Understanding Success in Soccer Without Bias
To create an atmosphere of becoming an effective player
we as coaches and parents need to help our youth players to redefine success away from glorious measures such as scoring goals, winning or playing time (which are often measures of uncontrollable success) –toward smaller goals within the game that are appropriate to their level of skill and knowledge of the game.We can’t control scoring goals or winning. But we can control the tasks that can lead to goals and wins: such as strikes on target, entries into the attacking third, successful dribble penetration, ability to create set pieces through either direct kicks, corner kicks or regaining possession from defenders.A player’s perspective using these measures helps orient their performance goals or success measures since they pertain to the achievements of the team within the game but also guide them in their effectiveness as a player.
This is important since it allows us to understand the game aside from the interpretation of the individual coach as we discussed in part one. Consider this:
- A player who is highly successful in turning in the middle third is more valuable than a player who cannot.
- A player who can turn in the attacking third can think of playing college at a very high level and is very rare.
- A coach who then only teaches his players to pass the ball back in either the middle third or the attacking third thus limits his players’ abilities in the future for the short term success of the team.
Which skill then is in the best interest of the player?
Learning how to effectively turn in the middle and attacking thirds of the field are going to be more valuable than learning how to play the ball back. Yet, players need opportunities to do both, they just need to know how and when turning is appropriate.
So let’s look at the categories of a game analysis model that is extremely valuable for understanding the game:
- Entries into the attacking third
- Regaining possession in the attacking third
- Effective crosses
- Non-effective crosses
- Successful and Unsuccessful Dribbling and Turning in both the Attacking third and Middle third
- Achieving set plays in the attacking third
- Strikes at goal, on target
- Strikes at goal, off target
- and finally saves.
Without going into too much detail team statistics such as these can influence the outcome of the game with relatively high success and can have multiple interpretations for coaching purposes.
For instance, dribbling and turning relates to the ability of the player to turn ( either back to goal or from a side on position) and either keep possession, pass toward goal, shoot, or create penetration and beat their opponent.
A successful dribble is measured in the same way and can have several layers such as creating an entry into the attacking third or setting up an in/effective cross. A player who can enter the attacking third on the dribble and maintain possession, or create a shot on target, or even earn a direct kick just had a successful experience.
The one player who turned and then passed to the corner is effective and their mid who received, beat their opponent and then produced an ineffective cross is fifty percent successful.
The coach who is asking his players not to turn, may in fact want to utilize a pass back to create a long ball opportunity to enter into the attacking third.
From a game perspective this is fine, from a long term player development perspective this is short sighted. But a little of both is necessary so it’s important to see diversity in the style and decisions of the players at a young age.
Several key analysis points emerges from these measures and can have multiple facets. Let’s look at examples:
1) Are the strikers receiving the ball in the attacking third– beating players off the dribble, creating through balls for teammates to run onto, getting shots on or off target or even achieving a set play such as a free kick, throw in or corner kick in the attacking third?
2) Is the defense limiting crosses, maintaining possession in their defending third and creating and denying entries into the attacking third by staying compact, getting involved in the attack and/or keeping possession with good passes to feet, etc.
3) Are midfielders turning successfully when receiving the ball from their defenders, are they creating enough opportunities to produce effective or ineffective crosses and are they getting the team into the attacking third frequently?
If a team has only 3 attempts at crossing the ball in the first half questions can emerge as to the effectiveness of the wing mids, the center mids and the outside backs.
- Are the center mids playing balls into the corners for their wings to run onto?
- Are the outside backs getting into the middle and attacking thirds of the field to put themselves into position for sending crosses?
Then these questions outside of the tactical measures can be applied toward the technical ability, physical fitness and player psychology as well.
For instance, the center mid may not be playing balls to the corner because
- they cannot serve the ball with accuracy or distance
- cannot turn or dribble successfully to create space
- do not function well as a play-maker for their teammates.
Since center mids are functionally (position specific tasks) required to distribute, possess and penetrate many technical and psychological factors must come into play as a coach decides who is best to fulfill that position on the team.
So how does all of this help the individual player become effective within the game and how as coaches do we prepare players to function within this objective way of measuring player development within the match?
We’ll address that in Part Three: Developing Successful Measures for Players.