Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


I read a fascinating interview with the great Zico in The Observer (English national newspaper) this weekend.

As a boy growing up and becoming interested in soccer, Zico was one of my favourite players. A truly dynamic, impossibly skilful, imaginative forward, it transpires that Zico is an equally inspiring coach.

After spells coaching a Japan club side and then the Japan national team, Zico became coach of Turkish side Fenerbahce in 2006. Fenerbahce’s ambitious desire to become one of the top clubs in Europe doesn’t seem so far-fetched when you consider that they are in the Champions League quarter-final, going into a second leg against Chelsea already leading 2-1.

His coaching philosophy is straightforward and consists of two central principles:

1. Dialogue
2. Teaching through repetition

And unsurprisingly, he does not compromise on how he thinks the game should be played:

“There are too many defensive teams around, with players passing the ball sideways instead of going for it. I like my players to have fun and attack”

For Zico, dialogue means talking with his players rather simply than issuing instructions. He is not concerned with straitjacketing his players or imposing strict roles. Instead, he prefers to give them freedom to make their own choices and decisions. He uses dialogue to show his players their potential then gives them the freedom to go out and reach that potential for the team.

Simple training is the second central principle that Zico applies with his players. Most Brazilian coaches, and indeed most of the top coaches in world club soccer focus their attention on tactics. Zico, however, prefers to emphasize the basics:

“For me, playing football is a mechanical thing, like cleaning your teeth. You need to learn the movements and have them in your head: controlling, passing, shooting, heading, crossing… it is all about training.”

This may seem like a simplistic approach to the game at such a high level, but you can’t argue with his results.

It strikes me that Zico’s coaching philosophy is very similar to what I should be doing as a youth soccer coach. In the past I’ve struggled to make the connection between what, say, Manchester United do, and what we have to do in our own little grassroots universe.

Zico’s approach has made that connection for me and I can see that if I follow that path – dialogue combined with coaching simple core skills – our players and our team will improve and everyone, including our spectators, will have more fun.

Dwyer Scullion, publisher, Better Soccer Coaching


1 Comment so far
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The only credentials Zico has as a coach is playing in the Champions league against English opponents. As a coach what has he done to warrant this lovefest from Dwyer?

Comment by Allan Tracey

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