Anson Dorrance on 3Four3

The 3Four3 podcast with guest Anson Dorrance is a great listen!

I wish I would have heard when I was starting out in soccer.

Anson is good with words.

I wasn’t surprised, deep in the podcast when he explained he had an English major, thinks language is important and seeks to use language to inspire and motivate. It shows. He communicates simply and very effectively.

I thought Anson did the best job I’ve heard, so far, of explaining a few elusive soccer concepts.

Direct vs. Indirect Soccer plus Development vs. Winning

Being able to play both styles is important. But learning to play indirect takes time and patience.

This is him, paraphrased:

At U10/U12 and below wins come from direct soccer and putting a couple fast kids up front and a couple kids with big kicks at the back and sending the ball forward for the fast kids to run onto and finish.

This an example of winning that doesn’t develop.

Direct quote:

“Development is all about creating a philosophy of player development that doesn’t have as its priority the most effective way to win [for young ages] because the most effective way to win at a U12 level is what I described [direct soccer].”

Seven elements of athletic character

He has seen his share of talented players that lacked a few of these and it doesn’t go well. He looks for these traits:

  • self discipline
  • competitive fire
  • self belief
  • love of the ball
  • love of playing the game
  • love of watching the game
  • grit

The importance of 1v1’s

I thought it was a odd sign from the universe that I listened to this podcast on the same day I read about Belgium’s approach to youth soccer.

Dorrance coached the US WNT when the team members didn’t get much opportunity to train together. He encouraged them all to play the game in it’s simplest form — 1v1’s — on their own. Many of them were dating high-level men soccer players, and they played a lot of 1v1’s against them. He credits this as key to the success of his World Cup winning team.

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Strange Headline on Bloomberg

Headline

You might think from that headline that someone took Jack Ma’s stuff and kicked him to the ground or something.

Alas, from the second paragraph:

The chairman of India’s refining-to-telecoms conglomerate, Ambani was estimated to be worth $44.3 billion on Friday…

Ma’s wealth stood at $44 billion…

It turns out, Ma wasn’t actually hurt in the ‘toppling’ and none of his stuff was taken. He’s doing just fine. Just another example of clickbait journalism.

It turns out the economy is not a zero sum game. Jack Ma and this other guy can both be doing well at the same time without taking away from each other.

And, by the way, the customers of their companies probably come out ahead, too.

Positive sum is good.

Winning Does(n’t) Matter

This article about how the approach to coaching soccer in Belgium may have contributed to their success at this year’s World Cup is a good read.

I especially like the following two points:

Point #6: Winning Doesn’t Matter

We don’t have league tables until the Under-14 level. That was one of the big battles for us. Coaches shouldn’t be concerned about tables and trying to win trophies before this age – they should be thinking about developing players.

Coaches are inclined to focus on winning the game. That makes them play the big, strong players who give them the best chance of winning, so the late developers end up on the bench 75% of the time.

I agree. Team wins at young ages are poor predictors of future success and can be achieved in ways that do not make kids better at soccer.

While ‘4v4 to get more touches’ sounds good in theory, in reality the two fastest kids get  80% of the touches and the other 6 kids chase them.

While team wins don’t matter at young ages there, in Point #2 the author describes what type of winning does matter in Belgium and how it matters (bold added):

Kids want to play football in their own way, not the way adults want to play. If you put a child on an adult’s bicycle, they’ll say, “are you crazy?” But this is what happens in football, we ask them to play 11 v 11 or 8 v 8 at a very young age. They are not able to do it.

As a child, how did you start playing? In my case, it was with my brother, playing 1 v 1 at home, in the garden, in the garage, dribbling and scoring.

We created a format that is tailor made for this. We put one player in the goal and one on the pitch and at five, six years old, they play 1 v 1 with the goalkeeper and they adore it. They have a lot of touches, a lot of scoring opportunities. It’s all about that fun environment and fun means scoring goals.

They play two halves of three minutes, then they go to the next pitch. The winner goes to the left and the loser to the right. After one or two games they’ll be playing against a similar level of opponent and everyone scores goals, everyone wins games, which makes it fun.

They may be onto something.

1v1 skills — both attacking and defensive — are so important for team success.

1v1’s is a great way to simplify the game for young kids, while also building skills that will help later on.

Plus, winning still matters! But, it’s just used to sort the kids to face like competition.

I can imagine this has several benefits in addition to what he described above.

Players stand on their own results. Those results also provide clear and direct feedback for kids and parents.

For example, average players can’t mistake the successes of their advanced teammates as their own.

Parents can’t shift blame for poor results to teammates, nor can they complain that their child is playing in the wrong position, not getting enough play time or not getting enough chances to score.

This also makes it easier for kids to figure out what to work on at home. In a full team environment, there are so many things to work on, it can be overwhelming.

Does this answer the participation trophy debate?

I think this also sheds light on the mistake made by Participation Trophy advocates.

What they get right is that team records are not helpful at young ages.

What they get wrong is what to reward. They reward showing up. Showing up does not build fundamentals.

The approach used by Belgium above rewards building fundamentals.

Fitting this into my player development model.

Here I recommended kids gain competence in 5-a-side before graduating to 11v11.

The Belgium approach makes me think I missed a step.

Maybe the steps in the competitive ladder should be:

  1. Soccer starts at home. See Tom Byer.
  2. 1v1+GK competitions
  3. 5-a-side
  4. 11v11

Ages shouldn’t matter. Competency should be what progresses players through the steps. I see a lot of kids who get interested in soccer at 10 or 12, but have a hard time finding a spot on a team because they need too much work on the basics relative to kids who started younger. This progression would solve that.

If you’re new to soccer, whether your 6, 14 or 42, start with home practice, a lot of 1v1’s, then 5-a-side before moving on to 11v11.

Protectionism and Big Government Policy

From Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek:

A Protectionist is Someone Who…

… upon noticing that cardiothoracic surgeons earn high incomes concludes that the nation would be enriched if the government adopted policies to increase the number of citizens who suffer from blocked arteries and congestive heart failure – thus artificially increasing the demand for the services of cardiothoracic surgeons.

I think this example can be used to demonstrate the folly of another well intended, but misguided, phenomenon in politics:

Advocates of solving things with big government policy (maybe there’s a better description) are folks who…

… upon noticing that cardiothoracic surgeons earn high incomes concludes that we can help more people earn high incomes if the government adopted policies to increase the number of  cardiothoracic surgeons – thus artificially increasing the supply of  cardiothoracic surgeons.

I can imagine the support for such policies:

  • More cardiothoracic surgeons is a great thing! More is better.
  • Let’s help everyone realize the dream of becoming a cardiothoracic surgeon!

But, just as Boudreaux’s example shows how dumb it would be to artificially increase the demand for cardiothoracic surgeons, it’s just as dumb to artificially increase the supply of them because we can easily predict what will happen.

Cardiothoracic surgeons will cease making such high incomes and big government policy advocates will scratch their heads for 5 seconds before coming up with the next big government solution to that problem, rather than realize where their thinking was flawed in the first place.

 

Intentional Errors

“I killed a 6 ft snake in my yard the other day. Er…I mean 6 inch snake.”

True story.

On occasion, I see errors in journalism, like the one above, that I suspect may not be errors.

Rather, they’re designed to exaggerate a story, perhaps to get your attention or to elicit an emotion.

They quickly follow with the correction. They can claim accuracy.

But, hopefully the exaggeration sticks in your memory.

Example.

We’re all one, more or less

Multiple personalities explains reality?

Yes, that’s what I’ve been thinking. Seems like Nietzsche had it figured out, too. Maybe Carl Sagan.