Looking to get some exercise one day my brother and I called up our good friends, the Kasanezky's, Sergio and Victor, we invited them to come over to, well, play.
The four of us had struck up a friendship that always seemed to wrapped up in games and competition, we all played soccer together on the Internationals, but the two Brazilian brothers were infatuated with learning the American sports and wanted to compete all the time in touch football, softball, whiffleball, tennis, hockey, whatever. They found successes and failures as they explored these sports, always creating hilarious stories and images (don't get me started about the ice hockey experience).
So one day in early spring the four of us set out to the park for some 2 v 2 soccer. We threw down our jackets and played USA vs the Brazilians. I can't remember much about the score or the game, but I have a feeling how it went by what happened next.
As we were walking home we stopped at a basketball court. It was around the time of the final four and Brazil had recently beaten Team USA at the world championships. The two Brazilian brothers actually wanted to take on the Americans in 2 v 2 half court basketball.
So the soccer ball became a basketball and we checked the ball into them, immediately it was like an circus of activity. They passed and moved and passed and moved and passed and moved some more all punctuated by high level communication of "here," "pass," "got it." My brother and I almost fell over laughing and thinking "what these fools were doing?" After a ridiculous 45 seconds of passing and running, always on the perimeter, they would launch this crazy-bad 3 point shot that would most likely miss the rim altogether.
Then when we got the ball one of us would get down low, they would double team, we would make a simple pump for the basket where both players went in the air to block it. We would simply duck under the blocks attempt to lay the ball in. For Glenn and I, who grew up playing more than a fair amount of basketball, we were interested in beating players off the dribble, and the final moves in close to the basket.
The game went on like this, they passing, us posting up or driving by them. The game was not close.
But to this day they think they outplayed us.
I wondered: was this crazy-hustle passing game with no purpose that the Brazilian brothers displayed in the basketball game similar to what we looked like when we took on the Brazilians in soccer? Do we equate, like they did in basketball, hustle passing and needless work with success? Domination?
The reverse was most likely true in the soccer game where Glenn and I perhaps over passed (I do remember a look of amusement ), while the Brazilian brothers applied skill over athleticism, even individual skill over collectivism.
The reverse was true in the basketball game. They over-passed, over-ran, even over-hustled. Sometimes we just sat there watching them, half laughing...look at them go...when will they penetrate of come inside? For us in basketball it was enjoyable to fool them, to make them jump, to show all our tricks and it did not take us a second of thought. It was truly 'play,' and we would toy with them.
I thought this is something to think about as we evaluate play in the youth teams we see. Passing is simply one weapon. The other is dribbling (both possession dribbling and dribble penetration). Both need to be developed, but the dribble is more basic, more individual and takes more time to experiment and create a "voice." Once this is developed then the collective communication of passing become the next step. Can't have one without the other. Xavi started out as a center forward. While Messi and Iniesta are among the best ever at passing and dribbling in balance (Messi more dribble, Iniesta more pass).
1) Most youth passing games are coach or parent focused and orchestrated. While this looks good now--where will they be 10 years from now? Are they building the skills needed for the future game? Next time you see a team like this, watch where deci
sion making becomes more vital. Closely observe their decision making close to goal, are they using an intuitive, proactive method of moving the defender? Are they using dribble and passing and shooting deception? Or are they just listening to the coach?
2) Players must be allowed to explore their individual skills: dribbling, shooting, possession dribbling and finishing. If it is not allowed within the team environment for collective reasons it must be allowed to expand in other environments. This is vital as each player needs two weapons the ability to pass and the ability to dribble.
3) Transition, so vogue right now in coaching circles, is extremely important to winning and losing, but not so important in skill development. It tends to reward the fast over the skillful, the strong over the creative. Take a lesson from basketball where half court basketball, a game without transition, has become the gold standard of skill development. Soccer needs to attend to games like this that allow kids to experiment skill over athleticism.
4) Anyone looking for an easy basketball game contact me and I will line up a game against the Brazilians, and you can see this phenomena for yourself...but be careful if you take them on in soccer.