CUSA Methodology

The training methodology is the means by which our coaches teach your children and how they impart knowledge into the players.

 

Under the guidance of our full-time Director of Methodology, Grant Knight, and Assistant Director of Methodology Bradley SchluterCUSA uses the following 4-part methodology during our training sessions;

  • Rondo Activities.

  • Technical Activities.

  • Juego de Posición Activities.

  • Training Game.

Why?

In order to be able to generate technically brilliant and tactically astute players, a certain kind of training methodology has to be adopted club-wide.


Going forwards, CUSA has decided to follow the example of some of the best clubs in world soccer and adopt the following 4-stage training methodology.

Rondo

Rondos are a key staple of teams like Barcelona, Manchester City and Bayern Munich to mention but a few of the strongest teams in the world.


They are essentially 'reduced-number' versions of the game in which the players learn to play one or two touch soccer, exceptionally fast decision making, passing and receiving correctly whilst under pressure and supporting off the ball movements.


What is learned in a Rondo translates directly to the game itself and allows CUSA Players to be able to play a courageous, bold and expansive style of soccer.


Because Rondos are so game specific and can mirror certain parts of the game, whilst ensuring that all players are heavily involved, it truly is a vital part of the training methodology and has been previously described as 'Barcelona's secret weapon'.


However, unlike larger versions of the game, Rondos are typically small-sided so they provide young players with the opportunity of getting on the ball many times in a Rondo as well as experiencing certain game-specific scenarios repeatedly in a short period of time.


It is interesting to note that by the time a player in Barcelona's youth system (La Masia) has reached 18 years of age he will have played approximately 2,000 hours of Rondo!

Examples of Rondo activities that you can expect to see at CUSA

Technical Activity

In order to be able to carry out the tactical instructions of the coach, a player must be able to handle the ball, technically, with ease and comfort in opposed scenarios with pressure from defenders.


Not only is being able to beat defenders 1v1 essential but a player must be able to receive the ball with purpose. That is, receive the ball comfortably, no matter how it is played to them, and have the correct body orientation and first touch to facilitate their next soccer action (receive with purpose).


CUSA players will learn to be exceptional in 1v1, 2v1, 2v2 & 3v2 opposed training scenarios.


Because our players will be raised in a cognitive training environment which teaches them to think for themselves and recognize often occurring tactical problems and find commonly occurring solutions, their play will have sharp, quick, and rapid decision making and execution as its hallmark.


It is interesting to note that the best and quickest decision-making players in the world will try to receive the ball across their body, on their back foot with their body shape oriented to be at least on the half turn, trying to see up the field as well as where the ball has come from (receive with purpose).

95% of all CUSA training will be opposed and against live opposition to promote real-time decision making and bring about the manifestation of the players internal structures to execute the right actions at the right time. 

We do not spend any significant amount of time on unopposed or isolated technical training, as is consistent with the best youth clubs in the world. 

Examples of Technical Activities that you can expect to see at CUSA

Juego de Posición Activity

One of the key 'signatures' to CUSA's style of play is the ability to dominate the game 'positionally'.

 

That is, when we have the ball, to be able to always fill the right spaces at the right time, using the principles of width, depth and penetration.


This coupled with the correct timing of off-the-ball movement, constantly provides the ball carrier and the team with attacking options due to the offensive structure of the team.


It is interesting to note that the world's most successful teams in modern times, in terms of both club and national teams, are those that subscribe to a Juego de Posición style of play.

Examples of Juego de Posicion (Positional Games) that you can expect to see at CUSA

Training Game

Training Games are those small-sided games that we use at the end of practice that can range from a coached 'free play' game to an End Zone game to promote penetrating runs and through balls or a 4-goal game to encourage switching of play.

Training Games

Training Games are those small-sided games that we use at the end of practice that can range from a coached 'free play' game to an End Zone game to promote penetrating runs and through balls or a 4-goal game to encourage switching of play.

These Training Games are realistic and related to the game of soccer itself. They will 'look like' soccer but with some modifications and constraints added to elicit the tactical and technical behaviors that have been thematically worked upon during the session. 

In the below example, it looks like soccer but has restrictions in terms of boundaries, zones and is reduced in size to promote quick combinations and shooting opportunities close to goal. 

Examples of Training Games that you can expect to see at CUSA

CUSA's Stance on Isolated, Non-Opposed Technical Practice

For a good few decades now there have been heated debates from two diametrically opposed camps in terms of what exactly is the best way to improve, develop or ‘optimize’ the soccer ability of a young player.

The two opposed opinions consist of science and research driven facts on one side, verses opinions and subjective experiences on the other.

These two schools of thought are:

  • Open and Opposed Training (science and fact driven)

  • Isolate and Unopposed Skill Development (opinion and anecdotally driven “this worked for me when I was a player”

 

If the fact that Open and Opposed Training is proven scientifically to vastly improve the way players develop and perform isn’t enough to convince one of its merits verses Isolated Skills Development, then the only way to examine the two competing theories is to lay them side by side and study them against objective references based on the unbreakable characteristics of the game of soccer itself.  

Decision Making and the Execution of these Decisions

Traditional Technical Training is predicated on techniques first developed in the Soviet Union during the 50s and 60s and has its foundations in maximizing (not optimizing) the person in terms of their athletic capabilities or, what in soccer terms is referred to as;

  • Technical

  • Tactical

  • Psychological

  • Social

 

It viewed this ‘four pillars’ as isolated and separate from one another.

So, as an example, if they wanted to improve the speed of a soccer player then they would make him sprint train, without a ball.

If they wanted to get strength in his legs, they would send him to the gym, without a ball.

If they wanted to improve him technically then they would make him dribble around cones and practice fancy moves.

This was the old way (although unfortunately we still see it today in many places) of doing things.

Nowadays, people (athletes) are viewed as Hypercomplex Systems which are comprised of the following structures:

  • Conditional Structure

  • Coordinative Structure

  • Socio-Affective Structure

  • Emotivo-Volitional Structure

  • Creative-Expressive Structure

  • Mental Structure Structure

 

The originator of this theory is Professor Paco Seirul·lo, the head of methodology at FC Barcelona for some 20 years.

 

His theories have their origins in Complex Systems Theories.

  • Conditional Structure

 

This structure is related to the variable but specific movements in soccer through the ability to generate and sustain strength and tension in the muscles. This is improved through all of the soccer specific movements that are generated in an open practice environment (cutting, accelerating, decelerating, jumping, landing, sprinting, twisting, turning, shooting, passing and heading etc.).

It is a far reach from those nonspecific and non-variable movements learned when trying to beat a static cone 1v1. Imagine trying to become a better wrestler by only ever doing arm weights.

  • Coordinative Structure 

 

This relates to the desired execution of a soccer movement from what traditionalists might call the ‘technical’ or ‘skills’ perspective.

  • Socio-Affective Structure

 

“what do I expect from my teammates and what do they expect from me in any given moment of the game?” Again, we can start to hypothesize that players in an ‘isolated’ technical environment, do not fare well in this value as they are not experiencing these interactions with their teammates and so do not know what is expected from themselves or their teammates.

  • Emotivo-Volitional Structure 

 

Essentially this value expresses effort and desire, which are predicated on the level of engagement and how the player is challenged.

 

Being disengaged and under challenged (like you would expect to see in an isolated skill drill vs a cone) will inevitably lead to the player scoring low in this value (think rote writing lines from the blackboard 1000 times verses writing a song or a short story etc).

  • Creative-Expressive 

 

This structure is the manifestation of the previous training environments experienced by the player that allows them to come up with a solution to a problem during the game (or in practice).

 

Imagine trying to come up with a solution to a moving, real-time problem in a game when your previous training environments have involved trying to outsmart a static cone! It can’t be done.

  • Mental Structure

 

This structure organizes and sustains all of the other ones.

Please keep the Hyper Complex System in mind when reading the rest of this short article.

 

By nonverbally communicating and interacting with their surrounding environment (ball, teammate, player and space), players collect information.

 

Based on this information players make decisions.

Then, they have to take the result of this decision-making process through to its completion by executing a ‘technical’ (coordinative) action such as a pass, dribble, shot etc.

So, what does this mean?

It means that technique (coordinative structure) in soccer involves executing a decision and not just executing a technique.

For many parents in the US, this seems unusual because they are used to sports that contain a lot of ‘isolated technical repetitions’ such as gymnastics, swimming, football and baseball, all of which have ‘set movements’ with high volumes of repetition that do not vary that much in relation to changes in the environment.

However, soccer is an open and ‘complex system’ sport.

For a gymnast, a pitcher or a kicker etc. the technical execution is the objective (mainly).

A gymnast receives points for moving their body in an ideal way from A to B with no interference form the environment and no active decision making.

In soccer, on the other hand, players receive points for scoring goals, however they achieve this, regardless of how it looks or how ‘pretty’ the technique is.

Variable Technique

In soccer, the movement of a player’s body through space plays a very different role than in gymnastics.

For soccer players, there is no ideal technique because each situation is different.

In their whole life, they will never pass the ball twice in the same way, because the circumstances and the opponents are always just slightly different compared to last time.

So, a gymnast needs a perfect technique while a soccer player needs a variable technique or, what is also called, functional technique in order to get the job done and objective achieved.

Gymnasts, and other athletes from more ‘closed sports’, need to execute a technique whereas soccer players need to produce an action through the optimization of the Hypercomplex Structure, i.e., they need to show preferences to each of the individual structures in any given moment based on the ever-changing environment in which they find themselves.  

Isolated Training Based on Subjective Opinions

Based on the objective analysis of the game, it shows that soccer technique is the execution of a decision and that can only be trained in soccer situations in which players have to make decisions.

In an isolated training situation without opponents (such as dribbling and executing a move on a cone) a player does not have to make any decisions.

Based on what we now know, the player is not practicing the execution of a decision but just the execution of a technique.

In other words, he is not developing a functional soccer technique, he is instead practicing to ‘perform well against a cone’.

Despite all of this there are still many coaches, parents and programs all around the world which believe that children have to start with isolated technical training before they can do more complex soccer training.

Why is this?

Because, quite honestly, its easy.

It looks neat, tidy and it’s easier to manage 15 energetic young players as they slowly slip into a boredom-induced coma from doing repetitive cone drills than it is to manage them in small-sided games and have to coach them.

Closed-skill, isolated technical sessions are easier to manage than open skills session or small sided game environment. It’s that simple.

Open skills sessions, small-sided games, Rondos, positional play games and training games are all dynamic, hectic, messy-looking and, to be honest, chaotic.

 

They can be exhausting to coach, especially at the younger age groups.

The reason they are chosen as the preferred methodology of choice at CUSA, and professional and grass roots clubs all around the world, is that they help players, along with the coaching instructions, to self-organize in commonly presented, but varied, scenarios that they will experience on game day.

If I pay my twenty bucks per hour to a skills coach or I pay my player’s fees for the season to a club and at the end of the very first session, after 5 minutes in fact, I can see that my child can now execute a step over (against a cone) parents, players and coaches will all be, understandably, excited. Job done. Well done everyone!

The players all look neat, tidy and organized standing on their individual cones, all listening intently listening to the coach’s instruction.

From afar, it looks like a lot of learning is happening, but what is the reality?

There is no decision making, no interaction between players, no situational learning and all of this is combined with the potential of over-use injuries or repetitive strain injuries through the over-use of key muscle groups in young players that can lead to chronic musculoskeletal problems in developing young children because simply they have repeated, almost identically, the same motion maybe thousands of times, against force and resistance, in a certain period of time.

Isolated Training Cognitively Under-loads Most Players

Just imagine some six or seven year-old children playing a 10v1 game.

What do you think the defender will do after 30 or 60 seconds?

Probably give up because he cannot get the ball because the game is too simple for the possessing team. It is too easy for them to keep the ball away from him.

The possessing team (10 players) is cognitively underloaded and not challenged and as a result, they will not improve.

So, if 10v1 is too simple, why do coaches still insist on doing isolated exercises with zero opposition?

Subjective Status Quo has Been Broken

Based on the above objective analysis of soccer we have now broken the subjective status quo.

Players should develop soccer technique in soccer situations because soccer technique means the execution of a decision and for those players who struggle, even in the most simplified soccer situations, isolated technique training is the perfect exception to the rule.

Summary

 

Is isolated technical practice a waste of time?

 

No, not at all, but it depends upon how much time you have.

 

If, like 90% of youth soccer clubs in the US, you only have 3 sessions per week then, without a doubt, practice time should not be spent on isolated technical work.

 

If you play for a professional youth team, like FC Cincinnati and train and play 5-6 times per week, then you may experience very small amounts of isolated technical repetitions on ‘recovery days’.

 

Why is this interesting?

 

In elite or high-performance sports environments, such as soccer, recovery days are designed to give the physical and mental capacities of the player a break, a rest and an opportunity for both mental and physical recovery.

 

Well, what does this say about the physical and cognitive load of an isolated technical session if it is essentially used to give players a day off?

 

This is where things like the Techne App (which CUSA provides free to all players) comes in to its own.

 

Outside of the three organized practices per week, players can relax and mess about with the ball, trying to get more comfortable and familiar with it, without losing any of their developmental progress.

 

Isolated technical training is like learning to drive in a parking lot.

 

You might need to do it at the very beginning, or you might need to do it to work out a kink (blind spot when reverse parking/eliminating errors in ones shooting technique) but it doesn’t prepare you to drive on the open roads, and it doesn’t prepare you to play in games.

 

When a player comes to CUSA or we observe them at tryouts, there is not one coach who is thinking “that player can’t read the game, is not a great teammate and hasn’t once scanned his environment, but oh-boy look how good his step over is”.

 

Through our relationship with FC Cincinnati, other professional clubs, Centerville High School and numerous College Soccer Programs, we can promise you that none of these coaches care about step overs either.

 

Players need to be prepared to play the rigors of the game as it is.

 

This is why CUSA’s approach to training and development is based on open systems, opposed practices, small-sided games and positional games which replicate (even on a smaller or reduced level of complexity) the scenarios faced by players in games.

 

Johan Cruyff: “Technique is not being able to juggle a ball 1000 times. Anyone can do that by practicing. Then you can work in the circus. Technique is passing the ball with one touch, with the right speed, at the right foot of your teammate.”