Youth National Team coach: “Players aren’t as creative as they used to be”

If you’re familiar with my blog then you know how important I think creativity is for player development and that I’m concerned about an overemphasis on quick passing at too early an age. I hear “don’t dribble” too often.

Click here, here, and here for just some of my posts on this topic.

So I was glad to read the following comments from our U16 National Team coach, Shaun Tsakiris, during an interview with GoalNation at Surf Cup a few weeks ago:

“It’s interesting, I think our youth soccer players aren’t as creative as they used to be.

We’re so structured in training that we’ve lost a little creativity in our players. I think we’ve created more good players and less special players.

I often remind myself not to take the love of the game and the creativity away from my players.

While the Federation has made great strides in coaching education in the past few years, even I have to remember not to over-structure.

It is our responsibility as coaches to help our players develop the creative aspects of the game.”

Author: James

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

2 thoughts on “Youth National Team coach: “Players aren’t as creative as they used to be””

  1. From your previous post:
    “And what does a youngster need to creatively solve those micro-problems?
    -Soccer IQ – a fundamental understanding of the game, including the relationship between the ball, the players, space and movement;
    -Large toolkit – broad and deep technical skills, ball control and touch, accurate passing, ability to shoot, ambidexterity, off-the-ball movement, etc.
    -Mental agility – is the youngster constantly paying attention and reading the game, processing split-second decisions, coming up with clever solutions, imagining a couple of moves ahead;
    -Confidence – especially with the ball in tight, pressured situations in your own defensive third; does he or she have the confidence to do the unexpected and experiment with new solutions or is he or she worried about making mistakes?”
    So dribbling ability only covers one aspect of creativity. I think referring back to some previous generation of “more creative” players is a red herring. I don’t think we’ve had special players that were brought through our system–we had immigrants that brought their family’s cultural legacy of football to this country and their relatives helped them grow into the game as if they were back in their homeland. People like Ramos and Rossi come to mind, as well as the Kleiban brothers.
    The special players I see are comfortable on the ball, but are “too small” to be put in AM positions, even at the youth level. Coaches won’t put them there because they think they’re too small to be effective. So it’s a coaching problem, not a player problem. Blaming lack of creativity on players is misdirection. We should be asking, “Why won’t coaches put our most creative players in attacking positions, and give them playing time?”


  2. Go to any practice in the Bay Area, for 8, 9, 10 year olds. They will be being taught tactics, which includes possession, passing, give and goes, forming triangles, blah, blah. All before any of them can control the ball. As in receive, dribble, move and control the ball at their feet with all the different parts of their shoe. Left and right. It’s kind of like spending time teaching some the tactics of racing without teaching them to drive.

    While you’re at that practice, start a timer. And count number of touches for any kid over 10 minutes. You won’t get past 20 most of the time. Usually because some tactical drill is being run, with 5 or 6 kids and one ball.

    How do you allow creativity? You allow and teach ball control. Over everything else. If you can’t control the ball and be confident on the ball, then you can’t do anything else.


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