I coached David O’Shaughnessey for two years. He was a standout high school basketball player, who went on to play the sport collegiately at the D1 level. As a soccer player, he transformed from being an average utility guy to a true soccer star. I asked David (or “D.O.” as everyone calls him) to write a few words about my methods, specifically, how he felt my “game-based” approach helped him. As always, he went above and beyond:
From my experience, whether in basketball or soccer, I always improved the most under coaches that structured practice as competitions. I grew up playing defense and center midfield. During my junior year, Coach Jordan moved me to Center Forward. I thought it was a stupid move, and that I wouldn’t be any good because I was terrible at taking people on. I felt so out of place at first.
I remember several distinct changes in Coach Jordan’s coaching style between his first and second year. At times the first year I felt that practice got too drill/technical oriented, and that we spent a large majority of practice conditioning. I personally thrive of off competition and get bored doing non-competitive drills, so at times I would get frustrated with the practices and not enjoy them. However, Jordan’s second year practices had a different structure. We didn’t do nearly as much technical (i.e. footability) training or direct conditioning. Instead of starting practice with a 12 minute run, we usually opened practice playing intense games of target ball, which instantly got the competitive juices flowing. Most parts of practice revolved around some type of competition; it could be a 1v1 tournament, small-sided games, possession games, or large field scrimmages. I thoroughly enjoyed practice that season because we were competing the whole time. Usually the losing teams had to run sprints, which provided some incentive for less competitive people to give 100%.
I know that having more competitive and “live setting” practices drastically improved my attacking ability. I became much more comfortable with the ball at my feet and playing in tight spaces, since that’s what a large amount of practice involved. I also became more comfortable taking people on in games. The footability-type drills from the year before could only get me so far, and the daily experience of going at defenders in a live setting not only grew my technical ability, but it also increased confidence.
Not only did I enjoy soccer more Jordan’s 2nd year, but I feel like I made more improvement in that season than the previous 3 seasons combined. I went from being an average starter and scoring 8 goals to team MVP and scoring 25 goals in one season. Our team won the state championship the 2nd year. We were not as talented as the team the year before, and we were probably the 4th most talented team in the state. I attribute this to the change of focus on practice and the increase in competitive, game-like simulations. All of the players enjoyed the sport more, which can go a long way to improving as an individual or team.
The 2 minute clip above shows highlights from an all-important region game (2008) with everything on the line. Fast forward to 1:11 to see what D.O. was all about.
It Pays to Win on Offense: Game-based activities that will immediately improve all of your soccer players’ attacking instincts and abilities is a a book for soccer coaches who are looking for the most effective way to engage all of their players all of the time in order to teach them attacking soccer concepts. The book provides an all-encompassing Game-based Soccer framework for instilling a relentless, attacking mindset in players. By combining educational theory and making everything a competition, coaches can maximize their practice time and teach that attacking concepts are not just limited to certain players or limited to specific positions on the field.
James Jordan is a professional educator and a soccer coach. He holds the NSCAA Premier Diploma, USSF National Youth License, and a Doctorate in Education. Using Game-based Soccer techniques developed over the past decade, his teams (boys and girls) have won six high school state championships and one Classic 1 boys’ club championship.