Archive for the ‘General Coaching’ Category.

Training Creativity Out of Our Kids

Training skillful creative soccer players has been a passion of mine since I began coaching almost 25 years ago. There is nothing more enjoyable or rewarding than seeing young players gain confidence in their ability with the ball at their feet. I also look at this as an educational experience that extents beyond the soccer field. Nurturing kids in a environment where trial and error are rewarded and mistakes are not the end of the world produces people who are willing to try new things, take risks and innovate.

I’ve recently come a across a number of blogs and videos that discus how we are killing our kids creativity. They haven’t all been soccer related but I’ve seen connections back to coaching in many of the points that are made about traditional education.

This is the first video that came to my attention and started me thinking more about this topic.

I particularly like the story at 15:30. It’s a great lesson in the importance of finding what kids are good at and developing that rather than defining them by what they are not good at.

In coaching I believe that we kill creativity by placing too high a value on winning (in education they would say, ‘testing’). Yes, it’s a game, we want to win but how do we want to do it? We want our young players to win in a way that will help them win in the long term. Teaching them be confident on the ball, smart about where they pass it and creative in the ways they move will give them the best chance at a win-win (win today – win tomorrow).

This is a very difficult row to how in a culture where the end product is more important than the means used to achieve it. We take the zero-sum-game world we live in as adults and impose that on our children in their education (both physical and mental). Making the outcome more important than the effort means that there is nothing valuable in trying something that doesn’t work. It means that mistakes only hurt the team and should be avoided at all costs. Those costs include individual learning, developing and improving.


I know I’m not the first coach to say these things but I don’t think we can say them too often. If we coach long enough we will have the opportunity to see many players grow from young players through to their late teens. Their parents will only truly see this with their own children once. If we don’t guide the learning process for both players and parents we are missing a chance that won’t be repeated for that child.

Have a great day!

Tom

Developing Soccer Intelligence

Soccer is a ‘Player Centered’ game. The players make the decisions as the game is played. Unlike our traditional American sports of football, baseball and basketball. In those sports the players rely heavily on the coaches for direction and decision making. The coaches call the play, give the sign for a certain pitch or run an in-bounds play that the team has worked on at practice.

By contrast, soccer is a free flowing, constantly changing game where the players have to decide what to do based on where they are, where their team mates are and where the opponents are at any given moment. There are no time outs and few stoppages that allow the coach to directly effect the play. The players must have the ability to Continue reading ‘Developing Soccer Intelligence’ »

Transitioning From Indoor to Outdoor Soccer

While much of what I do during the Futsal season is intended relate to soccer in general and not just Futsal, there is still an adjustment period that my teams go through when we move from indoor to outdoor. The two areas that I focus on during the transition are recognizing and playing longer passes and finishing with a different ball, on the larger goal.

Shooting sessions to prepare the players for the different Continue reading ‘Transitioning From Indoor to Outdoor Soccer’ »

Improving Your Team’s Speed of Play

I think that most coaches have a couple of resources that they go back to time and again. Improving Your Team’s Speed of Play by David Williams is one of those books for me. The quality of the sessions and thoughtful coaching points always give me ideas that I can use in training with my teams.

 

ImprovingYourTeamsSpeedofPlay

This excerpt is from the Small-Sided Games section of the book.

SpeedofPlayDiagram33

Suppose I have seventeen players, including two goalkeepers, of a reasonably high standard to work with. My aim for this session is to improve the players understanding and ability to run with the ball.

The two teams are set out in a 3-2-2 formation plus a goalkeeper, and I have included the extra player as a floater ( F ). In the defending zone three defenders play against two strikers and Continue reading ‘Improving Your Team’s Speed of Play’ »

Preparing for Super F National Finals

The purpose of the winter Futsal league is mostly to keep the player’s foot on the ball during the cold midwest winter. But each year the teams in our club participate in the Super F National Finals. The tournament brings together teams from around the United States in age groups from U8 through Men’s Open. The tournament is great way to end the Futsal season and bring together all of the technical and tactical work we’ve done throughout the winter.

Being able to hold the ball under pressure is Continue reading ‘Preparing for Super F National Finals’ »

The North Carolina Way

I have always admired the University of North Carolina Women’s Head Coach, Anson Dorrance. He has been the Head Coach at UNC since 1979 and has won a record 22 National Championships. More than 50 of his former players have represented their country on the National Team. He is also well known for promoting and developing creative dribblers and finishers.

I’ve read all of his books and watched any videos I could find. So I was very excited when Dorrance agreed to headline our 2008 WORLD CLASS COACHING International Seminar. More than six hundred Continue reading ‘The North Carolina Way’ »

Training 2 v 1 Situations

Playing indoor soccer or Futsal during the winter provides a great opportunity to focus on teaching players how to break down defenses in 2 v 1 situations. This is an important tactical situation for players to understand and be familiar with because so much of the game can be broken down to 1 v 1 and 2 v 1 situations.

A book by David Goldstein, 2 v 1 Attacking Drills and Exercises , provides a tremendous amount of insight into the technical and tactical elements of combination play against one defender. It is very comprehensive; starting with basic principles and patterns before moving on to exercises and small-sided games. Here’s a short excerpt as an example.

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False Double Pass Dribbling Option from Diagonal Pass

What is illustrated is a possible solution for an attacker when the defender, labeled C, makes a recovery run by tracking attacker B which in turn blocks the passing lane. The attacker B receives the ball in Square A from attacker A. The pass is numbered 1. In Square A1 attacker B passes off the ball diagonally, numbered 1and attacker A steps forward to receive the pass with a run numbered 1.

In Square A2 attacker B spins around the defender C in an attempt to get the ball back behind the defense. This run is numbered with a 1. Defender C however, starts making an effective recovery run which disrupts the ability of attacker A to return the pass to attacker B. In Square A3 where the pass should be sent forward defender C’s good recovery run and closing of the passing lane prevents the pass from occurring. The attacker A, now in possession of the ball, does not have a workable Double Pass Pattern anymore.

One of the best options for the attacker with the ball is to dribble into and across the area where attacker B’s run pulled defender C out of the space with the run. This solution is shown in Square A3 and attacker A’s dribble is numbered 1. There are a myriad of possible solutions but this is an effective one because it exploits the space that the defender had to surrender to achieve the blocking of the passing lane.

Diagonal Wall Passing

This use of wall passing is not often pointed out, taught or practiced with players. The left half of the above soccer field is Diagram 14 A and the right half is Diagram 14 B.  I hope that I made this clear enough that if you just walk through it slowly all the lines should come clear.

The reader can see in Diagram 14 A, page 54, the attacker, labeled A, use attackers B and C to create wall passes diagonally across the field. Attacker A uses a Low Wall Pass Pattern with attacker B and a Curved Run with attacker C to get into a scoring position behind the defense.

Attacker A sends a pass numbered 1 to attacker B. Attacker A then makes a run past the defender.  The run is numbered with a 2 which allows the pass back from attacker B. The return pass is also numbered 2 because the pass and the run are essentially simultaneous. Attacker A then passes the ball to attacker C with a pass numbered 3. While attacker C holds the ball in a shielded position attacker A makes a Curved Run around attacker C. The run by attacker A is numbered with a 4. Attacker C then plays off the ball with a pass numbered 5 for attacker A to shoot at goal which is numbered 6. This attack is done across the field in an East to West motion and not in the more traditional North to South manner of penetrating a defense and attacking the goal.

In the right half of field the reader can see Diagram 14 B, page 54. Another East to West attack is demonstrated using 2 versus 1patterns to penetrate the defense. Attacker A uses attackers B and C to cut diagonally across the field. The first pattern that A and B use is a High Wall Pass followed by a more traditional Wall Pass that combines attacker A and C which leaves attacker A with the ball in a position to pass the ball behind the defense to attacker D who shoots the ball at goal.

Attacker A starts the sequence by dribbling at the first defender; the dribble is numbered with a 1, and then passes the ball to player B to combine for a High Wall Pass. The pass to attacker B is numbered with a 2. The return pass by attacker B is numbered 3 as is the run by attacker A past the defender. Attacker A then passes the ball to attacker C to start a wall pass. This pass is numbered with a 4 and the run by attacker A to get behind the next defender is also numbered with a 4. Attacker C sends a penetrating pass back to attacker A, who receives it behind the defense. This pass is numbered with a 5. The attacker A is now in a position to cross the ball to attacker D who is making a run towards attacker A in front of the goal mouth. Both the cross by attacker A and the run by attacker D are numbered 6. The shot on goal is numbered with a 7.

Three Grid Game: Set-Up

This shows the organization for the start of the Three Grid exercise. Each group has a goal keeper, two defenders in the grid next to their goal keeper, one midfielder in the middle grid and one attacker in the grid where they can score. The exercise requires four field players for each team and a goal keeper for each team. The black team defenders are lettered B and A. The black midfielder is lettered with a C. And the attacker for the black team is lettered with a D. The white defenders are lettered E and F. The midfielder for the white team is lettered with a G and the attacker for the white team is labeled H.  Goal Keepers are stationed on both ends.

Teaching players to recognize and deal effectively with 2 v 1 situations during the indoor season will transfer very easily to the outdoor game in the spring. If they can see the ‘pictures’ in a 5 v 5 game they can look for the same cues when the game is 11 v 11.

Have a great day,

Tom

Keeping Sessions Fresh During the Winter

With our harsh Midwest winters we are forced to do most of our training indoor. This usually means training in school gymnasiums. They vary in size but most are much smaller than the spaces we use outdoor and severely limit what training topics can be covered.

We do a lot of technical dribbling and passing work during this time because the players get a lot of touches, the sessions are easily scaled to the number of players at training and small spaces actually help to increase the pressure on the players. It requires them to keep closer control and be more aware of open space.

While these sessions are great for technical development, they are Continue reading ‘Keeping Sessions Fresh During the Winter’ »

Brain Based Learning and Differentiated Teaching

This is an excerpt of the second article in a three part series that has been contributed by John Pascarella, Sporting Kansas City Assistant Coach. The first part was published in our Coaching Advanced Players blog.

In the first of this three part series I began with a saying from Coach John Wooden:  “You haven’t taught until they’ve learned” and how this caused me to think of my own coaching style and how I sometimes find it difficult to get my points across to players in different ways when they don’t understand the initial way I’ve tried to explain it.  In that article I compared US Soccer’s Simple to Complex teaching methodology to the French Federations Whole-Part-Whole method emphasizing that I didn’t feel one was better than the other but stressed that coaches need more than one way to teach progressions so they can teach players with different types of learning styles.

In this article I wanted to expand on that idea by Continue reading ‘Brain Based Learning and Differentiated Teaching’ »

Headgear Required for Soccer Players in New Jersey

A recent article was mentioned on our Kansas City Soccer Forum. It discusses a recent Princeton, NJ School Board decision that would require soccer players (as well as field hockey and lacrosse players) to wear a protective soft helmets in order to diminish the chances of suffering a concussion. I’ve seen this topic come up from time to time but this is the first time I’ve heard of a school district attempting to mandate the use of headgear for soccer.

The headgear they are planning to use is the SG360 by HRP Products.

The-SG360-which-will-be-worn-by-Princeton-schools-athletes-HRP-Products

This is largest headgear I’ve seen being used for soccer. Other protective headgear on the market includes the Full 90 and ForceField. They are much smaller and don’t include any eye protection.

“We’re very aware that for players in all sports there’s a risk of head injuries and we’re just trying to do whatever we can to prevent them,” said Timothy Quinn, president of the Princeton school board.

My question has always been, “Do these helmets protect against a concussion.” Pediatric neurosurgeon Alexander Post from the New Jersey Pediatric Neuroscience Institute in Morristown has given numerous lectures on concussions and said he does not believe that the proposed headgear would even be effective in reducing the risk.

“You can get a concussion from pretty much doing anything,” he said. “Any activity carries a certain degree of potential risk and you have to weigh that risk. In general, the headgear is good for reducing abrasions and lacerations, but not for protecting against concussions to any significant degree.”

Barbara Greiger-Parker, the president of the Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey, told NJ.com that Continue reading ‘Headgear Required for Soccer Players in New Jersey’ »