Technical vs. Tactical Development

Posted: March 15, 2011 in Coaching Philosophy, Tactical, Technical

How important is technical training in relation to tactical?  A lot is going to depend on the age of the players you are working with, so I’d like to focus on the competitive U18 and older players.

I was at a residential coaching course a few years ago and one of our instructors stated if he was coaching college men he would focus all his trainings around technical skills.  I had a hard time digesting what he said, and I have a lot of respect for this instructor and thought I learned a lot of great stuff from him.  So this topic has been something that I’ve tossed back and forth with other coaches at the college and competitive levels. 

Technical training has always been a major foundation of my coaching philosophy; how can we play the game effectively without a solid technical base?  At the college level however, how much can we influence the technical ability of players who are 18-21 years old?  Shouldn’t we be working with players who already have a strong technical base and put those abilities into a tactical system that plays to their strengths?

The instructor I mentioned above sat down with me and we discussed this philosophy of his a little more in depth.  It was all built around the belief that players in the USA (he was originally from England) don’t have the technical fundamentals to effectively implement a tactical system.  He believed that most players in the United States shouldn’t focus on the tactical elements of the game until they can pass a ball with extreme precision, and control the ball on a dime.

I understand where he’s coming from.  A tactical system really serves no purpose for players who don’t have a handle on the fundamentals.  There is a lot of truth to this concept, the technical ability of players in the US is not the best. Soccer is such an elitest sport in our country that it hinders the development of the game compared to our counterparts on the other side of the Atlantic or in South America.  However, is our technical development so poor that we can’t implement a system of play? 

At my level of college soccer I feel tactics play a big role in the success of a program.  Players need to know their roles in a system and what the objectives are on the attack and defensively.  My other contention is the simple fact that I’m not sure we can change the technical ability of our players at this age during a 3 month competitive season.  So I feel my time is better spent teaching a system that the players can implement with thier skill set and have some success doing it.  The off-season is the time that I feel we should spend developing our technical side of the game.

So where does this leave us with U16-U18 players?  I feel it’s our responsibility as club coaches to start teaching team tactics from U14 and up so they can be a more complete player.  Thoughts?

  1. Paul says:

    Hello, I like the simplicity of your posts and the clarity in them.

    I agree, as a college coach you really don’t have too much time to focus on technical skills during such a short season, but you do need to incorporate them in every practice to improve them as much as possible.

    Yes, games are often won due to a team being more prepared and versatile tactically, so that is very important to work on that during the college season. If you run practices efficiently you should be able to incorporate a lot of technical work even in a tactical session.

    I think that is a common mistake. When a coach is running a “tactical drill” he/she can often focus so much on the tactis that he/she forgets the basic technical components. For example he/she is focussing on who passes to who when and where but forgets to focus on the technique of the pass needed.

    So, try and run tactical sessions while focussing on the correct technique and maybe you can kill two birds with one stone so to speak.

  2. soccer says:

    These segments are the defenders, mid fielders,
    wingers and strikers or forwarders. Make them
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