I have read a lot of interesting blogs recently referencing soft skills and hard skills. Above is a sketch I did over a year ago for my Uefa A license presentation as part of my holistic view on coaching and player development.  I referred to it somewhat ambitiously  as a “Talent Observation Model” meaning that we observe players potential over time and help them learn and develop instead of defining and labelling them as “talent” too early in their development. In my opinion the best way to create a climate of learning and motivation is by placing an emphasis on performance and creating space for the young player to develop both the soft skills and hard skills together. By doing this we are testing and developing the player’s skill level under conditions that reflect the performance environment. This more holistic approach understands that coaching doesn’t happen in isolation but takes in to account a lot of different factors, hard skills and soft skills.


Hard Skills                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Hard skills are quantifiable, easy to measure as they are related to a specific task. They can be evaluated through observation. Example: Goalkeeper kicking the ball out.

A player that has been given the opportunity to work mainly on hard skills may be very good technically but struggle to apply it in various situations that appear within the dynamic of the real game. A good example of this is the more traditional technique and passing drills that rarely encourage use of the ball using perceptual information (soft skill).

“Fostering a generation of players that through thousands of hours of repetition learn to madly and intensely stare at the ball” – Andreas Alm /Johan Fallby (Se På Spelet).

Much emphasis has been put on coaching through the medium of technique training while underestimating the role of soft skills in carrying out the technique under realistic game conditions.


Soft Skills                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

Soft skills are often associated with personal traits, emotional intelligence. Examples of Soft skills are problem solving, how players relate and communicate with each other and pattern recognition. Soft skills can be learned through interaction with peers and through trial and error.

The application of soft skills is more dynamic as it can change depending on the situation. A good example of this is the intuition to recognise goal scoring opportunities both on and off the ball in various different situations.

Development of soft skills also helps when you are confronted with an unfamiliar situation giving you the confidence to attempt to find a solution.  This helps develop the player’s flexibility to adapt.

Soft skills are very important for any long term talent development program. If encouraged by the coach they help the player develop traits such as perseverance and confidence within a safe to fail environment.


Combination of soft and hard skills                                                                                                                                                                                    

In the chaos of the game, anticipating, understanding and choosing the best solution while executing the technical skills that work best for that situation.




  1. In your opinion, do you think that coaches are feeling pressure to develop the soft skills of their “talent” players, leading them to neglect developing the fundamentals of the other players? At some point, it seems like the best way to develop “game smarts” is to put players in game situations. However, this does not always help the less developed players to build their fundamentals. Do you think this leads to the creation of somewhat fundamentally mediocre teams with only one or two excellent (and complete) players? (Hopefully my question makes sense – 🙂 )

    • Hi Justin,
      From my experience I see coaches at youth level focusing on those who can perform now. Meaning those that with some temporary advantage can perform the hard skills better. Hard skills are easy to measure and Can deceive the coach during certain periods of the players growth phase. It is important that the coach is aware of this. I have seen maturity been mistaken for ability and inability.
      1. Works with the players who are a bit behind in maturity. An excellent opportunity to work on the soft skills ie He is bigger and faster than you so you need to think faster.
      2. Not neglect the player who has gained some temporary advantage due to benn physically stronger etc. Did the player make the right decision? He dribbled past 2 players with the ball but was it with physical force or guile and technique? Should he have passed, ran in to space and demanded it back?

      3. A growth phase can also mean a temporary loss of coordination balance etc. This needs to be taken in to account.

      The pressure if you want to call it that is on the coach to work with both the Hard and soft skills in tandem. Creating situations in training that reflect the real game. Undertsanding where the young player is in development BIOPSYCHOSOCIAL.

      Before the growth phase we need to ask ourselves. Is the best way to learn a technique in 1. Isolated situation and then apply it later to the game or 2 Create an environment where the technique is developed and learned within the perceptual demands and context of the game. No 2 takes longer as it doesnt give instant results to performance but a smart patient coach who understands the learning process will see it in the long term and use it as a chance to work on the soft and hard skills together.

  2. Hi,

    I’m very interested in new training exercises about looking for space, brain centered learning, visual awareness,…
    That’s why I’m now looking for the book Se På Spele (Andreas Alm /Johan Fallby).
    Do you have any idea if it has been published in English?
    Would be a great help, thanks!
    Keep up with your nice blog!


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