Understanding Technique

The tools of the trade

"Good players execute good decisions.
Poor players either can’t make the decision, or can’t pull it off."

Before you get hung up on what and how to coach on the technical side of soccer keep the following in mind.

  1. Technique is the hardest thing to teach, and the easiest thing to learn.
  2. It’s about getting the job on hand done, achieving an immediate objective. It’s not about mechanics or some future imagined problem.
  3. Games are the best way to learn technique. They provide feedback for the player that is completely objective.
  4. MASTERY TAKES TIME. What you sow in September you harvest in April. P-A-T-I-E-N-C-E. Training with Zidane - Like Maradona. Takes you to YouTube.

It’s not Technique, it’s TIC

Take a look at the video below. What is happening? What technique is Cruyff using with his first touch?

Was the first touch an example of ball control, dribbling or a pass into space for Cruyff to run onto? Trying to answer that question with a technical answer becomes a circular debate. You get no where. Reducing the moment, that single touch, to a simple technical act misses what is actually going on. It wasn’t a technique, it was TIC.

What is TIC and how it works

TIC stands for Technique, Insight and Communication. They are inseparable. The goal came about because all of this came together in one moment;

  1. The Ajax back player see’s Cruyff isolated 1v1 upfield and had the technical ability to get the ball to him. Cruyff moves to where he can receive the ball and creates a big problem for the opponents. (They both read the same situation and were on the same page. Technique, insight and communication come together.)
  2. Cruyff see’s that the defender will not move to intercept the pass nor close him down effectively. He turns his body to see the entire field. Cruyff has space and in soccer, space equals time. (Technique and insight)
  3. Cruyff see’s space behind the defender that he can use. (Insight)
  4. He uses his first touch to tell the ball "I want you to go there." He is the ’Boss of the ball.’ (Cruyff uses his TIC to solve his problem and create one for the opponents. He communicates to the ball what he wants through his first touch.)
  5. Any delay by either player and the moment is gone, the situation has changed. They’ll be confronted with a different picture and have to solve a different problem. They understand this on an intuitive level and work together to solve the problem that they have in that moment. (Insight and communication.)
  6. The rest is simply a matter of execution. (They saw, understood, used their combined technical abilities and seized the moment.)

Here’s a short video, UEFA.com, of Kaka talking about the "Killer pass."  He demonstrates the three key qualities; 1) See the opportunity; 2) Choose the right moment; 3) Put the correct weight on the pass. A big problem with how children are taught is that they are 1) Told what the opportunity is; 2) The pace is too frantic for choice, (Moments come and go quickly) and 3) The "Big boot, clear it, down the line, get rid of it" mentality robs them of the responsibility of finding the correct pace.

Coach TIC, not Technique 

  1. Avoid drills to learn technique, find a technical game. "As soon as you can kick a ball and run you can play soccer." (Games that keep score work best. Lot’s of repetition and immediate feedback. Drills have their place but should be used as a last resort, in moderation and for a specific purpose. Drills for large groups are rarely appropriate.)
  2. Avoid overemphasizing the mechanical aspects of technical problems. Too many details like "Keep the knee over the ball, lock the ankle, open your hips" things like that creates brain lock. One bit of advice to one ton of practice. (Good player’s don’t think about what you’re doing, they find ’the zone.’ How do you throw off a golfer whose playing really well? Ask them to think about how they’re doing it.)
  3. Connect reading the situation and decision making to the process. Keep it simple, two options are enough. (Look for yes/no, good/bad, right/wrong, on/off answers. This way you’ll know what part of TIC has the problem. They can’t see the problem, don’t understand it or didn’t pull it off. Build on what they can do.)
  4. Be aware of "The moment." Finding the correct moment influences the decision and the decision looks for the moment. (They have to come together. Good decisions only work at the right moment and the moment comes and goes in a fraction of a second.)

Isolating technique through drills is like learning carpentry by going to Home Depot and studying tools. You’ll know a lot about the tools, might make a good clerk, but you can’t build a house. You only need the tools you need, no more, no less. Keep the technique within the context of a game and let the game do the teaching. Help the children to learn by helping them to play the game better. Give a little advice and allow for tons of practice.

Training with Zidane - La Roulette. Takes you to YouTube.

 A Note About the Videos
The video’s that we are using in the technical articles are meant to show general ideas. Each clip has been added to help illustrate a point or two and not meant to be the "Be all, end all." Not many of you will be coaching players like those  from Ajax, Barcelona and others and we recognize that. Furthermore, many of the technical clips have some flaws in them. That’s a natural part of the video taping process. They are included because they do provide many good points and over all are worthwhile.