U.S. Soccer’s Youth Technical Director, Claudio Reyna, recently discussed the roles of coaches in bringing development to younger players.
The easy way, absolutely, to play for wins at the younger ages is to tell the goalie to kick it up the field, and everytime there’s a throw-in or a free kick, to send it to the corner and everyone chases it, but I don’t think I’m unveiling any secrets when I say that’s not going to develop players.
You’re not going to get results all the time encouraging your young players to play out of the back, but you’re going to get better players. And I believe, in the long-term, you’re going to have better teams.
It’s really up to the coaches at the youngest level to start setting the table for this approach. As coaches in U8 and below – if we encourage the player to dribble out of trouble, it starts them on the road to confidence in pressure situations with the ball.
One, for example, is the emphasis of playing out of the back – from the goalie and the back four.
It takes about 10 or 15 minutes to notice a goalkeeper gets the ball and punts it every time he has the ball. The four defenders turn their back every time the goalkeeper gets the ball and run upfield because they know he’s punting.
That shows me right away there isn’t enough emphasis at the club to train playing out of the back.
The ones who lose out ultimately are the players, because a defender, at one point, especially at the national team level, is going to need the skills to play out of the back. It’s going to be difficult to develop central backs if all they’re doing their entire career is kicking the ball up as far as they can, heading it as far as they can.
Emphasizing that we’re looking for them to play out of the back, through the midfield, in turn will develop more midfield players who are used to receiving the ball from the defenders.
It’s a progressive step moving from simply dribbling out of trouble to moving to a composed pass from the back forwards. It’s difficult when under pressure to get composed and start the ball in the right direction, but players need to learn in an environment where the failure is the decision to blast the ball clear before thinking.