Cruyff disciple Todd Beane on street soccer, coaching education and the current Dutch crisis

The Dutch star Johan Cruyff had a profound impact on the soccer world as a player in the “Total Soccer” years of the 1970s and as a coach, especially while in charge of Barcelona’s “Dream Team” of the late 1980s and early 1990s, when he had great influence on Pep Guardiola.

American Todd Beane, a coach, former school teacher and former player at Dartmouth and in the USISL, co-founded the TOVO Academy & TOVO Training — “based on Total Football, played and taught by Johan Cruyff" — with his wife, Chantal Cruijff, Johan Cruyff’s daughter. Beane, who worked with Johan Cruyff for 14 years, is also senior advisor of the Johan Cruyff Insititute.

SOCCER AMERICA: Soccer without coaches — aka street soccer, cascarita, pickup games — is obviously a key ingredient in producing the greatest players. But most American coaches coach kids who don’t play outside of team training and games. How important is it that coaches try and simulate street soccer at practices?

TODD BEANE: We do not have to recreate street soccer but instead extract the very value it affords our players. That is, pick-up games develop cognition, competence and character simultaneously. We should ensure that we are doing the same in our training. If we strip the game into unrecognizable parts, we do not serve our players fully.

SA: Has over-coaching impeded American player development progress?

TODD BEANE: No, a flawed training model has. We have bought into the prevailing training paradigm that places "athleticism" over intelligence. The dominant model in the USA suggests that one hundred step-over moves will develop elite players and that has driven us down a futile path. We must replace it with a "Geo-Cognitive" paradigm that nurtures players of vision, precision and pace. When we are willing to rethink and redesign talent development our players will finally realize their full potential.

SA: If you had only a few sentences to give advice to a novice in soccer who is about to start coaching a team of 6-year-olds, what would you say?

TODD BEANE: Keep it simple. No laps, no lines no lectures. Never underestimate the intelligence of a young player. Play a lot of small-sided games to provide structured play with an abundance of goal celebrations.

SA: What’s your advice for parents of young players aspiring to play at the higher levels?

TODD BEANE: Monitor your child's sleep, study and nutrition first. Then seek out an environment that celebrates learning and fun -- pure development. Be wary of team rankings and marketing gimmicks with famous logos. If your child still loves soccer in his or her teenage year,s then try to make a pilgrimage to Europe to be inspired by a total football culture. I would choose Barcelona but again I am shamelessly biased toward Mr. Messi, Mr. Iniesta and the talent here.

SA: You’ve been a school-teacher and a coach. Can you think of something specific that coaches can learn from school teachers to help them be better coaches?

TODD BEANE: I believe that every coach should consider himself or herself an educator first. I understand the root of the word education has to do with "bringing out or forth" and that is critically important. We must bring forth that which rests within our players. Great educators understand the art and craft of maximizing a child's potential and that is where we start and finish. Our goal can be no other than to promote learning and joy, the rest will unfold as it should -- win, lose or draw.


To be honest, I prefer books on talent development and learning. I have Doug Lemov's "Practice Perfect," Ken Robinson's "The Element" and Anders Ericsson's "Peak" in my library. I am also a "Ted Talks" fan in the digital space for sourcing brilliant people with innovative viewpoints.

SA: As Dutch soccer has hit rock bottom — failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup and 2016 European Championship — U.S. Soccer has hired for key positions men from Dutch soccer: U.S. Soccer Director of Coaching Education Nico Romeijn, Coaching Educator Wim Van Zwam and U.S. Soccer Development Academy Director Aloys Wijnker. One could conclude that this is the wrong time for Americans to look for Dutch guidance. Your opinion?

TODD BEANE: My wife is Dutch so I better not comment if I plan to remain married for a lifetime. Perhaps these good people you mention in a flawed system will find it frustrating. Having worked with Johan Cruyff for 14 years what I can tell you is that the Dutch system is not synonymous with what we do here in Barcelona. I can only wish Nico and his team well as it is in our collective best interest that U.S. Soccer succeed. We can either bicker or be better and I prefer to work toward improvement in my home country with intelligent and positive people. Let's hope we can all sort this out soon.

Johan Cruyff and Todd Beane

SA: The infatuation of Dutch soccer and aims to emulate it seemed to make some sense when one thinks of the Total Soccer years of the Cruyff era, or even perhaps from the Gullit-Van Basten era. Is the current Dutch school of coaching different now?

TODD BEANE: The Dutch are in crisis and they know it. Having said that, I would not try to emulate Dutch, English, or even Icelandic soccer, to be honest. What I would do is redefine our U.S. vision by building a new capacity to be intelligent and courageous in our play. We have produced some of the world's most creative artists and innovators, why do we settle for less in soccer?

SA: Based on your experience (I believe you have a USSF A license) how would you rate coaching education in the USA?

TODD BEANE: I completed my "A" license many moons ago and to be transparent I have not returned since I answered Sigi Schmid's test questions. What I would say is that getting a certificate does not guarantee mastery. To get a degree, we must pass a test; to hone our craft we must commit to lifelong learning. Much of what is taught now I may not agree with it, but that is the beauty of diverse schools of thought. I have spent many years defining the TOVO training program, so I am fully committed to training coaches in our methodology while respecting the Federation's approach.

SA: Any Johan Cruyff anecdotes you’d like to share?

TODD BEANE: You know sometimes it is easy to forget that famous people are fathers and grandfathers first. What we miss most is our "Opa Johan." Chantal, my wife, misses his hugs and comforting conversations. The grandchildren miss his silly jokes and playing in the yard with him. There are so many football anecdotes that I will cherish as a professional educator, but I miss most biking into town together to get the rotisserie chicken for family picnics.

[Note: Cruyff died in March of 2016]

SA: With so much soccer on TV, what do you try hard not to miss?

TODD BEANE: I pay attention to teams more than leagues. I live here in Catalonia, so I watch FC Barcelona religiously. I respect Pep Guardiola and his approach tremendously so Manchester City is now on my list. When we return to Lake Tahoe with the family, we watch the U.S. women's team.

SA: Anything else you would like to add?

TODD BEANE: I guess my hope in the end is that we spend time engaging in a positive and powerful dialogue about talent development. There are so many remarkable people in youth soccer as well as so many great minds beyond soccer that have something to offer us. If we can harness innovation and apply it to our training programs then we will do right by our kids. Of that I am most certain.

8 comments about "Cruyff disciple Todd Beane on street soccer, coaching education and the current Dutch crisis".
  1. Bob Ashpole, November 15, 2017 at 3:09 a.m.

    Great interview. Coach Beane is someone I would like to hear more from. 

    What I find fascinating about Cruyff and Guardiola is that as coaches they successfully applied Dutch Style principles to clubs in Spain and Germany. Innovation is uncommon. There has to be a lesson there for USSF and US coaches. 

  2. Michael Canny, November 15, 2017 at 8:22 a.m.

    I love it! "Monitor your child's sleep, study and nutrition first."  Yes, a coach IS an educator, who can have a profound effect on a young athlete. This is all too rare--a coach who puts  young players' health and future ahead of the game. We need more like him. Thank You, Mr. Beane.

  3. frank schoon replied, November 15, 2017 at 9:33 a.m.

    Michael,"Monitor your child's sleep, study and nutrition first." You should do that regardless whether he plays sports or not....

  4. frank schoon, November 15, 2017 at 9:54 a.m.

    "We do not have to recreate street soccer but instead extract the very value it affords our players". EXACTLY. This is what I've been saying , we should make a study of street soccer, PICKUP GAMES, and take those "ELEMENTS" of it which made street soccer players so skillful and applied it to todays kids. Again the words" STREET SOCCER/PICKUP GAMES" seems to be brought up when it comes to developing players. I hope the USSF will start begin to talk about it, especially with the new president, stress it, educate those involved in soccer at all levels. We need to establish a subculture for PICKUP GAMES.The USSF coaching school should put it as another aspect to further the development of a youth player. As Bob Ashpole so aptly puts it in his example practicing with a music instrument and the extra hours applied(street soccer)to better oneself. There is no short cut to improving one's skills.

  5. don Lamb replied, November 15, 2017 at 10:06 a.m.

    Yes, and good coaching is vital to acheiving this. I won't name names, but some here are adament that coaching is horrible, and that the only way for players to develop is on their own away from ANY sort of structure. There is a more efficient way, and good coaches can create that environment while also teaching principles of the game that translate to the higher levels. When we talk about "street soccer" it should not be this literal vision of kids playing barefoot in the streets.

  6. Bob Ashpole replied, November 15, 2017 at 11 p.m.

    Don Lamb, I agree with you, good feedback is necessary for optimal development. Development requires both playing and training opportunities. There is, however, a misconception that no coaching occurs during unorganized play. It would be a rare situation where players did not give feedback to each other. Whether the feedback is accurate and promotes development is a separate issue, but you face that same issue with coaches and organized play.

    The classic training session is structured and generally progresses from restricted movements to unrestricted play. I am a firm believer that it works well for teaching fundamentals. I believe strongly that players must have an opportunity to apply what you teach them in an unrestricted game during the session to give context to the lesson and promote long-term learning.

    This is conventional thinking, and has been for decades, but it works.

  7. frank schoon replied, November 16, 2017 at 10:02 p.m.

    Bob, exactly, coaching and learning comes from playing with mixed ages. I learned from the older boys, the various tricks and insights of the game. The older I got the more older boys  I played with and the more sophisticated knowledge about the game I learned. It is that simple

  8. beautiful game, November 16, 2017 at 9:37 p.m.

    Terrific interview. This interview should be part of all coaching seminars and repeated every year. Perhaps some coaches will be able to understand the inter-moving parts and the ingredients of a budding soccer player.

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