Futsal: Let the Game be the Coach

2-kids-futsal[1]Futsal – the sped-up, compressed indoor version of soccer (football) –has played an important role in my development work with players during the last four years. Futsal has always been lauded for its role in helping to develop many of Brazil’s soccer stars during the last 40 years and the word “futsal” is actually short for “futbal de salao”, a term coined in Brazil which roughly means “football in a gym.”

As well, the recent emergence of Spain as a dominant soccer nation has highlighted this further, as Spanish stars like Xavi have credited the indoor game for their success. Other legends like Messi, Zidane, Zico, Ronaldo and Iniesta all cite futsal as the source of much of their skills and technical development. (And for a real treat, look up the Brazilian Falcao on YouTube – a futsal specialist who most observers consider the world’s best at the game.)

From an individual-player point of view, using the smaller and low-bounce futsal ball in our training classes has greatly accelerated the technical development rate of all our younger players. The ball does not bounce away and makes it easier to learn new skills using all parts of both feet. The heavier weight of the ball also ensures that players have to lock their ankle and use good technique for quick passing and shooting. We have seen a great improvement in the dribbling skills, 1v1 moves, passing skills and shooting of our players during training classes.

It is in tactical areas of the game, however, that I can see the greatest benefits of futsal as a learning tool  for young North American players. My generation grew up playing soccer in the streets where space was tight, competition was fierce and you had to be strong mentally to impose yourself on the game and demand the ball. That was because everyone wanted the ball and would do almost anything to get it. It is fair to say that everyone soon learned to execute quality first touches and quick changes in direction and pace, to avoid being caught by flying tackles from a few players who off the field you considered as mates.

Our younger players in North America today do not play in the streets. Instead, they come to organized soccer practices to learn the game and futsal is a great way for us as coaches to accelerate their soccer learning. Futsal places young players in tight spaces (like the school playground or street) and demands from them good ball control, quick thinking, precise passing and creative solutions to get themselves out of tight spaces to create goal-scoring opportunities.  Like basketball, there are constant transitions between attack and defence. This provides our young players with many opportunities to face these situations, and these repetitions are an important element of the modern game.

This fall and winter, 1v1 Soccer FC is playing in a futsal league in Toronto. This is our first year entering teams in formal futsal leagues and the experience has been very challenging but also very beneficial. Many parents have asked me why I have not provided much coaching direction to the players during games, and why I am not overly concerned with the game scores and competitive results. The reason is simple: The players are learning every minute they are on the field. The speed of the game dictates that the players process information quicker and the feedback is instant: You make an incorrect decision, play a bad pass or cannot control the ball and the opposition now have the ball close to your goal or worse….the ball is in the back of your own net already! Daniel Coyle in The Talent Code speaks of skateboarders being super-quick learners. That’s because if they make a mistake, they typically fall (instantly), and immediately gain feedback on what went wrong. So too the life of a futsal player.

It is on occasions like this that we as coaches can do more by doing less. By challenging  our players and trusting them to discover the right solutions, we are putting the burden on the player  to think for him- or herself. If a player cannot get around a defender, or an opponent is constantly getting around them all the time in a game, we as coaches and parents have to ask ourselves: Are our young players  thinking of solutions? Or are they always looking to you as a coach or their parents in the stands?

In my opinion our young players know the game better than we give them credit for  — or in fact, better than they give themselves credit for. Of course as adults we need to be there for discussion and to help guide young players towards  solutions, but we must be helping our young players think for themselves.

We all want to develop “thinking players.”  That can only be achieved if we provide an environment where they can practice the ability to try things, perhaps fail at them, and then come up with a solution that works – on their own. Players don’t, for example, learn passing by adults drawing diagrams on a white board. They learn the skill by actually doing it. And, as I hope is clear by now, keeping score – and simply “playing to win” in games  like the ones we contest in the Toronto league – is completely irrelevant to the kind of learning we’re trying to foster.

Sorry coaches, but despite all our efforts,  the game remains the greatest teacher.

If you are in any doubt, consider this: After a tough futsal league game last Saturday, where I sat in the stands and other staff coached the players during the U11 and U14 games, I asked the players to complete a simple task at training the following morning. I asked them to write down three things that they had learned from the game they played less than 24 hours previously

The responses were as follows:

  • Move the ball quicker
  • Communicate earlier
  • Make your decision before you get the ball
  • Be faster
  • Get open (move a lot)
  • Take shots when close to net
  • Decide early (pass, shoot, dribble)
  • Talk more, give directions to teammates
  • Look for open space
  • You have to make quick decisions
  • You have to know where and what you are going to do with the ball
  • You can’t be standing still, you have to keep moving
  • Communication
  • Fast pace
  • Lots of touches on ball

Job done. They already had all the answers. And the best part: I didn’t tell them any of it.

The game did!

FOOTBALL (Soccer) continues to be more attacking minded……this last week in the English Premiership League confirms it!

What type of training do young players require to succeed in the modern game?

Ian McClurg blog thumnailThis weekend’s series of games in the English Premiership League produced the 2nd highest ever number of goals. Arsenal’s 7-3 defeat of Newcastle United and Manchester City’s 4-3 defeat of Norwich City with 10 men followed Chelsea’s 8-0 defeat of Aston Villa last week and Manchester United’s  4-3 defeat of Newcastle United on boxing day.

What is significant is that the top teams in the league are placing an increased emphasis on their team attacking options than playing with defensive caution. Manchester United has a commanding 7 point lead at the top of the league and are the leading goal scorers in the league – both at home and away. However, there are 8 other teams with better defensive records during home games and 7 teams with better defensive records during away games. Manchester United signalled their intent to outscore other teams in the league in order to regain their Premiership title by purchasing Robin Van Persie from Arsenal for 24 million pounds, instead of investing in the weaker midfield and defensive areas of their squad.

It is not only strikers who play a significant role in a team’s attacking play. The majority of teams in the English Premiership typically play with only 1 striker. Therefore, midfield layers and full-backs have important roles to play in the attacking phases of play. Brazil has long used attacking full-backs arriving late in wide positions to overload defenders in wide areas to generate crosses or create dribbling opportunities into the box to create  goal-scoring opportunities. In Arsenal’s 7-3 win over Newcastle Theo Walcott scored three goals, Giroud two goals yet their right full-back Sagna was involved the most in their attacking play over 90 mins. Similarly, in Chelsea’s 8-0 win over Aston Vila it was their right full-back,  Azpilicueta, who had the most influence in their attacking play.

It is generally acknowledged that at the top levels of the game the team with the most possession controls play and as a result typically wins the game. However, statistics confirm that it is the quality of a team’s attacking play in the attacking third (rather than quantity of the play) that has a greater influence on results.  For example, during Newcastle United’s 7-3 defeat to Arsenal  they had a greater amount of possession (59 % v 44%), attempted a higher number of passes (462 v 340) and achieved a higher pass completion rate (89% v 83 %). The difference was that Arsenal completed a greater number of their passes (100 v 68) in the attacking third.  The pace and trickery of players such as Walcott and Ox –Chamberlain and the quality of their finishing (10 out of 16 shots on target) proved the difference.

Similarly, Chelsea enjoyed 57 % of possession versus Aston Villa’s 43 % and only enjoyed a small advantage over Aston Villa in the % completion of their passes ( 87 % v 80%). Again, it was the difference in the number of passes completed within the attacking third and the quality of the finishing that resulted in the 8-0 score.  Chelsea successfully completed 148/191 of their passes in the attacking third versus Aston Villa’s successful completion of 63/107. Fifteen of  Chelsea’s 26 attempted shots were on target, while Aston Vila only had 1 shot on target, out of their 7 attempts .

Some people may conclude from these statistics that it is the team’s  that have more play in the opposition’s attacking half that typically go on to win games. Therefore, a successful tactic would be to get the ball forward quicker. However, this is not supported by game statistics. Arsenal only enjoyed a territory advantage of 54% v 46% versus Newcastle in their 7-3 win and Chelsea only enjoyed a 56% v 46% advantage over Aston Villa in an 8-0 win.  Again, it is the quality of the attacking play in the attacking third that makes the difference. The teams that best control possession in these areas with short 1 and 2 touch passing and penetrating dribbling runs typically create more goal scoring opportunities by pulling well organized defences out of position.

So, what type of youth training can best prepare our young players for success in the modern game?  To be effective in the attacking third of the field requires:

  • Good technique in tight areas
  • Ability to play quick 1 and 2 touch passes
  • Quick thinking to make effective movements off the ball
  • Imagination, skill and courage to take players on in 1v1 situations
  • Early finishing using both feet
  • Ability for quick transition –  from defence to attack and attack to defence

At 1v1 Soccer FC we believe that futsal training and games is the best development model during the winter months to develop these skills.  The play is fast-paced and players are naturally challenged to think quickly, play at a high tempo and to be constantly making effective runs to create space.

The game is changing and we must make the necessary changes within our own youth development training programs to reflect this and successfully prepare our players so that they can excel at the highest levels!

( Source: Stats Zone)

1v1 Soccer FC visit Wolves FC in England

Background: 1v1 Soccer FC’s Partnership with Wolves FC Academy

In March 2012, 1v1 Soccer FC entered a partnership agreement with Wolves FC academy. Wolves FC have successfully attained the highest level of Academy status in the UK (Category 1) and share this distinction with only 19 other professional clubs in England. Their Academy has successfully developed world-class players such as Robbie Keane (transferred for total fees of $150 million) and current Manchester City and England international Joleon Lescott.

A greater percentage of their 1st team players every year are being developed within their own academy system. Currently, 25 % of their young players within their U18 and U21 academy teams have received 1st team opportunities and the goal is to increase this to 40 %.

Wolves Are you Next The Wolves North American Academy partnership program has been established to develop development programs in North America that can share Wolves FC coaching methodology and provides opportunities for our young soccer players in Canada to fully realize their potential. This is achieved by following the “Wolves Way” player development model and providing our players with training experiences similar to the young players in England. This training includes technical, tactical, coordination, speed and physiological training preparation.

Academy staff coaches from Wolves FC travel to Canada on an annual basis to evaluate and provide feedback to the players on their progress towards a possible career in professional soccer. In July, 2012, 16 of our players were identified by Wolves FC academy staff at an ID camp in Ancaster and invited to attend additional training at the Wolves FC academy in England in spring 2013.

1v1 Soccer FC is the first organization in Canada to secure this type of relationship with Wolves FC and this represents a clear pathway for both our male and female players to play soccer at the professional level.

Trip Observations to Wolves FC – November 2012
Training Ground In late November we were invited to visit the Wolves FC academy to observe training, learn more about their development model and view the facilities that the selected 1v1 Soccer FC players will be training at during their academy experience trip in spring 2013.
Our trip confirmed that Wolves FC are operating one of the most successful academies in the UK. The recent changes to the academy system at the professional clubs has dramatically increased the contact time with the players. This training is all supported by comprehensive education, sports science and performance analysis resources so that players achieve optimal performance and achieve a balanced lifestyle.
We were fortunate in being able to observe the training preparation of players from U7 all the way up to the 1st team. Their academy is operated out of one facility which means that the 1st team and academy players use the same facility on a daily basis. This provides the young academy players with direct access to professional players as role models. It also creates a very distinctive and consistent training and development culture at the club based on their philosophy.

Wolves FC – Academy Vision and Strategy

Wolves academy playerYouth development in professional football (soccer) in England is extremely competitive and includes 12,067 players. There are 40 professional club academies and 51 centres of Excellence, which is a scaled down version of a full academy model. Professional clubs typically start to identify and train young players as young as U7 age-group but cannot sign them until they are U9 (aged 8). Between the ages of U7-U9, several players will train at multiple clubs and then make final decisions on which club academy to attend at U9.

The main objective of professional club academies in England is to deliver an environment that promotes excellence, nurtures talent and systematically converts this talent into professional players capable of playing 1st team football.

Wolves FC consider themselves as a Premiership club, even though they suffered relegation to the second highest league (Football League Championship) at the end of last season. Traditionally, they have been one of the top club’s in England and are a founding member of the football league. They were formed in 1877 and have won the First Division Championship (Forerunner of Premiership) 3 times, the FA Cup 4 times and the League Cup 3 times. Therefore, their aim at the academy level is to develop young players capable of playing at the Premiership Level, rather than the Football League.

The club opened the Sir Jack Hayward Training Ground, which we attended, in 2005. It cost £4.6 million and features five high-quality under-soil heated training pitches, eleven changing rooms, a fully equipped gymnasium, and a hydrotherapy pool -one of only a handful of English clubs to own such equipment. The training ground’s medical and physiotherapy facilities made it the first (and so far only) British sports club to establish a fully accredited professional sports laboratory, based on AC Milan’s Milanello model

New training centreIn July 2011, plans were announced for a redevelopment of the Compton Park area, situated in the green belt, where the training ground is currently located that will enable Wolves to build a new indoor pitch and improve facilities to create a ‘Category 1? Premier League football academy.

The £50 million project involves the football club, the University of Wolverhampton , St. Edmund’s Catholi School, the Archdiocese of Birmingham and Redrow. the construction company founded by Wolves owner Steve Morgan. The club is making significant investment in it’s youth academy and the goal is to develop technically excellent players who are tactically astute, independent decision-makers and fully equipped for a successful career as a professional footballer.

They also aim to develop educationally rounded people through a holistic approach. It is commonly acknowledged that to become top professional footballer, young players must be capable of learning quickly and making quick and correct decisions. Clubs such as Wolves FC are placing a great emphasis on the academic education of the player and have a full-time staff member solely responsible for the academy player’s education development. They have also developed close working relationships with two schools directly opposite their training ground.


To achieve success at the academy levels, Wolves FC, like the other category 1 clubs such as Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United seek to implement the following characteristics within their Elite and Multi-Disciplinary Training Environment:

  • An elite environment where players have the necessary time and space to develop
  • An environment where all aspects of the program are challenging, developmental (not based on winning until later ages 16+) and inspirational
  • The program is supported by outstanding coaches at every phase of the performance pathway
  • The coaching program is supported by education, sports science and medicine and a playing games opportunities (30 max/year)
  • A multi-disciplinary approach that successfully develops all four aspects of talent development: Technical/Tactical, Physical, Psychological and Social
  • The development of educationally rounded graduates who are independent thinkers, both on and off the field.
  • An environment that consistently produces professional players at the appropriate levels of the game for each club’s academy status, for Wolves FC this means players that are equipped to be successful at the English Premiership level

Next Issue

  • Technical Development: The Performance Pathway by Age-Group
  • Playing games within the elite development model

What we do differently at 1v1 Soccer FC?

Ian McClurg blog thumnailDuring the last few months I’ve been asked many times what we do differently at 1v1 Soccer FC. I must admit it is something that I think about also as we continue to evolve. It is important to me that we retain the same core values as an organization and that we don’t lose sight of why 1v1 Soccer was started in the first place, back in 2000.

We have entered into what we see as a long and very successful partnership with Wolves FC Academy and we do share their same values of Work, Organization, Loyalty, Values, Education and Success!

The Beginning…Everything Starts Somewhere

1v1 Soccer was started back in 2000, because I felt that there were not enough young players in Ontario receiving quality coaching. A small pool of players were chosen to train in the provincial programs and in reality, the program could only caterer to a small number of players within a convenient drive time of the training centre at Vaughan. We aimed to help change that…and I do think we have contributed to some of the dramatic changes currently underway within Ontario. There are many more training opportunities now available to young Canadian players.

Fast forward to 2012 and I recently wrote down the top 5 things that defines 1v1 Soccer. It was interesting that my wife and I completed the list independently and agreed on 4/5…..I’m normally never always right at home anyways!

The Top 5 Things that define 1v1 Soccer :

  • The player must be placed at the central point of learning! Our focus must always remain on the technical, tactical, physical and mental development of the individual player. Every child that enters our program is expected to leave our program, not only a better player but more importantly a better person. The player’s academic education must work “hand-in-hand” with their learning as a player.
  • We are an individual skills development company that places emphasis on development of the individual. We emphasize individual creativity and game intelligence of our individual players over regimented team structures and team results
  • We aim to provide young Canadian players with similar soccer training experiences to other young players in Europe. Our training model is European academy based and we look to develop our own players “in –house” within our own community-based programs and prepare them for our elite programs at older ages
  • We have a long-term vision with respect to developing young players. It does take 10,000 hours to develop an elite athlete and we try to attract young players and families who recognize and are committed to this long-term approach. Not all our players will strive to play the game at the elite level but we do want to provide them with the skills to enjoy the game more at the level they wish to play at.
  • We provide multiple pathways! We do not own players in our programs. Our role is to develop and move along our players to higher levels of play and to assist them in their “soccer journey”. We must continue to add additional player pathways such as Wolves FC, US Scholarship, MLS academies, Provincial programs and OPDL play in 2014. We are always there to assist our players that move onwards and upwards along the way………once a 1v1 player…..always a 1v1 player!,

Influences on My Coaching Philosophy

A great deal of my coaching philosophy has been shaped by my early education as a coach at Crewe Alexandra in England, the Futsal-based training at Brazilian Soccer Schools and my observations in Spain at Sevilla FC’s academy. Daniel Coyle, author of The Talent Code has also played an important role in helping me define my own coaching philosophy.

Some of my practices may seem unconventional but I am a firm believer that young players must “struggle” in training and that they must be out of their comfort zone to improve. (View Talent Code Video)

I do believe that we must attain a certain standard with respect to our training facilities but I do not believe that Facilities do not develop superior players. If that was the case, Canada would not have such a poor ranking in the world and Maradona, Ronaldo, Messi etc would not be the some of the game’s greatest ever players. I like crowded training areas, where players constantly have to “solve problem’s” to keep their ball under control and in play. This philosophy is consistent with the development of elite athletes in other sports. Daniel Coyle refers to this as the “Power of Crumminess” . (Read article on the Power of Crumminess)

At 1v1 Soccer, we are not trying to develop the best players in Canada, that to be honest is not good enough, we are trying to develop players that can compete with the best young players overseas. Futsal is an important component of our winter program. Players such as Ronaldo and Messi have all played this and Xavi has recently confirmed how important the game is to development. (Watch Xavi Video)

Long-Term Development for the Individual Player

It remains our philosophy at 1v1 Soccer FC to place “individual long-term player development” for all our players ahead of “short-term team development” for a select few. This is a philosophy consistent with professional club academies in Europe, where the objective is to educate and develop as many players as possible for higher levels of play. Academy coaches at Wolves , Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, PSG and Santos do not concern themselves with winning games and nor do we. What we do concern ourselves with is ensuring that as many of our young players as possible have the skills required to succeed at Wolves FC, MLS academies, the new OPDL league and within our regional and provincial programs.

It would be easy for 1v1 Soccer FC to keep most of our current SAAC team in a U11 division next year and win most of the games. We will not be doing that as we are committed to “individual player development” and not winning games. Players who grow up playing in successful teams frequently do not reach the higher levels because as they develop they become more and more dependent on talented players around them. This changes when they go on trial at professional clubs overseas. Many top European coaches make this comment to me on a regular basis. If young players do not develop the ability to overcome adversity during game situations, embrace it and channel it into becoming better…they simply will not be able to play at the highest levels!

Where we are going to……

As Dario Gradi at Crewe Alexandra famously said “…..our job is to develop better and better players……and more and more of them”! Our goal remains to have someone in the very near future ask the question “….how come there is a little “soccer hotbed” called 1v1 Soccer in south western Ontario developing some of the game’s greatest players?”

SAAC Members Take Steps Towards OSA Affiliation

Ontario Soccer Association1v1 Soccer FC are delighted to announce that the Ontario Soccer Association (OSA) has approved updates to its policy on Non-Club Academies. In a move heralded as visionary, the OSA has taken a major step in advancing its relationship with Non-Club Academies and welcoming them into the soccer family in Ontario.

When 1v1 Soccer FC  helped form the Soccer Academy Alliance of Canada (SAAC) with Bryst FC, ANB Academy and Power FC the vision was to help raise the standards of player development in Canada and provide our young players with opportunities for higher levels of play. These new developments will help enforce high technical standards across Ontario for all academies and also reduce the restrictions on players pursuing district, regional and provincial team opportunities.

1v1 Soccer FC will be applying for OSA approval as a Non-Club Academy and continuing to provide our young players with training experience comparable to leading soccer nations. See the full press release from SAAC below.

SAAC Members Take First Step to Affiliation

RELEASE Oct 1/12

After much negotiation and effort from various members of the Ontario soccer community, on September 16, 2012 the Ontario Soccer Association (OSA) approved updates to its policy on Non-Club Academies. In a move heralded as visionary from as far away as British Columbia, the OSA took a major step in advancing its relationship with Non-Club Academies and welcoming them into the soccer family in Ontario.

As a direct response to this milestone, Soccer Academy Alliance Canada is proud to announce that beginning in 2013, all full-time members will be required to be OSA Recognized Non-Club Academies.  This means that any Ontario-based organization wishing to compete in SAAC events must be recognized by the OSA.

All returning SAAC members have been briefed on the requirements for OSA recognition, the technical standards for which were developed in close consultation with SAAC Technical Staff. As in 2012, all members will be required to demonstrate compliance to the documented standards. Lino Terra, SAAC Operations Manager stated that “OSA affiliation is going to require a significant investment from our membership.” He added, “but the Board felt that the conditions were now in place for us to make the jump and start working more closely with the soccer community.” Over the next few months, returning and prospective SAAC members will be submitting their applications for status with both SAAC and the OSA.  In the meantime, SAAC will begin rolling out plans for additional player, coach and referee development initiatives that it hopes will benefit not only our membership, but the soccer community as a whole.

Our membership is also proud to be supporting LTPD and the efforts of the OSA in implementing this program across the province.  The assessment of SAAC members for 2013 will assist to advance discussions towards Non-Club Academies’ participation in the recently announced Ontario Player Development League (OPDL).

Soccer Academy Alliance Canada is a Not-for-Profit Association which regulates and promotes private Academies in Canada. Our mission is to support our members to develop world class soccer players in Canada on a continual and systematic basis by providing our members with best-in-class training, facilities & competition. The OSA was founded in 1901 and is one of the oldest and largest sport organizations in Canada. The Ontario Soccer Association provides leadership and support for the advancement of soccer in collaboration and cooperation with our membership, partners and other stakeholders by providing exceptional and sustainable programs and services.

Sixteen Players Identified from 1v1 Soccer FC’s Wolves North American Academy ID Camp in Ancaster on July 5-7th

 1725We are pleased to announce that 16 players were identified from 1v1 Soccer FC’s Wolves North American Academy ID Camp in Ancaster on July 5-7th. The selected players have been invited to travel to Wolves FC in England during spring of 2013 to train at their academy.

In total, 35 players were selected from seven ID camps throughout North America. The players selected from the 1v1 Soccer FC ID camp are:

Boys:  Liam Outlaw, Stefan Mitrovic, Theo Corbeanu, Ryan Robinson, Donart Beqiri, Daniel Mun, Matthew Roberts, Anand Sergeant, Nicholas (Nico) Esperanca, Matthew Krunko-Moell, Aidan Wood, Julian Altobelli, Luca Danesi and Luka Jankovic.

Girls: Alexia Amorim, Mattea Reale

Congratulations to all the players selected.  1v1 Soccer FC aims to provide young Canadian players with training experiences comparable to leading soccer nations.

We will be continuing “Training the Wolves Way”  in our programs during the upcoming months to provide more of our players with these types of development opportunities. Our goal remains…..to develop better and better players..and more and more of them!

Canadian Soccer Association Seeking New Technical Director-We Propose a Plan

csa-playerThe Canadian Soccer Association are seeking a new Technical Director to help elevate the technical standards of young players in Canada.

This represents a tremendous opportunity for Canada to improve our success at all levels of the game.

Based on my coaching experience during the last 12 years at many different levels of the game (Private Academy Owner, Toronto FC Academy Staff Coach, Provincial and Regional Team Coach, University Coach, Super-Y League and Technical Director of a large club) I would like to propose the following 10 step plan:

1) Develop National “Proven skills development pathway plans” for grassroots and elite players that can be shared and implemented by qualified coaches at all levels

2) Increased emphasis on futsal to increase skills and enjoyment of the game

3) Accelerate the timelines for full implementation of LTPD

4) Implementation of national skills testing program

5) Incorporate private academies within our mainstream development programs-some of our best technical resources are there

6) Implementation of regionalized skills development coaches to visit clubs and schools to improve skills for players aged 5-8 and 9-12)

7) Joint ventures with Canadian universities to establish elite training centres at their facilities

8) Set up “coaching excellence” development centres at universities to deliver ongoing “best practices” coaching education

9) Establish a culture of “inclusion” to mobilize all our best “soccer resources” from coast to coast around one central plan

10) Establish a national professional soccer league that will form the second tier for MLS

1v1 Soccer FC: Lessons from Spain at Euros 2012

spain-euros-2012Spain’s victory over Italy last Sunday made them the first team to win three successive major tournaments. The squad of players is still very young and since winning their first World Cup in 2010, several new players have emerged such as Jordi Alba-Barcelona (Aged 23), Sergio Busquets-Barcelona (Aged 23), Juan Mata-Chelsea (Aged 24) and Iker Muniain (aged 19) –Athletic Bilbao). All these players are likely to play prominent roles in their 2014 World Cup Squad in Brazil.

Since travelling to Seville FC last year, I have taken a keen interest in the youth development model for young Spanish players. While many people tend to focus in on Barcelona’s La Masia Academy, it is important to recognize that 4 Athletic Bilbao players featured in the Spanish squad and that Seville and Valancia have successfully developed players such as David Villa and David Silva.

There are four main elements that coaches must focus on in developing young players who can succeed at the highest level within the modern game.

Technique Maintaining ball possession has been key to the success that Spain has recently enjoyed at the international level. At Euros 2012, Spain regularly completed between 600-900 passes during games with accuracy rates in the 80 %+ range. Passes are typically one and two touch made with both feet and every Spanish player is very comfortable technically on the ball. This is our objective at 1v1 Soccer FC-to produce young players who are comfortable on the ball with both feet and can play one and two touch passes with the correct pace, accuracy and at the correct moments…..in the correct areas of the field!

At Seville FC last year, I witnessed the focus on quick one and two passing on the ground to maintain possession and unbalance defences. Then when defences have lost their shape, penetrating passes are played in quickly to forward running players to create goal scoring opportunities. This style of play was used to create David Silva’s first goal last Sunday for Spain against Italy. Fabregas made the forward run and was able to get in behind the Italian defence to cross to Silva.

Italy did rival Spain for much of the game in terms of possession percentage. However, Spain attempted twice as many passes in the attacking third than Italy and received their reward for their attacking initiative with four goals.

Midfielders Andres Iniesta , Sergio Busquets, Xavi Alonso, Xavi and Cesc Fabregas are some of the best passes of the ball that the game has produced. They are all very capable of maintaining possession, controlling the tempo of the game and then playing a “killer” pass that can take several defenders out of the game to create goal scoring opportunities.

In Canada, we must take a long-term view of young player development and aspire to develop skillful and technical players who can successfully compete with other young players at the highest level. At the moment, Spain has now set the bar in terms of technical development! This success did not come overnight. Development preparation for their 2008 European Championship triumph began as early as the mid-1990’s for producing players such as Xavi, Alonso, Torres, Silva and Villa.

Tactical Spain has confirmed that success at the highest level is not about a specific formations or systems. The Spanish coach Del Bosque and the previous coach Luis Aragones have never confined their teams to play a certain system such as 4-3-3, 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1. Instead, they have chosen the best technical players available who are well prepared physically and psychologically to perform at their maximum potential. Spain was not confident that Torres was performing at his best during this tournament and played Cesc Fabregas as a “false number 9” to great effect. This was the first time that Fabregas ever played this role and confirmed that good technical players can play within any system/role assigned to them.

Everyone talks about Spain’s high possession percentage during games to create goal scoring opportunities. However, we should remember that maintaining possession and controlling the tempo of the game reduces goal scoring opportunities by the opposition. Spain only conceded one goal during Euro 2012 in over 570 minutes of playing time.

Physical Player size is not a factor for success in Spanish soccer. Barcelona are the smallest team in Spain in terms of height and Del Bosque has continued the earlier work of Luis Arangones in selecting the best technical players at the international level , regardless of size. Spanish players are physically fit and use other physical attributes such as stamina, speed, agility and strength, rather than height to succeed. Spanish team press very early when they lose possession and set themselves team targets of winning the ball back within 5 seconds of losing it. In Sunday’s game, the Italian play-maker Pirlo was forced back deeper and deeper in the game and was pressured by one or two players on every occasion he had possession. This broke down the rhythm of the Italian’s play and restricted their attacking play in the final third as Pirlo was reduced to longer-range passes in the air which were more difficult to control by the Italian forwards. In Seville in 2011, the physique of players resembled that of the current national team, average height, low centre of gravity and capable of quick movements at pace with either foot.

Psychologically Spain performed at the Euros 2012 as a very cohesive team. Despite the enormous rivalry amongst Real Madrid and Barcelona players, Del Bosque created a trust and harmony amongst the players that allowed them to succeed. World class players such as Fabregas, Torres, Silva and Mata accepted their “bit part roles” in some games as they all understood the importance of the overall team. The players were not over-confident despite coming into the tournament as current World and European Champions. Del Bosque, unlike the German coach Joachim Low did not put the team under pressure by “talking up” their chances of winning the tournament. Spain were very respectful of the Italian team on Sunday and these are similar qualities that we encourage at 1v1 Soccer FC-be respective of the game, your colleagues and the opposition, at all times!

The mental part of the game becomes more important, the higher levels that players aspire to play at. As our players progress in the game, this coaching aspect will be receiving a greater focus in our preparation of young players!

Summary At 1v1 Soccer FC, our mission is to provide our young player’s with soccer training experiences comparable to leading soccer nations. To successfully achieve this, we must continue to study and learn from the teaching techniques of the world’s most successful training models. The game continues to evolve, so the work we did even 4 or 5 years ago has to evolve and continue to improve. Both Spain and Italy provided a very open and attacking Euro final on Sunday. Italy can also take away several positives from the Euro’s in 2012. Italian coach Cesare Prandelli played a more attacking form of soccer than we have seen in recent year’s from the Italian national team and enjoyed a very successful tournament.

Superb technical ability, fluid movement and team roles, high physical energy and positive psychological attributes are now required to succeed at the highest levels of the game. We must all embrace these changes and aspire to maximise all our abilities to produce better players….and more and more of them!

Ian McClurg 1v1 Soccer FC -Director of Coaching

Wolves North American Academy Launch Partner Clubs Program with 1v1 Soccer FC

April 5th 2012

 wolves-rae-you-next-v2-01The Wolves North American Academy today announced the launch of its North American Partner Club program with agreed partnerships with youth soccer clubs from the USA and Canada.

Wolves Academy Manager, Kevin Thelwell said, “I am both excited and delighted with the relationship we are developing with Global Image Sports that will allow us to build strong relationships with Clubs in North America. I am keen for the relationships to be mutually beneficial and anticipate that Wolves and the Clubs we partner with will work closely to maximize the benefits that will be gained on both sides. We have already begun to make contact with Clubs to share examples of excellent practice from our Premier League Academy and are looking forward to our full time staff visiting these Clubs in the summer to work with both players and coaches. It is an exciting project for us and I am certain that in the long term it will be an outstanding success.”

The Wolves North American Academy will be hosting a series of Elite Player ID Events with its partner clubs during 2012, under the direction of Wolves Academy coaches. Players who display potential will be invited to a Wolves Academy Experience at the Wolves Academy in England in the spring of 2013.

Wolves partner clubs for 2012 are as follows:

 1v1-soccer-logo11v1 Soccer FC

1v1 Soccer FC was founded in 2000 by UEFA A licensed coach Ian McClurg and quickly established itself as one of Canada’s leading soccer development companies. The company is based in Ancaster, Ontario (between Toronto and Niagara Falls) and provides specialist soccer coaching to male and female players aged from 5?16+. 1v1 currently trains over 400 players a week. Their aim is to provide young Canadian players with soccer training experiences comparable with leading soccer nations. They achieve this by providing a positive educational and training environment where young players follow a proven and progressive coaching curriculum delivered by qualified coaching instructors.

Mount Olive Premier

Formed in 1976, and based in Mt Olive New Jersey. Mt Olive Soccer Club is a year round player development program providing quality training, an organized and highly competitive environment, designed to help skilled players achieve their maximum soccer potential. Mt Olive strives to be the best soccer organization in northern New Jersey, as they aim to set a new standard. They have 3 tiers to their club; development, travel, and premier with around 3000 players across all teams. Mt Olive is very excited to form a partnership with Wolves, and looks forward to building a great relationship in the year’s to come.

Chicago Lakefront

Chicago Lakefront Soccer Club is a non?profit Premier Travel Club in the City of Chicago. The club was formed in 1997 and has consistently offered professional coaching to the City. Over the past fifteen years Lakefront has had numerous teams enter the national rankings, including top ten national rankings for the 98/99 Girls Team on several occasions. In June 2011 Lakefront appointed Nick Mulvaney as their Director of Coaching. Nick seeks to make Lakefront a club where the kids in Chicago get the pportunities they want and deserve. This partnership with Wolves North American Academy is testimony to Lakefront’s ambition to grow as a club, and the emphasis they put on the development of young players.

Queen Anne’s Soccer Club

Queen Anne’s Soccer Club was formed in 1989 in Centreville, Maryland in order allow the area youth the opportunity to play the beautiful game in an environment that was safe, nurturing, organized, instructional, and competitive. Their goal is to enhance the development of every player and give him or her the opportunities and resources in order to play soccer at the highest level. The club has grown each year, and offers recreational play and select team play for players wishing to advance their skills through local, state, and regional play. The goal of Queen Anne’s Soccer Club is to exclude no one and include everyone.

Hoosier FC

Founded in Noblesville, Indiana in 2002, Hoosier FC is dedicated to the development of excellence in soccer skills for both boys and girls age 4 through 19. Hoosier FC has just under 400 players competing throughout 20+ teams. It is the philosophy of Hoosier F.C. that great soccer players are developed at various ages. Hoosier F.C. accomplishes this through age appropriate training techniques and competitive participation at the highest level. Hoosier FC are excited about their partnership with Wolves, and look forward to working with them this summer

1v1 Soccer FC Partnering with Wolves FC North American Academy

March 27th, 2012 – The Wolves FC International Academy have announced a partnership with 1v1 Soccer FC in Ontario Canada.

Wolves FC have successfully attained the highest level of Academy status in the UK (Category 1) and share this distinction with only 19 other professional clubs in England. Their Academy has successfully developed world-class players such as Robbie Keane (transferred for total fees of $150 million) and current Manchester City and England international Joleon Lescott.

Staff from the Wolves FC academy will be travelling to Ontario on July 5-7 to run a player ID camp for male and female players aged U8-U14+

Players can register online for the ID camp at  http://wolvesnorthamericanacademy.com

or contact Ian McClurg, 1v1 Soccer FC Director of Coaching, at 289-239-9602 or ian@1v1soccer.ca

1v1 Soccer was launched in 2000 and quickly established itself as one of Canada’s leading soccer development companies. They provide specialist soccer coaching to boys and girls of all abilities aged from 5-16+. The program is led by Ian McClurg, a UEFA A licensed coach and former Toronto FC Academy and Ontario Provincial team staff coach.

The aim of 1v1 Soccer FC is to provide young Canadian players with soccer training experiences comparable with leading soccer nations. They achieve this by providing a positive educational and training environment where young players follow a proven and progressive coaching curriculum delivered by qualified coaching instructors. 1v1 Soccer FC takes a long-term view of player development and its programs are aligned to the philosophy that it requires 10,000 training hours for athletes to reach elite levels.

1v1 Soccer FC provides coaching instruction and pathways for development that enables our players to have realistic opportunities to advance to play at the following levels:

  • ID Camps with European Professional clubs
  • MLS Youth Academies
  • Ontario Provincial Team
  • US College Scholarships
  • Canadian University Scholarships
  • District and Regional Development programs

Ian McClurg, Owner and Director of Coaching for 1v1 Soccer said “Our Academy Partnership with Wolves FC represents a massive opportunity for our young players. It will allow us to continue to improve the technical standards of all our programs and provides clear pathways for any of our players who aspire to play professional football (soccer) at the highest level. The opportunity to showcase their abilities next summer in front of the Wolves FC coaching staff at the ID Camp this summer will provide our players with specific training target’s during the coming months and will help us to produce better players…..and more and more of them!”