State DOC Blog

A blog from Jacob Daniel, Georgia Soccer's State Director of Coaching. If you have comments, questions, or topic suggestions, please send them to


Where are the creative American players?

Jacob Daniel- State DOC

We hear quite often soccer experts lament the lack of creative players in our country.  Just recently, a few of our soccer analysts complained that youth soccer in America does not produce creative players and that all our players look robotic, clones of the same make.  The writer agrees with this opinion.

So the question is:  How do we produce creative players?? The obvious and most common answer is that coaches should allow players to make mistakes without fear of criticism and encourage them to express themselves and try the unpredictable in practices AND games.

This sounds like a sensible approach, and it is.  but here is the problem:  our players are still tactically naive and do not have a game awareness.   They tend to ball watch, which means that when they get the ball, they have no idea where their teammates and opponents are.  Our players play with their heads down and only think about what they will do with the ball after they receive it, when it is already too late.  This lack of awareness and vision causes a lot of turnovers since players get into trouble with their first touch.

So, before we give our players the license to be creative, we have to teach them a few fundamental concepts:  get into the habit of looking around and 'taking pictures', opening their body to the field so they can receive the ball facing up, adopting a good team shape with good support angles, and learning some basic passing patterns and player movements that get the whole team on the same page.

Only then will our players be ready for creativity.  A player who has his head down tends to dribble more out of a desperate attempt to get out of trouble than as an expression of creativity.  There is a difference between expressing yourself and simply being tactically naive.  One cannot be 'unpredictable' if one does not understand 'predictable'.  If, say, an attacking midfielder gets the ball and he/she knows what's going on around her, she is in a much better position to decide between making a predictable/safe play or doing something special.  This is the proverbial 'cart before the horse' scenario.


Coaching Manuals Cover All Ages and Levels

Jacob Daniel- State DOC

The Georgia Soccer website Coach section has 5 coaching manuals posted in the Coaching Resources page to help coaches of all levels with their training.  The 5 manuals are:

1. Club Player Development Manual - addresses the structure of a club and recommendations on the coaching philosophy, coaching structure, training priorities for all the levels of the game, the role of the Director of Coaching as well as parent education.

2. KINS Manual - provides guidance on how to coach U6 and U8 players.

3. Academy Coaching Manual - addresses the key philosophy for coaching U9 through U12 academy players and provides pointers on how to structure practices to improve players' technical and tactical development.

4. U10/U12 Academy Coaching Manual Part II - a sequel to the previous manual.  Here the focus is on how to teach academy level players to play possession soccer within the small-sided environment and provides sample activities.

5.  ODP Coaching Manual - the official manual used by all states and region ODP coaches with a focus on teaching possession soccer in the 11v11 environment.  the principles of possession soccer and the player roles are outlined, with sample activities.



National Youth Coaching Course (20 Years Old)

Jacob Daniel- State DOC

The National Youth Coaching Course is 20 years old.  This unique course was created by US Soccer and US Youth Soccer to fill the gap that existed in the then national coaching school educational pathway.  The existing courses focused on teaching the coaches how to read the game, tactically, strategically, and technically,  But there were no courses dedicated to teaching the coaches how to read the players, psychologically, emotionally, developmentally, and ability-wise.  This educational void was addressed by the National Youth Coaching Course.  It teaches coaches how to work with players, understand what makes them tick, and what makes then quit.  It is a truly unique course that every coach working with 4 to 12-year-old should take.  This summer, Georgia Soccer is hosting this course in Atlanta in the first two weekends of August.  check out our website for more details.

Reactive Coach vs Proactive Coach

Jacob Daniel- State DOC

Every soccer aficionado has heard about the successful youth academies of top clubs such as Barcelona and Ajax.  Most coaches know that these professional club academies have nurtured and established a distinct playing style and formation, based on the club’s coaching philosophy.   Individual coaches at these academies cannot do their own thing but must follow an established curriculum and a set of principles developed over the years by the club.

This fact makes me wonder about the coaching methodology used by coaches at these top academies, how different is it from the way we coach here and what we can learn from their approach.  I came up with two definitions of coaching:  Reactive coaching and Proactive coaching.

A reactive coach teaches his/her players by watching his team play and correcting whatever he/she sees and feels needs correcting.  Even if the information from the coach is technically correct, there is a randomness to the process and a lack of coherence or direction.  It’s like throwing spaghetti at a wall and hoping something will stick.

A proactive coach starts out with the intent to teach his players to play in a specific way.  He/she articulates clearly his vision of the playing style and basically tells his/her team:  This is how we are going to play! The coach then uses the games to fine tune the playing style and corrects whatever doesn’t fit his vision.

No prize for guessing which coaching style is more effective.  Most of our youth coaches are reactive coaches.  We need to educate our coaches to become proactive.