Got dribbling? Or just passing and running?

I came across this great blog post today courtesy of NorCal Premier Soccer which reinforces my concerns described here, here, and here about an overemphasis on quick passing and moving in many of our youth teams in the Bay Area.

In many cases we are not encouraging dribbling and technical skills enough. We are possibly stifling creativity and smart risk taking in our youth.

The above link will take you to the full post which is definitely worth reading, but let me paste here some key passages:

“They [teams] concentrate too much on the possession part of Barcelona’s model. Passing, recycling the ball, and dominating possession are all well and good, but what really made Barcelona so exceptional was world class dribbling in the final third, and Lionel Messi.

They [Barcelona] have moved on from the constant possession, or “sterile domination” as Arsene Wenger called it, but the underlying characteristics are still there – especially the dribbling.

In the shape of Neymar, Messi, and Luis Suárez, they have three of the best dribblers in the world, and three of the best footballers in the world. This South American trident is the attacking force at the front line of a pass and move operation trained at La Masia. Take one of these components away and the Barcelona machine wouldn’t function.

Now, once again, teams around the continent are taking hints from a Barcelona model as they utilise multiple dribblers playing either side of or behind a main striker. From Ajax to Manchester City, and from Dortmund to FC Dallas – the dribblers are out in full force.

A report released at the recent UEFA Elite Club Coaches Forum in Nyon highlighted an increase in counter-attacking football that relies on dribbling, and direct but accurate forward passing. The continent’s top managers also echoed the idea that possession for possession’s sake was the wrong way to go about the game.”

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we should train to make every kid like Messi, which is impossible, of course. And I do believe there is a lot of value and beauty in passing and moving well at pace.

But I also believe we need to re-emphasize technical skills, dribbling, and creativity from a very young age and celebrate it during practices and games even when the youngsters fail. And this encouragement should continue throughout the youngsters’ soccer journey.

Of course, youngsters need to learn when to use which part of their toolkit. Acquiring this soccer IQ is partly dependent on coaching quality and partly on playing experience over time.

It will make for better players and more entertaining games at all levels, including eventually the MLS.

Lifelong player and student of the beautiful game in Germany, England, and USA. Volunteer futsal coach and USSF referee.

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