(Alan Meher receiving NSCAA award from Pele)
Not long ago I used to scour the Internet, searching for soccer sites. I
loved trying to find all of the newest games and drills to use with my
team. Even got excited seeing stuff by coaches I had met or worked with
throughout my soccer travels.
I still enjoy checking out all of the soccer websites (especially those
related to coaching), but now what I enjoy most is reading the coaching
articles. That's why I am such a big fan of this website (FUNdamentalSoccer.com). I find it
interesting to see what coaches are thinking, and what they are writing
At this website1 the coach I enjoy reading the most is Alan Maher. I've
never met Coach Maher, but for the past 5-7 years his works and ideas have had a big impact on my coaching.
Around 1993 a friend was getting out of soccer, and he had a huge library of stuff he gave to me. Books, videos, World Cup highlights, enough to start a catalog with. I sorted through to find the most interesting stuff, and came upon the book called "The Complete Soccer Handbook" by Alan Maher. Had to do with his travels to Holland and working with coaches and teams he'd met over there, how players in the Netherlands trained, etc...
Now, I am of Italian descent and knew very little about Holland, or the
butch. Windmills, tulips and wooden shoes, and I knew they wore orange.
But that was about it.
I read the book and enjoyed it immensely. There was a lot about the game
of soccer I felt I knew, but when I read the book it became a whole lot
clearer. Simplicity. Teamwork. Not trying to do too much. But making sure that skill came first.
I started to use the info in the book and found my players loved it.
Practices became more effective, more enjoyable. Kids understood because
now I was able to communicate what I couldn't before. Our play was still
rough, but it had a hint of style to it.
The book got me into the whole butch thing at the right time. My team
would watch Ajax and Holland games together, and they recognized things on the field as they watched. They started taking the names of the butch team during our practices, the way American kids emulate Barry Sanders and Mark McGwire. I had never seen that before and it was pretty exciting.
Now in all my life I had never imagined traveling to Holland. I had been
to Ireland and Italy, and thought if I ever got back to Europe it would be Italy again, or maybe Spain. But the guys on my team, and their parents, decided that we make a trip to Holland and Italy to play in a tournament or two. I think they chose Holland because of all the tape they had seen and wanted to see just what it was like there. Pretty exciting stuff, taking a fairly talented bunch of boys overseas, and they were very motivated.
We stayed in Holland for a few days and trained for 3 or 4 days. A KNVB
coach worked with the players, and they were in heaven playing on fields
we couldn't even dream of (if you don't believe me, come to ~eno someday). We even played a local team the same age and won by 2 or 3 goals, with enough style that some of their spectators said they didn't think American teams could play that well.
But the ultimate was when they got to see the Holland-Argentina match from the '98 World Cup, in Holland Amazing stuff. They were almost as
passionate as the butch people they were welcomed by, and the people we
stayed with were impressed that our young players knew all of the butch
players' names and numbers, and the Clubs they played for. I was proud of my players, and they were awed when the game ended and the city we were in went nuts. The celebration was crazy, flares going off, people dancing in the streets. I'm sure it will remain one of their fondest soccer memories from our travels.
Now, maybe all of this would have happened anyway, had I not read Coach
Maher's book. But I'm not sure. He opened my eyes to a different way of
seeing the game, and of teaching it to the teams I've worked with. I have had some great teachers through my development as a coach, from the
coaches in the USSF schools and the state coaches I've met and worked
with, and I have benefited from all of their knowledge. But I have to say that the messages contained in Coach Maher's words are among the simplest and most useful.
I hope Coach Maher continues contributing to the FUNdamentalSoccer.com
website. I look forward to reading the wisdom and common sense messages
contained in everything he writes. It is so much more important and useful than the next great drill I used to search for. And I hope I am
intelligent enough to learn from it and use it.