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TSS Publishes Layers of Learning

What key skills and characteristics are required to advance in the game of soccer? What does it take to become a complete player? These are questions often asked by parents and players alike. Coaches also wrestle with these questions as they try to help players develop their abilities.

TSS Academy has made strides in helping its members and coaching staff arrive at common answers to some of these questions by publishing the TSS Layers of Learning. The Layers of Learning is a teaching model that captures all the skills and characteristics required to become a complete soccer player. By illustrating and describing these elements, TSS hopes to not only educate its players and parents, but also to create some common language around player development.

"We're very excited about publishing this model," says TSS Boys Director and former national player Carl Valentine. "We spent a good deal of time debating what these layers should be and how best to capture them. Now that it's finalized, we have a great tool to help communicate development objectives with our players and parents. It also helps us develop a more focused curriculum."

TSS makes it clear that developing these layers are not necessarily done sequentially though certain ones such as "Ball Mastery" are more important in the formative years of a soccer player. This is why certain layers form the core and build out. The model also explains that most players will possess a cross-section of layers but not necessarily possess the full spectrum of each layer. The objective for players is to strive for the full spectrum of all 6 layers.

"This model obviously does not capture every required skill," continues Valentine. "We didn't want to overload our members with information. The model is simply a concise illustration of the core areas that require development. When we speak with a common language and strive for common goals, we all benefit."

While completing this teaching model, TSS also published its vision statement and core beliefs around coaching, player development, training environment, and business practices. These beliefs are now published online along with the TSS Layers of Learning.

Ball Mastery is just that - complete mastery of the ball. This is illustrated in a player’s ability to manipulate the ball with total ease, whether it’s juggliling the ball in the air, tapping the ball behind the planting foot, dragging the sole over the top of the ball, or numberous other manipulations using either foot. A player’s ability to master the ball is the core layer in becoming a complete player. Without Ball Mastery, all other layers have little chance of developing fully.
This ability involves keeping hold of the ball and getting around or avoiding opponents.The ability to beat a player 1v1 is one form of dribbling. This is an invaluable skill that can devastate the opposition as it unbalances defenders and creates attacking opportunities. Dribbling, however, also involves getting away from opponents or simply changing one’s angle or direction in order to make a pass. This is the more common form of dribbling. A player must have the ability to keep or protect the ball by dribbling if there’s no immediate pass to be made.
This layer encompasses a variety of critical skills in the game. The ability to receive the soccer ball is one such critical skill. Often referred to as “touch”, it’s the ability to quickly get the ball under control and take it into a positive direction. This is ideally peformed with as few touches on the ball as possible - preferably one. A player must have the ability to receive the ball on the ground or in the air with different parts of the body. Striking involves any form of strike on the soccer ball whether it’s a pass, a shot on goal, or a defensive clearing. Accuracy and power are two vital qualities with this skill whether shooting on goal or making a pass.
Speed on and off the ball can be devastating to any opposition whether it’s a player’s ability to get behind the back line and run to goal or a player’s ability to recover and defend. A player, however, must also be agile, accelerating quickly and changing direction. Agility is usually measured in the first 3 steps of a player’s movement. This can often be the difference between keeping or losing possession of the ball. Lastly, a player also requires raw strength to win and keep the ball.
This layer highlights the cognitive part of the game. In essence, it’s the ability of a player to make appropriate decisions on and off the ball. A player’s success in this area is measured differently with age. For example, this ability in an older player may involve switching the ball from one side of the field to the other in order to relieve pressure. In a younger player, it may simply involve the right pass at the right time. During the course of a game, a player is continually presented with options and therefore decisons have to be made. The quality of those decisions is what ultimately reveals a player’s awareness of the game.
This layer captures key behaviours and characteritics that help propel a player’s development. Players who attend training and games with a strong desire to make themselves better are often the ones who advance at a faster rate. A player needs to be a conscious learner, listening to coaching points, and having the courage and thoughtfulness to apply what is being taught. On top of that coachability, there must exist a strong competitive spirit, a desire to want the ball, to not back down from a challenge. Players who have completed this layer are the ones who continually say to themselves: "Today, I am going to be the best player in the group."