Soccer coaching across Europe and beyond has evolved steadily over the last few decades.
The game has gone through a number of phases, each with it’s own emphasis on a certain aspect of the game. In the 1950s and 60s the focus was mainly on physical conditioning. This helped contribute to the 1966 World Cup win for England.
Into the 1980s and 90s tactics were centre-stage in world football and in latter years we hear a hue and cry for greater technical ability.The great French academy system produced one world cup and one European Championship in the space of 2 years with many French internationals migrating to the top teams in Europe, especially the Premiership in England.
German fortitude, Italian defending and Brazilian magic have all prevailed upon the greatest stage, but these countries are undergoing their own internal changes at the moment. Many were surprised to find that Germany were the real entertainers for much of the 2010 World Cup.
The game itself has continued to evolve and countries like Spain have been at the forefront of this process, producing 3 Champions League winners in the last six years (FC Barcelona) and one World Cup win for the National Team in 2010. The “New Epoch” as Horst Wein terms it belongs to The Beautiful Game. It involves constructive, intelligent, creative, attacking play and Barcelona are the current masters of the art. Much of the influence for the great success of FC Barcelona, undoubtedly stems from the Dutch connection dating right back to Rinus Michels (the inventor of Total Football) in the 1970s, and Johan Cruyff’s time there in the late 1980’s. After that Luis Van Gaal and Frank Rijkard undoubtedly kept the constructive attacking football flowing in the proud Catalan capital.
Countries that have relied primarily on athleticism and work-ethic in recent years have been found wanting on the biggest stage and all around the world there is a move towards a more technical, tactical and constructive style of football.
Game intelligence has become the greatest asset for individual players and teams and The Beautiful Game is back on the agenda.
In order to produce the high performance (and indeed, entertainment) levels of The Beautiful Game as practised by Barcelona and the Spanish national team, a process must be put in place to develop this type of player.
Years ago great players emerged in almost every country around the world from the streets. Street Football itself was the coach, aided by the passion and time committment of the kids themselves who had little else in the form of entertainment especially in more working class areas.
Nowadays with so many technological distractions and the sedentary lifestyle of the 21st Century, Street Football has all but disappeared. But the greatest coaches in the world have recognized its contribution and sought to go back to the roots of football development.
Small sided games are becoming the staple of great coaching curriculums and a more intuitive style of coaching, often termed “Guided Discovery” has emerged. The final ingredient in a great coaching model is a much less competitive structure for young players to give nature time to take its course and to allow these young players time to develop.
Producing the players who can play The Beautiful Game takes time and patience and a carefully planned programme of simplified games. The basic building blocks of technique and understanding must be put in place and a progressive variety of simplified small sided games will allow young players to advance more steadily and assuredly.
Horst Wein has been at the forefront of youth football development for 25 years now. As a hockey coach in the 1970s and 80s he enjoyed great success and especially when his six year old son helped him to crack the code of age-appropriate games and activities to nurture the innate creative potential of young players. But on a fateful day in 1985, when FC Barcelona came knocking, the days of Horst’s hockey coaching career were numbered. The head coaches, once they realised the potential of Horst’s methods, soon advised him (very strongly) to leave the game of hockey and apply his coaching to the great game of football, and the game has never looked back.
Horst has become established as “The coach of coaches” having influenced and mentored over 11,000 coaches in 54 countries around the world. Most notably, his book “Developing Youth Football Players” which was commissioned by the head of the Spanish Football Federation has since become the official textbook in that country and latterly in Australia as well.