Thoughts on Charlie Francis and soccer

Very good responses. Thank you.

The same could be said for basketball, ice hockey, baseball and other sports. American football tends not to have the same early specialization requirements (except for quarterbacks), although many top players did excel in other sports (basketball, soccer, baseball, track).

In my college players, there were several girls playing 6 games a week right now, with their college seasons less than 5 weeks away. The games, 60min and 90 minutes in length, were leading to fatigue, and as now surprise, have lead to poor performance in workouts. So I had one dad keep a running clock of the amount of ball possession his daughter had in a game. From EPL studies, their estimates were ~3minutes per game on average. This dad’s daughter, a defender, had it a whole 8.6 seconds in the first half. Obviously most of the possession were quick one touch passes. Another player, a forward, had a total of 14 seconds in the first half.

So at this rate, 6 games x a generous 20 seconds of possession per game = 2 minutes total ball time throughout the week from games.

My point to these players are, you have a 6-12 week off-season, use it wisely. work on speed, strength, fitness, skills, and dont worry about the games. The athlete in discussion, also has been surpassed for a goalie who is 30 lbs overweight. When I expressed this to the girl and the dad, I thin they got my drift, maybe she needs more time with me and less kicking it.

Now obvious, at the professional level, things change altogether. But what is done to keep them there, and what it takes to get them to that level, are 2 separate things altogether.

Well, 6 games a week is not a matter of training program, it is a problem of sanity. Also (especially) at the high level is unheard of.
I’m totally in favour of time spent away from games during the off-season. At the same time, in the training program, some elements linked to games have to maintained to avoid problems when season starts (tightness, minor injuries etc.) . But yes, staying there and getting there are two different subjects, but too little - formal and informal - study has been done to disentangle the various drivers of performance. How about attitude (loosely defined, of course)? Do you think it is not important? Next time, look not at the skills, not at the athletic abilities, but at the attitude and behaviour of top players. A coach can do great things in that department.

The first and most important thing in Al Vermeil’s pyramid of performance is attitude. Agreed 100%. Again, more for the developing player, rather than the highest level. I speak from the development standpoint.

I agree with you, mainly because if attitude is necessary for success, people who had success had/have the right attitude. At the same time, at the highest level, changes in attitude can be one of the drivers of the transition from good to great (as the book).

Excellent discussion.
I like the comment about success leaving clues.
I think someone I knew well for the past 22 years said.
" dont fix it if it aint broken"
James Francis will not be the last to challange current training dogma this site was created to espouse.

For sure in the US there is a traditional method of training for soccer, which resembles playing games, and running cross country style fitness sessions. I have seen this recommended at nearly 15 different colleges, male and female programs.

I will post some “speed” sessions from several schools. This will be good for a laugh. the sad part is, one school who does (or did ) this, is probably the most successful team of any sport. More comments to be posted later…

aussie keeper mark schwarzer rated by many as one of the worlds best keepers is a workaholic doing a minimum of 3-4 sessions a week in his own time…

mark paston who had a fantastic WC in goals for then kiwis does gym 3 times a week…

Above all other sports, at the elite level, soccer is more about what you take out, what you don’t do between matches, rather than what you do.

This is excellent insight. Charlie and I developed a graph to show what a progression of technical, tactical and physical development in a player might look like. The key point is in developing players, technical ability must first be addressed, then tactical development. AT this point, probably in mid teen years, physical development will begin with weights, more formal fitness etc.

Even in many undeveloped nations, athletes around age 18 are selected for national teams, regional teams etc, and this is where their physical prep begins. Up til that point, they spend many hours, as mentioned above, playing in streets, maybe some leagues etc.

Unfortunately, because anyone can start a club team, we now have U7 travel teams playing for “national” titles etc. Also, in many clubs in my area, the best coaches are with the oldest teams. It would appear more logical to have the best technical coaches with the young players, and not the least experienced, as I have seen.

In the US, there are progressions for player development. I am curious about other countries as well.

Recreation–>club (Select)–>club (premier) -->academy team–>club/academy teams playing in regional leagues (compared to state leagues)—>multiregional leagues

On another track, is the process for selection for the national teams. State Olympic Development—>Regional teams—> national teams

There is a lot of political issues for borderline players at the state level, and because of it, many players do not tryout after U14 for these teams.

Will post more later when I have time.

The greats such as (Diego Maradonna, George Best, Di Stefano etc) spent hours upon hours everyday/week speed juggling, usually a smaller ball than matchball (size 5), regular juggling, tennis/ping-pong/golf balls etc, wall work developing left & right feet usually till there feet got very sore, on the beach from dusk till dawn (if they had access), the beach having positive effects when applying the same skills on turf.

Thats gone now. All they had then was a ball. I never see good two footed players anymore, never see a player with a great Maradonna-esque first touch, them qualities (balance/coordination) have to be trained everyday (which are mentally demanding), in its place now is the internet, computer games for players etc… A lot do gym work, some with good programs, but greatness isn’t made there, although a player can certainly reep the benefits.

Its on the player to dedicate his life to the ball. And when I mean dedicate his life, I mean DEDICATE his life. Maradonna slept with his ball.

Carlos Tevez needed soccer to stay alive. When your life is dependant on it, you’d guess he would get pretty far.

It’s not all gone now … it’s just the names of the places have changed.

Now you see more emphasis on scouting and recruiting African or North African players than when Maradonna was playing.

There is a rough rule that the more poverty there is the more skillful the players you’ll find.

As for gym programs … very few follow gym programs at all.

There is going to be some good stuff coming out of Africa very shortly, particulary Ghana with U-20 NATIONAL team current African and World Youth Champions.

Having said that…

I thought the USA should have beaten Ghana at the World Cup.

Do we put USA’s success/future success down to “presumably” greater strength & fitness levels?, over differing teams.

Perhaps we need to consider the emotional background against which all competition is performed in addition to the physical stimulus. As physiological changes are clearly associated with emotional state (for example, the clearly documented negative effects of ‘stress’ on health), perhaps the physical stimulus from competition is above and beyond what would first be apparent due to the unique emotional, and thus physiological, environment in which all competitions are held?

Does the simple act of preparing for a competition both physically (warming-up) and emotionally (‘arousal’) create a rather large stimulus even if that competition is not held for whatever reason, particularly at the professional/international level where the stakes are so much higher?

Considering the frequency of soccer competitions, perhaps we underestimate the true load by looking only what happens physically during the game. What of other sports with fixed and frequent competition schedules?

Actually, as far as I know, it was only Maradona’s the documented case of juggling with small balls (I did that too, but not documented). An interesting anectode is when during half time of an important match, Maradona began juggling with a lemon in the changing room to ease the tension off.
It’s not true that you don’t see any two footed players. There are many of them, probably (it is my impression, but I’m pretty confident) more now than years ago. Maradona is a typical example of using only one foot. As for sleeping with ball, yeah, I probably did that when I was a child, but I’m happy to having changed that in favour of girls.

Now, RR is throwing here a bunch of anecdotes and there is nothing wrong about that, apart that an underlying theory is necessary to meaningfully organize the information, and I don’t see any such theory.
For everyone interested, I suggest a couple of articles the nyt published, one it was published a couple of years ago about skill development of Russian tennis players in a Moscow club (then it became the book The Talent Code) and the other one is about Ajax Academy, this one was published I think a couple of weeks ago. Both very interesting.

Interesting points:
A few brief comments:

  • I agree that the emphasis has to be put chronologically on technical, tactical, athletical skills. At the same time, humans are very plastic before 9-12 years of age, with consequences also on lifetime gene expression (as a general phenomenon, of course). I was wondering if by not trying to direct gene expressione in the early years, we are losing the best time to influence it. The same can be said for learning foreign language, mathematical skills and so on. Now, read biographies and you can understand lots of things, read textbooks and you will soon get caught is some dogmatic views. Mine are only points for discussion, of course.

  • As for coaches, I don’t think only in terms of quality, but also where the coach fits better in. It’s very different working with little ones and late teens, and you know that better than me, for example I much prefer working with adults, others prefer working with late teens and so on. It is the same in schooling.

  • I think an African nation won’t win the WC for at least the next fourth editions. This is because, despite the incredible phyisical and athletical abilities (I remember Nigeria in 1994, incredible athletes!), they underestimate the value of the tactical component. It’s a cultural thing, maybe it will change, maybe not.

  • next time I will write about how the progression of player development is in Italy.

For those interested, the Ajax article is here: How a Soccer Star is Made.

Could you please name one?.

I have watched the whole of the World cup & I didn’t see one player zipping it about at will with both feet with 10-60m pin-point passes. Zidane in my eyes was the last great, pinging cross field passes with accuracy & success.

Particularly the South Americans, many whom who mastered juggling, some more so than Maradonna. Some of them were so “pure” & controlled.

This is an interesting article on the progression of player development…

The future for the England team is frightening. Our game needs radical changes.

I agree. A good book to read is “Why Michael Couldn’t Hit: And Other Tales of the Neurology of Sports” written by Harold L. Klawans, a professor of neurology at Rush Medical College in Chicago. In a portion of the book, Klawans discusses the concept of “windows of opportunity” for skill development.

“His 1996 book, “Why Michael Couldn’t Hit and Other Tales of the Neurology of Sports,” looked at the greatness–or lack thereof–of several sports legends. In the book, he argues that basketball superstar Michael Jordan failed as a minor-league baseball player because he had not acquired the baseball skills he needed at a critical time in childhood when the brain develops certain motor skills.”

I highly recommend anyone interested in developing athletes from a young age read this book.

And just a word on Ajax, they talk a good game, have lots of money but should do better for all the talk. They finished runner-up to FC Twente in the 2009–10 Eredivisie League. In fact the last time they won there league campaign was way back in 2003-04. Had a dismal Champions League campaign.

So take what they have to say with a grain of salt.

“As Ajax battle to stay in the Europa League against Juventus (2009–10), it is clear that the former kings of youth policy have lost their way”.