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Coaching Philosophy- Total Football

MICHAEL LAUDRUP- How important is it for a club’s philosophy to permeate right down to the youth side?

Very important. At Barcelona, the philosophy is all about the touch and what they do with the ball rather than a particular system of play. Nobody, including me, can see what system they play because the players are so good and can all interchange positions. But everyone at Barcelona knows how they have to touch the ball and the runs they need to make. I imagine that if you watch the club’s 12 to 14-year-old players they train in a very similar way to the first team. At Ajax, they have been playing the same 4-3-3 system since the 1970s, in the days of Johan Cruyff. Every team in the club has to play this way. I recall my last season as a player there in 1997-98, when Morten Olsen was head coach. We were doing fantastically well; top of the league and 10 or 11 points clear of PSV in second. But for one fixture all three of our wingers were injured, so Morten decided that we would need to play 4-4-2. We won the game, but the next day there were reports in the press saying “Disaster…how can Ajax play 4-4-2?” It was as though we’d committed a major offence.I don’t believe you should be quite so rigid in your philosophy, but it does need to permeate the whole club, through the system of player progression. If there is a clear club philosophy, the young players coming through know the basics they need to progress.http://www.leadersinfootball.com/blog/the-leader/the-manager-magazine-michael-laudrup-interview/


Philosophy: "Continuous Improvement" and "Total Football"

PSV Union FC was formed after a group of professional coaches and managers decided to offer high caliber, year-round professional coaching. The goal was to become a base for players and families who shared the same ambitions and passion for the game with our coaching staff. Players wishing to play collegiate soccer one day have in PSV Union FC a club that will help them achieve their dreams. 

[See Testimonials for the list of former PSV Union players’ achievements, and for references about PSV Union staff by players, coaches, managers and other soccer experts.]  

For 20 years, our coaching staff which includes both former and current professional, national team and high level playershave worked with players of all levels and have succeeded in helping these players achieve considerable success in the game. While these players may have progressed to different levels, the common characteristic they possess is their passion for the game. 

 

We expect players to be interested in progressing in the sport and encourage the importance of goal-setting through additional training with our professional coaching staff. Many of our players participate in additional small group sessions on one or more occasions each week, which has resulted in significant technical improvement and has accelerated players’ performance levels. Over the years, our coaches have assisted players in achieving collegiate positions, with some of them returning to the club to coach after enjoying successful collegiate and professional coaching careers. 

 

At PSV Union we have proven that players can be encouraged to practice more and learn to develop a passion for the game. In the past we have successfully taken AYSO and Class 3 teams up to Class 1 and NorCal Premier divisions, winning leagues as well as many CYSA and US Club Soccer tournaments. 

 

This was done through positive alignment i.e. the correct alignment of coaching, player and club expectations and philosophies. It is important to understand that all players participating in our programs realize that they should come to this club to embark on a philosophy of 'continuous improvement.' Our professional coaches demand that players exercise a high level of self discipline in all aspects of their lives associated with athletics, including education, nutrition and positive social habits and skills. It is our goal to help our players to improve not only as team members but as special individuals in their formative, pre-collegiate careers.


Why Are Practices So Important?

At PSV Union FC practices are equally important as the games. Therefore it is important for players to attend as many training sessions as possible, including the optional and extra training sessions.  

The foundation for our success is our emphasis on practice and repetition in order to facilitate true learning and acquisition of skills and techniques that require time and patience to learn.

 

It's not uncommon that young players may often be fully engaged in games and  team practices but find it hard to have the discipline to practice on their own. We know that if a young player can find practicing on his/her own to be interesting and exciting, then he/she could really excel. We rarely compare one player to another player so much as to where he/she could be in relation to his/her own potential. The competition in training is geared towards competing with oneself as opposed to between players. 

 

There is always a natural varying degree of motivation on any team -some players practice more than others, but the ones who will ultimately reach the highest levels are the ones who are most committed. Again, this does not come naturally to everyone and can be taught. 'Teaching players to learn' is the challenge. 

 

It does become more fun to practice on your own if you have a goal, or feel inspired and/or if you have achieved some success. Success feeds upon itself and confidence grows. Learning the proper technique happens over a long period of time and often you only achieve incrimental success (or no apparent validation for your hard work). If a child breaks their juggling record, it will motivate  them to keep juggling. But if they work on their dribbling skills, it may take years before they are able to successfully dribble against and “beat” defenders in 1v1 situations. That's why practicing the skills ladder and movements on the ball is sometimes hard for young players- It takes years to be able to use the newly aquired skills in a competitive game situation and it's hard to see the immediate benefits. The trick is sticking with it long enough to get some success.This doesn't happen right away. Practicing can be very rewarding if you have a vision for where it will take you, and if you get little "carrots" when you succeed that entices you to keep going. We encourage kids to watch games and professional players because if they have an idea of where it will take them, this vision can carry them through the tough times in practice when it seems that they are not getting any better when actually they are.Having a vision of what you want to become is a very strong motivator. 

 

We suggest that parents keep encouraging their children and remind them that they have to be patient. Expect that for every hour they train, they will only get a little better (not exponentially better). These little bits add up over time and eventually will help them become a great player. Tell them to watch games and look for a favorite player and get inspired. 


PLAYING PLAYERS 'UP'

Johan Cruyff remembers the first time he set eyes on Pep Guardiola. The scrawny teenager was playing in Barcelona's youth team and Cruyff had just been appointed first-team manager at the club. 'He was a boy and the people said to me, "Oh, he's one of the best". 'So (over the next year) I looked for him in the reserves, but he didn't play in the reserves. So then I looked at the first youth team, and he didn't play in that team. And eventually I found him in the third youth team. So I said to the coaches, "You said he was the best one!" And they said, "Yeah, but physically " I said, "Put him there (in the reserves). He will grow. Don't worry, everybody grows". And they said, "Yeah, but we will lose". I said, "If we lose, we lose. We need to create players". And he did very well.' Johan Cruyff. Read more:


PSV UNION PLAYING STYLE

the psv union fc style of play is philosophically driven to benefit the long term education of each player. we play a hybrid formations (4-3-3 or 3:1:3:3 or 4:4:2 or 3:5:2 etc) with no permanent positions. we expect all of our players to attack when possible and even if it doesnt seem as though there are opportunities.  we do not put the team first. team and club success if equal to player development. as player become older and form their player personality they gravitate to specific positions. our focus is playing out of the back with varying emphasis on individual & team play in each game. sometimes we encourage players to 'overdribble' even if they risk losing the ball in sensitive areas of the field and we also encourage 'overpassing' to see how much pressure they can manage. it is only when players find their personal and collective limits that they understand their limits. players can they better address their technical issues which prevent them from excelling. in this way we allow players to express themselves in their quest for personal discovery which we combine with our various teaching approaches; guided discovery, command and control and socratic methods. 

 

we give players different experiences in different positions as part of their overall education & focus on playing 'total football' so you will see a lot of fluidity and movement. we play with 3 (youngers) or 4 at the back using a sweeper or flat back tsystem who does not hold their position by design, so not a sweeper in the traditional sense. we play with very high outside backs who overlap as much as possible with 3 creative midfielders players and 3 interchanging up front.  the players are taught about the various formations and systems of play but we prefer to use the john owens 'decision making tree' (see PSV Union FC Pass2me.com Pro+ page for diagram)  which places a premium on 'patterns of play' rather than too much structure, especially with young players who may or may not eventually play. too many coaches in youth soccer follow trends. players make systems, not the other way around. as guardiola has said many times 'its not about systems- its about having good players'. Michael Laudrups states- At Barcelona, the philosophy is all about the touch and what they do with the ball rather than a particular system of play. Nobody, including me, can see what system they play because the players are so good and can all interchange positions

 

Read the following link to better understand the psv union philosophy on player development. this style of play takes several years to develop so one may not see evidence in terms of match results as players try to find their way as they make errors as they break the mold. parents who want results in 3-4 years may not see it. after 4-5 years you will see very special players and special football. this is not microwave soccer.  http://www.psvunion.org/page/show/463314-coaching-philosophy-total-football


SELECTING PLAYERS vs IDENTIFYING FUTURE TALENT

When our coaches came to the Bay Area area there were vitually no professional coaches. The players who got picked were the fittest, fastest, biggest because coaches didnt have to teach them. They simply overpowered their opponents playing pretty ugly soccer. There were some good players that came out of the 'old' way because good players do find a way to compete. Weve had teams and players who have won State and National championships and other awards but this isnt totally fulfilling. Why not? Because along the way youve not picked players who 'werent ready' or not played players in games who werent able to 'get the job done'. One sacrifices their integrity when seeking team success. You look along the bench and wonder if the players you are going to substitute in, however deserving they are, are going to upset the balance of play and perhaps 'cost the game'. 99% of youth coaches wont say this but its true. They are afraid of giving up the win. These same coaches have their players take long free kicks, corners and allow their goalkeepers and defenders 'go long'. They also have their players shoot (if you can call it that) on top of the goalkeeper because they know defenders and goalkeepers are capable of some howlers at youth level. Then you have players subject to a system of play where they behave like robots and pawns in a  game obviously played by the coaches, not the players. No wonder the game is starved of players with personality. 

 

What is fulfilling is seeing players improve and succeed when otherwise they would have been ignored/were ignored and basically dumped by their coaches because they weren't ready to compete TODAY. this is a massive problem in youth soccer. Selecting players, developing players and identifying future talent are all very very different. Its easy to pick who is ready to compete tomorrow. Its a lot harder to pick players who are going to be great in 3-5 or even 7 years. The latter is something we specialize in while all the while making sure we try to prepare players to be the best they can be every day. 


PSV UNION FC BELIEVES....

  • In Total Football- It is a system where a player who moves out of his position is replaced by another from his team, thus allowing the team to retain their intended organizational structure. In this fluid system, no footballer is fixed in their intended outfield role; anyone can be successively an attacker, a midfielder and a defender
  • Our coaches must possess the ability to transmit a passion for the game to the players they coach. they must demonstrate coaching material with world class quality at the intensity and speed required for every player, regardless of level, thereby providing the players under our tutelage a visual learning example of the material being taught.
  • That players (even professionals) are visual and physical learners and therefore equire physical examples of what is expected of them. Coaches should be considered ‘teachers’ and believes in ‘strong visuals’ in the form of competent physical demonstration by the coach thereby providing a clear picture of what the student/player needs to see in order to replicate the movement.
  • In a conviction of a philosophy and style of play, inspired by some of the worlds finest players and teams and reinforced by Wiel Coerver (note- from Wiel Coever personally- not the Coerver Method), Guardiola, Cruyff and others. Teams should play collectively with interchanging players and positions and at any time a player or cluster of players can create a solution or exploit opportunities.  
  • That players are not provided enough technical coaching and training in order to lay the foundation for advanced levels of play and that too often coaches focus too heavily on the physical and tactical to seek winning results at youth levels. 
  • That a strong technical basis and tactical understanding of the game based on continuous development of technique and technical implementation is the key to becoming a creative and effective football player. 
  • In teaching players how to self-train/homework thereby not depending on the coach to provide every solution to player development. 
  • Too many coaches, clubs and federation licensing organizations focus on team development rather than improving player development. The better the individual level of each player in any team, the more tactical options a team will have. 
  • Too many players are ill equipped technically to play at the highest levels and have been fast tracked due to their physical and tactical ability, only to be exposed a the elite levels. 
  • Players and ultimately teams succeed when players are required to respond independently to obstacles on the field and have the opportunity to exercise the technical skills they have been taught in practice and develop on their own.  
  • Players should be encouraged to embrace pressure, not shying or playing away from pressure, will require them to find solutions on the field. eg. Short-corners, short goals kicks, free kicks, quick re-start and playing from the back as well as requiring players to play under extreme pressure in numbers down situations are examples of the stresses he places the players under.  
  • When a player is placed under repeated stress/pressure does the player/s find a solution and develop the requisite personality traits to embrace rather than fear pressure. "Teaching players why they fail' and "Learning how to overcome failure" is deeply entrenched the training methodology. 
  • That players must develop and fine tune the technical interfaces: receiving, dribbling and passing of the ball comprised of thousands of exercises of specifically choreographed techniques over a minimum 3-year period and up to 10 years.e.g fluidity, coordination, flexibility, dexterity, balance, change and shift of balance, acceleration, deceleration, re-acceleration, rhythm, equilibrium, poise, stance and physical orientation both on and off the ball is critical to developing creative players and are all underlying themes of our training and applied rigorously. 

We do not Believe: 

  • In applying fixed systems and formations of play for youth football players
  • Success of a youth coach is determined by the winning record but by measured by the ability and success of the players and teams who succeed in playing attractive football to both play and to watch. 
  • Youth coaches, parents and players should not focus only on the match result but instead focus on the results of the challenges presented to the players in games: quality of build up play and possession; quality of individual movement on the ball and risk taking; pressing and playing with a high line- all of which come with risks but should be embraced by coaches, players and parents/supporters alike.

We Promote from Within

"Barça’s (FC Barcelona) management style chimes in with the thinking of two admired theorists. Boris Groysberg, of Harvard Business School, has warned that companies are too obsessed with hiring stars rather than developing teams. He conducted a fascinating study of successful Wall Street analysts who moved from one firm to another. He discovered that company-switching analysts saw an immediate decline in their performance. For all their swagger, it seems that their success depended as much on their co-workers as their innate talents. Jim Collins, the author of “Good to Great”, argues that the secret of long-term corporate success lies in cultivating a distinctive set of values. For all the talk of diversity and globalisation, this usually means promoting from within and putting down deep local roots." (SOURCE UNKNOWN)

“Ive never been worried about having a small squad. In fact, being a little short on options is probably better for us than having a lot, especially as Ive got players with so much quality to call on. Ive got complete faith in the team and my philosophy is that theres a solution to every problem. Whenever theres a potential problem Ill always look at the alternatives Ive got in the first team and even among the youngsters.” Barcelona FC coach Pep Guradiola


“Bearzot Speaks”

The following quote is from the Italy 1982 World Cup winning coach Enzo Bearzot on Italian 1994 World Cup coach Arigo Sacchi. 

Sacchis views, he claims, come from a fixed point of view. Absurd because the opposition in the crux of the matter and it never allowed you “to interpret at your own pleasure. Sacchis is not real football, its virtual football, based on a geometric scheme”  Which means he says, getting hold of players, then the team as a whole, forcing them to make a series of movements, destined to become automatic, by means of repetition. It can be done says Bearzot. Even animals are capable of it. A dog which accompanies the blind can stop when the light is red and go when its green. But is this attractive football? How can you try for automatic play through repetition then change your dog every day? The contradiction between automatic play and changes is paradoxical, unless you regard the players as robots. “If this is the case then lets shut up shop”


Cruyff's Comments

  • Dominate the ball. Don’t let the ball dominate you
  • Focus on improving the individual
  • Clubs should  focus on developing young players basic skills; passing, dribbling, receiving, shooting etc. 
  • That ratio of skill development to physical and tactical development has not grown at the same pace.
  • His generation out more time into their skills after school. This needs to change and clubs need to provide the skill training and less tactical and physical
  • He sees less players using both feet.
  • That coaching courses are much too theoretical and this is what you see reflected in the basic technical skills of the average players