Training Soccer Champions

Anson Dorrance, Tim Nash, 1996, Echo Point Books & Media

Anson Dorrance is the most successful college soccer coach in US women’s soccer. In this book he describes how he did set up the soccer program at the University of North Carolina and what made them successful. This is not a training or coaching book that explains tactics or techniques, it talks about how to set up and run a team in general. The chapters of the books are focusing on different aspects of the organization of a sports team. One chapter will dicuss how to create an positive competitive environment in training, another one how to make sure everybody is able to learn and improve even if not playing regularly. It is also covered how to get good players beyond good, by making them understand the why of decisions taken in training but also on the field. Dorrance also talks about how to make sure, that the preparation for soccer doesn’t end when leaving the training court, especially focusing on how to keep player’s fit during vacation and how to make the off-season challenging for everyone. Furthermore Dorrance highlights the value of statistics, so that players get constant feedback. The statistics do not only provide that, they also make the player’s feel that the feedback is less subjective, because it is not directly coming from the coach.
Another important point the author points out are the differences between men and women. That starts with what type of relationships is required to get respected to them but also how they react to criticism. Finally he also describes how to provide the best players with enough space for creativity and how to create acceptance for their unique skills.
The only part of the book which is a bit outdated is the tactics part, simply because it is from 1996 and at that time the 4-4-2 was dominant and a attack line with 3 forwards was new. Today that is probably not the case anymore.
All in all the book is not so much a soccer coaching book but a book about leadership and how to organize a team with a soccer team as an example. Competition without hostility and creating a learning environment which provides everybody constantly with feedback and makes them able to improve no matter on which level they are, are just two aspects of that. Others are providing the space for independent decision making for the people who have the skills to do so but also to treat everybody with respect even if they will never will be your top performers. All these topics are discussed in the book and therefore it is not only a good read for soccer fans but also for managers who look for some insights in team management.

Biography: 0/3
History: 0/3
Background: 3/3
Tactics & Game philosophy: 1/3


Star-Spangled Soccer

The selling, marketing and management of soccer in the USA

Gary Hopkins, 2010, Palgrave Macmillan

I have to start this review with a warning. If you have the opinion that commercialization is bad for soccer and that financial analysts should have no say in the clubs, then better don’t read this book. Star-Spangled Soccer is the story how soccer was revived in the US after the World Cup 1994. That may sound romantic but in reality it was the search for a sustainable business model for a soccer league and its clubs.
If an author would have written the history of US soccer as a drama beginning of the nineties the storyline could not have been more fitting for a movie than it was in reality. Coming on the world stage with the bang of the World Cup 94, then a delayed but still successful start of the soccer league, everything was on the edge and close to collapse and to finally make a turn into a happy end. An happy end not too kitschy with world domination but at least with a league with a stable fan base and a constantly growing number of teams. Hopkins describes all that in detail. He seems to have a lot of background information about the events and he writes about them in an entertaining style. The data and financial information he shows are always spot on. They never get boring but move the story along and make it clear to the reader, why you have to see soccer as a business model when you want to start with a professional league, which can be taken serious. Growing from grass root movements doesn’t work when you don’t have 100 years and especially in the US grass root organization diversify so quickly that growth rather diverts them than bringing them together under one roof. Therefore you have to think big at the beginning.
The book also works well as a history book, especially for nineties, but it also provides rare insights,e.g., into the youth soccer systems in the US, which works quite differently than in Europe and its lack of success. Although one might not think it, when one starts to read chapter titles like “Selling Soccer to America”, Hopkins is a soccer expert and he has good suggestions at hand at the end of the book, how the success story can be further moved forward and not only in financial terms.
Comparing the book with Bamboo Goalposts and the failure of establishing soccer in China shows nicely, how it can be done and how better not to do it. It makes no sense to try to use an accelerated model of how Europe established their soccer leagues. Modern times need modern methods to create some excitement about a newly introduced sport, that means you need sponsoring, you need TV coverage, you need soccer stadiums and you need stars. Without some business model behind it that is impossible to achieve. Gary Hopkins shows in his book how it can be done.

Biography: 0/3
History: 3/3
Background: 3/3
Tactics & Game philosophy: 0/3