’s one place you don’t want to show up to unprepared it’s probably the World Cup. There tend to be a lot of other teams that are pretty focused. These teams showing up without a firm grasp of possession are wasting everyone’s time. This is why no one wakes up at 5 AM to watch Kazakhstan versus New Zealand. They can’t possess the ball! Are you kidding? You’ve given up and said, “I’m the punching bag, pound away.” Why did you even show up? How do they expect to even come close to getting out of their group? But it’s not just possessing the ball, which these type of teams lack. It’s the body language they have in possession, in dribbling, and even before they start the game. They don’t own it. They don’t own the idea that they’re the best players out there. In order to own this idea you have to want the other team to be as good as you think you are, so you can beat the best. In terms of possession, you have to want a challenge from the other team. Therefore, you have to enjoy possession; enjoy the idea of “pointless” passes (which actually aren’t pointless at all and they, in fact, create more attacking passes); enjoy the idea that you’ve already prepared for the moment of getting on the field with the experience of over possessing the ball in practice, in friendly games and in competitive games. You have to know exactly what the result of over possession is. It’s a part of the game that doesn’t show up on the scoreboard but it resonates with anyone watching the game as to who the better team was (win or lose). This is why Spain has been so good of late. There’s a system they adhere to. They possess the ball knowing that good results will come over the long run, even if they win or lose, or even if they’re down a goal.
I would love to have a debate with anyone on whether or not Italy has a creative, fluid style of play. I believe, against much opposition, that they do. Most people think of Italy as boring defensive minded players and teams. “Boring masters of defense. They suck the life out of the game. They destroy everything decent with what could be a beautiful game and they squash it with dull, unimpressive, uninspired, boring, tragically uncreative play.” I see the opposite. They possess the ball with style and when they do – sure they have lapses at times and they can be boring to watch – they put their thumbprint on the game with a finer quality than most other teams. They and the French have style in life, and in the game. When they play well – the French and the Italians – you, as the viewer, enjoy watching the game more than you would with other teams playing well. This part of the debate I would lose because you can’t explain this feeling. How do some players from Italy, playing at their best, look better than other players from Sweden, playing at their best? It’s personal opinion. However, as with art and style and architecture and life, there are some places that generate more appealing “things” than others. How do you explain this aesthetic aspect of “stuff” out there? Sometimes you can’t. It comes from years of generation after generation engraining what they believe into the next generation. And some do certain things better than others. Why do West Africans have a better flair for dance than people of Paraguay, Peru and Bolivia? It’s my opinion that this is so and I think most people would agree with this. If you don’t (with all due respect) you’re from another planet called “I don’t know what I’m talking about.” If I believe that I’ve watched as much Paraguayan, Peruvian and Bolivian dance as I have with West African dance then I’m an idiot. Let’s just say West African culture has set the standard for high quality dance. If you want to defeat them in a dance competition, good luck Peru. Why did the ancient Japanese make the highest quality swords? Well, they did, and they passed this skill of attaining perfection with engineering onto the next generations, which led to quality advances in automobiles, computers, electronics, robotics and the Fuji film empire.
There cannot be possession with a purpose without first mastering possession for possession’s sake. A team first has to be able to deliver possession for possession’s sake anytime, under any circumstance. It has to be driven into their heads so much that they’d rather walk the Sahara desert than step on a soccer field again. This should be done at practice and in games as much as possible. It takes a fanatical commitment, focusing on detail and repetition, similar to a mix between Vice Lombardi and Dwight Schrute.
American’s have embraced possession with a purpose so quickly because Americans like to skip ahead right to the goal scoring. They are assuming that they have mastered, or conquered, possession for possession’s sake, when they haven’t. We’re not even close. Each game of the 2014 World Cup the United States was outplayed. They had some moments, but they were just that: moments. In order to be a serious contender you have to have a series of moments, or a continuous moment. Spain, Germany, Holland, Argentina and others continue to have moments that keep going, not just one or two. The U.S. has a couple good moments and they think everything is going in the right direction, and, hence, they want to skip ahead to possession with a purpose. They haven’t even conquered over possession yet. There’s ninety minutes in the game. That’s a long time. If you just trade punches with a team, and go toe-to-toe for the duration of the game, you’re going to be giving the ball up back and forth all game long. You’re going to keep giving the other team opportunities to score and out play you with possession (should they choose to possess the ball versus trading punches). You don’t want to go toe-to-toe with Mike Tyson unless you know you’re Joe Frazier or Roy Jones Jr. (not the same weight class, I know) or De la Hoya (not the same weight class, I know) – i.e. do you have the complete skill set to take on a world champ? You don’t want to go toe-to-toe with George Foreman. I mean, it’s fine, go for it, but if you trade punches with these guys you also need to be a skilled boxer as well, so you can have something to fall back on. All these teams, Spain, Brazil, Germany, etc., are not just toe-to-toe fighters; they have the complete boxing skillset. The game of soccer, like basketball, is simple in the respect of offense: fast breaks and half court possession. Your first instinct should be to look for the fast break. If this is not on, then turn to the half court possession game. The field in soccer is much bigger than a basketball court, though according to Glenn Beck, as with climate change, the debate is still raging. The half court possession game can be broken down into sections, but it should be thought of as any place on the field. In half court possession the intent should be to play the ball across the field, going back and forth, connecting with each wing or outside defender positioned near the sideline. (You can pass up and back to accomplish this as well.) As you go across the field with possession you are looking for opportunities to create danger in your opponent’s defensive areas. Simple. You have to conquer this first. As you begin to master this, which takes time and patience, the players will naturally begin to “possess with a purpose.” Or as I like to call it, “create danger in the opponent’s defense.”
Just pushing forward for the sake of getting forward is so wrong and it defeats the purpose of going forward in the first place. It rushes everything. It takes the game out of playing the game. The whole point of stepping on the field is to possess the ball and score, in the simplest terms. There are so many other things, obviously, but possessing the ball is something we as Americans are lacking. We lack in possession like the 85’ SNL cast lacked a good…plan. We don’t appreciate the possession of the ball. There’s a lack of understanding we have for it. This is part of our culture. We rush things. We need things now. Basketball has points on the board immediately. In football you go forward with every ounce of energy you have. With soccer, possession done correctly can seem very boring to some. Scoring a goal is the ending to a cool piece of music. The good part of the song is everything building up to the crescendo. It’s all the stuff in the middle. The ending is just the end. It’s the beginning and middle that got you there. Enjoy those parts. The action of the goal itself should be thought of as boring. Once you (the player) think of a goal this way you’ll end up scoring more. It’s merely a swing of the leg, or a head ball. The whole build up is the important part. Without the build up you don’t have a swing of the leg or a head ball to cap it off. Many people say goal scorers have ice in their veins. There’s a lot of pressure to score. Eliminate the big moment of scoring. See it as one small action in the cog of the wheel (the wheel being the build up in possession), and you’ll be less stressed to score. And, mentally, this is where you want to be.
What team would you place a bet on to win? A team that is only good at fast breaks, or a team that is only good at possession? I would hope you’d take the possession team. Because a team that only fast breaks will have a very hard time mastering possession, however, a team that is only good at possession can very easily learn the fast break. Why? It takes more skill to be a possession team. You must have precise passing. You have to be able to pass to a players’ right or left foot; or you have to pass to a space, leading the player, with a soft, medium or hard pass. You have to think quickly, combining with players, creating chemistry with teammates. If you take these guys and tell them to fast break it should come naturally; after all, they need a break from possession. And, after all, that’s what possession is good for: it waits, and waits, and waits for that moment to attack with a precise guided pass (essentially a fast break moment). These possession-oriented players will use their skill appropriately, guiding players with correct passes into space, creating the best fast break options.
The fast break oriented players, on the other hand, probably aren’t that skillful to begin with, as they usually just kick the ball forward and chase it like wild animals. To get them to use precision and thinking in a half court offense would be asking a whole lot.
It’s similar to the saying from Anson Dorrance: “You can turn a dribbler into a passer, but you can’t turn a passer into a dribbler.” You can turn a possession player into a faster breaker, but you can’t turn a fast breaker into a possession player.
(NS) refers to "Non-Soccer" related blog entries, stories and essays.
All Written Work Copyright 2014-2022 Shane Stay