I just edited all of the discussion from my new book on stance and how great passers must first become great deceptive dribblers. Here it is consolidated as best I can at 1 o'clock on Saturday morning.
The mistake most coaches make is to view coaching as age based instead of stage based. What I mean by this is that any player with no serious exposure to an intense deceptive dribbling curriculum will not have the 1 v 1 skills needed at the highest level but also won't have the ability to prepare the ball under pressure to make a great pass or shot. The key to Brazilian passing success is their ability to adopt the right "stance" when shooting or passing. When you factor in that penetrative passing excellence depends heavily on being able to commit defenders it becomes obvious that a deceptive dribbling curriculum is the best way to create the foundation for effective passing. It's one of the conundrums of coaching that it is the selfish part of the game (Deceptive dribbling) that leads to success in the unselfish part (passing). It is first the ability to dribble the ball to the defensive point of no return and squeeze a pass by the 1st defender that determines whether a "Wall Pass" will be successful. Without this dribbling ability the defender remains "uncommitted" and can track the passer goal side thereby denying penetration. The Brazilian national team has achieved its success based upon the foundation of deceptive dribbling because this teaches a full repertoire of body positions under pressure at speed and trains the ability to set up defenders, then follow this "Set Up" with a quick pass under pressure.
The ultimate goal is to create that great penetrating passer who can decide games with the sheer brilliance of his/her tactical choice; plus the accuracy and touch needed to lay the ball in front of the onrushing striker for the winning goal. It's in how to maximize that ability that the Legends club differs from the norm.
In the Legends we believe that we can train the best passing technique by teaching the widest repertoire of finishing techniques while gradually increasing defensive pressure as the player gains skill and confidence. In this way we develop great scoring and passing technique simultaneously.
We also believe that in most cases the moment the ball is received is usually the wrong moment to make the pass and that by forcing our players to play 1 and 2 touch before their teammate can get open, lessens their effectiveness. This dictates that we need to teach our players how to hold the ball until the right moment to pass and often how to create that opportunity by moving the defender out of the desired penetrating avenue. This demands deceptive dribbling (fakes and moves).
The Brazilians are fantastic passers. This has been a decisive quality in their ability to win 5 World cups. This quality is often made possible by the ability to put the ball and defender in exactly the right position at the right moment to allow the best pass to be made. This is a function of "stance control". Stance control is the ability to coordinate all body parts in a split second to maximize the percentage chance of the desired outcome. Top coaches in all individual sports know that stance training is the core of technical brilliance. Stance control in soccer is best trained by deceptive dribbling because the neuromuscular actions inherent to deceptive dribbling, under extreme defensive pressure, are the most challenging physical skills of soccer.
For example, an attacker choosing to “Wall Pass” as the penetrating tactic needs to be able to keep close ball control at speed and commit the defender at precisely the right moment. This maximizes the chance of receiving the return pass goal side of the opponent. The whole sequence involves many crucial stance points…all of which are best and quickest learned while dribbling deceptively under pressure at speed.
Therefore, In a logical yet strangely contradictory twist of coaching we have to train the very best deceptive dribblers in order to develop world class passers. In a continuing twist on logic, training the most effective goal scorers also trains the best passers. This is because great shooting skill transfers into the easier skill of passing to the maximum possible degree.
As a further bonus the great striker, dribbler and passer is usually very confident and willing to take on team leadership roles and responsibilities. Because of the combination of skills and confidence this usually earns the respect of teammates and coaches.
At first glance the Legends method of training only the deceptive dribbler and goal scorer seems to ignore the more common or core skills of the game, i.e. passing and finishing. However, the reality is a completely different story. Great goal scorers are always excellent passers. Great deceptive dribblers are inevitably able to beat players or create space for the pass under pressure. These two facets of the Legends approach were covered in depth in my first book but what comes next wasn’t. Over the past two years the importance of “Stance” in the development of the “open sport” athlete has become dramatically evident to me. Stance is the focus of much racquet sport coaching. I have coaching licenses in tennis, squash and badminton. All three are by comparison with soccer relatively “closed” sports. The licensing courses in all three racquet sports contained a tremendous focus on developing perfect stance at the moment of racquet and ball impact. By comparison soccer licensing courses have a much broader focus. Stance is emphasized rarely because the situations in which technical actions are performed are so varied and diverse that any discussion of the perfect “stance” is rendered useless by the massive menu of stances the game gives us to choose from. This is not surprising because soccer is the most “open” world sport. Due to the wide and ever changing nature of its demands soccer is very difficult to coach. There are thousands of different coaching theories leading to the inevitable confusion and conflicting methods that permeate the worldwide soccer coaching community. As a consequence there is possibly more disagreement and confusion between soccer coaches than any other sports coaching fraternity.
Bearing in mind that variations on technique are so incredibly numerous, it is beyond the capacity of a traditional coach to train every skill involved in the game to an elite level during a youth career. With this in mind the Legends have developed an approach that teaches the young player how to assume the thousands critical but less complicated stances needed to pass and receive, by focusing of the significantly more difficult skills of deceptive dribbling and finishing.
For over five decades the Brazilians have been hailed for their incredible passing ability. It is the Legends hypothesis that their passing excellence is built around the challenges to stance that their talented deceptive dribblers and finishers had to endure within the more difficult neuromuscular demands of those two “margin of greatness” skills.
Legends players are taught the thirteen best fakes and moves soccer. These moves give each player two options for every 1 v 1 situation they will encounter in the game. These involve some the most complicated & difficult neuromuscular patterns in soccer. Legends players are also taught to score by powering, swerving, chipping, volleying & half-volleying the ball. These teach the most difficult release skill patterns of the game; patterns many times more pressured and difficult than those of passing. Inherent within the teaching and constant escalating pressures of deceptive dribbling and goal scoring are thousands of stance points.
Let’s elaborate on the wall pass as a perfect example of the practical relevance of stance to a key tactical/technical passing component of successful team play. A successful wall pass play involves the build up to the pass; the execution of the initial pass and a good return pass. Throughout the sequence there are many stance points, however, the first and crucial stance point is exactly when the initial ball carrier passes to his teammate. The dribble at the first defender must occur at optimum speed and the pass must be delivered exactly when the attacker is close enough to the defender to make him hesitate just enough to allow the attacker to pass and win the race into the space between him and the goal.
At the crucial moment a well trained deceptive dribbler and finisher will have the honed ability to adapt his stance to the demands of the passing situation. This ability to assume the correct stance under extreme pressure is best honed in the more difficult dribble and shoot environment close to the opposition goal.
The “Talent Code” (Great book by Daniel Coyle) hypothesis is that only consistent, escalating challenges involving ever greater degrees of difficulty will lay down enough myelin insulation to guarantee exceptional mental and physical performance.
It makes perfect sense that the two most difficult and rarest of soccer’s skills i.e. deceptive dribbling and finishing, if conquered to a superior level, will carry over into a wide range of soccer’s other skills and situations and by developing the very best players help them to lead their teams in brave and creative ways. As Daniel Coyle so rightly states, “Greatness isn’t born. It’s grown!” Deceptive dribbling and finishing is the quickest way to soccer greatness!
While watching the Brazil vs Ivory Coast in the 2010 World Cup the British commentator made an observation that “The Brazilians are such good passers because they caress the ball.” He perhaps didn’t realize the degree to which his observation rings true, or just how perceptive it was. What the world’s soccer coaching community still fails to recognize despite all the evidence is that the Brazilians are such great passers because they are great deceptive dribblers and goal scorers. The goal scoring part of the equation is obvious because passing and shooting share so many common components and shooting is many times harder. What is not so obvious is the role that deceptive dribbling plays in developing the greatest passers.
When I was a physical education student in my early twenties I took coaching qualifications in many sports. Three of these sports were: Olympic Weightlifting; Tennis and Squash. In all three the lecturers continually emphasized the vital importance of “stance”. Soccer coaches refer to technique but rarely refer to specific stance points. This is probably because soccer is so diverse that it involves thousands of different stance points. If indeed stance is as vitally important in soccer as in other sports, it is so in a very flexible way because it is the world’s premier sport for technical and tactical diversity.
If stance is so unquestionably important and soccer involves thousands of stance points, how then is flexibility of stance taught by coaches and combined with shooting skill to develop talented players who can quickly create the perfect body position for the hardest of passes?
The answer is deceptively simple but completely counterintuitive…by deceptive dribbling. This is dribbling with fakes and moves under extremes of pressure. Dribbling under pressure in crowds builds incredible flexibility of stance. Moves and fakes under pressure are the neuromuscular rocket science skills of soccer. In tennis it’s the drop shot, in basketball the through the legs dribble, in gymnastics the double back somersault. Once an athlete can perform such difficult skills the easier ones involving simpler stance points are a breeze.
So there we have it!! Brazilians grow up in a culture of dribble and shoot. Where the Brits and Americans are encouraged to give it; they are encouraged to hog it!! The enjoyment and domination of the ball they learn as a result of ball hogging when younger, later makes them capable of greater flexibility and precision of body control, hence their incredible ability to set up the right pass.