Soccer: How to Play the Game ($30) by Dan Herbst and Bobby Howe is a rules book, soccer dictionary and coaching guide. As the official youth manual for US Soccer, this book covers the breadth of the game.
Teams such as Barcelona and Manchester United have recently been winning titles and Championships with an active playing squad of up to 25 Professionals. Back in the 1960′s and 70′s Liverpool FC dominated English and European Soccer using just 13-15 players.
Squad rotation is now hugely important to coaches. The physical, technical and mental demands at the top are so high. This push for increased team numbers has filtered down to youth soccer. For me it provokes many thoughts, chiefly the all important and sensitive issue of kids playing time/opportunities on the field.
I follow the belief that the strongest players should play and be given the best chance to develop and shine. My background, in football, is working at the professional level. At that level, the objective was quite clear – help produce a player (s) who can play for the clubs first team. The importance of the individual can often, therefore, outweigh the development of a team.
The talented player needs a training platform that is often only provided by a squad. Sufficient numbers are needed to facilitate effective practices that are both challenging and realistic. As a coach, I tend to learn most about my players during small and full sided games. The competitive weekend fixture is also the time when they will be recognized individually and collectively. It’s simple, without the numbers a team cannot play.
I was guided by a Dutch Technical Director during my time as Liverpool Football Clubs Academy U18 coach. He championed the need for a larger playing squad, based on the theory that it would stimulate competition for places in the starting eleven and enhance specific player recovery. He wanted a 2 team system, where the strongest players would play matches, and the remaining squad would train together at the same time.
A good ethos at the Elite level. The better individuals are playing and given the opportunity to demonstrate their talent. The remainder of the squad are challenged to reach the ‘Team’ – Psychological strength and focus often becomes equally important as technical ability.
My future is now. I have a new challenge and environment to work in. I’m delighted to be coaching youth soccer in the US. It’s a great opportunity for me to share my knowledge and ideas. It’s very much a period of discovery and change for me. The game is the same, but the demands and expectations are very different. I’m learning every day. I must appreciate that there is a greater need for inclusion. All the boys in my current squad should be given the chance to play.
It goes back to ‘Numbers.’ I strongly believe in quality not quantity, improvement not enlargement. I have a responsibility to provide opportunities and satisfy the Director of Coaching and the parents at my Club.