The great Dutch soccer master JOHAN CRUYFF, asked: “How many hours do you spend practicing? Anyone who really wants to be an outstanding soccer player, apart from having a certain natural ability (which lots of youngsters have) can only improve their performance by training. This is only possible with practice, effort, REPETITION and more REPETITION. For this reason, our advice is don’t quit, persevere, be consistent and ’put in’ the hard work and the hours.
Remember what the great Mozart used to say: ’If I miss a practice, I notice. If I miss two, everyone else notices.’”
Syracuse Development Academy’s goal is to build individual and team soccer skills, athleticism, self-confidence, and appropriate attitudes about winning and losing necessary to successfully participate in soccer at the highest levels. The benefits of this experience, moreover, go way beyond the soccer field. The following beliefs and ideas form important parts of the Club leadership’s overall philosophical foundations.
A core objective of the Club is to help boys and girls develop the ability to play soccer skillfully (i.e., field skills, athleticism, tactics, and teamwork). At its most simple and elegant, we are trying to develop a repertoire of skills that enable a player to “create space” for herself on a soccer field under conditions of increasing speed of play and heavy challenges and thus generate the time that will permit the player to make good decisions with the soccer ball in game situations. This program is based on three conclusions:
- Few players have the skills needed to successfully hold the ball against hard challenges and create space for themselves in game situations.
- Even skillful players rarely own a comprehensive understanding about “what should my objective be” – in other words, how should I exploit my ability to hold the ball? Should I focus on not losing it, back pass, square pass, pass into an attacking position, or go to goal? What are the cues that I should look for to determine which of these things is a right one?
- Few teams possess a good understanding of what to do in order to support the player holding the ball – in other words, how should the team organize itself. For example, when a team-mate is in possession of the ball, what should I do to support that player – create space for to exploit or pass into, or create an opportunity for myself that they can exploit?
Syracuse Development Academy will spend an enormous amount of time perfecting ball-handling techniques, “one-touch” skills, tactics and organization (“shadow play”), and confidence that “create space” and that will be successfully integrated in games in highly competitive situations.
Possession and Ball Control – ” . . . When You Control the Ball, You Control the Score.” – Pele
Syracuse Development Academy believes that ball possession is the backbone of soccer. The argument for possession soccer and ball control tactics – “knocking it around” – is summed in Pele’s phrase: “When you control the ball, you control the score.” When you give the ball up, either by indiscriminately clearing it away, or by high-energy recklessness, you concede control of the ball as well as the game to the other team.
It is important to emphasize here that the greatest soccer players that the world has ever seen are rarely considered great athletic specimens. Stanley Matthews, George Best, Pele, Eusebio, Jairzinho, Maradona, Zico, Johann Creuff, Rivaldo, Zinedine Zidane, David Beckham, Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Roberto Carlos, Cafu, Mia Hamm, Sissi, and Sun Wen are renowned not for their great size, strength, speed, or athleticism, (in truth, these players were/are not particularly big, fast, or strong and some are distinctly small and average athletes) but for their artistry with the ball at their feet, their pinpoint passing, their uncanny understanding about how to break down a defense and exploit an opportunity, the accuracy of their driven balls, their ball-handling creativity, and their grim determination to succeed. The world’s best soccer “internationals” can hold the ball under great pressure, their individual ball possession skills and first touches are sublime, they can play the ball onto a dime twenty yards away 100 times out of 100, they can with uncanny ability create space for themselves, they are rarely dispossessed of the ball when it is in their possession, they support each other with continual movement off the ball, they know how to pass and change the field to avoid pressure and to change the point of attack, they can put a ball on frame when they shoot, they can shoot with power and accuracy, their set pieces are deadly, and they intimately understand the formation and tactics that their coach employs. They “let the ball do the work.” These are the soccer skills Syracuse Development Academy will focus on.
Players must be coached to keep trying to execute difficult skills on the field in spite of the fact that they might fail. They cannot be afraid to “look bad.” The fact of the matter is that they will fail many times and they will “look bad” more than occasionally! They must learn to deal with these mistakes and failures because they are going to be a big part of the game!
Making an error on a soccer field, failing to execute a move, allowing a goal, or missing a shot are integral parts of succeeding at a very difficult sport where the greatest players in the world make literally dozens of “errors” every game, where a single great play makes up for many “mistakes,” and where the difference between winning and losing is never in playing perfect soccer or avoiding making errors, but in trying to make something happen just a tiny bit harder one more time and to “go outside of yourself” and succeed at executing very difficult skills, in spite of the fact that there is often a good chance you will make an error.
In the final analysis, even the most brilliant act of soccer athleticism is an act of trial and error. Great soccer players and teams can be characterized as being in a constant state of “almost fail” or constant error correction. Making mistakes on a soccer field is not only part of the game – it is the essence of the game itself and the key to success.
The Pressure to Win – What Constitutes a “Winner?”
In the face of the enormous psychological tensions and pressure that are attendant on competitive sports endeavors, the Stars believe it is important not to be trapped in high-pressure fearfulness and anxiety about winning or losing. The Club understands that winning games does indeed bring important rewards, but winning a game does not define “winner.” Winning any specific game – especially at elite levels – is not infrequently due to things other than skills, effort, and intensity. Consequently, it cannot be the principal criteria of success. What is this criteria? We believe it must be -, as Vince Lombardi clearly understood – “never giving up trying to win.” It is the “never giving up trying to win” attitude, that often transmogrifies into a “self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Parents and fans should be proudest of their son or daughter not when they win or because they win, but when they have never given up doing their best to try to win, whatever the outcome.
Winning a game is important “gravy.” It is nice and it feels good. It is a reward only the young men and women on the field and no one else can achieve. But winning or losing a match “is what it is.” Real lessons do not come from this fact. Let there be no mistake: the real value, the real life lesson here is in the “never, never, never giving up” – win or lose.