“Without individual technical skills, nothing can happen” Coerver Academy of Coaching Headmaster discusses the Coerver Coaching method.
Currently, Coerver Coaching operates in over 30 countries developing players from kindergarten to elementary and is the world’s largest youth soccer development organization. Coerver Coaching arrived in Japan in 1993, and the Coerver Coaching method has gradually infiltrated the country and produced many professional players. So, what is this highly rated Coerver Coaching method really? We asked Eeiji Nakagawa, the headmaster of the Coerver Academy of Coaching where coaches are developed and educated, about the Coerver Coaching “Philosophy”.
Developing individuals technically, tactically and mentally
――First of all, please give us an overview of Coerver Coaching.
Eeiji Nakagawa (EN) – There was a Dutch coach named Wiel Coerver who played and won the UEFA Cup during the 1973-1974 season with Feyenoord. He was the one who proposed the Coerver Coaching method first. He observed and analyzed the movements of former star players like the Brazilian Pele, Dutch Johan Cruyff, West German Franz Beckenbauer and Argentinian Diego Maradona, and he taught them in a simple and understandable way so that anyone can imitate their moves. At that time, moves such as the “Cruyff Turn” and “Elastico” were performed by star players, so Mr. Coerver’s desire to introduce how to master these moves was the beginning of the Coerver Coaching method.
――In other words, the method originally focused on “1v1”, correct?
(EN) – Exactly, but you need to understand the word “individual technical skill” in soccer has evolved and does not only mean the ability to run past defenders on 1v1 situations anymore. The phrase has developed into “individual technical skill effective in a team”. A talented individual does not necessary mean he will be effective in a team and produce results. Therefore, our philosophy has evolved into “developing individual technical skill effective in a team”.
――We were informed that the Coerver Coaching method was introduced to Japan in 1993. Is this correct?
(EN) – Actually, Mr. Coerver visited Japan numerous times before 1993. His coaching method was highly rated, and he continued to do clinics at high schools and universities and publish books translated into Japanese.
――So, when did the coaching method evolve from developing the “individual technical skill” to developing the “individual technical skill effective in a team”?
(EN) – At the time Mr. Coerver proposed his coaching method, the world of soccer was becoming very business oriented, and therefore many top clubs were beginning to use defensive tactics to win at all costs. Because of this era of defensive soccer, he strongly believed that he must develop offensive minded players and often used the word “personality”. Regardless of the defensive trend in the world of football, he thought it was his mission to develop players that can show their “personality” on the field. Coerver Coaching co-founders Alfred Galustian and Charlie Cooke continued to evolve Wiel Coerver’s method by creating the “Pyramid of Player Development”, which is our curriculum today.
――What does the word “personality” specifically mean?
(EN) – By the word “personality”, we mean a player that can take the initiative to control the game technically, tactically and mentally. However, in order to control the game tactically and mentally, it is necessary for the player to have the technical skills to do so. This is why our approach is to focus on developing the individual technical skill.
――Many people probably have the image that Coerver Coaching specializes just on ball mastery skills. Do you think they are incorrect by using the word “specializes”?
(EN) – First of all, it is correct to say that our method focuses on developing the technical skill of players. However, we strongly believe that by developing these skills of players, they obtain the competence to execute various tactics. Also, we believe that these players gain more confidence in games as they feel comfortable with the ball at their feet. Therefore, we do not just “specialize” on ball mastery skills, but we like to say that we “specialize” in developing players with the above mentioned personalities of competence and confidence that arises from the development of technical skills.
――Very interesting. That is an important point to truly understand the Coerver Coaching method.
(EN) – The word “individual technical skill” we use today differs from the one we used in the past. The ability to perform various moves perfectly and juggle the ball many times is not the “individual technical skill” we are talking about. “Individual technical skill” is exerted when there are teammates, opponents and space. Basically, “individual technical skill” is defined as the “individual technical skill” with a tactical element that is performed during a game. However, we understand why many people misunderstand that we solely focus on ball mastery skills since we have used the word many times.
Our biggest strength is our 1 year Coerver Academy of Coaching system
――After listening to everything you just said, it is understandable that players such as Wataru Endo (captain of the U-23 Japanese national team and Urawa Reds player), Takumi Minamino (Red Bull Salzburg player) and Kento Misao (Kashima Antlers player) all trained at Coerver Coaching.
(EN) – The policy which has not changed these past 34 years since the creation of the Coerver Coaching method is developing two types of players. The first type are players that “can change the outcome of a game by him or herself” and the other type are players that “can change the outcome of a game by cooperating with teammates”. Of course, Wataru, Takumi and Kento played under various coaches throughout their lives, so we do not believe that only Coerver Coaching developed these players. However, Wataru and Kento continue to excel in becoming the latter type, and Takumi is certainly the first type. By observing their playstyle, you can understand why we continue to develop these two types of players.
――Indeed, these players have trained through numerous coaches in different environments, but we believe Coerver Coaching played a large role as well.
(EN) – That is very kind of you to say so. In that sense, we have a large responsibility as youth coaches since we are training the kids during their prime development stages.
――In other words, the approach of Coerver Coaching is not to develop the “ideal player”, but to develop players with rich “personalities” by experiencing the Coerver Coaching method, correct?
(EN) – That is correct. There is a misunderstanding where people believe Coerver Coaching produces the same type of players, but this is not the case. Our job as coaches is to create the basic technical foundation for the kids to become soccer players. Any team, tactic or formation needs the player or “individual” for it to work, right? And it is normal to have various “personalities” in teams. Our mission is to improve the quality of these “individuals” and “personalities”.
――Currently, there are 138 Coerver Coaching soccer schools throughout Japan. In order to transfer the Coerver Coaching method and philosophy to the players, the development of coaches must also be a huge challenge. How do you guys tackle this?
(EN) – All coaches must attend the Coerver Academy of Coaching for 1 full year before becoming a Coerver coach. Besides learning the Coerver Coaching method and philosophy, they must study psychology, coaching theories, nutrition science, physiology and other topics throughout the year. We make sure to put a lot of effort into this, therefore we are confident that we produce the best youth coaches in the country. For example, we will never have a coach, who never attended the academy, train the players even if they are ex-professional players. After all, being an excellent soccer player does not make you an excellent coach. We believe it is very important to develop their “coaching skills” for 1 full year.
Without “individual technical skills”, nothing can happen
――We believe that being responsible for the development of young players plays a large role in developing the future of Japanese soccer. What kind of players do Coerver Coaching want to produce?
(EN) – After all these years of my coaching experience, what “good players” have in common is their mentality of self-responsibility. In other words, I am talking about the mentality of thinking “how can I improve myself”, instead of thinking “am I a better player than the other guy”. Players who are always obsessed with how they perform compared to others have the tendency to blame the bad pitch or their new shoes when things go wrong. I believe players who face their problems and strive to improve themselves are more likely to succeed to become professional players.
――Basically, do you mean good players are always looking at “themselves” instead of others?
(EN) – Yes. In other words, good players have the ability to take responsibility for their actions. For example, when the opponent takes the ball off you, you immediately run to take it back. When your teammate is unable to reach your pass, you don’t blame your slow teammate but yourself instead. These types of players are able to understand their weaknesses and have the initiative to improve by training independently. The type of technical, tactical and mental “personality” we want to develop is this type of player.
――First of all, I believe players that can look at “themselves” can eventually look at the “team” as well. Then, they can develop their tactical and mental personalities.
(EN) – Yes, that is correct. It starts with retrieving the ball back when you lose it yourself. When you understand the importance of this concept, you develop the mentality of retrieving the ball back yourself despite your teammate losing the ball this time. This is exactly the tactical and mental personality we are talking about that is expected from players for being part of a team. That is why we first try to develop this essential foundation of technical skill of not losing the ball and retrieving the ball when you do so. This is where we focus our training on.
――As you mentioned earlier, developing the individual technical skill leads to the development of all abilities as a soccer player.
(EN) – Yes, it all depends on how you want to develop your players. For example, Barcelona has an image of a real tactical approach to their training. On the other hand, at Coerver Coaching, we like to take a technical approach. We both have the same goal of developing the player, but we like to begin with the technical approach which affects both the tactical and mental side of soccer.
――I understand. Lastly, can you please tell us the position Coerver Coaching stands today?
(EN) – Without individual technical skills, nothing can happen. This is my belief of soccer. You can enjoy soccer more if you have these technical skills. Developing technical skills leads to the development of both your tactical and mental capabilities, which eventually leads to developing your “personality” in a team. Using this ubiquitous approach as the foundation of my coaching philosophy, I will love to continue developing youth players.