The Soccer Environment Determines Everything

The other day I read an article talking about how the Wiel Coerver Method was outdated and should never be used in modern soccer training. The author went on to use the example of how Johan Cruyff, had never practiced the famous “Cruyff Turn”, instead he invented the turn by instinct, during a real game. The article made some very good points, referring to the importance of decision-making in training sessions, and some other points that fit into the modern day mantra of player development. The problem is that educating, teaching and coaching doesn’t follow a guaranteed linear pathway of progress, and the reason is simple, “environments” – each person and place is different. I would argue, why can’t I start off teaching some basic passing & receiving technique with a group of players who struggle with the basics or never learned the basics? What if the community I am coaching in is not a soccer community? Maybe the players never played the game before, maybe their parents played other sports, and they simply never learned any skills. Why can’t I use Coerver technical exercises for some rote training repetitions? I grew up working on the maintenance crew of a golf course; I would watch the members play day after day, week after week and year after year. What became incredibly obvious to me working at the golf course was, that bad technique (bad swing) repeated over and over again, produced the same bad results. If you all you do is put kids in a soccer game with no technical foundation, don’t expect them to pull the Cruyff turn by instinct. Of course kids at all levels should be playing the real game at every practice session, but some need that extra technical focus, while some don’t. Remember, Johan Cruyff had 10,000+ hours of street soccer before he ever entered the Ajax Academy. I firmly believe the struggling golfer needs a couple lessons to fix the technical issues, and playing 18 holes everyday will do nothing to fix those technical issues. 

For those of you who follow my work, you know I am all about game-based training and maximum meaningful decision-making in practice. However, to completely write off all rote training is a mistake in my opinion. The first thing I do as a coach is to evaluate the environment, and from there I find my starting point. Ideally my opinion is that team training time should be spent on game-based realistic trainings, where players make a large number of meaningful decisions in the game. Players should do the technical training on their own at home, because decision-making is impossible to train by yourself, but technique is not. However, the two go hand in hand, excellent technique must be combined with good decision’s to be a top player.