What is Soccer Awareness?

Wayne Harrison; founder and owner; created the “Soccer Awareness” concept in 1996. 

Soccer Awareness develops BOTH coaches and players and educates parents

“The ultimate goal in coaching is helping each player develop his or her talents and abilities to the fullest. With this in mind, we created this Unique Soccer Awareness philosophy of developmental coaching and training. It simply means training the mind before the body.” - Wayne Harrison

Mission of Soccer Awareness

To teach Coaches how to develop self-thinking players and to then empower players to make their own decisions and think for themselves.

To create the “Thinking Player” for soccer development.

To Educate Parents in a better understanding of the game of soccer.

Vision of Soccer Awareness

Soccer Awareness will provide coaches, players and parents an overall educating program based on the five fundamental principles:

  1. Developing Coaches with a clear vision of development with a particular methodology of encouragement and a player driven mentality
  2. Creating a Culture for players for self-belief both as an individual and a team player
  3. Allowing Personal player self-expression within the team framework set by the coach
  4. Finding a path to the players personal and / or professional goals
  5. Ultimately promoting a winning culture
  6. Parental education to help them understand soccer and therefore support their children in a more educated way

Goals of Soccer Awareness 

  • To create a love for the game in all players
  • To keep the game FUN and Enjoyable; to foster an Innate desire to play
  • To teach players a Global Mentality for soccer development
  • To initially teach Individual development before team development
  • Where team play development becomes an extension to individual develop and the two combine and compliment.
  • To teach players to ALWAYS be in position to receive the ball
  • To teach players to think, to move, and to pass more quickly, to make accurate; faster and more successful decisions with One Touch Training being the building block for training this mental development
  • To teach players to make the correct decisions as to when to play one touch, play two touches, to run with the ball, dribble the ball, pass the ball, and head the ball, cross the ball; shoot the ball; all at the right moments.
  • To teach players to develop the right Winning Mentality
  • To teach players free flowing Movements for a Dynamic TEAM style of play within a particular framework.
  • To provide the best support and education for players to be able to excel at College and Professional level 
  • Soccer Awareness Coaching Programs from a team concept work well with all systems of play; and especially the 4-2-3-1 method of playing which requires an immense amount of imagination of movement and thought in the way the units of players interchange and transition.. 
  • Books and DVDs are provided to teach this system of play as well as firsthand experience from coaching symposiums on the theme.

Soccer Awareness Development for Players:

“Soccer Awareness” ideal originated from the identification of the most important things to teach players. 

Wayne looked beyond the technical process; and wanted to get INSIDE the head of the player first.

Thus the “Thinking Process” of a player became the focus, developing ways to teach awareness of space, time, movement and transition, significantly BEFORE the player received the ball.

Own Playing Days:

He drew from his own experience as a player knowing if he had more of this innate “Soccer-Awareness” ability he would have been a far better professional player. 

Now and the Future of the Game:

Soccer Awareness training is needed now MORE than ever before. It's influence on the game will continue to grow and grow; as the game gets faster and faster both in thinking and movement of the player and the ball.

The Thinking Process:

Therefore, players MUST think, move, pass, position, and transition MUCH more quickly and have the ultimate ability to make much quicker and more accurate decisions than before; thus using fewer touches on the ball.

Soccer Awareness within this model of speed of play also develops SELF THINKING players who are not coach driven / commanded; but “coach guided”. 

Making Mistakes:

Within this method of teaching players are allowed to make mistakes without criticism; and rather; encouraged / guided to learn from these mistakes to improve themselves.
Soccer Awareness training is a very positive experience for all Coaches and players alike. 

Coaches and Players: A Two Way Process

To be successful and produce the best players possible; the coach and player must have a two-way relationship; that in time is led more by the player than the coach, which perhaps is a rather new concept to the game of today. 

This must be the way forward in coach and player education.

Soccer Awareness Development for Coaches:

Coaches are taught to understand the needs of players and to create a player self-thinking environment for the players to learn in.

Players empowered by coaches to self-determine on the field, also encouraged to offer OWN opinions and thoughts; even (especially) from as young as 7 years old.

Players “guided” by coaches; not told; as to what to do. Players decide for themselves, the when, where; how and why they do things on the field; what soccer awareness identifies as the SKILL FACTOR of technical development.

Produces; in time, much more soccer Intelligent; self-confident, self-determining and successful players than all other coaching styles combined.

The coaching method should be one of teaching / guiding / helping the players to think for themselves and be encouraged to make their own decisions from as young an age as possible; so the question and answer and guided discovery styles are best.

The game is about players, not coaches, and games should be based on player decision making.

Coaches set the team play framework; the players decide what to do within that framework.

As coaches we are trying to make ourselves redundant to some extent so players need us less and less as they improve their decision making.

The coach has the great responsibility to develop this decision making aspect of learning with players as well as the technical and tactical skills they teach.

A Continuums Development Model to explain how Soccer Awareness works

Development Coaching for Thoughts and Actions

A player; parent and coaches guide on Soccer Awareness Continuums of development using ONE touch play to train the mind

  1. A logical order of assessment for development of the player
  2. Stages of thought (psychological) processes combining with technical; skill; tactical and physical
  3. Determining quick thinking and quick play and emphasizes ONE TOUCH TRAINING to train the mind
  4. Combinations of thought and execution on and off the ball
  5. Associated Words: look; communicate; position; control; technique; skill; mobility; transition

LOOK / OBSERVE: Look is a psychological aspect (because it is in the thinking and identifying options phase of the continuum); and it can be a tactical aspect (but still in the mind, not the end product and thus the tactical decision), determining the best tactical solution for the next phase of play by observing what is around them (own players, opponents and where the space is).

SKILL: The term skill refers to an ability to select and implement an appropriate and effective response from a range of possibilities. In other words, a skilled player knows “what to do” and “where to do it” and represents the execution of the technique.

Skill has psychological; technical, physical and tactical aspects of the continuum, psychological through thinking about the best option available preferably in advance of the ball; technical in terms of the technique of the player with the ball, physical in terms of the actual body involvement and tactical as in the end product, being keeping possession by good decision making and picking one of the best options available.

This is the end product of the technical part of this process.

This can be a one or two touch pass (or more touches if the need is there), a dribble, perhaps a 1 v 1 confrontation; a turn, a cross, a shot or a run with the ball.

What is the best option at that moment in time (or combinations of any of these)?            

COMMUNICATE:  Communicate is a psychological aspect, the same as the “look” in terms of the thinking and identifying options phase of the continuum, the passing player communicates with the receiver, the player on the ball (receiver) has seen what he or she needs to do, they communicate this to their teammates, and / or, the teammates off the ball have seen what options there are, as the ball is travelling, and have communicated this to the player on the ball (or communication from both parties).            

POSITIONING: Positioning is a psychological aspect (knowing where and when to position) and a physical aspect (the actual body movement) of the continuum. It entails, foot preparation, body position and moving into space to receive. Mind and body preparation is a vital part of this ensuring the mind is prepared beforehand; and the body position is correct and prepared beforehand with the right foot preparation also and the player is in open space to receive.

CONTROL: Control is a technical aspect (first touch control) and a physical aspect (using the body) of the continuum.

TECHNIQUE: Technique is both technical and physical aspects of the continuum; and is the “how” to do it, the decision of “when and where” to make the technique work is in the next “skill” phase.  As mentioned in control, mind preparation, body position and foot preparation can affect this one way or the other.

TACTICAL MOBILITY:  After the ball has been technically received and the skill has been implemented, what does the player now do? Now we are considering the ensuing positioning of the player “off the ball”.           

Mobility (movement) is certainly psychological (as they have to think about where they need to go next in the phase of play for movement OFF the ball to be of best use to the team); but also physical as it is a physical motion; and it can also be a tactical aspect as the player needs to know “where” to move to in a tactical sense.

MENTAL TRANSITION: Transition is psychological first, the player has to want to do it and think about where they need to do it, and physical as it is a physical motion.

When transition is mentioned in these continuum’s it is always in the “positive sense” meaning the player works hard to win the ball back after losing it; and there will be levels of this that the coach has to identify with each player, as some players work harder than others in this particular facet of the game. This can apply to teammates off the ball also (see below). 


To make all this work, the other players “off the ball” must be in tune with what the player “on the ball” is trying to do and must move to help them and it must be done in both the terms of communication and field positioning.

If this does not happen then all the good work of the player on the ball may be wasted because there is no one open to play to in the next phase of play; or the player on the ball may be forced into making an individual move or play until a support opportunity from a teammate opens up. 

You can equate the aspects of “mobility”; “transition” to “off the ball” player’s also.

Therefore the main components in improvement required are:

  1. Observation BEFORE receiving the ball
  2. Body and foot preparation BEFORE receiving the ball
  3. Developing Two – Way Communication BEFORE receiving the ball
  4. Identifying options resulting in successful decision making BEFORE receiving the ball
  5. Maintaining possession through these factors
  6. Teaching Movement Off the ball
  7. Developing successful Mind transition when the ball changes hands

The decision making thought process of the player about to receive the ball at any one moment is as follows:

  1. Observe where the ball is coming from.
  2. Observe how the ball is coming (on the ground, in the air).
  3. Know where teammates are before receiving the ball. 
  4. Know where the opposition players are before receiving the ball.
  5. Before the ball arrives, get both feet into the correct position and the body in the correct position to receive it
  6. Decide “what” to do with the ball. (technique / skill to use (emphasis on a good first touch) - pass, run, shoot, cross, dribble, dummy / leave. (What are the options?).  Narrow the list of possible outcomes from all available options.
  7. Observe “where” the ball is to be moved, passed or played. can be based on where you are on the field of play. (Assess open spaces and supporting options on the field)
  8. Decide “when” the ball goes. (The timing of the technique / skill used)
  9. Decide “how” the ball goes. (The selection of the technique / skill used)
  10. Decide “why” the ball goes. (Compare all options with the team’s tactical objectives)

From this we are trying to establish the following in the players’ make up:

  1. WHAT do they do? (The technique or skill used / what are the options to move or pass the ball depending on the position on the field of play)
  2. WHERE do they do it? (Position on the field can dictate this in the decision making process)
  3. WHEN do they do it? (The timing of the technique or skill used)
  4. HOW do they do it? (The selection of the technique or skill used)
  5. WHY do they do it?  (The tactical objective)
  6. What is the END PRODUCT? A pass, a shot, a cross, a dribble, or a turn
  7. What do they do next once the ball has left them?

(Likely move to support in the next phase or a later phase of play, getting free from a marker to be able to be a part of the development of play again)

Keep Reading: A Scientific Basis for Developing Self Thinking Players by Wayne Harrison