MOUNT DESERT — When Michael Curless took up soccer at 9 years old, he did so because he found joy in playing the game. He wants to help parents and coaches, especially parent coaches, cultivate that same joy with his newly published book, “Coaching Positional Soccer: Perfecting Tactics and Skills.”
Over the last three years, Curless, who founded Acadia Fire Fútbol Club/Soccer Academy, has put together what one reader described, “as comprehensive a soccer book as you’ll ever find.”
“The book is good for all ages – from 5 year olds to adults,” wrote Curless in an email to the Islander about the more than 400-page book. “The drills can be made easier or harder depending on the players’ abilities. There are over 150 diagrams and over 70 illustrations that help describe the drills and exercises.
“It’s breaking soccer down into different learning chunks. The bulk of the book has a lot of practice plans.”
Yet to be available at local bookstores, the book can be ordered on Amazon, where it has been ranked as one of the top-selling soccer coaching books since its release, as well as Barnes and Noble, Bookshop, BAM! and Meyer & Meyer Sport.
“I wrote the book that I wished I had had when I first started coaching,” Curless explained. “When I was writing the book, I imagined I was writing to a 30-ish-year-old parent that volunteered to coach but had no idea where to start. This book was written for that parent as well as seasoned coaches looking to expand their understanding of the game and ways to improve their team and players.”
Much of the content was based on the 12 years Curless spent as head of Acadia Fire Soccer Academy, which he handed off about three years ago, and comes from his own developmental years in the game.
“Soccer was overwhelmingly exciting and enthralling from the first touch of the ball at my first practice,” said Curless, who played on a professional development soccer team in Austria at 16 years old. “Later, I met some famous soccer players like George Best, Johann Cruyff and Pele that further grew my interest.”
As he finished high school, Curless was offered scholarships by several California colleges to play on their soccer teams, but he opted to go overseas and play professionally.
“I wanted to live and play somewhere where soccer was taken more seriously,” he said. “I grew up watching a show on PBS called ‘Soccer Made in Germany’ that broadcasted a soccer game every week from former West Germany. I always idealized German soccer teams, so after high school, I went to Germany and played fifth division (professional soccer).
“The next year I went to France and played fourth division. I was invited to try out for a second division team in France when I returned home to go to college.”
Although he was recruited by several American colleges to play, Curless decided to retire from the game at the age of 20 and focus on earning a degree.
“If you throw everything into one thing, you can get a little off balance,” he explained about his relationship with the game as a young adult. Then, once he began coaching again in his 30s, Curless had an epiphany. “Soccer didn’t have to be so full of pressure. It was quite a journey to get that insight. I realized, we can coach differently.”
When he launched Acadia Fire FC Soccer Academy after coaching through Harbor House Community Services in Southwest Harbor, Curless wanted to make the game fun, focus on coaching kids respectfully and not using shame, guilt or anger to motivate players. And, importantly, he wanted to focus on skill development and creative tactics.
“That ideology brought a lot of success to the club,” he said in a conversation with the Islander. “We won everything.”
In 2018, Curless was awarded Soccer Maine’s Premier Coach of the Year. “I took three teams to the state cup finals and two of them won so they had to give it to me,” he said in jest.
“The drills and teaching techniques that are in the book were developed while coaching at AFFC,” he said. “I would ask coaches the question, should we ever repeat a practice? And my answer to them was ‘no’ since we should always be looking for ways to make our coaching better.
“This constant reevaluation of my coaching led to consistent improvement over time in my approach to coaching and the development of the drills in the book.”
To find out more or to order a copy of the book, go to coachingpositionalsoccer.com.