The Importance of Learning from other Sports – Anatoly Tarasov

Top coaches are lifetime learners who often for look for inspiration and ideas outside of their own sport. Pep Guardiola’s attacking football philosophy was influenced by the famous world class chess champion, Gary Kasparov. Kasparov believed in putting the opponent on the defensive from the very first move, knowing that the opponent would be forced to constantly defend, this would make it impossible for them to carry out their own game plan.  However, the attack would need to be long lasting and relentless, if the opponent adapted, the attack would be adapted and changed to keep the pressure on, and eventually the opponent would crumble under the sustained attacking pressure. Pep also developed ideas from the sport of rugby, specifically from New Zealand and Japan. He was interested in rugby’s variations in attack, and how they would break down teams that defended deeper.

My core belief is that the development of the athletic brain is the future of player development and performance, the future is not on the physical side. In order to continually progress, we need to learn from the best people in every field. That brings me to today’s blog post about an innovator in the game of hockey, Anatoly Tarasov. Tarasov was the architect of Russian Hockey, winning 3 Olympic gold medals, 9 World Championships and 18 National Championships. He was a pioneer in coaching, especially in 1947 when he took his first job at CSKA Moscow. Tarasov coaching career was shaped by seven key Components 1.  Mentoring 2. Process Orientation 3. Character Development 4. Athletic Leadership 5. Emotional Intelligence 6. Learning from other Sports 7. Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s).


  1. Mentoring: Tarasov had a mentor to guide him in the coaching profession. His mentor wanted Anatoly to develop his own ways of coaching and viewing the game first, before he let him observe other coaches from around the world. The reason for this is, he didn’t want Tarasov to simply imitate others, he wanted Anatoly’s mind to be creative, unobstructed and free of limitations when viewing the game and developing coaching methods and tactics.
  2. Process Orientation: Tarasov viewed player development as a process, there were no easy shortcuts in development. The process would have short term and long term objectives with many challenges and set-backs along the way, but development is a process.
  3. Character Development: Tarasov believed that the coach should display excellent character and the players as well. He believed he needed to live up to the same standards that he required of the players. Anatoly would write books on the character of Elite Pro Players, to not only inspire younger players, but provide them a road map in character development and its importance in achieving a high level.
  4. Athletic Leadership: In the 40’s and 50’s when Tarasov was coaching, the style of coaching was an authoritarian model, what the coach says goes and that’s it, one-way direction from the top down. However, Tarasov didn’t believe in this way, so he had veteran players take an active role in leadership roles of the team. Veteran players would provide advice to the younger players not just on tactics and technique, but teaching the team’s core values. Anatoly would often pair up veteran players and young players in many of the drills during training.
  5. Emotional Intelligence: Tarasov recognized that each player was unique in their personality, background, physical attributes and more. He allowed players to give him feedback on training sessions, so he could continuously reflect on his training methods. Anatoly would keep an index card on each player with a complete evaluation of the player, which included personality and hockey skills. Tarasov would use this index card to personalize trainings for each player, he would also update the card when changes occurred.
  6. Learning from other Sports: Tarasov believed in learning from other sports. He studied soccer and basketball tactics, and used those tactics to shape his hockey ideas. Anatoly studied gymnastics and weight lifting to enhance his player’s fitness levels. He even developed small-sided games, so his players would be comfortable working with the puck in small spaces.
  7. Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s): Tarasov used data to develop his strategies and tactics. He was quick to point out that the number of shots isn’t the best indicator or superiority, because many shots are from far out and are not quality. His emphasis was on the quality of the shot and not the quantity. Tarasov would encourage players to conceal their shots, becoming less predictable for the opponents to anticipate and defend.

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