What the hell is 'technical ability'?

Technique. Technical ability. Proper technique. SUPER technical. These are all phrases I hear thrown around. In casual conversation, skills associated with 'technical players' are dribbling, first touch, and maaaaybe passing. A kid slaloming through cones super fast is a 'technical player', or the kid who can bring a ball down out of the air with the outside of their foot has 'great technique'.

I don’t believe skill was or ever will be the result of coaches. It’s a result of a love affair between child and ball.
— Roy Keane

The above quote is one I think of often in relation to developing the technical ability of my players. There's only so much I can do at training, and as a result, I have to pick my exercises and emphasis carefully. After hours and hours of rondos, my U10 and U11 boys teams can comfortably receive across their body most of the time. This is a learned technical skill.

1v1 dribbling? We've worked on some of the basics, and they are somewhat less competent, but certain players can beat their man in the right conditions.

Chesting the ball? Eh. The best players are mediocre at it.

Curving crosses around the first defender? No chance.

The longer I've been coaching, the quicker I can identify a player's technical deficiencies and strengths. One that's been made painfully obvious is that my player's lack the ability to clear the ball, to really launch it out of our penalty area and clear danger out. Partly this is because the way we train intrinsically strips them of chance to do this in training on a consistent basis.

This is where the art of coaching comes in. As it's becoming a problem, I could remedy it in 2 ways, as I see it.

  1. We could work on it in training more
  2. I could recruit players who already have this skill

The better you do with the 2nd point, player identification and recruiting, the less training time you need to dedicate to training specific technical skills.

That being said, even the pros continue to work on technique, such as this video of Marcelo Bielsa working on defensive headers with the Argentine national team. The difference between this type of work, and what most dub 'technical training' is that it is incisive. It is directly addressing a very specific moment in the game.

And the ability to identify and interpret what needs work is a key skill in coaching.