Boys U12 Fall Rodrigo’s last reply in this exchange

This was the last Rodrigo’s reply – we did not exchange any more messages after that, just talked during practices and games.


Good for the game this Saturday. I was told it was good. As I have said so many times you are doing a good job. But I think I can also contribute and I would like that you let me.

Well, if the goal is to create information, here I go.

First. After your first reply, I was quite pissed (I am being honest ). I was expecting a reply saying that you will/may consider my comments and you will/may try to implement something in that regard. And receiving an email saying that what I was thinking was plain wrong and your thinking is the best way was not expected, to say the less. I know you are stubborn, and if you know that too,  then it will be good to do something about it. Your second email is better, I am being ask what I think. Then I feel I can have other contribution to the team other than just play when you need an extra player.

Second, my comments to the rest of the message are below.

> O boy that was a long response to two short comments.

Sorry to subject you to this – the lenght and expanded explanations are mostly for the site (and this includes this response as well :-) Content is the most valuable commodity of the internet, I am just using this opportunity to accumulate some). I think I am going to register a site for all this pretty soon, want to be in on this? We can brainwash and conquer the world :-) You will write articles and I will count the money… Seems fair :-)

R> Getting rich?!, I like that. I’ll  then keep writing. <R

> I consider myself a teacher.

Here’s an article, which defines two main styles of coaching, you may want to check it out:

R> So which one you consider yourself, Street soccer model or PE teacher? Do you agree with the article? I think this is biased toward the Street soccer model. I think a combination of both will be a better approach. Some discipline form time to time is not bad, and the freedom of experimenting should always be there. <R

> We can let them play and play and yes anybody may eventually get it. It took me about 25+ years to understand some basic techniques in soccer and many I still do not get.

This is excellent point: check out the first sentence and bold highlights from here:

R> Agreed, we are just facilitators. <R

> Now about the talk to the kids, you really underestimate them.

Maybe :-) I think it’s mostly about degree of efficiency: in my opinion, it’s more efficient to do the “kite” exercise ( for ten minutes than have a talk on team shape for roughly the same amount of time, and if that’s the case – then playing should be favored.

R> Absolutely, Nobody should give a ten minutes lecture of anything. I read somewhere that  the average span of attention was 5 minutes. In kids wanting to play soccer maybe a fraction of a minute. May be I did not express myself correctly. I like short bits of  information. For example, the three P’s: power, pressure and passing. That is not that long.  Is it? Do the kids get the meaning of all that? I am sure  they won’t  the first time the hear it. But if we keep repeating it and giving examples of when that happens they will not only get the meaning we are trying to convey but will put their own interpretation. <R

Also, I don’t believe that kids learn much during the games, majority of learning comes from practices… Ok, that first portion of the previous sentence did not come out right :-) More precisely: opportunities for coaching during the games are very limited – mostly, because of that same reason: we can only tell kids what to do

R> Here, I strongly disagree. The game is the best learning opportunity anybody has. And the game has tons and tons of coaching opportunities. One thing that Jim Jordan does that I think is great is that he is commenting about what is happening  on the field to the kids on the bench or asking to them what they think about something that just happened. That will lead to guided discovery, I think that is what some educators call it . Another way is by highlighting some of the things they just did that gave results. Most times the kids did not realize they did such thing and highlighting show it to the player the contest of what the coach is trying to transmit. <R

but they have no opportunity to go through the actual process of the learning sequence: trying it without pressure – trying it with limited pressure – and only then trying it in game conditions.

R> Who said that is the only way we learn? How many times have you learned under pressure? I think most of the time. In soccer is the same. You go on the field try something and if works, you will try to do it again.  <R

We can only coach efficiently during practices.

R> Not necessary, as I mentioned before <R

I like to have no more than two very specific stress points for a game: one per each subject for each of the practices during previous week.


I believe in the pre-game speeches we only stressed team shape and maybe counterattack; for the second defender I believe boys are actually doing good job already so there was no need to overwhelm them.

R> And sometimes coaches do not need to mention even that. Just tell them the line up and cheer them up. <R

> clear, specific and short bits of information are perfect

This is their we disagree: definition of “short” :-) (or maybe I just misunderstand your definition). In my opinion, for this age group (U12) – short means no longer than 90-120 seconds, and that should include pre-game speeches. Anything beyond that – for kids who’d rather play than listen – will go over their heads.

R> Agreed , as I said above about short bits of information<R

> I still stand that the two things we should be focusing is position and passing. [snip] Some time ago you mentioned that you have set goals for the season. Could you share those with me?

Positions are good – and we are going to get there. The problem is that I think we need to build up basis for positions: I don’t want to put boys in a formation and tell them: “this is your spot”. On that site there is a quote somewhere: “Americans play fast but think slow”, I think this is precisely why: from the very beginning kids are taught to do different jobs on the field, e.g., “play your position”, they learn to do it and they do it well – it’s easy to do the same thing over and over even if you don’t understand why you are doing it. Later, however, when put in different situation (let’s say, formation changes from 3-3-1 to 2-3-2) they get lost: they need to be taught again what to do.

R>Agreed too, I am agreeing to too much. I should make up some disagreement to keep building up that web page or yours ;-) . Nobody should be in one spot all the time. This kids are too young to be assigned a spot, including goalies. But keep the same formation may not be bad idea as long as all the players play all the positions of that formation. That way they do not have to absorb all that information at each game and they still get the flexibility of playing different spots, switching and moving around<R

The way to avoid it I believe is to build up tactical mentality from ground up (not just for this group – for the complete development progression of a youth player): a soccer player needs to gradually learn what to do alone with the ball (first attacker), how to play in twos (second attacker), how to play in threes (third attacker), and the diamond shape (1-2-1 formation in a 4 v 4 small sided game). If they can master that – in my opinion they will be able to move from formation to formation effortlessly, and that’s what I am aiming for in general.

For this specific season, I want the boys learn how to be comfortable playing in twos (first attacker – second attacker), that’s all. If they can do that by the end of the last game – from tactical standpoint I will consider this season success. We actually did not address this in targeted fashion yet – mostly we spent time on defense so far. As you wish (and actually – according to the grand plan :-) ) – we will be doing first a – second a predominantly through the remainder of the season, and this will inolve plenty of passing.

Same for the defense: I want them to play first defender – second defender comforably by the end of the season.

R> I agree, it is a good goal for the season:  Lear to play in two either as defenders or attackers. But as you pointed out, it will require to know their passing and they position. <R

From the team play perspective, I want to do one or two more practices on the diamond shape – same as we did already – and also want the boys to start learning how to play counter attacking style (if you did not see it yet – now is the time: If you read carefully – and compare to the other – playmayking – style of play – you’ll notice that “kicking aimlessly” has technical term: “relief of pressure” and is acceptable in counterattacking style. It’s the distinguishment of

R> Relief of pressure is good but only when necessary and not 90% of the time. The parents already encourage the kids too much to kick that ball as hard as they can. Our job is now to put more meaning to those kicks. I would like them to try to control that ball instead of just trying to get it as far as possible from them. Sometimes it looks like the kid is not really trying to prevent the ball from getting to the goal but the ball from getting to close to them.  <R

moments when to relief pressure and when to switch to the counter what the boys need eventually to figure out but I do not plan on having lots of talks on this with them, for now it’s good enough that they experience this method of play. Also, I like the counter attacking style because it teaches discipline and mental toughness: it’s tough to be on defense most of the time, you need to develop mindset, coolness, and steady heart for that

Final note :-)

After this last game and seeing how boys shifted to the positions they played earlier in the game I now tend to think that it would be good for them to stay in one area for the entire game and only switch their place from game to game. What do you think? Also, on formations – I don’t want to pick one over another: these things are situational and same as playing all positions boys need to be comfortable in any formation.

R> The kids could change positions if they know what each position has to do. If you keep one formation they will soon enough recognize each function and play accordingly. You do not have to pick one formation for all the season but do not change that from game to game or during the game. Otherwise they will not find the meaning of formation. This is what happened during our Reading game..

Let us be clear how the formation will change and how they will need to adjust.  Let’s have two formations and no more. It is the same with the goals you set for the season. You set only a couple and I do agree with that. <R

If you remember – so far we tried four formations total: 3-2-2 with flat mid – flat forwards, 3-2-2 with tandem of forwards, 3-3-1 with a sweeper and dropped center mid and free forward, and 3-3-1 with dropped side backs, advanced center d, and advanced center mid + free forward. The more defensive 3-3-1 ones we played against Lowell – probably the best team in our division, – and Reading – good team with us having just one sub so our boys needed extra insurance back. Most likely, we are going to play more offensively against Melrose – just because they are not a good team according to the standings. And yet another reason for the changes is that I want to experiment a little :-) So – as you hopefully see – we really cannot select one formation for the season and stick to it :-)

R> Read the first three lines of the paragraph. That is just too much variation to understand: Flat mid, flat forwards, tandem, sweeper, dropped center mid, etc. That is just too much.  Soccer after all is quite simple, why do we need to make it complicated? <R

I hope I don’t bore you to death with all this…

R> I hope I don’t do the same. Take care and see you next week.




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