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 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 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.