Q: You are known to de a developer of talent. What does this mean?
SOUP OF SUCCESS: (2011- Copyright-Gary Ireland)
Enjoyment/interest/Enthusiasm + Time + Passion + Dedication + Material/Education + Resolve + Patience+ Humility+ Guidance/Support + More time + a Touch of Luck = Success (2011- Copyright-Gary Ireland)
'Soup of Success' is an expression that i coined. Everyone has talent and progress should be measured by how far players have come, not where they are now or how far they have to go. Its important people dont lose sight of this. There are few 'gifted' players in the game- most players have to work for even the modest amount of success. Even the very best spend more time practicing than others. Name any top player and they will tell you to stay grounded, work on the basics, try to improve your game etc...They have spent more time working to perfect their game than anyone else. Players who put the time in and are lucky enough to be taught by knowledgeable people have an advantage over others. These players tend to develop their own unique style. Many successful players would have been only average players with potential if they didnt train to become the best they can be.
We focus on RECEIVING/CONTROL; DRIBBLING/GUIDING/CARRYING THE BALL/PASSING & SHOOTING.
While it is true that professional players have specific tactical responsibilities and gravitate to certain parts of the field, there is strong evidence that the best players and best teams in the world are very flexible in their framework and allow a great deal of individual expression and tolerance from the coaches and teammates.
The 'system based 'approach to youth development may restrict young players from exploring using various techniques (dribbling, passing, receiving) that are less commonly taught, encouraged and utilized in the specific position they are playing on the field. All players, not only younger players who are discovering and developing their playing personality, should be challenged technically and tactically and encouraged to 'break the mold' and play more freely. Fixed positions can limit the need for players to expand their game beyond their comfort zones. Exceptional players play outside of their designated playing radius, so in order to nurture these kinds of players, youth development must be focused on encouraging reach and exploration, taking risks, making mistakes on the field, and attempting and learning to do the difficult things. All of the top players in the world seek spaces all over the field as they look for opportunities to express themselves requiring them to find solutions; this ultimately lends itself to the player enjoying their game more and spectators enjoying the spectacle.
Coordination, equilibrium, posture and fluidity - the hallmarks of high level, technical and creative players - can only come with frequent repetition and continuous and focused training on, around and with the ball specific to realistic scenarios. Specific movements on the ball that enable players to 'drive/run/carry' the ball and 'bridge' techniques (dribbling, passing, shooting) requiring balance, coordination, mobility and posture that need to be taught and learned. These acquired and specialized movements allow a player to perform the appropriate skill and require them to constantly physically and technically readjust if they wish to change the skill while executing the original technique. Players can only improve these movements through consistent training with the ball.
A player’s competence on the ball can significantly influence movement off the ball from teammates. Movement off the ball typically depends on the player’s competency on the ball. For example, if a player receiving the ball is a highly skilled player, the movement off that player from the players around them is much more proactive and dynamic. On the flip side, movement off the ball can mobilize the player on the ball, but movement off the ball will be redundant if the player on the ball lacks the technical capability to execute the requisite skill.
A common trend which is both admirable and deeply concerning at the same time is that many coaches and parents want to 'play like Barcelona'. They tend to throw around expressions using positional numbers such as 'i play the #6' or 'find the 11 and the 9' etc. While its nice to want to emulate nice football, one must remember that Barcelona's success was built on the following:
1- Defending/Pressing. They have fallen off the pace a bit now with aging players and loss of certain key players. Dont forget that Michael Jordan was the league Defensive & Offensive MVP in the NBA. Messi was no different but he may not have the legs to offer the same defensive dynamic he once had.
2- Ball retention (passing). You can do this when the opponent is counter-pressed and your are already in a good position in the center of the field and opponents half with the lines close together.
3- Playing with a GK who could use their feet as well as a field player.
4- Having 2 world class dribblers at all times. That kind of helps ;) With only 1 world class striker, Barcelona wont win. They need 3 or 4 who want to press. Replacing Busquets, Pique and Iniesta will be extremely hard to do.
5- Xavi and Iniesta as good as they were would not have been the players they were without having the best strikers in the world in front of them. People dont remember the bad years for Xavi. Look it up.
6- Teaching 'painting by numbers' connecting dots from the GK- through the backline on a large field is a form of cheating and is a deception. With some moderate pressure this approach comes undone. The geometric shapes are held together by good passing and receiving and being able to dribble to another safe r position. In other words good technique allows one to play out of the back. In youth soccer, pressing barely exists.
7- Every Barcelona player can play a 50 yard ball from under their body no run up and play out of pressure if needed. Youth players up to the age of 15 or 16 simply cannot do this. Not even 20 yards. They need space and a run up to deliver a longer pass. So this means that the youth players radius is much smaller and therefore with even moderate pressure it becomes very hard to play out of the back.
Read this article on Barcelona's Seven Secrets
If you have ever tried to defend a team that doesnt lose the ball it's demoralizing, tiring and your legs and mind are 'exhausted' if even if and when you actually win back possession, causing transitional play to be less effective. Even if you do win the ball your attacking 'shape' is not optimized and most often its a case of many teams losing possession of the ball immediatley after they win it. Its very hard to transition to offense the longer you defend- both physically and mentally and especially at youth levels. Teams who possess the ball are typically in a better position to win it back it and when they lose possession because of their proximity to the ball. I have a saying: 'the best way to attack is the best way to defend', meaning that the average wall pass or combination pass is 5-15 yards. I need at least 3 players around the ball in a 15 yards playing radius to impact the defense and to play through teams. Teams that keep possession tend to grow in confidence, 'rest' in possession as well as the obvious comment that its easy on the eye and entertaining for most spectators to enjoy as a spectacle. Does having more possession mean more wins? Generally speaking, it does.
So what does 'Possession' mean? As long as your team has the ball then your team is in possession- It could even mean one player dribbling. It doesnt have to mean stringing 20 passes together. Many think its a term applied to teams who collectively keep the ball but possession of the ball can simply be 1 player dribbling without support. Teammates who shout instructions to a dribbler to 'pass the ball!' or coaches who tell players to pass simply to move the ball in possession dont understand the purpose of possession. A lone player dribblng the ball is a form of possession but it often is confused with 'dribbling' or holding it too long.Intelligent dribblers can break the tempo and defensive shape, allowing teammates to capitalize on the lack of balance and defensive shape. Dribbling while in possession is a rare quality epitomized by player such as Pirlo or Iniesta. Players who get taught to pass the ball for possession sake without reason or purpose are not keeping the ball for the correct reason. One must have MEANINGFUL possession. Players who pass the ball to a teammates because of a fear of losing the ball themselves is a poor reason to keep possession. These players are merely passing on responsibility. These same players invariably dont support well off the ball because they arent comfortable on the ball. Players who are good on the ball are typically better, more confident and sophisticated in thier movement off the ball.
I advocate individual ability and the impact individual players can have on a game, however, collective play epitomised by Barcelona should be something to aspire to as they blend collective skill with individual expression. The intangible qualities that players possess such as: awareness; vision/decision making etc. are innately associated with technique (the more proficient a player is with the ball the more comfortable they are with their environment and can 'see' the field much better). So, the better the passing ability and receiving, the better the players are at keeping the ball and connecting with one another and with a purpose.
There are only 4 ways to receive and possess the ball (how and where to do so i will not address here).
1- win tackles
2: win loose ball
3- teammates passes to you
4- errant pass by opponents
All good players are also willing to put in the effort both physical and mental effort to win loose balls in order to possess the ball. In this respect, both Barcelona and Spain win the ball back as soon as they lose it and keep a high defensive line in order to do so, something that is often overlooked when commenting on the artistry of their possession based game.
If your team cannot keep the ball (i.e cant pass or dribble or receive) then the most athletic and competitive/robust players can win the ball. However, even the most aggressive and competitive players will lose the ball immediately unless they can keep possession either individually or collectively. Given that 1 player cant possess the ball more than 3-5 seconds on average, it would seem that the obvious that teams who can either a) play the balls into danger areas and play to opponents weaknesses or b) keep the ball for prolonged periods of time, can hurt their opponents.
What is startlingly obvious is that youth soccer coaches rarely find or develop players who can:
a) dribble the ball very well
b) keep the ball long enough to create individual moments (shooting, crossing, assist etc).
Many youth coaches tend to pick biggest, fastest and strongest athletes to play 'vertically' in order to win games. The clubs and parents who support these types of tend not to invest in long term development and have little intertest in actually teaching the game.
Gary Ireland with Carine Ireland after PSV Union match vs. Liverpool FC youth team
"Coaches should be physically enthusiastic and proficient when coaching children. High caliber professional players, even in their early 20's, are still developing technically and need visual examples and corrections, if not from the coach but from their teammate mentors. Too many players are coached but not taught" Gary Ireland
It has been an enormous pleasure being involved with Gary and Carine Ireland at PSV Union over the past year and a half. Their coaching philosophy epitomizes all that is essential for the complete development of young soccer players. I would break their process into three interlinked categories. Firstly and most critically is their emphasis on the technical aspects required in modern soccer. Working with the ball, based on the insistence of disciplined practice with the proper techniques, supplemented by repetition and more repetition. Secondly, this attention to detail is balanced by the encouragement to explore and experiment. Players are encouraged to take risks, to express themselves in passing and technique practices and during games, whether small sided or full scale competitive matches. By doing this players are coached without being over-coached, allowing them the scope to think and self discover. Although everyone enjoys winning, how the game is played takes precedence over the end result. At PSV the necessary physical requirements for soccer can be incorporated within the practices, whether they be small or full-scale games, drills or technique work. Thirdly, the fostering of the social development of the athlete completes the club's philosophy. Interaction between the different teams and age groups occurs throughout the club. This interaction assists the younger players to follow the example of older players and for the older players to embrace that responsibility and become role models and leaders to the younger players. This holistic and athlete centred approach, combined with the skills and knowledge of Gary and Carine has made PSV a unique, successful and arguably the most progressive youth soccer club in the US. I look forward to continuing my coaching relationship with Gary, Carine and the players at PSV" TOM SERMANNI: Head Coach, Orlando Pride (NWSL). Former USA & Australia National Team Head Coach & Canadian Womens National Team coach
“His enthusiasm for all matters relating to football coaching has given him an excellent knowledge of all aspects of coaching young players. He has many contacts in the game throughout the world. His open and inquiring mind has allowed him to study a variety of coaching styles and content. He adopts a fresh, open approach, which allows him to accept and develop new ideas. In his coaching Gary successfully achieves a friendly, yet well-disciplined approach, which puts the young player at the centre of the process. His different roles in a number of countries have given him a strong base of experience. Gary’s own high level of skills and techniques as a player allows him to provide excellent demonstrations, which are so important when coaching young players. He has a strong philosophy, which concentrates on the development of young players over the short-term aim of winning games. He educates and encourages his players to appreciate the true essence of the game”. John Owens: Former England & Liverpool FC Academy Manager
"Gary's approach to football is excellent. For the ambitious and serious player (training with him) is a fantastic opportunity to broaden your complete understanding of the beautiful game. There is saying "In Football the truth always comes out on the field". Gary is always there to demonstrate his sharp form on the field." Christopher Sullivan - former European 1st Division Professional. World Cup player for U.S. National Team. MLS player. Current Fox Soccer Channel Analyst and commentator.
"Gary is a brilliant developer of talent." Anson Dorrance – Head Coach. 23-time National Champion, UNC, 1991 World Cup Champion, U.S. Women’s National team 1986- 94
"I have had the privilege to coach a number of talented young women the past 20 years but few with the technical sophistication of Lorrie Fair. When I asked her about her extraordinary development her reply was quick: Gary Ireland made sure I understood everything about the ball, he was not only an amazing coach but a powerful motivator for me and my sister Ronnie.” On Lorrie’s recommendation alone I hired Gary one summer to watch him work and I came away impressed with his knowledge, his energy and his professionalism. He is a brilliant developer of talent." Anson Dorrance – 20-time NCAA National Champion. University of North Carolina. Coach of USA Women’s National team 1991 Women’s World Cup Winners. Coach, U.S. Women’s National team 1986-1994. (Coaching record. 943 winning percentage). ACC Champions 19 times and ACC Tournament 20 times. Coached 13 different women to a total of 20 National Player of the Year awards. NCAA Women's Soccer Coach of the Year eight times (1982, 1986, 1987, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2006) & Men's Soccer Coach of the Year in 1987. Elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
"I have played with and worked alongside the Gary Ireland for many years. His depth of knowledge on every aspect of the game is remarkable. Players love working with him because the has the right balance of intensity and levity. Each player that works with him finds dimensions they never knew existed." Chris Ducar - Current University of North Carolina Assistant Coach, Goalkeeper Coach and Recruiting Coordinator. Former goalkeeper coach and National goalkeeper coach to U.S.A. U/21 National side. Former Director of Tony Di Cicco, Post to Post camps.
"You will learn skills that will enable you to become a world class player. Gary took the raw athleticism and added the finesse necessary to play at the level I am now." Lorrie Fair. Former professional with WUSA of Philadelphia. Former University of North Carolina 3 times NCAA Champion. 120 appearances for U.S.A Women's National Team. 1 World Cup winner’s medal and 3 time USA Olympic team
"This camp offers not only the opportunity to learn skills that will enable you to be able to become a world class player, but also provides positive role models and a chance to make good friends." Lorrie Fair- former professional with WUSA of Philadelphia. Former University of North Carolina 3 times NCAA Champion. 120 appearances for U.S.A Women's National Team. 1 World Cup winner’s medal and 3 time Olympic team. Ronnie Fair former WUSA professional and standout with Stanford University. Former USA U/23 National Team and first team appearance.
"You've made the game fun and pushed us to where we are now. As a result of working with (the staff) I was nominated as an Umbro and parade all American and chosen for both the USA National youth team (U20 & U16) and received a full scholarship to for and attend the University of Portland. I was also named to the 1996 Soccer America all freshman team and the final four all tournament team." Regina Holan - former Sparta Prague, U.S. U-20 & U20 Women's National Team. Former NCAA Div. 1 player at University of Portland and U.C. Berkeley.
"Thanks to Gary I have come to realize that soccer is not just a game of passing and dribbling but a pursuit requiring intelligence and mental toughness." Brooke O' Hanley - former WUSA player with Carolina, Champions 2002. Former NCAA Div. 1 player at University of Portland. Member of 3-time National Champions Central Valley Mercury.
"I have been training with Gary and the staff continuously for over 4 years, and I attribute much of my passion for the game, skills, and strategic development to their professionalism, enthusiasm, and unique coaching techniques. They are truly a remarkable group. They helped me get to the top" Kelsy Hollenbeck. 2 times NCAA Champion with University of Portland. Northern California State Team U/14-17
“Gary is an excellent coach/trainer, teacher and player of the game. There is no doubt that Gary has had a profound impact on playing career. For the past 10 years I have been very fortunate to have someone so passionate and knowledgeable developing my game. Gary is different than any other coach have had. He's played at a very high level professionally. He knows what he's talking about. He never takes a day off and he's constantly expanding his knowledge about the game, watching games, studying players, training on the field himself, etc. When he coaches the players feel and see his love and expertise for the game and its amazing that we get to learn from him daily. He can demonstrate and break down everything he teaches us to the smallest detail, explaining why everything we do has a purpose. He wants to get the absolute best out of you. There's no room for mediocrity. If you cant do it, remember it and practice on your own until you can do it and do it well. He instills a work ethic in you, you thought you didn't have. I strive to be great because i see him doing the same thing. He definitely finds a way maximize the best out of a players potential. Since I was 13 I've always said Gary and his family have influenced me the greatest in my playing career and it stands true. I thank him for all his support and spending hours and hours in a day training me and in sharing some of my happiest moments playing soccer. Gary has been important in my player development and has helped me find success in my soccer endeavors. I had a great 4 yr career at the University of Washington. I’m listed as top 10 players in school history in many categories, Goals scored in a single season, shots attempted, games played, etc. ,I was drafted to play in the Women's Professional League for the St. Louis Athletica in 2010. And I currently play for the Mexican Women's National team. I participated in the FIFA 2011 Women's world cup and Pan American Games. My greatest soccer moment has to be when I scored the game-winning goal to beat the US 2-1 in CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers. That game is said to be the greatest upset in women's soccer history! Whenever I'm home in the bay area you can find me in Palo Alto coaching and training with Gary. I love to come back to my roots and I learn something new and exciting from him everyday. He always finds a way to move forward and teach me something new even when we're going over the basics”. Current Mexico World Cup and Olympic team player Veronica Perez
* Zdenek Sivek- Vice President & Exec. Committee AEFCA & UEFA Instructor
"If players concentrate on becoming technically, tactically and physically competent they will be in demand. They should focus on being in the right learning and training environment. Showcase events, just as markets, are not always beneficial because the produce is still in development. Displaying ones talent should happen after a player has perfected differentiating aspects of their game.
"Selectors want to know what kind of person is the player? Do they have potential to learn and improve? Are they respectful of teammates and coaches? Do they apply themselves to improving both on the field and in the classroom? Do they know how to train? (quality, duration and intensity of practice. There are shortcuts to success but these are shortlived, based on luck and outside of ones control. What you can control is quality. Focus on becoming a technically, tactically and physically competent player with a positive and strong personality on the football field and you will be in demand. Players without these qualities simply wont last. They get found out at some point"
"Many youth coaches and parent are addicted to winning and would prefer to win games rather see a player develop. We can all see it play out in front of us every weekend: GK punts & long goal kicks; long free kicks; long corners; crossing from the sideline/flanks (esp. in 9v9 games where heading is banned); long, high aimless shots from distance towards the opposition goal; Weve all done it but its when its the norm that it becomes a problem. Winning games is a misguided notion of validating their coaching ability and team and player success. Ask most youth coaches about developing players and they will look at you blankly. Many college coaches are concerned with solving nationwide player development challenges as they are hired to win college games, not develop player for national team. What tends to happen is that the club coach picks the dominant athlete and the college coaches need these players in order to compete. Few youth and college coaches are invested in the long-term development of players and arent concerned about real development and teaching career-long skills. The unknowing or misguided parent who doesnt know the game is misled into thinking the biggest. strongest, fastest players are the most valuable. While winning is thrilling and important and part of being a successful athlete, resisting the urge to win at all costs is incredibly important. (GARY IRELAND- MAY 2, 2011)
“I learned the most by playing in the backyard or at the local park with my brother Rod and my mates. Hitting a ball up against a wall for hours on end with different parts of my foot, juggling a soft drink can up against the backyard fence, that is what it's all about.”
airline pilots train in all systems failures conditions in order to manually solve problems that might confront them. the boeing 777 is all electronic but the issues pilots face nowadays is that some pilots have difficulties solving systems failures and weather obstacles because they lack the ability to actually fly a plane manually. the planes are safer but are the pilots as intuitive is the question that is being asked. so how does this relate to soccer and soccer players development. the last generation of players before the culture of coaching and lack of 'street ball', players were mainly left to their own devices to solve problems and create solutions. we call this 'player personality'. nowadays players are told what to do on every occasions, even in practice and the programed to play a certain way in a certain position. players dont learn to think and be creative and adapt to pressure later on in their games.
flying through, into and out of pressure is a skill that the best pilots that one acquires through experiential learning.
coaches can often over-coach players and thus remove the spontaneous and creative intuitiveness which are highly sought after at the next level. its only by creating problems and simulating problems that one find the solutions. playing in tighter spaces, limiting touches or on the contrary, encouraging players to dribble, playing numbers down, playing with time/space restrictions, requiring duration/number of touches on ball, playing players in various positions, not allowing players to shoot on big goals & reducing the goal-target size are all ways you can put pressure on players in practice.
Gary Ireland, 2010
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
"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)
“And weak, smaller players, to survive they had to have a better technique than the others. Normally everyone grows — some a little later, some at different times, but everybody grows. A lot of things will change but the base of soccer is always technique, always should be technique”
'you have to coach in the now, thinking of the next'
"To be honest, we dont train the players to peak at certain points in the season. We try to be as good as we possibly can in every game. By working hard and, first and foremost, by knowing all about our opponents, thinking about them and watching their games to find out what we need to do to win. Its my duty to know as much as I possibly can about the team were going to face, so they cant take us by surprise, and then pass that knowledge on to the players. And, of course, we have to adapt the way we approach the game depending on what were going to be up against, without ever straying from our footballing philosophy" Guardiola.
“Theres nothing special about it really. Ive tried to be faithful to the history of Barcelona. Its just been a question of making good signings and blending them in with the homegrown players, handling them in the right way and not being scared to give the youngsters a chance when the times right. I wanted the fans to see that the team was going to work hard, run, play good football, and take pride in their work on the pitch. People want to be entertained. They dont want to be cheated. The fans can accept a poor performance but they wont take it when you choose not to put in the effort. The idea is still the same, though: to attack, score as many goals as possible, and play as well as we can. People talk about tactics, but when you look at it, tactics are just players You change things so that the team can get the most out of the skills they have to offer, but you dont go any further than that. When it comes to tactics you have to think about what the opposition does and the players who can hurt you. What Ive done this season is a response to the game plans our rivals are now adopting against us. As time goes by, people get to know you better. They pose problems for you and you have to come up with solutions.” (Guardiola)
WHAT SYSTEMS?! Sócrates, described the '82 Brazil team style as "organised chaos" ; unscripted, creative & unpredictable. "Everyone has the freedom to play how they wish as long as they perform certain basic functions" As amazing as that might seem, it works. It comes from improvisation,,"I play on the wing, I am a centre-forward, a sweeper, holding midfielder- it depends on how the game is going