Learning From England’s Failures At The 2014 World Cup
SoccerToday’s columnist Dan Abrahams shares his insights and advice for success on the soccer field for players of all ages. A global sport psychologist and author specializing in soccer, Abrahams is based in England and works with professional soccer players in the English Premier League (EPL). Abrahams has helped hundreds of soccer players – many of them who play in the English Premier League (EPL) and others who play across Europe. A recent example of his work includes helping Yannick Bolasie make an enormous impact on the EPL for Crystal Palace. Abrahams has held contracts with QPR, Fulham, and West Ham among other clubs and works quietly, behind the scenes with many coaches from top clubs across Europe.
The 2104 World Cup brought disappointment to many soccer fans as countries fell against stronger foes. While Germany emerged phenomenally triumphant, many fans were disillusioned and dissatisfied with their country’s performance on the soccer field. Here is Dan Abrahams on why he feels gutted about England’s plight in this year’s World Cup.
It pains me to write an article like this. Being a proud Englishmen (or Brit as you might say) I’m gutted about our plight in this year’s World Cup.
Now I’m not qualified to talk tactics. There are many who are – I’m not one of them. Some people over here have blamed Roy Hodgson’s system and use of personnel as a reason for defeat to Italy and Uruguay. They make their case well – but am I the only person who thinks that international players should be able to adapt to just about any system? Am I the only person who thinks that players should be mentally sharp enough, intelligent enough and skilful enough to play in any given shape or formation?
I write this article on Soccer Nation because I’m passionate about soccer in the U.S., which to some extent is in its infancy as a mainstream sport, becoming a force in the international arena by doing the things we are so bad at doing.
So here are some points that I feel you, as a soccer coach in the U.S. need to take on board. You need to be different to us. You need to be better than.
Freedom: Teach your players to compete with freedom. Unshackle them. Allow them to make mistake first – they’ll learn from errors eventually. But they won’t learn freedom from fear. They won’t learn game winning risk taking from caution.
If you saw the England V Italy game you would have seen our players unshackled. We lost but we did so on the front foot and not the back foot. We did so with freedom and not fear. We did so playing to win rather than not to lose. Against Uruguay those shackles were bolted back on. Granted we were good in periods but it was too stop start. A lack of energy and urgency not completely down to inability but mostly down to mindset.
Intelligence: Teach your players to compete with intelligence. Urge them to play head up – no, insist on it. Help them develop the ability to look, take in information and act on that information quickly. When they have that speed of thought then and only then should you regulate their decision making (speed before correct decisions for me everytime!)
Teach them about tactics – help them become passionate about tactics. Too many English players see soccer as a game of aggression rather than a game of chess. They don’t fall in love with positioning, space, movement, awareness, shape, formation, structure, pattern and system.
The Italians are. “Shhh…quiet, calm, intelligent.” Go to one of their Academies and you hear students of the game. You hear chess.
Can U.S. soccer players become masters of the tactical side of soccer? Can they play head up more? Can they produce lightening speed in their decision making process?
Learning: AT the heart of the above is the ability to learn. It’s taken for granted time and again. I go to my club, I coach, the player’s learn. No, no and no. The player’s only learn if they know how to learn.
From experience of working with hundreds of footballers in England and at professional clubs, my view is that English players aren’t great at learning. Sure, some are more talented than other and thus pick up skill quicker. But for those players to go a little further they need to know how to learn.
They need to know how to focus, how to deal with tough to grasp material, how to analyse a game, how to set goals….I could go on. Do your players know how to learn?
Do you have a coaching culture that gets the most from your players’ freedom and intelligence? Do you have a coaching culture that helps players learn quicker and more effectively? If you do you are one step ahead of us…
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Dan Abrahams is a global sport psychologist specializing in soccer. He is based in England and has some of the leading turn-around stories and case studies in English Premier League history.
Abrahams is sought after by players, coaches and managers across Europe and his 2 soccer psychology books are international bestsellers. He is formerly a professional golfer, is Lead Psychologist for England Golf and he holds a degree in psychology and masters degree in sport psychology.