Avila Paradigm

Spacing, The Final Frontier

A paradigm shift away from conventional youth soccer principles has been needed for a long time because the core fundamental challenge of playing great soccer is not the mastery of skill or physical fitness, but the awareness and adjustment of ones spacing.

Scrimmage is the key. A player cannot learn the art of spacing if they don't play soccer often enough. Because it's frequency, which allows them to become "aware" of what's around them. You can not adjust your spacing if you're unaware of how much space there is. 4v4 small-sided scrimmages is a mechanism needed to encourage players to apply their own solutions.

Today, young players are only ever exposed to scrimmaging for a limited time at their weekly, formal adult-controlled soccer practices where coaches feel they should focus on just skill and fitness, or pre-designed tactics where thinking is prohibited and following instructions is the new sport ethic. Today, youth coaches specialize in training kids to execute, not to think. And there are consequences.

"It turns out that many children are like a toolbox, they have the skills and physical tools to do the job, but they just don't know how to build a goal." -Coach Eryck Avila

That's why the order of things matters. In countries that are the serial winners of the World Cup, young kids get to scrimmage a lot, and often just in the streets, but that is the perfect space, the perfect frontier. Their skill development skyrockets, but not before their tactical awareness does first–order matters. Free from adult intervention, children first play soccer, and then begin to seek out solutions in the form of skills as the game keeps presenting options to the child over and over. That's the way it's done in nature so that's how we should be doing it at the club training level, in this order:

Paradigm importance

It's not hard to help players improve their skills or physical fitness; what's really hard to teach is Soccer IQ. Skills itself is not hard, application of skill is hard.

Soccer IQ is best developed in 4v4 small-sided scrimmages, where kids learn to think. Thinking is hard to quantify and is intangible just as the game itself is fluid, especially compared to other sports which could be characterized by excessive time-outs, whistles, stoppages of play, huddles and even playbooks written by special teams coaches.

Soccer is improvisational. It requires constant adjustment. A child's brain needs to be like a NASA super computer, calculating multiple random factors instantly. And so the core thought that all great players need to develop, centers around how to adjust their spacing to exploit time and space, not just for themselves but for their teammates. It's only then that physical skills and physical fitness are meant to enhance the child's awareness and decision making.

Today, parents and coaches want to skip the intangible for concrete things they can see and measure such as improved skills or fitness, but they are skipping the "natural" order of things–they are skipping the core challenge–Spacing is that final frontier and scrimmaging is your spaceship, it's the mechanism to get your kids to the next level of performance. If we are to dominate at the international level, the Avila Paradigm is the start. Scrimmaging is key. We already have the greatest athletes in the world and they do possess world class soccer skills, the problem is we have outgrown the coaching and need a new model that trusts in the natural genius of our youth.

The Avila Theoretical Model


Small-sided scrimmages force players to develop their Scan Frequency. This should really be the first step in any player’s development. This is what happens in nature when there is no adult intervention. Kids first play soccer and then they start to seek out solutions in the form of skills. The order matters.


For many, SKILL development is the obvious first step in the development cycle for many players. But, it needs to be secondary to playing small-sided games first. Because many moves are born from situations in the game itself. As a player develops their visual perception and recognizes certain affordances that the game is giving them–they learn which skills to use and when. Without context, skills development is useless.


AWARENESS is the prerequisite to Intuition. Also known as Scan Assembly and is a crucial milestone where it’s now evident the player is able to engage in basic memory-segmented scanning. In other words, they see:

the image they are viewing live

the image they scanned a moment earlier

And can combine these two things nearly simultaneously to make plays others may not have thought possible.


Developing one’s INTUITION is the key to becoming an impact player. It’s when the player now has the experience to engage in Scan Orchestration. Which is the next level above Scan Assembly. Cognitively,  now the player is capable of Advanced Memory Segmented Scanning. Meaning they routinely combine three images simultaneously to make a great play:

the image they are viewing live

the image they scanned a moment earlier and are keeping fresh in their mind

memories of past situations like the one they are in now


To truly have a sense of PREDICTIVE MOMENTUM, the player’s intuition must extend from not just the pass sequence but throughout the entire play sequence. From when your teammate passes you the ball, you receive it, you pass it somewhere else, and you move somewhere else. It’s not just about being an expert at what to do when they receive the ball but about where to run to next to be the most efficient.


The ultimate goal is to have a high SOCCER IQ. Some people call this decision-making. It’s the tactical decisions you make. For example, how well you are engaging your teammates, adjusting your pacing of the pass, the spacing of your body, the position of your hips, and disguising your intention.