Friday, January 27, 2012

Dutch Youth Coaching Handbook & 4v4

I have been reading Coaching Soccer, The Official Coaching Book of the Dutch Soccer Association.   Many people regard the Dutch as world leaders in youth soccer training.  The coaching book, written by Bert van Lingen, is a bit dated (1997) but covers their basic philosophy.  For coaches, they say the demands are:
1.  The ability to "read" the soccer situation.
2.  The ability to "manipulate" soccer obstacles (make them easier or more difficult, organize them in a methodological sequence)(obstacles include the ball, opposing players, teammates, rules of the game, stress, time, space, and goal orientedness).
3.  The ability to explain clearly the problems involved.
4.  The ability to provide the right example and to demonstrate it.
5.  The ability to engender the right atmosphere for learning.  (Coaching Soccer, p.9).  
The book covers all aspects of teaching, but primarily focuses on teaching the three moments of the game:  (1) Own team has possession, (2) Opposition has possession, and (3) Change of possession - the moment the ball is lost or won.  

The basis for all of the training outlined is a formula called T.I.C.  It stands for technique - Insight -Communication.  At young ages (5-7), focus is on TECHNIQUE with less emphasis on insight and communication (labeled T.i.c.).  From 7-12, more insight is added by playing small-sided and basic games (T.I.c.).  It is not until age 12 that they heavily focus on all three (T.I.C.).  

The other thing that really stood out from the book was the emphasis on a fun atmosphere in training.  At the young ages, it is critical that the kids enjoy the game.  The author writes that years ago, many kids learned by playing on the street.  That is not as prevalent today so, in training, we need to try to replicate the atmosphere of street soccer as best we can.  In other words, think of the parents' role in a street or yard soccer game . . . some measure of that needs to be carried over to training sessions in small-sided games. 

The book strongly advocates the use of 4v4 as a training tool.  In fact, a whole chapter is dedicated to espousing its benefits, complete with multiple variations of the game.  It is recommended that some rules by placed in the games and, while the coach should not interfere too much, there are great opportunities to teach from the exercise.  "4v4 is the smallest manifestation of a real match."  Coaching Soccer, p. 104.  Players are rewarded for learning to read soccer situations.  They will also maximize touches.  There will be plenty of opportunities to take a player 1v1, and ball control is at a premium.  

We have been experimenting with this with our U10s.  I found that basic ball control was lacking.  We could drill on it 4v4.  4v4 on a smaller field demands good ball control.  If a ball is played to a teammate and it is not trapped appropriately, there will be a defender or a boundary nearby to frustrate the offense.  It is my passive-aggressive way of telling boys to concentrate on the first touch.  If they are on a big field, they have a wider margin for error.  What I mean by that is the ball area (after it touches them) can be within 5 yards and they can still have possession with time and space.  In 4v4, that is not the case.  Not only is there limited space, the limited space means an opposition player is nearby.  

I will write separately on this later, but it leads me to an observation I have learned over time.  Many times I hear coaches exhorting players to pass the ball at an opportune time.  (Assuming that is the correct thing to do at that moment rather than challenging a defender).  My problem with that is I think it skips a step.  First, they have to catch the ball.  I find that if kids properly catch the ball, they tend to be smart with it.  A lot of the frenzy I witness in youth games is because they lack mastery over the ball.  For example, a pass is directed to Player A.  Player A touches it but it bounces 5 yards away from her.  While no one was near her originally, now it is a 50/50 ball and the opposition sees a chance to regain possession.  This adds stress and pressure to the player who is now attempting to collect the ball.  By the time she regains, she has a defender on her.  To tell a kid in that situation to pass is giving the wrong instruction.  What they need to learn is to catch, then passing will come (or dribbling).  Just my two cents.   

Finally, in 4v4, the book points out that, while playing a 1-2-1, the shape manifests to soccer situations in a full-sided game.  Also, with 4v4, "there are options in all directions of play."  He writes that the forward pass as a function of the square pass more readily arises in 4v4 versus 3v3 or 5v5.  (Coaching Soccer, p.104).

We are using 4v4s now and I can tell you that the kids love it.  I hope to see some of the benefits for our kids while at the same time keeping the game fun for them.  

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

US Women's National Team Drifting away from Drift and Lift?

So...that's what I call it.  If you watch the US Women play, I am sure you notice the regularity with which lofted crosses are served in hopes of careening off of Abby Wambach's head.  Against the Japanese, it appeared to be our only tactic.  (Yes, there was a long ball goal -- any team will take those shots too).  By and large, we pinned our hopes on Wambach's now famous noggin.  How did we get to this?

Watch the Olympic qualifying matches and you will see.  Be on the lookout for the number of references to our "athleticism" and "height advantage."  The commentators at the World Cup last summer sounded like they were measuring football players at a combine.  Why, in the men's game, are the best players in the world under 5'8" while in the women's game, we still resort to uncanny predictors like height and strength?  In the prosperous country we live, are we resorted to resting our female soccer advantage on how tall or strong someone is?  That is so not-soccer. 

 (Oddly enough, size was the way teams' chances of success were measured in the past --whichever team had the most weight in stones was considered the favorite -- it, however, did not predict the success of the smaller Scottish squad that defeated the heavier and favored English in the first international friendly; mind you, that was over 100 years ago).  

I recall watching the game against Japan and, on more than one occasion, a midfielder or forward had an opportunity to attack the middle of the goal -- with the Japanese pressure backpedaling.  Time and again, rather than look for a soft through in the middle, our players "drifted" to the side then "lifted" the ball into Abby's head.   Abby would even drift to the optimal heading spot given the angle of her server's drift.  I dubb it the "Drift and Lift" offense (you heard it here first!).  While it can result in cool goals, I generally hate it.  Can you imagine Xavi opting to drift wide of the goal then lofting a ball into the air to a player in the box surrounded by defenders (hopefully one of his)?  The greatest team in the World right now specializes in attacking the goal with short, soft through balls mixed with diagonal runs.  That is the soccer I want to watch.  

Now, in today's press, is the line that got me thinking of the Drift & Lift.  The US Women are switching to a 4-2-3-1 (4-5-1) in lieu of their 4-4-2 in an effort to play more possession-based soccer.  Here is the quote:  
"As they begin defense of their Olympic gold, the U.S. women will unveil a new formation, a 4-2-3-1 meant to foster the possession-oriented style and encourage players to interchange positions more than the 4-4-2 they were using."  USA Today, January 17, 2012.  4-2-3-1 v. Drift & Lift?
Great news indeed!  Abby is still up top, but now maybe we can look in the middle of the field for space to attack instead of racing (or retreating) to the sides.  Great news for up and coming young women soccer players who, while not necessarily gifted in height, can create, attack, possess, etc.  Some locally come to mind. . . Taking size out of the equation opens the door to honest assessment of talent.  It may also mean the US Women playing a Marta-styled player at attacking mid rather than holding mid.  Again, a local player comes to mind...

To be fair, I am not against size in soccer.  I just like to think of soccer as the pure sport that celebrates creativity, talent, athleticism, and speed regardless of size.  Too many sports place too much emphasis on one or the other.  You have heard it before -- "too short for basketball, volleyball...too small for football..." etc.  Soccer takes on all - tall or short, big or small -- the only price to admittance is ability to control a ball with your feet and create.  While soccer's god does have an alter (Speed), greatness can be found with players lacking even that quality.   (Now, if you can combine speed and quickness (they are different) with balance and agility, throw in passion for the game with equal parts of competitive fire, a dash of IQ, and even some humility and willingness to learn and be taught, have a star.)  

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Tactics v. Technique: Are Americans too tactical?

What is the difference between tactics and technique?  When is the right time to develop tactics?  While there very well may have been times or years where I was guilty of the subjects discussed below, it is by experiencing the mistakes of over-teaching tactics to young players that I have learned its weakness--it retards soccer development.  So, for starters, let me set out some definitions.

When I refer to tactics, I am talking not about how to pass, but where to pass.  Technique covers how to perform various passes, dribbles, traps, runs, etc.  To me, tactics are about the when and technique is about the how.   If you watch trainers work with kids, some will spend more time on technique while others are more tactical in their sessions.  I think I am somewhere in between.  I pitted them against each other in the title to this entry because, from what I have seen, many of our parent coaches have overemphasized tactics (result) at a young age rather than technique (player development).

Tactics, in a U9 game, may mean keeping your best goalie at goalie all game to ensure the victory.  While he or she will gain valuable experience between the pipes, if treated like that regularly, will be prevented from growth in other areas.  Soccer is like everything else -- you best learn the technical stuff early because the older we get, the harder we are to teach (or un-teach bad habits).  So, between the ages of 6-12 kids are primed to learn correct muscle memory.

Another typical example is having a fast kid as forward coupled with a strong defender instructed to send the ball up (long balls).  The tactics in this situation maximizing scoring but marginalizes technical improvement.  So, while playing a long ball up front may make it more likely that your team scores a goal with a given forward, it deemphasizes important aspects of technical improvement, like ball control and dribbling, that need to be developed at young ages.  

Or how about when a boy or girl who is relegated to one position every year from age 6-12.  It may be that a child has a talent to play fullback, but if he is not given opportunities to play in the middle or up front then his growth in the game will be limited by his experience.  It may be that playing a certain kid at fullback gives your team the best chance of winning an under 9 game, but how will that help the player later on?  

A couple of our soccer authorities have weighed in on the issue.  We all know Landon Donovan.  Here is what he had to say:  

“As a kid you need to touch the ball as much as you can. You should always be with the ball. You should have a feeling that wherever the ball is, you can do anything with it. No matter where it is, where it is on your body, how it’s spinning, how it’s coming at you, the speed it’s coming at you, anything. You can learn the tactical side of the game later. It’s amazing to me that people put so much emphasis on trying to be tactical and worry about winning when it doesn’t matter when you’re 12 years old. We’re going to have big, strong, fast players. We’re Americans, we’re athletes. But if we never learn at an early age to be good on the ball, then it’s just useless.”  Landon Donovan, USA World Cup hero, Soccer America, July 2002 (with emphasis).  

Read what Bobby Howe, the former US Soccer Federation Director of Coaching Soccer said about selfish young soccer players while he addressed the unimportance of winning small-sided youth games:

“Even when the kids graduate to six-v-six, there should remain little or no emphasis on playing a position, on winning, or on restricting individual decision-making. The individualist who would rather dribble than pass may not quite be the pariah that (s)he’s assumed to be. The ability to dribble past several defenders in a limited space is a quality that only a handful of the game’s greatest players have acquired. Kids should not have their creativity stifled, especially at younger ages.”  Bobby Howe,  How to Play the Game: The official playing and coaching manual of the United States Soccer Federation (with emphasis).  
Some of the problem associated with this issue comes from the parents.  Our culture not only overemphasizes winning in youth games, we overstate the value of the forward.  Parents routinely demand (or passively demand) that their kid play forward.  The kids are aware of this.  Many parents offer incentives on the number of goals scored by a kid.  That may be a good incentive in an U6 game where you are teaching kids what a goal is, but it is not helpful later on.  It overstates the importance of the shot taker with no regard to the assist or build up.  Kids adopt the beliefs of their parents too.  So, if parents only value goal scores, then a kid will usually feel likewise.  To me, a kid who "does not want to play defense" is usually paired with a parent who says that "their kid just doesn't know how to play defense."  From a coach, the statement is a back-ended justification of why their kid is playing up front (I find most coaches' kids play forward).  From a parent, it is a back-handed way to request the kid to play forward. Ironically, forwards and midfielders (and attacking mids) play a lot of defense.  Further, the modern soccer game is going away from a beefier front line and placing more strength in the middle (4-5-1 formation variations).  You better know how to defend to attack. 

The solution to this is to deemphasize the result and rotate kids around more.  If between the ages of 6-12 we deemphasize winning in lieu of player development, it won't matter that "Little Johnny doesn't know how to play defense."  Now, we have a perfect environment to learn.  Play kids that have only played defense at offense.  Play kids that only play offense on defense.  We have a rule on our team -- if you say you will not play defense, you will not play offense.  

Finally, I will say that it has taken me some time to come to these thoughts.  I love competition.  But, I think the best way to compete when it matters is to deemphasize winning (not competition) at early ages.  Then, later, when your are building teams to compete for Cups, you have players well-rounded in the game with better ball control.  If it is structured appropriately (matching skill levels in Academy games), then there will still be plenty of competition.   I do not advocate throwing kids onto a field and saying "it doesn't matter, go have fun."  I am the opposite of that.  I only think that the best way to advance is to devalue results at U7-U10 levels (U11 & U12 are qualifying years id EDDOA so it applies there too).  

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Gaining Territory v. Possession: Part III (El Clasico thoughts)

If you watched El Clasico, you witnessed Barcelona concede a goal in the first 23 seconds.  Real Madrid decided to press high, knowing that Barcelona rarely hoofs the ball up the field.  In an effort to frustrate Barca's rhythm, Madrid pressed all the way to the keeper, disrupting Barca's attempts to play it out from the back.  In the first gasp of the game, the ball was played back to Valdes (Barca GK) who played it back to Puyol (Barca back) who played it right back to Valdez.  Then, Valdes tried to switch the field but angled the pass right to Di Maria for Madrid - 3 touches later, goal.

Some will point to this as evidence that Barca plays possession ball to its detriment.  Surely, when a team as skilled as Real Madrid decides on a course of pressing, including pressing the keeper, the keeper should just hoof it up the field.  Did Barca alter course after the Valdez mishap?  Were his teammates frustrated?  No and no.  I think Barca's response to the early hole showed its commitment to its system as well as a team spirit that Madrid lacked.

In regard to its system, after the game interviews revealed that Captain Puyol told Valdez immediately after the event to "Carry on, Victor."  Guardiola said:
The perfect image of this game was that after the goal Victor Valdes continued playing the ball. Real Madrid steamroll[ed] you. Most goalkeepers  would boot it. But Victor kept playing the ball. I prefer to lose the ball like that but give continuity to our play. 
Xavi called Victor's conduct as "brave."  Sid Lowe, writer for The Guardian, says "a brave player is the one who loses the ball three times and still wants it; who keeps attacking. The goalkeeper who makes the biggest mistake on earth -- and doesn't take the easy, if short term, way out. The team that have the courage of their convictions."

Lowe notes that Barcelona passes to their keeper more than any team in La Liga.  He also notes that Valdes attempts fewer long passes than any player in La Liga.  At the same time, Valdes has the highest league passing accuracy at 85%.  Lowe concludes:
So Valdes passed the ball. And so did Barcelona. Even as Madrid pressured high, Barcelona continued to take risks -- not taking them is riskier yet; for Barca, a big hoof just means the ball comes back again, at the opposition's feet...Valdes's mistake threatened to change everything but it changed nothing. On Saturday night, Barcelona did what Barcelona do. They won. (with emphasis)
Lowe doesn't mention attitude in his post, other than to say the Barca players supported Valdes after the error rather than blame or cuss.  Madrid, on the other hand, seemed to lack that team spirit.  I noticed several times during the match that players were upset with each other.  Go back and watch Di Maria's body language when Ronaldo attempted a shot well wide.  Di Maria was unmarked.  He was clearly, demonstratively upset.  There were other instances too.  On the other hand, Barca, playing from behind from the first minute on, rallied around each other.  Just something I noticed.

Information for this post was taken from a great post by Sid Lowe from The Guardian.  To read the post, click Victor Valdes epitomizes Barcelona's bravery as Real Madrid falter.

Barca Playing 3 Fullbacks?

After watching El Clasico, it appeared that Barcelona altered the shape of their defense.  One of my favorite soccer writers, Jonathan Wilson, wrote an article about the change to a 3-1-4-2 in an article for The Guardian.  He also writes for SI and has a similar piece there.  Here are the two links:

Wilson starts by stating that tactics do make a difference.  For those that think "the best players" win out all the time, the history of the game is replete with examples of tactical evolution and examples of advantage gained from the same.  Wilson is a student of the tactical changes in soccer and outlines them in his book Inverting the Pyramid.  I summarized some of his ideas on possession style football versus kick and rush in the blog post here on  Soccer Thoughts titled "Gaining Territory v. Possession: Part I."  

In El Clasico, the big change was Barca pushing their Right Back up (Alves -- who Wilson says is more comfortable in attack anyway) and pushing one center back to right back to cover (Puyol) while using a holding mid (Sergio Busquets) to drop as additional center back when need be.  Wilson calls this a back line of 3 1/2.  Puyol then was able to handle Ronaldo and Busquets could move up and back as holding mid/center back to mark Ozil.  

Wilson's book Inverting highlights every major shift in tactics all across the world.  Are we seeing another change now?  

Friday, December 9, 2011

Gaining Territory v. Possession: Part II

As outlined in the prior post, kick and rush soccer, which has infiltrated every layer of American soccer, had its beginnings in England and, though justified with faulty statistical analysis, has spread throughout the world.  While there are likely times when, because of the skill level of the respective teams (meaning, when there is large discrepancy in skill level of players on one team that is playing another), less possessive tactical strategies may be required, consider the following statements of soccer "Style and Principles of Play":

Style of Play-Specific
1.  Technical. Passing the ball on the ground with pace from different distances and receiving the ball while keeping it moving will be encourage in all age groups.
2.  Ball Control and Turning.  Players will be encouraged to keep close control of the ball and use different turning techniques to move away from a defender.  

1.  Playing Out from the Back.  All teams must feel comfortable playing the ball from the back through the midfield and from there to the final quarter of the field. 
2.  Possession & Transition.  All teams must try to keep possession of the ball playing a one-two touch game. Players will be encouraged to support and move, thus creating passing options. Once the possession game is consolidated the team must learn how to transfer the ball in the most efficient way from one area of the field to another.  (I added emphasis here because it seems that they want us to develop ball control and possession passing before long ball).  

Principles of Play
1.  1,2, or 3 touch maximum. Minimizing the number of touches improves the speed of play.
2.  Keep the game simple. Do not force situations, over-dribble or be careless with the ball (kickball).  
3.  Keep the ball on the ground.  A ball on the ground is easier to control and can be moved more efficiently by the team.
4.  Accuracy and quality of the pass.  Passing must be firm and accurate, with the proper weight.
5.  First touch.  Make a clean, controlled first touch without stopping the ball. Take the touch away from pressure and into free space.
6.  Perception and awareness.  All players with or without the ball should constantly scan the field.
7.  1v1 situations.  Encourage determination to regain control of the ball in defense and keep it simple in attack by taking a touch to the side, at speed, to beat a defender.
8.  Individual transition.  Players must react quickly when possession change from offense to defense and vice-versa.
9.  Shooting.  Always keep an eye on the goal.  All players are encouraged to shoot.
10.  Take risks.  Soccer is an error prone sport and mistakes are part of the game and learning process.  Players are encouraged to take risks in training session to increase the speed of play.  1
(U.S. Soccer Curriculum, Style and Principles of Play, p.2-3)

You may think from the style and principles outlined, that those are guidelines for Spain, not the U.S.  But these are our new youth coaching guidelines.  Why are these our guidelines?  As Spain demonstrated in the World Cup, possession soccer isn't just cute, it wins.  

But in my experience, most youth soccer locally, from recreation to competitive to high school, is based on the kick and rush model rather than the style described above.  Why?  I think one of the problems is that we focus too much on the result at young ages when we should be focused on player development.  In desperate attempts to win matches, players are pigeon-holed into specific positions and assignments, like winning the ball and kicking up to a fast forward.  It works.  With little or no change, kids develop habits and, later on, are then asked to change them.  That is not so easy.  

I appreciate and respect all of the time that coaches give for youth sports.  But, is it helpful to a 8 year old to play fullback all season with the instruction to kick it as hard as he can to a fast forward?  While that does work and should be a part of the game, it should not be the only part of the game.  One of our local coaches that I admire (Chris Carter), who was previously a basketball coach, puts it this way:  "You need to be able to fast break, but you don't fast break an entire game."  To finish the basketball analogy, you also need a half-court offense.  Or, to put it in soccer speak, a soccer team should be able to play an over-the-top through style (long ball), but it should not be their only style.  

Most of the objections come from people who believe that the system described above is too hard for kids. But, as noted on the principles above, a ball on the ground played to a young player is easier to handle than a lofted ball from longer distance.  

Here's hoping we embrace the paradigm shift from U.S. Youth Soccer in Southeast Texas.  

Friday, November 18, 2011

Gaining Territory v. Possession: Part I

There exist in soccer talking circles and coaching philosophy a tug of war between maintaining possession with short, grounded passing versus gaining territory with long, lofted kicks up the field.  Debate has raged beginning in the 1860s when the Scots used a passing approach to get around the heavier English players, through the 20th century (Reep's English kick and rush versus Hogan-Meisl-Lobanovsky-Cruyff's possession).  In youth soccer, the kick and rush approach, referred to as "lumping" the ball up the field,  predominates. 

In the book Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics (Orion, 2008) Jonathan Wilson details the evolution of soccer formations, offside theories, attacking theories (and defensive), as well as rule changes effecting those tactics.  In the first international, he notes England played a 1-2-7 while the more diminutive Scots played a 2-2-6.  Of course, we are most accustomed to 4-4-2 (although 4-5-1 becoming increasingly common).  Player sizes were more relevant to the press than skill.  Because the Scots were smaller, they employed a passing game to get around the larger Brits.  The press was more interested in size of the players than their skill.  The Scots' offside rule, last defender plus no offsides unless beyond 15 yard line, encouraged the development of a passing style. While it was generally rejected by the English, many of the early coaches who espoused the passing game had their beginning in Scotland.

In England, the advanced coaches of the day were ignored.  That is why Jimmy Hogan, considered "the most influential coach there has ever been" had to travel outside of England to find work.  He was the first to incorporate use of the ball during training -- prior to him, training was focused on running distance and sprints.  "Give a player a ball during the week, ran the reasoning, and he would not be so hungry for it on Saturday."  (Inverting, p.27).  Hogan, on the other hand, felt the key to success was ball control.  The only way to acquire ball control was to practice with the ball.  

Hogan's views were spread through Continental Europe through coaching stints in Holland and Austria. In Austria, hired by Meisl in 1912, Hogan taught "that swift combinations of passes were preferable to dribbling, and that individual technique was crucial."  (Inverting, p. 30).  "Hogan was also keen to express the value of the long pass to unsettle opposing defenses, provided it were well-directed and not an aimless upfield punt...He was not an evangelist for the passing game through any quixotic notion of what was right; he simply believed that the best way to win matches was to retain possession."  (Inverting, p. 30).  Meisl used Hogan's ideas to develop the Austrian Wunderteam.  Valerie Lobanovsky used science to develop a system of interchanging players at Dynamo Kyiv.

In Holland, TOTAL football emerged in the late 60s and early 70s at Ajax.  The term "total football" came later and symbolized an understanding of the relationship of all the players to each other.  TOTAL football developed with systemic interchanging of positions in the course of attack.  Attack, though, was at its core.  "Attack is and remains, the best form of defense."  Vic Buckingham, the Ajax coach prior to Michaels, stated:
Possession football is the thing, no kick and rush. Long ball football is too risky. Most of the time what pays off is educated skills. If you've got the ball, keep it. The other side cannot score.  Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football, David Winner, 2000, p. 11.
The staple of the Ajax system was fluid player movement, allowing everyone the right of attack, combined with an aggressive offside trap (making the field smaller while on defense) and pressing on defense. 

As the possession game blossomed in Continental Europe, England lagged behind with "fast, spirited attacks."  Meisl noted that their passing was "swift and high" and lacking in precision.  (Inverting, 63). Meisl's ideas were transferred to Hungary and formed the basis of their 1950s domination, including the 1953 6-3 defeat of England in London that demoralized the English fans.  For once, the English started to realize the limits of their system of play.  

Nevertheless, England won the World Cup in 1966 utilizing a kick and rush system that relished the counter attack.  Some say it was that victory that set England back decades.  Two of the most influential English minds on "territory football" were Stan Cullis, manager at Wolverhampton, and Charles Reep.  They turned the Hungary defeat on its head to develop the core of the English footballing philosophy persisted into the mid-1990s (and still exists in areas today).  The basic principle of territory football is set out by Stan Cullis in this statement:
The number of scoring chances which will arrive during the course of a match is in direct proportion to the amount of time the ball spends in front of the goal. If the defenders in the Wolves team delay their clearances, the ball will be in front of our goal for too long a period and the scoring chances will go to the other side. If too much time is spent in building up our own attacks, the ball will spend less time in the other team's penalty area and, of course, we shall score fewer goals.  Inverting, p. 138.
He concluded that long passes into the other team's penalty area is the quickest way to move the ball there, thus improving the odds of scoring a goal (based on the theory above).  Reeps coupled that with the notion that, according to a crude statistical survey he conducted, 91.5% of moves in a soccer game are done in 3 passes or less, and, correspondingly, 80% of all goals are scored with 3 passes or less.  He then concludes that it is inefficient to make more than 3 passes to obtain a goal, hence the emphasis on long balls (what I call gaining territory).  

His theories were accepted throughout England. The 1966 World Cup victory justified their acceptance. Reeps played a major role in the F.A. and determining the training and philosophy of the national team.  It wasn't until years later, as noted in Inverting, was actual science applied to his theories.  For example, if 91.5 % of all moves are done in 3 passes or less, and if 80% of all goals are scored in 3 passes or less, then there is evidence that passing 3 or more times is more efficient at producing goals, not less.  Since only 8.5% of moves are done in 3 passes or more, 8.5% of the soccer moves are producing 20% of the goals.  Wilson concludes:
It is, frankly, horrifying that a philosophy founded on such a basic misinterpretation of figures could have been allowed to become a cornerstone of English coaching. Anti-intellectualism is one thing, but faith in wrong-headed pseudo-intellectualism is far worse. Inverting, p. 141.
So, therein lies the rub.  Do you opt for more territory via long passing, or do you set up your scoring opportunities with short passes, mainly on the ground.  Having coached youth for a while, one of the hardest things to control are the parents.  While I may be emphasizing short passing and control, parents are telling their kid to boot it up the field.  In a playoff game, after repeatedly losing possession off of goal kicks, I instructed my keeper to play the ball short to a handler who moved it up the field.  I received an earful from an "informed" parent -- the same parent that wanted every kickoff to be booted as far down the field as possible.  In Part II, the discussion will continue with a look at how these competing philosophies play out in youth soccer (the Reeps model seems to be the most prevalent here).  Cheers.