In my 20s, I was an aspiring football coach. Not gridiron, but football-football. Soccer.
The first night of a weekend long D license course opened with an enthusiastic instructor. An A licensed coach who began the evening with a rant:
“We try to copy all these countries. We try to copy the Dutch. I don’t know why” he said. “Holland has never won the World Cup!”
This sparked some laughter and heads nodding in agreement. Even I, quietly agreed.
But then years later, I came across this passage in Brilliant Orange:
Sculptor Jeroen Henneman believes, ‘With the Dutch, the beauty is in the pitch. In the grass, but also in the air above it, where balls can curl and curve and drop and move like the planets in heaven. It is not only the field. The folding of air above it also counts. That is why the Arena stadium is so horrible. It is ugly and it seals off the heavens.’
Cruyff has been known to pass footballing judgement on the basis of sound alone. Ajax historian Evert Vermeer remembers him criticizing a player’s technique while looking away from the pitch. ‘He said: “His technique is no good.” “How can you tell?” Cruyff said: “It’s obvious. When he kicks the ball, the sound is wrong.” ‘
Henneman reckons that without knowing it, what the average Dutch footballer wants ‘is silence, a kind of quiet on the pitch, to feel the beautiful green grass and fresh air and the passes he receives. When you kick well, you have to touch the ground, to dig a little under the ball as in a golf shot. And you hear it. And it is nice to hear.’
Gerrie Muhren agrees: ‘Wind is the biggest enemy because you cannot hear the ball. You have to hear the ball during the game. You can hear from the sound it makes on the boot where the ball is going, how hard, how fast. You can tell everything.Brilliant Orange, By David Winner, pg 135-136
Yes, coaching instructor from 12 years ago, that’s why you copy the Dutch.
I agree, all our youth teams don’t need to play 4-3-3. We don’t need to save-as the Dutch Vision of Youth Development presentation. Or even grow beautiful Tulip fields.
But what is worth copying is the Dutch appreciation of individual technique. An appreciation that goes deeper than foot placement, or how a players head is tilted.
It’s an appreciation of technique so precise it’s audible. Coaching at a place where you’re hearing the correct technique.
Next time you’re at a youth practice, or your daughters match, listen.
What do you hear?