A Needed Approach: Developing Creative Players

A Needed Approach: Developing Creative Players
by John Dingle

Prior to 1990, the US Men’s National Team had failed for 40 years to qualify for a World Cup. We have qualified for every World Cup since and no one expects this to change in the future. American players are currently playing all over the world and have been accepted by major clubs in Europe and Mexico. Opponents of the national team now respect our US Men’s team. They realize, they can’t expect to win without bringing the ‘A’ game. We are now expected to get out of our group at every world cup and have reached the quarterfinals in 2002. Our style of play is now closer to top soccer countries’ style. We now play out of the back on a regular basis. Goalkeepers pass the ball after saves and on goal kicks. We now attempt to play through defensive lines as opposed to skipping them or player over the lines as our preferred method of attack. When we get the ball wide Continue reading


Soccer Talk-The Fastest Way to Improve a Team

Soccer Talk-The Fastest Way to Improve a Team
By John Dingle

Teams that talk more on the field play better.  When a team communicates with each other on the field they are exuding confidence that can be contagious.  This talk can also put the opponent into an emotional shell.

What is soccer talk; the three types:

  • Information to an individual- turn, hold, force to inside, and take them on are a few examples.
  • Information to a group or team- push, shift, drop, play faster, and possess the ball are some examples.
  • Emotional talk-who  is going to win this ball, we are creating chances, you are better than that, and great stuff are some of the emotional phrases you hear on the soccer field.

Who does the soccer talk: Continue reading

Youth Soccer Coaching: Lessons from USA WC Game I

Youth Soccer Coaching: Lessons from USA WC Game I

by John Dingle

The US Men’s National team played Ghana in their first game of the 2014 world cup. Each US player possesses a soccer personality that allow them to fill roles for the team. The soccer personality is rooted deep in the player; as it is part of their overall personality, characteristics, attitude, and their physical characteristics. They developed their skill set because their soccer personality lead them in that direction. Youth coaches can help foster the move to the direction of player develop of each type of soccer personality.

Below is a chart of each starting player, the role they played, primary responsibilities, their must-have skill set, and ideas of how youth coaches can help develop these roles. Continue reading

Approaches in Club Coaching

Coaching Youth Soccer
A Development Approach Vs. An Acquisition Approach

All youth soccer coaches of travel teams are committed to making their team better.  Teams improve in only two ways.  One approach is to replace existing players with better players.  The other approach is to concentrate on developing the players on the team.  The Maryland youth soccer scene has clubs that demonstrate both of these approaches.   The table below outlines general characteristics of both approaches:

Acquisition Approach Development Approach
Playing Positions In most cases, players play only one position. Players play multiple positions.
Goal of Coach Win the next game, climb rankings. Create environment to develop players.
Team Stability Roster constantly changing. Roster sees little changes.
Playing Time Large variation in playing time sees some players play very little and at times not at all during games. Although not even, each player receives substantial playing time.
Coaching Style Organizes and directs game situation. Facilitates players making decisions in game situations.
Commitment to Sport Discourages other extra -curricular activities Encourages participation in other extra-curricular activities
Development Stages Skips development stages to gain short term goals. Uses age appropriate activities to correspond to development stages
Coach Talk Speaks to team accomplishments Speaks to player accomplishment
Measure of Success Winning games, tournaments, leagues, national ranking Players progressing through stages

The acquisition approach places a major emphasis on recruiting players.  Players are approached with recruiting on the field, with direct phone calls, and through 2nd parties.  When recruiting players, coaches often boast of the team’s record and the team’s national ranking.  Promises that can’t be guaranteed are often made to these players.  During the recruitment process, players do not realize the coach will be recruiting to replace them in the future.

What approach is best for your child in the long term?

Call To Action: Organized Sports Return to Your Roots

Call to action for Youth Sport Organizations- Return to your roots.

Focus on the development of character in children as they mature into adulthood to help them prepare for the modern world. 

Organized youth sports have a limited history as not much evidence is found of their presence until the boom associated with the industrialization during and following World War II.  Fraternal, religious, and civic organizations began to offer organized youth sports programs with the goal of helping boys become men.  Girls did not have many options until the 70’s to participate in youth sports programs. 

Organized and unorganized sports is where many in my and previous generation learned to lead, to follow, how to get back up, to become resilient, to be a good team mate, to sacrifice for the unknown, character wins over the long term, impulse control, to follow directions, perspective matters, and many other needs for the modern world.  We were tricked into learning while having fun.  This was out of design and we are better for it. 

Do you or your organization help or hinder children from learning life lessons while playing?  As we all know the ‘work of a child is play’ and due to many social changes children have less unstructured time to play than ever. 

·         How much adult involvement?  I believe ‘the more adults added to a child program makes it less a child program’.   Adults now solve more problems ‘to help’ and the children face less challenges. 

·         Do you or your club promote character development in its messaging?  Can define an expectation.

·         Do you or your organization offer free play time that allows the players to independently choose teams, make boundaries, enforce rules, solve conflict, and adjust to the dynamics of each situation?

·         Do you or your club message to all participants that each child must be an active participant?  Players who do not try close to their best on a regular basis take away from their team mates and opponents learning opportunity.

·         Are players held to realistic standards and expectation?  Do they run in when called or when late?

·         Does your club look to implement character development into each child’s experience through coach development?

·         Does your club put players in travel programs at ages that are not deemed appropriate by not just common-sense standards, but also by child development experts who are backed up by studies?  When is a child old enough to spend more time in the car than on the field?

It is time to act!  Challenge yourself and your organization!

This is why, we do

what we do

 at Soccer Source 360.

John Dingle

Developing Players to Improvise

Developing Players to Improvise
by John Dingle

If you do not know what improvisation in soccer is watch this video: Improvisation 1.

US soccer has made great strides catching up to the world in soccer. We now produce some of the best goalkeepers and role players in the world. We are limited to future growth by our inability to develop world class play makers and goal scorers. World class play makers and goal scorers all have the ability to improvise. It all starts with the development of youth soccer players. If our young players can’t improvise in creative ways, they will not develop into creative players.

Creativity is needed in soccer games to break down organized defenses. Sharp accurate passing combinations are not enough at times to beat a team that is committed to getting numbers behind the ball and staying organized. No team can stay organized when unpredictable creative play has defenders beaten. Improvising play unbalances defenses and open up space and frees team mates of marking.

Improvisation is not a tactic; it is not a technique. Improvisation is an attitude. Coaches of the American player and to a degree American culture work to stifle this attitude in players for the following reason: Continue reading

Improving Youth Soccer

I have looked back on the growth of the game in the United States and see we have made great progress. More players are playing the game, the level of youth soccer has improved tremendously, the Women’s and Men’s National team is playing at a higher level, and soccer is entering the main stream of our culture.

Looking forward, I see four areas that youth coaches need to take to continue the games growth.  US Soccer needs more and better game changers, we need to create a culture of possession in youth soccer, move to proactive coaching with seasonal plans, and teach tactics the appropriate way through the use of visual signs to our youth players.

Developing the Game Changer Attitude The first is predictable to students of the international game. We need more creative soccer players. This is a huge challenge.  We need to understand that each youth soccer player has their own soccer characteristics.  These characteristics come from their personality, body make up, athletic ability, and perceived team role.  Soccer coaches need to develop these soccer personalities differently.  The player who has a safety first personality will not be a creative player, but they can learn to protect the ball by shielding and dribble to open up angles for a pass.  The player who is fast and likes open space needs to learn how to run with the ball and change directions explosively.  They also will need to learn how to beat players into space.  The player who likes to be in a crowd, challenges the conventional way of getting things done, and likes the ball at their feet can develop into a creative soccer player.  All of these personalities and others can be game changers if they are guided to play within their soccer personality with a “no fear of failure approach”.

Players will enjoy their soccer experience more if they are set free to use their imagination, creativity, and problem solving abilities in the game. These players are not robots and coaches can’t expect to control every move the player make. Remote control coaching needs to end. Challenge yourself to allow players to be free to take chances, free to make mistakes, free to be special, and free to be game changers.

In 1998, US Soccer started project 2010. Project 2010’s goal was to ensure the US Men’s national team could become a legitimate threat to win the 2010 world cup. At the time president of US Soccer, Alan Rothenberg, stated “Somewhere out there we’ve got a 9 year old Ronaldo, and we got to find him.” Continue reading