by Alan Maher
I was in Florida when he died and missed the wake but made the funeral. Then I flew back to Florida and learned some more details on the net. Let me explain.
At the wake his one daughter spoke to those in attendance. She mentioned many things and stressed his love of soccer, his strong love of soccer above other sports. She said that he was always talking about the Dutch system. She asked, "what is the Dutch System?"
Whatever the answer, I taught him about Dutch soccer and the Dutch System. So, what is it? What had him so excited on the brink of his death? Why did he talk about it all the time? Can I explain the thing in a single article? Will it be accurate? Who am I to even breach the subject? Am I Dutch? No. Was I born in Holland? No.
Most of all, what turned on my colleague and many others in this country? That is the real question. How to answer that is most difficult.
I will try.
· Most of all it is an attitude. It is an attitude of playing attractive soccer. Pleasing to the crowd. Exciting. I worked with a former colleague for many years and he understood the Dutch system well. He used to tell the players, "let them, the opponents, score five goals; we will score six!" He played to win not to lose. Read that again. Do not play to not lose; play to win. The emphasis in this country in many sports is to defend and not lose. The most popular sports cheer in America is, "Defense!" "Defense!" "Defense!" Think seriously, dear reader, when was the last time that you were at a game in this country, any game, where the crowd chanted, "Attack!" "Attack!" "Attack!" So the Dutch begin with an attitude to win and play exciting soccer. Win or lose make it exciting. This is totally true at the youth level.
· The next ingredient is to train all players the same way. I am not sure that this is unique with the Dutch, but the whole team is trained at the same time in the same way. This means that all learn to shoot and all learn to defend or attack. It has been called "Total Soccer," and it means the total participation by all players. Today, the keepers are trained to play like sweepers. Total soccer. It also means that all players practice with both feet. Dribbling, driving and shooting.
· The normal venue of practice is focused on small games. The Dutch like to hang around at four on four or five on five. This gives the players more touches of the ball in a given time than playing in a larger group. Four or five to a side. (I must add that we never play eleven-on-eleven before the first game of the season. Think of that.)
· The Dutch attend to details. They show the players how to dribble, turn, receive the ball and shoot. They consider themselves to be the best trained in technique. The technical part of the game. The stress is on ball control. If your team has the ball, the other team cannot score a goal. Do not give away the ball. Control it. Ball control. This cannot be done if technique is not at a high level. The highest level.
· The Dutch expect all players to either attack or defend. This is a concept that could be expanded to a small book. I watch too many games in this country where the defenders are isolated in front of their own goal and the rest of the team is up at the other end of the field, isolated and outnumbered. Think of that for a while. Really.
· At the youth level, the Dutch like a quiet atmosphere in which to play. They do not like cries of, "kick it," "get him," "get rid of the ball!" The last being my all time favorite. I have written about this before.
· What else? In the last two years we had the program in place. Players worked hard off- season to be ready for training the first day of the new season. More and more parents came to watch the games. Referees complimented us on the style of play and the attitude of the players. Nice games to referee and watch. To be part of. And we were proud to have been part of this. Good games. Nice games. Fun to see and most of all, fun to have been a participant. Good for the players. Very good.
My friend is dead; I must still face his family and explain my relationship to my deceased colleague. I will be asked about Dutch Soccer, because my name and Dutch Soccer were used in the same sentence in his house when he was alive. There is more to me than Dutch Soccer; there was more to our friendship than Dutch Soccer, but soccer was our common bond. Good soccer. The glue of Dutch Soccer brought us together and held us until his untimely death. The end goes back to the beginning. Attitude. Making kids feel good about what they are doing. Lastly, making coaches feel good about what they are doing. And referees and the spectators. Everybody.
My friend died too young and left a wife and three daughters. They are all upset, to be sure. But I know that he died with a little smile on his face. He had achieved what he wanted in soccer. This was very important to him. So smile and let him have his moment.
Ask him about his manual (with many 'new' games) called,
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