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The Key Ingredient: Chemistry


After 5 games of the 2014 World Cup, there’s no denying the individual talent that has been amassed on teams like Brazil & Spain. However, while the quality of players is similar to the last World Cup tournament, it’s obvious that there is a lack of chemistry on both of these teams.

What we’ve witnessed so far happens at every level of sports: Coaches look for top TALENT and ignore player relationships and CHEMISTRY.

Chemistry First

Assembling the best team of individuals available to create the best team possible is more like assembling a baking recipe than it is a puzzle. There is no one right answer, but there is certainly a best possible combination. To get to there though, coaches must consider every player individually, and look at their relationships with other players on the team first.

When compiling the best possible team, coaches should interview each of the most talented players on the squad to see who they’re friends with and who they LIKE playing with.

Ajax in Amsterdam, Holland is recognized worldwide for being the absolute best developer of soccer talent.   Many of the Dutch youth football programs like Ajax teach a style of soccer called Total Football” that teaches “spatial awareness”.  They train players individually using the Coever Method, and identify potential members of the youth development programs using a tool that Ajax calls TIPS.


Tips stands for

  • Technique
  • Insight
  • Personality
  • Speed

It’s understood in the Netherlands that team CHEMISTRY is so important to the forming of teams, that AJAX – the recognized premier developer of soccer talent in the world – and programs like it consider PERSONALITY to be one of the top 4 traits to determine if a player should be allowed to participate in it’s development program.

1 vs 11

Soccer’s a team sport.  At no time should any one player EVER expect to have to do everything themselves.  Contradictory to that though, I’ve heard many coaches over the decades put all of the pressure on one player to score.  “Jay, I need you to score.” 

Putting all of that pressure on one player is essentially setting him up for failure, as no player by himself can win against a team.  It also makes everyone else on the team feel insignificant.

If Jay can do it all by himself, why is anyone else even there?

Now, with all of that pressure, Jay feels that no one BUT HIM is even qualified to handle the ball.  Therefore, Jay tries to win the ball in the middle (where competition for the ball is lightest), and attempt to dribble the field. He ends up leaving the game exhausted, feeling like a failure because he couldn’t do all that the coach and every other player on the team believed he could do – score all by himself.

Player Environment

At every level, soccer is a passing, trapping and moving game.  No one player can do it themselves, ut being part of a team is more than just passing and moving.  Soccer athletes are people who are full of emotion, ideas and desire.  So, if soccer players are people, and people like working & playing with people they like, shouldn’t one of the key ingredients to putting a great team together be individual personality and TEAM CHEMISTRY?


About Author

Mike Slatton is a 2nd generation American youth soccer coach since 1984, and the son of one of the nation's first female licensed youth soccer coaches (Anita Slatton, 1979). He's also a professional soccer scout, a player since 1977, and the father of three adult and teenage children who all play or have played the game. "My job as a youth soccer coach is to develop detail oriented problem solvers who can react quickly under pressure. This relates to life - not just soccer."

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