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

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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

Educating Your Player’s Parents


Educating Your Player’s Parents

Each coach will soon learn that parents play a far greater role in youth sports than in the past.  Think about the effort a school makes to inform parents on the curriculum and procedures of the school year.  Countless papers are signed, a back to school night is presented, and individual parent-teacher conferences are held.  All of this is completed and it is ironic that the parents do not observe their child in the classroom.  The complete opposite occurs on most youth teams.  While all practices and games are observed by the parents, very little communication is presented to the parents on what it is they are observing.  Continue reading

Playing Up?

Playing Up
By John Dingle 

Many players can benefit from the opportunity to play up an age group or more. Many considerations must be taken into account before players take on this challenge. Clubs should not set policy on this issue. The club’s role is to give the player and the family information so that they can make a decision in their best interest. Continue reading