Soccer Technique Before Tactics: A Skyline Foundation
The culture of soccer in the US is extremely focused on the analytics of sports. It’s all about numbers, stats, and strategies. In Football, it’s all about formations, packages, and styles of offense/defense. In Baseball, it’s all about sabermetrics, shifts, and playing the statistical game. The common American fan sees these, and immediately tries to apply it to the tactical nature of soccer.
It permeates our coaching culture as Americans. “Oh I love zone.” “4-2-3-1 should always be used to create midfield advantages.” “You have to win the possession game.” “The 4-3-3 is inferior to the 4-4-2 if played right.” The conversations I hear youth coaches talking about are all tactically focused with approaches focused on these same topics that apply to baseball, football, or the analytics of sports.
This approach isn’t inherently bad by any stretch of the means. The Dutch are extremely tactical, as are many great soccer nations across the world. There is a significant issue with this, however. These same countries have one major approach when it comes to soccer. Technique has to be taken care of by 14 years old. Players must have complete technical competency by 14 years old, and then the emphasis changes.
Having watched the American game for the last 20 years, our technique isn’t taken care of by 34 years old, let alone 14 years old.
At Skyline, we have implemented the key important concept of soccer technique before tactics. This means before moving on to any tactical approach to any training session, players must be technically competent to be able to execute the concepts being taught. The youth game should never be based on a tactical approach, not until the technical side is taken care of.
This is where many youth coaches lose sight of their purpose. Professional coaches have to have tactical competency, because our role as coaches is to set our players up for success. The issue becomes when youth coaches adopt this tactical approach, we miss that we aren’t setting our players up for success if they can’t execute the basic technical requirements of the game. It’s like trying to make a pizza without the ingredients, only the oven.
If our job at the youth level is to set our players up for success, this means that we too should have a high technical focus through the age of 14 in order to develop confident players. Technique before tactics. It’s not a coaching buzz term, it’s the requirement for successful players, successful teams, and successful clubs.
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