“This book isn’t about soccer technique. This book is about soccer decisions that take place during the course of a match. These concepts are in no particular order. All of them are important and any one of them could provide your team with the margin of victory. Mostly, this book is a collection of soccer nuggets. The value of each nugget can be big enough to win a game or even a national championship, but conceptually they are very basic.” (Soccer IQ – p1-2)
Title: Soccer IQ
Author: Dan Blank
Publisher: Dan Blank
Publication Date: 2012
Origin: I’m fairly certain I became aware of Soccer IQ via Amazon’s recommendation engine, after I’d added another soccer book to my cart. I saw the tagline/description, “Things that smart players do” and thought, “Sure, why not.” And boy, I’m glad I added it to my order.
Summary: In Soccer IQ, Dan Blank (a college coach in the US) presents 54 (!) lessons and tips that every player and coach should know. These lessons are incredibly diverse, to the point that I’m not even going to try to summarize them. Suffice to say that all facets of the game are covered.
The lessons are short and specific, and as a consequence are easily understandable. Each is explained with great clarity, including the ever-important “why” (as in, why this tidbit matters), and Blank includes a Note for Coaches component in each one. Where the lesson is something that can be drilled during practice, he includes helpful diagrams and instructions (but make no mistake: Soccer IQ is not a drills book).
As Blank says, “This book isn’t about soccer technique. This book is about soccer decisions that take place during the course of a match. These concepts are in no particular order. All of them are important and any one of them could provide your team with the margin of victory. Mostly, this book is a collection of soccer nuggets. The value of each nugget can be big enough to win a game or even a national championship, but conceptually they are very basic.” (p1-2)
My Take: As I said in a recent tweet, “Soccer IQ is easily the best soccer tips and tactics book I’ve read.”
I’ve played soccer since I was four years old, but it is only post-university that I really became aware of the true complexity of the game and its nuances. I founded a soccer club that has gone on to win something like 15 local league titles, competing in very competitive leagues. Over the years, I’ve figured some things out on my own, and researched others, and I’ve been confused, surprised, and dismayed that many elite level players (in terms of technical ability) seem to have a poor grasp of things that are now obvious to me. For instance, screaming for the ball when you’re a terrible or impossible option – that is not productive in any way. Taking shots from 30 yards out – those are turnovers.
In Soccer IQ, Blank has captured lessons from his decades of coaching and exposure to the game and presented, very clearly, things that every player should know, but most players don’t.
In Blank’s words, “I’ve been coaching college soccer for more than 20 years and I’m amazed at how many players advance to the collegiate level without a mastery of these rudimentary concepts. They appear to be nothing more than common sense. But trust me, there is nothing common about the player who understands these concepts and consistently applies them during the run of play.” (p1-2)
I also recognize that my own technical and athletic capabilities are limited and I don’t have time to really advance in either respect; consequently, whatever decision-making and mental edges I can get, I will gladly take!
And that’s where Soccer IQ comes into play. These are knowledge-based lessons that aren’t dependent on a player’s shuttle-run time, or how much weight the can squat…they’re all about building a player’s soccer intelligence, and so can be understood and applied by any player, at any level.
Read This Book If: If you play or coach soccer, or even if you just want to better understand what you see on the television.
Notes and Quotes:
Note: due to the sheer diversity of the lessons in Soccer IQ, and their already quite-summarized nature, I’m not going to do my normal notes and quotes thing; instead, I’ll just highlight some of the lessons that I personally found particularly interesting.
- The Holy Grail: emphasizes why speed of play is so important. I loved this piece of simplicity: “It will also behoove you to understand soccer’s speed ladder: Slowest – A player dribbling the ball while making lateral movements and fakes; Slow – A player running with the ball, straight ahead, at top speed; Faster – a player running without the ball; Fastest – a moving ball.” (p4)
- Play from a Spot: the importance of gaining full control before making your next action. Seems obvious, right? Well, during your next game, watch how many times players don’t follow this simple rule, and see how lousy the results are when they don’t.
- The Impossible Pass: goodness, I wish certain players understood this. I don’t care how good you are, or how open you think you are, if it is simply not possible for the ball-carrier to get the ball to you, then don’t ask for (or demand!) the ball.
- The Toe Poke: as a player who loves futsal, I’m just happy to see the toe-poke get its due. We won a game the other day because I toe-poked a shot that caught the keeper by surprise, and the rebound (Hunting Rebounds) fell right to one of our players, who tapped it in as time expired.
- Don’t Turn Into Pressure: I call this “defending yourself”, and I just don’t understand it. You’ve got the ball, you’re fine, and then you run straight into a wall of defenders, or you corner yourself. Why?
- Quick Restarts: We iced a cup championship last season when our fast-thinking forward restarted play and tapped it to our uncovered midfielder, who then calmly beat the unprepared keeper…to go up 3-1 with a few minutes left. All this happened while a defender was still pulling up his socks after making a poorly-timed tackle. I watched the play unfold and felt complete appreciation for the mental sharpness of both our players.
- The Pre-Fake: Buy yourself a little bit of time when you’re about to receive a pass by throwing in a tiny little feint. I suck at this, and I envy those players who just do it as a matter of unconscious habit, as they always have an extra second or two, and an extra couple of yards of space, to execute the next play.
- Turning the Corner: Perhaps the single biggest lesson I’ve taken and tried to apply, as I find myself running down the wing with the ball fairly frequently: “This chapter is about a single touch – one simple yet critical touch that will often determine whether or not your team generates a scoring chance. I’m referring to a player in a wide position, typically a winger in a 4-3-3, who has the ball and has gotten one step behind the outside back. Her next touch decides everything. And in that critical moment, too many players just plain blow it. If the attacker’s next touch is angled at the goal, the attacker gets between the defender and the goal, effectively eliminating the defender. The angled touch forces the defender to make a very difficult choice: surrender or foul. However, if the touch is straight ahead, the attacker won’t seal off the defender and the defender has an angle to recover. The amount of players who will take that touch straight ahead is astonishing.” (p76)