As a young coach I always organized my session in the same way: simple to complex. This is the way I was taught through the my USSF Licensing Courses and this was what I always stuck to. Only in the last few years have I found that there is more than one way to have an effective training session. The three methods I use now are: Simple to Complex, Whole/Part/Whole and a Multi-Themed Session.
Here is an excerpt from an excellent article that Sporting KC Goalkeeper Coach, John Pascarella wrote for the October 2013 edition of the WORLD CLASS COACHING Magazine. It explains the both the Simple to Complex and Whole/Part/Whole methods very well.
Pedagogy is simply the “ART” of coaching or teaching. Neither coaching nor teaching is a true science. If it were then any soccer coach could follow the specific formula and develop skill and tactical sense in players. The fact is, coaches have to be able to feel and sense what players need and know how to get this information across to them. They must adjust to the setting and personalities of their players.
Players all have different learning styles. They don’t always understand things as we are trying to explain them. It’s our job as coaches to “meet them where they’re at.” In both coaching (and teaching) there are various methods or teaching tools that coaches can use as a progression to get players to understand and learn both skills and tactics. You should pick and choose from your coaching pedagogy tool box as the situation dictates.
Simple to complex – This method is preferred by US Soccer, taking an idea or skill from its simplest form and slowly adding in more difficult aspects until you are teaching the entire skill or tactic as it appears in the real game.
Teaching the “Whole” – Can be used for simple skills. For example, bouncing a basketball could be taught using the whole method. In soccer, a simple inside the foot pass could be taught this way.
Teaching “Parts” – When a skill is complex or has numerous parts such as the triple jump, in track and field, it is easier to break it down into its more simplified parts instead of teaching it all at once.
Chaining/Linking – When you have a complex skill (like the triple jump example used above) you can take each part and teach them separately but in sequential order so as to link the separate parts of the skill into the whole. Using the triple jump example you could initially teach the hop. Then progress to the hop and step and finally linking it all together with the hop, step and jump. Using a soccer example, let’s discuss the skill of teaching a player to receive the ball from one side of the field, open up and switch play with a long diagonal ball to the other side of the field. You could first teach a player how to move so he can receive a pass on his back foot. Then progress to taking it on the back foot to open up and move in the opposite direction. Finally, you could add driving a diagonal ball to the opposite wing after first receiving and opening up to the opposite side
Whole/Part/Whole – This model is taught by the French Football Federation in their Elite Formation License. Initially the athlete (or team) attempts the whole skill and the coach monitors to identify those parts of the skill that the athlete is not executing correctly. Part instruction can then be used to address the limitations and then the athlete can repeat the whole skill with the coach monitoring for any further limitations. In soccer, I believe, this is a great way to teach tactical ideas and principles of the game.
It’s this last piece, the coaching of tactical ideas and principles of the game, I would like to discuss further, using US Soccer’s simple to complex methodology and comparing it to the FFF’s model of Whole/Part/Whole.
Different strokes for different folks
Differing processes with the same ultimate goal is the way I would describe differing coaching methodologies. US Soccer believes that taking the concept from smaller, simpler steps and progressing to more game realistic activities is the most efficient way to teach the game. The FFF believes you should start with the whole game (although this may be a modified version of the real game) then break it down into its smaller parts before finally progressing to the whole game again – often a different game than you began with but still focusing on the same basic theme.
I will most commonly use the Whole/Part/Whole method as the second training session in a week. During Monday’s session I will move from simple to complex in order to teach the skill or tactical concept. Then on Wednesday I’ll begin with the Phase of Play exercise or Small- Sided game we finished the Monday session with. I’ll have a couple of ideas of how what we still need to work on but I’ll also watch to see what the players still have difficulty with and often work on that rather than what I had planned.
The third format I use for my training session is a Mutli-Themed approach. This has worked best for teaching individual skills over the coarse of a season through our club’s Technical Training Days and as a late season session when I don’t want to introduce anything new but I want the players to be sharp in all of the areas we’ve worked on throughout the coarse of the season.
A Multi-Themed session might include a dribbling warm-up, Dutch Square passing sequence, Possession Game, Passing (or Dribbling) to Shoot and end with a Small-Sided game. This is a great ‘sharpener’ right before an important end of the season tournament.
There is obviously more than one correct way to do anything and I’m sure many of you have different ways that you organize your sessions. I’d love to read about them in the comments section below. If you have an innovative idea or approach we may even invite you to write an article on the subject for our magazine.
Have a great day!