Why teach a Cruyff turn?

One of the first full training session I ever did was for a technical program. The Head Coach told me the topic was ‘How to do a Step Over’. I asked him how he wanted the ‘Step Over’ done to which he replied “You know how to do one just break it down like you do with the juggling tricks.” He never showed me what he wanted.

Sound familiar anyone?

In fact over the next few years I was asked by many different Head Coaches of various programs to coach an almost uniform set of turns & moves. Sometimes I was given no instructions and sometimes I was. Often when I was given instructions they would vary considerably from the last set of instructions I had been given. It unsettled me that if this was an important part of a player’s development then why was it all so loose.

Whenever I got into a discussion with other coaches about the right or wrong way to do a turn/move it would regularly end up with everyone agreeing that we didn’t care how it was done or what turn/move was actually used as long as it was done at the right time and it allowed a successful outcome.

A number of years ago now I started to hear Coaches talk about how showing players how to do turns/moves actually stifles their creativity. The thinking being that if you give them a list of turns/moves to master you are basically saying these are the ‘right answers’ and you should use one of these. This video says it better


This started me thinking about why is it that we teach players a set of turns and moves.

– Is it to give them a variety of turns/moves they can perform so that they can have a good solution to almost every football situation that can happen?

– Is it ‘lazy coaching’ done so the Coach or Program can point to the set of turns/moves and say they taught the player that?

– Is it necessary if I don’t care what turn/move a player does.

– Can I simply provide guidance for players to discover what turns/moves work best for them?

Like I said in the previous blog (http://t.co/3WD27Idubc ) I have been trying to use SSGs more in my coaching and recently I played Line Football (to score the players have to run the ball over the end line not shoot into a goal). I introduced a condition that the goal didn’t count if a defender could touch the player with the ball going over the end line. As a result I saw a whole variety of turns that I have not taught these players but they still did them.

My point is I feel that the players will still turn with the ball and still beat opponents in 1 v 1s whether they are coached a set of turns/moves or not so is it a good use of the training time I have with them. I doubt any of us would stop a player who has a really successful turn/move from using it because it wasn’t on the list of turns/moves we coach.

Is it detrimental for their development or am I being more efficient by focusing on coaching such things as the timing of the turn/move, how the player disguised their turn/move, did the player accelerate away to gain advantage from a successful turn/move and can the player use a turn/move to go in both directions or both sides of a defender rather than focusing on what they do and how they do it.

Although I have not spent any time teaching specific turns/moves at a training session in quite a number of years now I will help a player with a technical point of a turn/move if necessary or suggest alternatives.

As always I need to hear other Coach’s’ opinions because we all want to coach our players in the best possible manner.

Thank you to everyone who contacts me and leaves messages on the blog it is really appreciated.

Look forward to hearing from you

Please leave a comment or email me seanthecoach@icloud.com

Follow me on Twitter @SeanDArcy66

Till next time


8 thoughts on “Why teach a Cruyff turn?

  1. Hi Sean. Interesting topic. I think it can still be worthwhile teaching specific turns/moves, not so much with the goal of “these are the things to use in a game to get past an opponent”, but more that when the player has mastered just one of them, it increases their confidence in being able to learn “tricky” skills, thus increasing the likelihood that they will be open to learning a wider variety of turns etc, or even devising some of their own. Sometimes asking young players to “be inventive” is too open and is maybe too much of a blank canvas. Doing an initial bit of “paint by numbers” can help to bootstrap the learning process – kids often need to start with something concrete before expanding to a more general case.

    Hope this makes sense!



    • But like I said the players do turns and tricks without any instruction from me anyway. The games we play force them to manipulate the ball.
      However I do get your point that giving a youngster a ball and say ‘do something’ is too open.


  2. In my opinion 1v1 ball retention and domination is important in ball possession teams. From that perspective it makes sense to teach the skills. I use four situations for the feints/fakes: attacking defender head on, defender is behind, defender is level with you (beside) and defender approaching from a cover position (at the angle). I create activities or games that put the attackers in these situations therefore dictating the skills needed to be successful in a way. 1v1 moves/skills/feints aren’t about flashy Ronaldo types necessarily but it could be a CB disguising a forward pass or shifting the defender to gain the 1/2 yard to play forward (defender in front). Happy to discuss further!


    • All of what you said is right except I must still argue that if you create activities that put players in these situations why do you still need to teach them the ‘skills’ to be successful.
      We agree these are not the only ‘skills’ that will work but there is an almost endless variety of ‘skills’ that can be done.
      Surely the players will eventually find ways that work for them and these ‘skills’ might be so different that they will surprise any opponent who tries to stop them.
      As I said I agree with 1 v1s are not all about the defender being in front of the player and creating space for pass/shot is also a 1 v 1 but as I said in the blog I have not taught a turn or move or anything for years and yet the players I coach still do them.


      • Its an interesting argument…obviously a lot of variables.
        How old is your team?
        What competitive level do they play at?
        What prior knowledge do they have?

        I try to apply the same idea to other world examples: Would you ask children to write a paragraph before they knew the make up of a sentence? Would you throw your child in the pool without prior lessons or a flotation device? Would you push your child down the road on his/her new bike without training wheels?

        Its difficult to know whats best for sure and doubt it is a science but group and individual dependent.

        Do you have video of your team? It would be interesting from my end to see how they play!


      • I run a technical program at a football club so I am not running a team but coaching about 11 sessions a week in season with ages from U6 – U13. Outside of that I coach an umbrella group for players who did not quite make the local professional club’s U12/U13 Academy teams but need to be monitored by the club.
        However I am only telling you this because you asked. Not sure if what age or what level the players play at make any difference to my thinking which is the players will come up with their own solutions (skills) if you put them in the football situations often enough.
        It does show though is that I am interacting with a large number of players of varying ages and abilities on a weekly basis.
        I too have considered that these players have prior knowledge so they were taught a turn I never showed them by someone else but year on year I see U6/U7s (or other ages new to the game) manipulating the ball to solve a problem.
        I understand that no one is totally without prior knowledge (I include seeing others do ‘skills’ as prior knowledge) but I firmly believe that players will come up with their own ‘skills’ to solve the problem that will work best for them. We don’t have to give them solutions otherwise they will never come up with any.
        I suppose to use one of the examples you used before (leaving aside the opportunity for the child to get hurt) if you left a child alone with a new bike do you think they would be able to figure out how to ride it without your help or is your help essential.
        It reminds me of the old argument is a child an empty vessel that you have to fill with knowledge or is a child a potential well of knowledge that we develop from them.


      • Its interesting. I would think that perhaps learning with a parent or training wheels would speed up the process, but maybe not! Arguably some of the best players to play didn’t come up with formal instruction but they played every day. My players maybe practice 3hrs a week (1hx3)…and I would bet most don’t see the ball in between their sessions..it isn’t enough time to experiment and succeed. Its a product of the culture here and their wealth – over programmed, etc.


      • Surely if players hardly play between sessions then allowing players to experiment in your sessions is even more important.
        If we want to produce players who have that extra something different.


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