Originally Posted by Caveat Emperor
I think there's probably a lot of truth to this -- if you look at basketball, a lot of the current game has been influenced by what people have learned/done on the playgrounds or in pickup games.
You look at someone like Allen Iverson, who was one of the best and most creative dribble-drive penetrators over the last 20 years, and his game was straight out of the Rucker Park style. That kind of creativity isn't taught in an institutional setting -- it's something you pick up by playing in lots and lots of informal games where there aren't officials and the people around you are trying to impress are peers.
I think soccer is a little like that.
This is something I'd like input from our European-based Redszoners, but I don't think a lot of European kids are playing pickup ball to hone their skills. On the contrary, I believe they're scouted into pro academies at a young age with professional coaches. Often they're scouted from lower level pro or amateur clubs. If you want Jogo Bonito like the Brazilians, sure playing street ball in the favelas of Rio and Sao Paolo probably helps. But most national teams don't play like Brazil. They play with precision passing and knowledge of space. Meanwhile, Christiano Ronaldo has insane footskills, but the Portuguese still have to resort to hitting the deck when faced with a superior opponent. Or look at Mexico and certain African teams. They play a lot of street ball and their youth teams win just about every trophy available. Yet when they get to the senior level, nada. Why? Just a theory, but I think its because of the lack of a consistent training philosophy from youth to senior levels. They can produce great players, but not great teams. Spain, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, they have club and national training programs that get players in front of professional coaches and trainers at a young age.
Since I've started helping as an assistant coach for my son's team, I've been trying to research how youth practices are run in other countries. One of the things I've found is that practices are better organised elsewhere. For example, I've read that youth practices in the Netherlands and Germany focus on breaking teams down into smaller groups and running stations to make things more efficient and ensure players get the maximum amount of touches on the ball in a given session, rather than doing large group exercises where only a few players get touches on the ball while everyone else waits their turn. Even scrimmages are often broken down into small groups to increase touches each player gets. And there is little down time between exercises, they keep the players moving. Coaches don't spend time during practice lecturing to the whole team. If they need to break something down for a player or group, they can pull them aside without disrupting the exercise for the whole team. The more I learn, the more I like the ideas I'm getting. It's tough at times, especially when you only have two coaches and a bunch of 6-7 year olds, but we've been working on bringing some of the other parents in to help us run smaller groups and I think it's really helping a lot.