The one thing Thomas Tuchel would change in youth coaching

Thomas Tuchel’s approach to youth training is an interesting one…

Now managing Paris Saint-Germain, the 45-year-old German coach has a wealth of experience in youth coaching having developed with clubs such as Stuttgart, Mainz and Augsburg, before moving to Borussia Dortmund and, during the summer, to PSG.

While he was manager at Dortmund in October 2015 he was invited to speak at the Aspire Academy Football Performance and Science event and he was asked about his approach to youth training and he revealed the one thing that he would do now if he went back into youth coaching.

Although the interview is exactly from three years ago, it’s still pertinent today and worth considering for any coaches who might just be making life for their players too easy.

Tuchel said: “To me football is an absolute team sport and that’s why you can not train individually only to a certain extent. Of course we have specific exercises for forwards and defenders, but that is just a small part of the overall training.


‘Talented people are good at solving problems’

“But I am a fan of practicing everything in a very complex way and always having the team together.

“It is not really a philosophy. I have just not found a simple way of practicing with the forwards or the defenders on their own. And then just putting them together on the weekend.

“They all have to interact with each other.”

 Tuchel is convinced that problem solving is the way for players to develop and believes making things easy for young players can have a detrimental effect.

“Talented people are good at solving problems, and if I were to go back to being a youth trainer now, one thing I would tell youth coaches is that they make the life for their talents as difficult as possible. Because overcoming obstacles is the most important thing for talented players,” said Tuchel.

‘Putting them in comfort zones is a risk’

“Investing in the youth is very good and the establishment of academies contributed a lot to the current success of the German national team. It’s great we can offer them these great possibilities at academies, but putting them in this comfort zone also comes with a big risk.

“The effect could be that something is missing, the skill to overcome obstacles.
“Who is able to overcome obstacles? Who is able to perform even if the locker room does not have air conditioning?

“Who can perform if the laundry is not done automatically or if his transport to training is not arranged and if he has to organize it himself?

“Where are the hidden talents of the players beside the ones that are obvious?

“And there is one unforgettable thing I heard from a youth director of FC Barcelona when Andres Iniesta joined the academy. He told his youth coaches: ‘Don’t try to improve him. Just take care of him’.”

Tuchel is well aware that some of the game’s brightest talents may well have just inherited their talent, but he still believes challenging even these players is the way forward.

Tuched added: “I was coaching national team players like Sami Khedira. Andi Beck and Serdar Tasci when they were playing in my U15 team. But maybe an amateur could have coached them and they would have come professional players.

“Who can say to what extent I had a part in their development?

“Maybe it’s true that those who turn out to be special have something special inside of them. And that it’s more about challenging them on a regular basis and it’s our job to motivate them to be eager to overcome obstacles. And we should give them advice and go the way with them.”

Matthew Briggs

Darren Lyons
John Kerr explains his soccer recruiting process at Duke University
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GoPlay Sports recently caught up with Duke men’s soccer head coach John Kerr to ask him about his recruiting process.

Kerr, who was on a whistle-stop trip to the United Soccer Coaches Convention in Chicago, revealed he was en-route to Florida to take a look at some players at the US national team camp.

“We’re a worldwide university to so we recruit from all over the place. We have nine foreigners on our team we’re lucky enough to have the pick of the top foreign players and the top domestic players in the United States,” said Kerr, who is in his 12th year with the Blue Devils.


Where do you recruit from?

“Everywhere. Anyone that available and is interested in our school and has the right academics. We figure out their playing profile and do research on them.

How does that work?

“A lot of the foreign guys are in touch with us and recruiting agencies, who I have a good relationship with, they recommend players that they know will be suitable options.”

How detailed are the profiles?

“It’s very deep, it comes from their academic transcripts. Recommendations from their teachers and playing videos etc. And then if I see a guy in a video I really like I will go and see him in person.

What do you look for?

“The first thing we do is see if they can qualify academically – that’s first and foremost and then after that I try to work out whether they are a good footballer and make good decisions on the ball.
“There’s a minimum standard of physicality they must have and can they adapt to the American game? It’s a bit like the Premier League – it’s fast and furious. We want to good citizens and kids and we try to get as much information as possible.”

Are there any major differences in the foreign recruits to those from the US?

“Usually the foreign guys from professional clubs are very savvy and understand the game and they come from a culture where it is understood that every single day you are going to play or watch or listen to a coach who is going to help you.
“In our country it is getting like that and the players we are interested in are like that and have the capacity to be ‘soccer junkies’ and they love it and want to play it and want to be exposed to it and those are the guys we want on our team.”

What benefits do the US students get from mixing with international students?

“Great to be exposed to different cultures and see how they go about their business and a lot of the foreign guys are very professional. They have different approaches to the game and different off-the-field approaches and have positive habits and it’s good for my guys to see that and vice versa. The foreign guys get a kick out of learning from the Americans and appreciate the culture they come from and trying to integrate together is a blessing.”

What do the international students think of the US game?

“Sometimes they don’t know how physically demanding it is and it is taxing for them when they play more than one game a week. In America in the college season we’re playing three times a week and that is difficult to get used to initially.
“Then there’s the daily grind – it’s hard work to play, recover, play, recover, so they have to adapt to the US system.
“The substitution rules are different to Europe. So there are a lot of things that take time to get used to.”

Where you heading next?

“I’m going down to Florida to watch the national team play. They have a camp down there with the U19s and U20s.

“I’ve got one guy who is already committed and three other guys who are very interested but I cannot share their names unfortunately.”

Matt Briggs

Darren Lyons