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Application of the TOVO methodology to club and high school programs

As part of my continuing coaching education, I am constantly investigating ideas and methods that are used in successful programs. When attending the national coaching convention in January, I attended a talk by Todd Beane of the TOVO institute. I had been following Todd on social media after seeing his name pop up in several different places. You can go to his web site ( to find out more about him and his story – it is very interesting.

As a result of attending the talk, I did a deeper dive on the TOVO methodology and ended up taking the online V1 course over the summer. What I have embraced about TOVO is the clear language and model that is used to describe the foundation of the game. In the end, soccer is very simple and I think as coaches, we can make it overly complex. I admit to consuming a lot of coaching material over the years, with varying philosophies on how the game should be trained and played. For me, TOVO has provided clarity in thought and expression through its definition of terms and methods.

Over the last month, I added some of the TOVO prescribed activities and ideas into my club sessions to see how adaptable it is to our younger player development.

I like the results that I’ve been seeing and I think it’s time to take the next step.

Starting this month, we have begun adding elements of the TOVO methodology as part of our player development model for UC Premier. I will also be using TOVO as part of our program at Mountain House High School.

I wrote the FAQ (below) for our club coaches to outline our application of TOVO. I also updated our session plan template to include the principles of play from TOVO that we will promote in our sessions. We are already seeing positive results from our young players in training sessions and games


What is the TOVO methodology?

The TOVO methodology was developed by Todd Beane of the TOVO Institute. TOVO (short for “total football” in Dutch) leans heavily on the methods and teachings of Johann Cruyff, famous player and coach of Barcelona and the Dutch National Team. TOVO seeks to define the characteristics of ideal footballers and a set of prescriptive techniques for player development. Underlying TOVO is a philosophy in which the cognitive (thinking) aspects of the player within the game are used as a basis for the development of the player. The use of rondos (non-directional games), positional-play games, training games, and individualized skill development activities are part of the TOVO method.

Why adopt TOVO versus other methods such as US Soccer Federation material?

In my experience, TOVO is somewhat unique in that it provides a simple foundation for player development which can be applied to a variety of environments such as US Soccer Federation game models. TOVO provides a concise and clear language and set of ideas that can be used as the basis for more complex environments and activities. In short, TOVO can be scaled up or down based on the phase of player development. New activities and exercises can be developed by expanding upon the TOVO philosophy. It should be noted that TOVO identifies a relatively small portfolio of training exercises with a goal of minimizing the amount of time teaching players new activities and focusing on the details of player cognition and execution.

TOVO also represents a modern view of the game. The use of positional play at higher levels has been used successfully in professional soccer. Manchester United, Barcelona, and Ajax are representative of teams that have applied TOVO-like methods. The style of these teams is recognized to be both attractive and creative – attributes that we would like to associate with our program.

Where does technical (skills) development fit into the TOVO methodology?

From a purist standpoint, TOVO views technical development as a positive side-effect of working within the TOVO prescribed activities. In other words, players are considered to be naturally challenged within a TOVO practice and as a result, will naturally improve their quality in response. TOVO identifies “I-Skills” (individual and isolated skills development) as a footnote within the training method.

When working with younger players who often lack the basic correct techniques required to execute the advanced TOVO activities successfully, we need to carefully consider the balance between TOVO and more traditional methods of player development.

My preference is generally to limit the amount of unopposed technical development we perform in training sessions. An example of an unopposed activity is the traditional dribble-through-cone-weave. There are important considerations when working unopposed:

  • How applicable is the activity to the game?
  • Are the repetitions providing different challenges each time?
  • What is the ball-to-player ratio?
  • What is the work-to-rest ratio? In other words, are players mostly standing around in lines or participating?
  • What is the coach-to-player ratio? In other words, are we giving enough attention to each player to provide feedback and corrections?
  • Are the players providing a game-appropriate work rate, or are they going through the motions?

When providing opposition (for example, a defender or a time-limit), we can condition the opposition to limit the challenge. For example, we may have two defenders link arms or use “crab defenders” (must move from a crab position) or tell the defenders they can only take two steps, etc.

It is also important to note that TOVO, as implemented through the various small-sided activities, does not address the technical requirements of shooting/finishing or longer distance passing/crossing/clearances/receiving. Although TOVO does define larger sided training games, for example, 8v8, the execution of these techniques is limited and cannot be predicted or isolated. In order to provide a rounded development plan for both younger and older players, the TOVO activities should be supported with both unopposed and opposed activities that focus on the execution of the larger-space technical elements.

In summary, we will need to integrate isolated skills development, opposed and unopposed, into our training plans.

How we will we adopt TOVO methods into our training plans?

We have been executing some simple TOVO-based activities in our practices over the last month through the weekly session plans. These include rondos and positional-play activities. By exposing our coaching staff to a fuller understanding of the methods and philosophy, we can hopefully develop consistency in our communication with the players and clarify our priorities in training sessions and games. We can also use TOVO as a “filter” for evaluating our execution within training sessions and games.

How does TOVO relate to the 7v7/9v9 curriculum published earlier this year?

Many of the ideas in the curriculum correspond to the TOVO methodology, using slightly different words and terms. Other elements of TOVO can be used in support of the curriculum. At some later point, we will update the curriculum to integrate the TOVO methodology more explicitly. For now, we are presenting TOVO separately, for clarity.

Where can I find out more about TOVO?

The TOVO Institute provides both online and on-site courses in the TOVO methodology. The information that we will be using is based on material from the V1 online course that I took over the summer.

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