Now that I have your attention, let’s reveal the number one way to guarantee that your players improve their proficiency tonight.
You are probably expecting some step-overs and crawl-unders, some pull-backs and push-forwards, and some get-down and rise-up drills. Perhaps you are even envisioning a labyrinth of cones and a parachute attached for fun. I know. I get the same emails you do. You can buy the promise land in 10,000 hours. Camp Nou, Anfield, or maybe even the newly named Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam will be your future playground with a passing drill or two more.
So, do you want to know what you can do to outpace your 8-minute abs and 4-minute muscle workout to become better today? Marvel at mastery in mere seconds? Sound like an “infomercial” yet?
Wait for it.
The #1 ELEMENT your players need to find today to guarantee better performance is...
There, we said it aloud. ‘Cat’s out of the bag.’ Not sure what the dogs escape from but go ahead and let the dogs out as well. The secret is revealed.
Space. All great players find it, exploit it and benefit from doing so.
“As an eventual receiver of the ball, you have to look in the open space for a position enabling you to get the football in good conditions. ... It is often a matter of one step more or less.” – Johan Cruyff
We speak of space being time and time being gold. It is that valuable. Gold. And it can be cashed in to accomplish remarkable results on the pitch. A player with space has time and that time affords a more effective technical execution. It may be less than a meter or it may be three. All space that can be exploited to your benefit against an opponent is worth seeking.
It may seem counter intuitive, but if you teach players to play with a deeper understanding of space, they will execute better. The parents on the sidelines and the casual onlooker will think that Johnny or Jane has become so much better technically. Wow, a completed pass. A probing shot. A purposeful dribble.
OK, maybe not the parents who yell “BOOT IT!” but we cannot win over everyone. The most important beneficiary of the productive management of space will be your player. She will dance within that space with confidence. She will find solutions with a fraction more time afforded to her. Your player will not only appear technically better, but also become technically better as she seeks more technical quivers to add to her arsenal of skills. Demand will drive supply.
Ball control void of spatial awareness is of little service to a true footballer.
The greatest masters of the game were masters of so many components of the game. They could pass, receive, shoot, dribble, and head the ball. But so many players worldwide can do that. Di Stefano, Pele, Cruyff, and Maradona were artists that delivered a solution when needed most.
“There’s only one moment in which you can arrive in time. If you’re not there, you’re either too early or too late.” - Johan Cruyff
In the end we must be honest with our children by explaining that there are no shortcuts to success within or beyond football. And to refute my entire article here we should not reduce the beautiful game to guarantees and false promises.
But we can suggest that football is a multi-directional game, a choreographed dance in time and space to be enjoyed thoroughly with best friends, caring coaches and loving parents. And we can go out to train it and to play it as such.
“The ideal space must contain elements of magic, serenity, sorcery, and mystery.” – Luis Barragan
Follow Todd Beane on Twitter: @_ToddBeane