This is a response that I left on a blog quite awhile ago. I felt like it was decent enough information to share again on my own platform. I follow www.3four3.com pretty religiously. You should check it out, too.
Last night, I arrived home at 2AM (it was my night off, had to go get a beer, don’t judge) to a pleasant surprise in my inbox. My assistant coach, a 20 year old goalkeeper, had emailed me his thoughts on our implementation of a 4-1-4-1 then changing to a 4-2-3-1 and then compared our changes to what he was learning about in his political science class at Cal Poly-SLO.
In his class, they had discussed a philosopher named Edmond Burke. Burke apparently believed (in my assistants words) “that to enact change, one should do it within the system already in place, as there is a reason a certain system is in place for any extended period of time, namely, that it is effective.” Burke was referring to political change, but it was interesting to use those thoughts to look at soccer.
We came up with this formula to enact change within our high school team:
POWER + WILL = CHANGE
CHANGE + TIME = RESULTS
POWER comes from the coaches understanding and ability to implement the change to begin with. If the coach doesn’t have the know how, the skills, or understanding of the change himself, there cannot be change. WILL comes from the players. The players must buy into the new philosophy. If they players don’t buy in completely and execute accordingly, again, there cannot be change. Both POWER and WILL have to be present in order to achieve CHANGE.
Most coaches simply don’t have the power. They believe that operating within what is already in place is the best bet. It’s… safe. They won’t get better, they won’t get worse. Kind of like… well… Bob Bradley, maybe? He was very conservative US Men’s National Team coach. A modest coach. Then, we looked at our coaching staff and team. We took over a high school program that previously played a 3-5-2. We came and demonstrated our power and switched to the 4-1-4-1. We saw immediate results in our ability to retain possession, but then noticed some struggles defensively. So, we demonstrated our power again when we switched to a 4-2-3-1.
Coaches also have to have players that are willing to make the change work. If players are not willing to give back to the system, the team, or the philosophy then it is a waste of time. Again, I’ll make a USMNT comparison. USMNT cannot not play possession soccer with center backs and a goalkeeper who choose
to kick the shit out of the ball versus playing simple 10/15/20 yard possession passes. Although Tim Howard’s 100 yard goal at Everton was amusing, it was a display of horrible decision making. Don’t get me wrong, I think Timmy is fantabulous keeper… just wish he wouldn’t do such things so often. Referring back to our team, both times we demonstrated our power as coaches, our players demonstrated their will. They bought in. Completely bought in! It was… almost amazing to be honest.
So, once you have found a coach who has the POWER and you have the players with WILL… you can then begin to achieve CHANGE. Now, CHANGE isn’t necessarily a good thing. At first, it might be rough. Because CHANGE takes TIME. A lot of time. Days, weeks, months, years! Once you have CHANGE and TIME, you will then achieve RESULTS.
This is where we have to begin to understand that winning isn’t necessarily the most important result (i.e. USA vs Spain, then USA vs Brazil 2009). Understanding should come before winning, especially at youth levels. If you have made the change and given the change sufficient time… the result could/should be measured by the amount understood by the individual players and the team as a whole. If they understand the new philosophy and tactics and have the correct intention when they make decisions on the field, the result should be considered positive, whether it is a win or loss at the final whistle.
Again, going back to the USMNT, 1-0 results over Venezuela and Panama would be more enticing if the players on the field were able to demonstrate something positive. I didn’t spend much time analyzing the games, but watching from a fan standpoint, I wasn’t very impressed. I know it was our “B” team or maybe even our “C” team, but those players should be able to connect passes, right? Watching Spain beat Netherlands 1-0 is much different, though. Those are the types of 1-0 wins that US Soccer should strive for.
Now, I’m wondering what Jurgen’s next move will be? He has flip flopped a couple of times using a 4-4-2 (modest approach) and variations of a 4-3-3. When is he going to choose a system and demonstrate his power and demand that the players show their will? I believe that if I can do it at the high school level with high school players… that Jurgen should be able to do it at the national level with professional players. Fair assumption?
Kind of a rant, a little unorganized, but I think I got my main points across. Some of the references are a little outdated now, but I think the general idea is still there.