One of the things I enjoy the most about leveling engineers or building teams is finding inspiration in the most random places. For example, I once used a book for kindergarten teachers to find activities to start the retrospective with to get everyone in a good mood.

In today’s blog post, we will look at the Wiel Coerver training method. He was a football trainer that was ahead of his time and revolutionized how football players are trained. His principles can be applied outside of football and that is how we are going to apply them to leveling our engineers.

The Wiel Coerver method

What do you need to be a good football player? If you ask 10 experts you might get 10 different answers. But what is one skill that everyone needs to master no matter in what position they play and what their style is? Controlling the ball.

Wiel discovered that during most practice players take the time spent on controlling the ball is low. How can you improve in controlling the ball, if you spend most of your time without a ball doing exercises on tactics, positioning, etc?

If I look back at my own (very modest) amateur football career. I spend most of my pieces of training not actively controlling a ball. You were either waiting on instructions, doing a positioning practice, or simply waiting your turn to shoot/pass/etc. And from a traditional view that makes sense. You have 22 players on the pitch and only one ball.

leveling engineers with Wiel Coerver
Wiel Coerver after winning the UEFA cup with Feyenoord in 1974

Wiel developed a training method where players do exercises where they spend most of their time controlling a ball. His reasoning was that players should focus on laying their foundation first, before moving to other areas to improve in.

At the time this revolutionized football practice! Players got more practice time on the important skills. And while he was way ahead of his time, several of his adepts applied his philosophy to big clubs like Manchester United and Liverpool in the current age.

Applying it to leveling engineers

But how can we apply to control of a ball to leveling engineers?

If we look at the principles of Wiel Coerver’s ideas we can apply them as follows to any subject:

  • Make sure you lay a solid foundation before you stack any other skills on top
  • Find a (different) way to spend more time on a specific skill to learn to master it
  • Take a critical look at improvement plans, and see what can be changed to have your engineers have more quality time on a specific skill.

As a manager, you can tailor leveling engineers to their personal goals. Did an engineer state he would like to be better at software architecture? Make sure your engineer gets into projects where he spends enough time doing actual architecture. You can apply this to any personal goal. Leading projects? Write higher quality code?

In leveling engineers with the goldilocks rule I write how giving engineers tasks just outside their current skillset can motivate them to grow. This is a concept that can be combined with Coerver’s training method.


Wiel Coerver revolutionized football training. He focussed on laying an important foundation and changing the exercises to make sure everyone spends as much time as possible mastering the most important skill.

Applying this to leveling engineers we can help our engineers lay the foundation, find ways to spend more time on a specific skill, and critically evaluate how we are currently doing our personal development plans.

What do you think about Wiel Coerver’s method, and have you ever applied something from a different area to your work? Let me know in the comments.

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