Assessing Players When They Have the Ball
The End Game
In 1958, after 13 years of playing professional soccer for Ajax, Rinus Michels sustained a career ending back injury. Rinus had learned to play with the ball at his feet from Jack Reynolds, an English coach, who insisted every Ajax player from the first team to pre-schoolers would possess the ball handling skills and would attack as the best form of defense.
On leaving Ajax, Rinus accepted positions teaching physical education and coaching amateur sides in Amsterdam. In his new positions as a teacher and coach Rinus became a disciplinarian.
In 1965, when Ajax was on the verge of relegation, Rinus was offered the opportunity to coach. Rinus implemented long term changes that saved Ajax from relegation and allowed it to finish the season as the only team outside of the top three finishers to have a positive goal difference. Rinus went on to coach Ajax and Barcelona to league championships.
Rinus coached professional teams in the Netherlands, Spain, the United States and Germany; coached the Netherlands to their first World Cup final in 1974 and to win the European Championship in 1988. In 1999 FIFA honored Rinus by naming him FIFA's Coach of the 20th Century.
FIFA's honoring Rinus as coach of the 20th century was recognition he saw what most fail to see. Instead of seeing only a defender who could make an attacking run, he saw a team with players capable of cycling back to cover for each other as the team moved forward. So when you evaluate players think about who covers for whom.
Initial Assessment Exercises
The initial assessment exercises at the beginning of the seasonal year includes 1 v 1 and 2 v 2 shooting exercises, as well as a pressing exercise in which all players press forward to win the ball back. For high school age players, in their teens, there are two additional exercises on keeping possession and control in close games.
The 1 v 1 shooting exercises are exceptionally fast and should be done first. Caution your players you are only interested in how fast and how well players can score in the 1 v 1 shooting exercise. At the end of each round note who has scored how many against whom. Also note any shooting details you may have seen like left footed shots, etc. If possible have a parent volunteer record a video of the games so you can see more of the action later on after the practice.
To get everyone's total focus have all players involved all of the time, unless you have an odd number of players. If you have an odd number of players have one player sit out each round.
The 2 v 2 shooting exercise are also very fast. In this exercise you are looking for individual skill and team play. Score each two players against two opponents. At the end of each round record who has scored and how many have been scored. If possible have a parent volunteer record a video of the games so you can see more of the action later on after the practice.
To get everyone's total focus have all players involved all of the time, unless you have an odd number of players. If you have an odd number of players setup one game where it is 2 v 1, or 1 v 1.
The third exercise is all players pressing forward to win the ball as close to the opponents goal as possible. This exercise is usually done as a 3 v 3 to 5 v 5 exercise. The idea is to see what all players do with the same set of instructions. If possible have a parent volunteer record a video of the games so you can see more of the action later on after the practice.
To get everyone's total focus have all player involved all of the time, even if you must have a game that is 3 v 4, for example.
Season Training Based on Exercises
Initial player screening games for new teams and once or twice a year for existing teams reveal each player's personality, understanding, decision making ability, skill level, physical condition and ability to play.
Initial screening games reveal what players need to learn to do when they have possession of the ball and what they need to learn to do when they don't have possession of the ball.
Practice planning should be based on information collected in pre-season and early season testing. Practices should be divided into three parts:
The following games are played 2 to 3 times for 10 to 15 minutes each in early season practices to assess the ability of players with the ball.
High Score Very short scoring game.
Instant High Pressure Attacking to win
Maximum Possession Senior level
Winning by One Senior level players