Player Testimonial for Game-based Soccer


David O’Shaughnessey

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.

Possession is King? My Liverpool-Man United Match Analysis

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LUFC vs. MUFC Match Analysis on 3.22.15

Manchester United beat Liverpool 2-1 on Sunday in a well-fought match. According to some analysis I cribbed from FourFourTwo’s Stats Zone, Man United dominated in a number of key areas:

  • Goals scored (the big one!)
  • Passes completed (over 100 more passes than LUFC and with a higher completion percentage: 81.9% vs. 75.1%)
  • Passes completed in the attacking third (almost double LUFC’s number and with a higher completion rate: 68.8% vs. 55.9%)
  • Possession (58.4% vs. 41.6%)

Although MUFC attempted more take ons (19 vs. 15), LUFC had a higher percentage of successful ones (60% vs. 52.6%). Furthermore, when you look at take ons in the attacking third, LUFC attempted double MUFC’s (12 vs. 6) with a higher percentage of successful ones (33.3% vs. 16.7%).

In terms of crosses, MUFC attempted more (14 vs. 8) and had a higher percentage of success (14.3% vs. 0%).

All in all, MUFC dominated possession of the ball (ironically, more so in the first half when LUFC had 11 players!), while LUFC had the edge in take ons (1v1 offensive duels). Whether you think MUFC deserved the win, they scored more goals and missed a late penalty.

How do you train your teams to create and score more goals? Check out my latest book, It Pays to Win on Offense: A Game-based Approach to Developing Players that Score and Create lots of Goals.

Changing the Game in Youth Sports


Check out the following TED talk on youth sports participation:

Some takeaways from the speaker, John O’Sullivan (former professional soccer player and D1 college coach):

  • The single greatest effect on performance is an athlete’s state of mind
  • Youth sports used to be about children competing against other children; now it is often adults competing against other adults through their children
  • Children play sports because it is fun; winning comes in way down the list
  • Children quit sports when they don’t get to play, and when winning becomes more important than enjoyment
  • 90% of children would rather play on a losing team than sit the bench on a winning team
  • Competition is important, but being competitive comes from putting the needs and priorities of our children first
  • We can all start changing youth sports for the better by learning five simple words (watch to learn what they are)

How to Positively Cheer From the Sidelines in Soccer


PraiseIn my last parent post, Coaching vs. Cheering in Youth Soccer, I discussed the differences in how we might best support our youth soccer players from the sidelines. In short, I said it is best to leave the coaching to the coaches, and for parents to focus on cheering.

Well, the question has been asked, what constitutes positive cheering? This becomes especially important when parents have little or limited soccer knowledge. A big kick upfield is not always the best thing to do, nor is physical contact always a foul.

My advice for parents on the soccer sidelines is to keep everything positive. In fact, this is my advice to coaches, too. Instead of getting frustrated and upset with what your child or team is not doing, encourage the effort that they are putting in. If you praise their effort, then they will likely attempt whatever they tried to do again, even if it ended in failure the first (or the second time, or the third time…).

This is a difficult concept for many of us to grasp because we live in a culture where expertise is associated with how well we can critique something or somebody. My question is, who are we really helping when we get mad at a youth soccer player when he misses a tackle or a shot, or when she gets scored on, or when she makes a mistake?

Here are a few things to think about when making comments from the sidelines:

  • For whose benefit are you making the comments? The player? the team? The coach? The referee? Other parents? Yourself?
  • Are you trying to show what you know, rather than support your player?
  • Are you 100% certain what you are saying is correct? Really?

When trying to positively cheer from the sidelines in youth soccer games, here are a few things to consider:

  • Be specific – for example, “good pass, Johnny” or “nice shot, Jane” or “great effort, Luis.” Even if they don’t show it, the players hear you on the sidelines. If you are trying to coach them, you will put them off. If you recognize their effort and encourage them to continue, you will inspire them give their best.
  • Be genuine – kids know when we are giving false praise. Sometimes, it’s best to say nothing. Or, if you do say something, I have found it best to say something to the effect of “next play” – meaning, don’t dwell on the mistake you just made, make it right on the next play. These two words and your player’s name will help them refocus on the game and you don’t have to have any previous soccer knowledge or experience to do this!
  • Above all, be positive! Praise the other players on your team. The parents will likely respond in kind! Also, it is okay to praise the other team’s players when they do something good! Remember, this is recreational youth soccer, not the World Cup Final. Besides, next year, that player and his parents may be on your team.

Everybody is going to make mistakes, whether it is the player on the field, the coach in his substitute rotation, or parents’ comments on the sidelines. What if we were able to create a culture of recognition instead of negativity. Here are a couple of closing thoughts:

  • Have you ever been to your child’s game and ONLY said positive things?
  • Have you ever told the referee (s)he had a great game?
  • Have you ever thanked the coach after the game for coaching your son/daughter’s team?
  • Have you ever congratulated a parent of an opposing team on the effort of their son/daughter?

I guarantee, if all the readers of this blog committed to doing just one of these things on game day, we could start a positive revolution in youth soccer.

Remember, what gets praised, gets repeated.

I look forward to your feedback and input.

Have a great game day!