The OUTS and INS of my soccer world

I’ve been coaching youth soccer for over 22 years, at every level imaginable.  I did lots of federation coaching courses, both in the US and abroad. I’ve always tried to be a lifelong student of the game.  I spent ten years teaching coaching courses for my local state association.  I embraced the orthodox, championed the tried and true, and followed the conventional wisdom.

Then about five years ago I started to ask “why?”.  Since them I have been methodically examining every accumulated piece of hard-earned knowledge, holding them up to the light, and more often than not…. discarding them for something better.

Here is my very personal list of soccer OUTS and INS from those past fiver years.  The “ins” are what I am doing now…. at least until I can find something better.

Disclaimer: these are general principles.  There are always exceptions and there is never an always

OUT: Possession Soccer

IN: Positional Soccer

OUT: Triangles

IN: Diamonds (no a diamond is NOT a ‘double triangle’.  Don’t even go there)

OUT: Play the way you’re facing

IN: Face the way you’re playing

OUT: Call for the ball

IN: Tell your team mate where the ball should be played

OUT: The Five Principles of Attack

IN: The only principle of Attack is Penetration (everything else is just detail)

OUT: Move the ball

IN: Move the opponents

OUT: Get the ball or get the man

IN: Win the space, so you get both

OUT: Progressions

IN: Linked activities

OUT: The Game is the Best Teacher

IN: The Best Teachers are the Best Teachers      (if you had me as an instructor and I told you the game was the best teacher….. SORRY!!!!!)

OUT: Short-Short-Long

IN: Up-Back-Through

OUT: Coaching Courses

IN: Social Media Connections

Thanks to all of those on Twitter who share their passion, knowledge, opinions,  and ideas through videos, blog posts, public conversations, and DM’s.  


4 thoughts on “The OUTS and INS of my soccer world

  1. Hey Scott, good stuff as usual that got me thinking. I’m always fascinated with how others put their practice sessions together so was curious about the two notes below. Can you elaborate a little on the changes you’ve made to your session design based on these changes?

    OUT: Simple to complex
    IN: Whole-Part-Whole

    OUT: Progressions
    IN: Linked activities



    • Hi Justin,

      Standard lesson plan protocol is to decide on a topic and build it up from simple to complex, unopposed to opposed.
      Technical warm-up > Small group activity 1 > Slightly less small activity 2 > Big group activity > Game. Usually it’s “think small, then big”

      I’ve seen Whole-Part-Whole described different ways, including coaches STARTING training with a game. To me the first “Whole” in Whole-Part-Whole would be either the previous games we have played or (more often)just a general concept of how I want them to play. It’s primarily how I build my lesson plans. “think big, then go from small to big”

      The DFB does this A LOT. first thing you see on a German Lesson Plan is a diagram of an 11v11 game, with a section or certain players and their actions highlighted. So basically it’s not as much about deciding on “topic” for your session, but an “Outcome”. You have a view of the big picture and then you build your session from smaller to bigger components until you arrive back at the big picture.

      So instead of saying “I want to work on dribbling/passing/etc” I may start with a idea that “I want my players to win the ball in central midfield and find an outlet, instead of just trying to force the ball forwards into pressure.”
      Basically, I want my players to do what this girl in the video clip is doing.

      Now I have a clear picture of what I want to happen, so I build the session around activities that will facilitate and provoke the same decision making and technical elements.

      So I can do some unopposed technical stuff if I want (probably not… would rather do light pressure) then go to an activity
      like this game:

      and for a larger group activity I can use this game: maybe to make it even more related to the topic, all the restarts are loose balls played into the middle.

      Then in the scrimmage or next game I monitor the results. Has behavior and ability to execute changed?

      As for linked activities instead of progressions, the standard lesson plan starts simple and gets bigger, so may you go from technical stuff to 1v1, to 2v2, to 3v3, etc.

      But a lot of times, especially with younger kids, I have gotten faster progress by doing several different games that have the same theme, but don’t “build” on one another in a traditional sense.

      So for example if I was doing the same topic as above, I could go from the 1v3 game to a normal rondo, but coach the players in the middle. Once they win the ball, they have to dribble out of the grid to escape.

      One activity is a “dribbling game” and one is a “possession game”, but for the players you are coaching the decision making and themes are the same. What I like about these kinds of sessions is that you end up reinforcing a lot of other things you may normally work on at the same time as you focus on new skills. I think it also helps kids to contextualize things better and see how the skill may apply to different situations.


      • Great stuff Scott, thanks much for the detail! I’ve noticed that the FFF (France) is using whole-part-whole quite a bit as well as I’ve seen some of the MLS academies do the same after taking their courses. Do you have any recommendations on more whole-part-whole examples? Seems like there are tons of England and Spain resources around, but I don’t find many German or French (in English anyway)…


  2. I don’t have a lot of specifics on application. As I said, I mainly use it as a “big picture’ approach to how I set up my training sessions. I will see if I can dig you up a couple examples. I’m not sure if Success In Soccer magazine is still around, but it was all translations of German content. Germany is very deliberate about NOT disseminating their content in other languages (why help the competition?) but they put out good resources and fortunately it allows me to make use of my otherwise useless BA in German Language and Literature.


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