What is Dutch Coaching/Total Soccer?

Dutch Coaching or Total Soccer is a coaching method that uses small-sided games as a method of teaching players to be well rounded to fill any position on the field. This style of coaching uses the theory of tactical soccer in which any player can play any position, thus when a player moves out of their position, they are then replaced by another player to retain the team’s organizational structure. When a player moves out of their position, they create space for another, which opens up many opportunities for the team. With Total Soccer, no player is fixed to a specific role; each player can be successful as an attacker, midfielder or defender.

The success of this theory depends on the adaptability of each player on the team, in particular their ability to quickly change positions depending on the situation. The theory requires players to be comfortable in all positions; therefore it puts high technical and physical demands on them.

This style of coaching was first introduced in the 1970s by the Dutch under the coach Rinus Michels. It was his style of coaching that is now called, Total Soccer. Michels played and coached for AJAX, Amsterdam and the Netherlands National Team. And in the 1970s, the Dutch had some of the best teams in the world.  Michels was formally recognized for his contribution to coaching in 1999 when FIFA named him ‘Coach of the Century’.

After Michels, others such as Stefan Kovacs and Johan Cruyff made many contributions to this style of coaching. Cruyff would be the most well known player who played with this mentality. He was positioned as a center forward, but would wander around the field, doing what he could to help his team. As a result, Cruyff’s teammates adapted themselves around his movements, regularly switching positions so that the tactical roles in the team were always filled.