Todd Beane

We Are Soccer Doctors – Let’s Stop the Bleeding First.

Todd Beane
We Are Soccer Doctors – Let’s Stop the Bleeding First.

If you went to the doctor with a headache and he put leeches on you, would you confide in him for a second visit? Bloodletting must be the cure, right? 

Sounds ridiculous that a modern day doctor would engage in a procedure that does not nurture you into a healthy, vibrant being, right?

And yet, across the globe you will find youth coaches employing a practice that does not nurture athletes into vibrant, healthy and intelligent footballers. 

Well, at least the bleeding is conceptual rather than literal, I guess. If the inefficacy of our coaching yielded blood, we may actually stop absurd practices. But alas it does not so we continue perpetuating the same old, same old. 

“Each day is a day of advancement if we approach it as such.” 

It appears that those with superior levels of anticipation and decision-making are better able to pick up postural information from the orientation of opponents and teammates, identify structure and familiarity in sequences of play and predict more accurately the likely opportunities available during play. These skills are underpinned by more refined visual search behaviors and more forward thinking rather than reactive thought processes. (Thomas Reilly, A. Mark Williams, “Science and Soccer”)

So, let’s get this straight. Better players...

  1. Pick up postural information in context.
  2. Identify structure and familiarity in sequences of play.
  3. Predict opportunities available during play.

Let’s figure out how many of these critical skills are being developed in our traditional unopposed passing drills. Wait for it...

None.

Zero.

Nil.

Ninguno. (Spanish for the big goose egg)

Yes, our players are improving performance – the performance of passing in lines. 

No, our players are not learning as defined by meaningful retention and future application of that skill in context. 

And yet, in the face of an abundance of research detailing the expertise of highly skilled performers in our sport, we continue to line up and spend an inordinate amount of time on ineffective drills. 

It’s not too late to change tonight’s training session. 

I am so inspired by the potential we have to dramatically improve the efficacy of our coaching. We have only scratched the surface of what researchers in the science of performance will share with us. We are entering into a marvelous age of discovery in this regard. 

Having said that, I am dismayed at times by our stubbornness to embrace innovation. As coaches, we tend to stick with what we have always done even when what we have always done is not worth doing. 

Listen, I am over 50 years old now and should be that guy perpetuating the system that produced me. If anyone should dig his paws into the stilted past, it should be an older dog like me. But, I cannot. I know in my gut that I can do better, that I can be better. I know in my heart that there is no more noble work on this planet than facilitating learning in our young.  

I also know that what I know today will be woefully inadequate tomorrow. Each day is a day of advancement if we approach it as such. 

So, now the challenge comes to you, who will certainly be younger than I am with many more days to nurture our young ahead of you. Will you do what has always been done and perpetuate an antiquated system? Or will you examine your assumptions, embrace innovation and master your trade?

Me? I am not going to buy into the same old, same old for my players because I am too old to rethink and redesign my training. 

If not in body, I must remain young in spirit and embrace the most effective modern strategies to promote meaningful learning and unbridled joy at my training tonight.