Coaches are very much aware that their team is a reflection of themselves. When our teams walk over the white line on Saturday, Sunday or Wednesday, it is more than a game for the coach in charge. Everything your players do has your stamp on it like it is a personal work of art that you have produced. Coaches are artists and your team is your canvas. The way the players conduct themselves, how they interact, the style of play, and the result, are all ways that we measure the work of a coach.
We want to find the way to combine physical, tactical, technical and mental elements of coaching and learn how to physically prepare our players with periodization, strength and conditioning, and recovery techniques. On top of everthing, we had to win. Yes, the beutiful game which we grew up playing with a smile on our faces now came with big responsabilities. With so much pressure to get positive results today, it is understandable that coaches get carried away by the final result. Yes, it is important and one of the main reasons why we play, but the result must not consume the coach. The performance must also be the priority of the coach – this is the key!
Focus on performance over results and you will always have a reason why you won or did not win the game. If your team delivers a great performance, your chance of winning goes up to 70%. Sometimes you will win a game in which you underperform, and sometimes you will lose a game in which your team was fantastic. That is part of the game. But coaches who focus on the results only will wonder why their team loses four or five games in a row. In this context is very interesting Johan Cruyff’s thought: “Quality without results is pointless. Results without quality is boring.” So as a coach you have to be focused on the quality of the performance te reach a constancy of results and to always find a reason of negative result.
Aristotle once famously said: »We are what we repetedly do, therefore excellence is not an act but a habit«. The same is true for football/soccer teams, except you only have to look at the practice field to see where these habits are made. No matter how many times a coach shouts instructions during a game, a player will always resort back to his/her habits because habit will always be stronger than a reason. However, too many times we believe that these problems are because of the deficiencies of our players and not down to the habits we vreate every day. You can fix these problems on the practice field but it is important to understand that you, the coach, are ultimately responsible for creating an environment where your players can develop winning habits every day.
Enthusiasm is a regular visitor to any successful sport practice facility. Players arrive early, the atmosphere is always good, laughter can always be heard when players are interacting with each other as they meet. This is the perfect environment for teams and players to get better because everyone wants to be there. If they are happy and ready to go out and practice, you have a healthy culture in your program. Practice should be a »fun« place to be. Of course, there is also a time to focus and concentrate, so it is important that the team realizes this and your job as a coach will be educating the players on which is which.
Working smart is almost important as working hard. Your players need to be outstanding in every area of the game and you owe it to them to be better every time they work with you.
A Dutchman, Wiel Coerver, felt that soccer skills could be analyzed and taught from an early age. Utilizing the brand new television and slow motion replay technology of his day, Coever studied the game of soccer from a new perspective. He watched all-time greats such as Johan Cruyff and Pele, and then dissected their moves so he could teach them to young players.
Coerver realized that so much of soccer, especially 1 on 1 situations, depended on anticipation. When a defensive player feels that his opponent will move the ball in a certain position, he or she will react and move in that direction in order to create leverage to block the ball. What great players master is the ability to pretend to be moving in a certain direction but then do something totally different. This catches defenders completely flat-footed and leaves them in the dust as the playmaker has now progressed past a defender and has likely found yards of space ahead.
For our Feel-coaching.eu Player development program is Coerver Coaching one of most important parts to develop creative players, with a high level of technical skills, with sensitive tuch on the ball, diversity and unpredictability in 1 vs. 1 situations. Such players have also great awareness with the ball and with this type of players we can develop attacking, well controled football as we want.
In the 1970s Rinus Michels developed a unique philosophy called »Total Football« with his Dutch team and Ajax. Ajax quickly made their home at the top of the Eredivisie and soon became the team to beat in Europe. It was the purist form of football: free flowing, entertaining, an attacking style, and high pressure defensively. It was poetry in motion in which space was everything. In possession of the ball, his teams would look to create it. Out of possession, they would seek to reduce it for the opposition. As a result, the formation of the team became secondary to its ability to control the territory of a football pitch. Players would drift in and out of position in a bid to find space or break it down. Arrigo Sacchi, a great Italian coach, would later describe this method with a hushed reverence: “Holland in the 1970s…really took my breath away. It was a mystery to me. The television was too small; I felt like I need to see the whole pitch fully to understand what they were doing and fully to appreciate it.”
Fundamental to Michels’s more advanced form was the idea of space. And right at the heart of this space was a player who would go on to change the world of football—Johan Cruyff.
As a player, Mr Cruyff was Total Football’s iconic exponent, enjoying enormous success: he won three consecutive European cups at Ajax, as well as eight league titles, before helping Barcelona to their first La Liga championship for more than a decade and picking up a final Dutch title with Feyenoord.
After leaving the field of play for the final time in 1984, Mr Cruyff continued the tradition of totaalvoetbal from the manager’s dugout. Beginning at his beloved Ajax, Mr Cruyff implemented the same values that had been installed in him by Michels—finding space when in possession, denying the opposition space when out of it.
It was at Barcelona, though, that Mr Cruyff’s legacy was greatest. When he returned to Catalonia as manager in 1988, Barcelona had won two league titles in 28 years. In 27 seasons since, they have won 13, as well as five Champions Leagues; under his tutelage they topped La Liga four times in a row, and lifted the European Cup for the first time. From the point he took over, a line of continuity can be traced to this day. Each successive coach has been a disciple of Total Football. Though individual styles may have varied, the fundamentals remained the same: the game is about space—if you can control that, then you will win. No one footballer had so much influence over a football club than Johan Cruyff at Barcelona. The years before his arrival almost need to be prefixed with the letters ‘BC’ – ‘Before Cruyff’, such was his enormous and enduring influence.
But at the beginning there was a problem. Cruyff’s squad was thin on the highly technical artists needed to implement his shift to a cerebral style. One of the most known and meaningful Cruyff thougts is: »There is only one ball, so you need to have it.« A possession-hungry production line was needed. La Masia had to be overhauled. “The ball was converted into the only protagonist and even fitness work was done with a football,” recalls Mundo Deportivo journalist Oriol Domenech, who spent six years in Barça’s youth teams in the Cruyff era. “There were more opportunities for the little players like me. When I was at La Masia, Guardiola was very thin and it was Cruyff who said that he always had to play because eventually he would grow. Without him, the Xavis, Iniestas and Thiagos of this world wouldn’t exist.”
Some important and famous quotes of Johan Cruyff:
About football: »Football is simple, but the hardest thing to do is play simple football.«
About the importance of space: »If you have the ball you must make the field as big as possible, and if you don’t have the ball you must make it as small as possible.«
About the importance of ball posession: »There is only one ball, so you need to have it.« & »Without the ball you can’t win!«
Team play: »In my teams, the goalie is the first attacker, and the striker the first defender.«
Organisation over money: »Why couldn’t you beat a richer club? I’ve never seen a bag of money score a goal.«
Jordi Cruyff (Johan Cruyff’s son) described him as “immortal” in an emotional TV interview just days before the Dutch legend died and added that he is very proud of the legacy created by his dad. Jordi said: “His legacy is the way of playing football, the philosophy behind it. Always risky, always dominant, always attractive, always offensive. Successful obviously but, above all, to believe in yourself.
Johan Cruyff’s orginal number 4, the team »brain« ahead of two central defenders, was Pep Guardiola and he won trophies playing the Cruyff way. Guardiola was Cruyff’s pick for Barça manager when others felt the club should hire Jose Mourinho and no one did more to take his ‘total football’ ideas and turn them into shiny winners’ medals.
Pep Guardiola, once articulated it: “Cruyff built the cathedral; our job is to maintain and renovate it.” “All the coaches I had in my career were important but Cruyff was the most important of all,’ said Guardiola. ‘Cruyff was without equal on training and tactics and he helped me to understand the million details that decide why some matches are lost and some matches are won. And his way of managing the dressing room.”
Espousing possession and restoring La Masia’s importance, it’s fitting that Guardiola overtook his great mentor as Barcelona’s most successful coach. In four years with Barcelona achieved 14 trophies, eclipsing his mentor Johan Cruyff’s 11. He became the youngest manager ever to coach a Champions League winning team, and also the first to win the treble with a Spanish side. It wasn’t just the success and trophies that shocked the world however, but the style.
Guardiola’s first words to the team in the speech that begun the Barcelona’s most successful era was: »I will defend you to the death but I can also say that I will be very demanding of you all: just like I will be with myself. I only ask this of you. I won’t tell you off if you misplace a pass, or miss a header that costs us a goal, as long as I know you are giving 100 per cent. I could forgive you any mistake, but I won’t forgive you if you don’t give your heart and soul to Barcelona. The style comes dictated by the history of this club and we will be faithful to it. The principle behind Barcelona’s style is very simple: play with the ball, do everything with it. What I’ll try and do in the future is what I did when I was a player, what I believed in, and what I’ve coached for the past five years: attack as well as you possibly can, keep hold of the ball and pass it to a guy wearing the same colour shirt. When we have the ball, we can’t lose it. When that happens, run and get it back. That is it basically.”
Barca dominated almost every opposition with and without the ball. Guardiola prioritized having possession of the ball, in order to do so, the Barcelona team will move into space to receive the ball. The possession wasn’t for the sake of it however. It was proactive football: They decided the way opponents will play. They moved the ball with purpose to move the opposition and as such create and open spaces to exploit. “Move the opponent, not the ball. Invite the opponent to press. You have the ball on one side, to finish on the other.”
The above photos were taken from Barcelona’s 5-0 defeat of Mourinho’s Madrid. On the left is a good example how the players “open the space” during possesion with making triangles all over the pitch, on the right is the situation before the second goal when Xavi decided to change the side passing to David Vila, when all 3 attackers attack the space. The Barcelona’s performance was seen as one of the best team performances of the century.