Archive for the ‘General Coaching’ Category.

Three Different Ways to Organize a Training Session

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.

Oct2013

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Coaching Pedagogy

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.

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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!

Tom

Being Creative with Free Kicks

When you see a free kick with in shooting range in a game today you just see a shooter, a wall and a goalkeeper.

These are great examples of an ability to strike a ball but how many times do they end up like this?

Ok, maybe not as bad as some of those but you know what I mean. Wouldn’t it be better to teach our players two or three free kicks that they can use anywhere near goal. Maybe one from the middle, one from a wider area and one from a little further from goal.

They don’t have to be overly complicated or take a lot of training time to master but they would involve a little creativity and disguise.

The best example would be the free kick executed by USA vs Belgium in the World Cup. Here it is from two different angles both at full speed and in slow motion.

There are three things that contribute to making this a good free kick. One, it looks like the players are lining up to shoot. Two, there’s an attacking player in the wall. Three, a player runs free around the outside to create an angle for the pass. The only thing missing is the finish!

I found one other example of this free kick.

So, what do you think? Should we just line up and shoot the ball when we can? Or should we teach our players how to be a little creative in these situations. There are valid arguments on each side. I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments section below.

Have a great day!

Tom

Goalie Wars

Goalkeepers have often been overlooked and under appreciated. In recent years, a competition that focuses on the special skills of goalkeepers has become increasingly popular. Goalie Wars tournaments started as a part of Goalkeeper camps but have started to be held as stand-alone events.

The rules are simple, two goalies are positioned 20-30 yards apart and they shoot, dropkick, throw or punt the ball to try to score on the other goalkeeper. They play two halves of three to five minutes.

Here’s a example Continue reading ‘Goalie Wars’ »

Preseason Sessions with a New Team

When I start coaching a new team I try to schedule a four day camp before our normal training schedule begins. Having four straight days with the team allows us all to get to know each other and lets me see what kind of players I’ll be working with.

The sessions I present depend on the age and level of experience of the players. This year I started coaching a U12 girls team so the examples I give here will be based on that age group. They are a very competitive group of girls that have all played at a high level locally so I also take that into consideration while planning the sessions.

Regardless of the age group I like to start out the first day with Continue reading ‘Preseason Sessions with a New Team’ »

Tell Them or Ask Them?

I recently came across a blog post that touched on a topic that I wrote about a number of years ago. The difference between ‘telling’ a player what to do and ‘asking’ them what they should do is the difference between the player making the right choice once and the player understanding why it’s the right choice.

Here is a link to the post. I would credit the author but I couldn’t find their information on the site.

Each weekend I coach five or six games. Because I Continue reading ‘Tell Them or Ask Them?’ »

Coaching Team Shape in the 3-3-1

How many times do you hear coaches yelling, “Spread out, create space!” And how often do you see the players look around and not move much?

This is a sign that the players don’t know where to go or how to move in relation to their team mates. This ability is not a natural one for most players. They need to be shown where to go to support their team mates while keeping proper spacing between themselves and their team mates.

A new book called, ‘Coaching Team Shape in the 3-3-1′ by Sean Pearson contains Continue reading ‘Coaching Team Shape in the 3-3-1’ »

Build Up Play Through Quick Passing

This weeks posts is from the May edition of WORLD CLASS COACHING magazine that is available exclusively to Member Drills Database subscribers.

The training session was contributed by Kevin Thelwell who is the Head of Football Development and Recruitment for Wolverhampton Wanderers. Reed has been working with professional clubs for more than 13 years. He has earned a UEFA A License and is working toward his UEFA Pro License.

This session is specifically about build up play and providing players with the opportunity to understand specific patterns of play in keeping with the playing style of our club.

We believe it is fundamental that players understand their roles and responsibilities when we are in possession of the ball and are clear on how to progress the ball quickly and securely from one area of the pitch to another.

These activities combine the practice of both core technical skills and tactical understanding to support our players in refining these abilities.

Why is it important to practice this?
In the modern game it is no secret that the most successful teams are those that maintain good possession of the ball and limit the number of turnovers of the ball to the opposition. On this basis it is vital that our teams use the ball well when in possession and are clear about how they wish to play.

1

 

Building from the Back to Score

Set-Up
Two attackers and two defenders are positioned in front of each goal. Two neutral midfielders are between these to groups of players. The remaining players serve as neutral wingers on the outside of the playing area. Two lines of cones running along the width of the 18 yard box through to the half way line.

The neutral contact midfield players build the attack and always play for the team in possession. The two neutral wide players are positioned in each corner of the pitch to support attacking movements.

To begin, a goalkeeper serves a ball to either wide player to start an attack. For each attack both wide players (left and right) are involved and support the progression of the ball by moving with the attack of the team, finishing at the opposite end of the practice.

The forwards for both teams are passive defensively and participate only when their team is attacking. All defenders are ‘live’ at all times.

The attacking team plays until a goal is scored, the ball goes out of bounds or the goalkeeper gains possession. A new attack by the opposition beginning with their keeper serving to a wider player (as previous) attacks the goal at the opposite end of the field.

What do I get the player to do?
The players have the opportunity to practice and work on several patterns of play that are important to our playing philosophy when we are in possession of the ball (see next diagram).

It is important to focus on key technical aspects including quality and tempo of passing, body position to receive and movements to receive the ball. However there is also a strong tactical emphasis to develop understanding between players around specific patterns of play.

GK serves into a wide area, Defenders drop into supporting positions. The ball is switch via a neutral central player and both defenders to the opposite wide player.

  • On this occasion the neutral central on the side of the ball drops deep to receive from the wide player. This player combines with central players to switch play.
  • The forward on the side of the ball drops deeper ‘in between the units’ to create a three in midfield. He combines with central players to switch play.
  • Nearest central player runs forward creating spaces for central player 2 to receive the ball and switch play.

What are the key things to look for?
Timing of movements to receive the ball are very important especially as they must be coordinated with other players.
Passing must also be of a high standard with the ball circulated quickly and securely.

 

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How do I develop the Session?
Allow forward players to become active at all times thus pressurizing all players in possession, creating a 8 v 4 overload.
Add in opposing central midfielders creating 2v2 in central midfield, thus an 8 v 6 overload.
Ensure players handle the ball under pressure by conditioning the practice so that they cannot pass directly back to a ‘neutral’ wide player they received the ball from.

Progression
11 v 6 Overloaded Using Three-Quaters of the Pitch
The goalkeeper serves to any player in the back four who transfer the ball quickly using the patterns focused on in the previous practice.

Overloads can now be created in wide areas via a quick switch of play including wide players coming inside the pitch with full backs overlapping.

3

 

Build towards an 11 v 11 practice by positioning four attackers on the goal line of the attacking team. If possession is lost then these players can now enter play and a counter attack can be launched.

Once the counterattack is complete, these four players leave the pitch and return to their starting positions with the team of 11 players having another opportunity to build up play.

We find that this is an important practice in teaching our young players about maintaining possession of the ball and prioritising how to pass the ball securely.

4

 

Build towards an 11 v 11 practice by positioning four attackers on the goal line of the attacking team. If possession is lost then these players can now enter play and a counter attack can be launched.

Once the counterattack is complete, these four players leave the pitch and return to their starting positions with the team of 11 players having another opportunity to build up play.

We find that this is an important practice in teaching our young players about maintaining possession of the ball and prioritizing how to pass the ball securely.

You can see hundreds of other sessions like this in the Member Drills Database. Right now you can get more than $370 in eBooks and Videos along with access to the Member Drills Database with our Ultimate Soccer Coaching Collection.

Have a great day!

Tom

W Passing Pattern

The use of shapes in passing patterns is very common. Most coaches will be familiar with diamond and square passing patterns. The Dutch are fond of ‘Y’ passing patterns. A pattern that I had not run across before, but transfers beautifully to game situations, is the ‘W’ pattern. I found it in The Complete Soccer Coaching Guide. This book by Chris Apple includes 76 complete training sessions. The one I’ve included below is a great example of the innovative coaching described in this book.

complete-coaching-guide-sidexside-500

 

W1

 W Passing
Groups of eight or more players, each pass is 12-15 yards away. Pass and follow, the last player receives and speed dribbles back to where the pattern started. Each player should be playing two touch, opening up with their first touch and using the same foot to play the pass.

W2

Progression 1
A plays B; B uses 2 touches to open up and play C and then supports C; C Lays off to B; B clips a ball in the air to E; E settles one touch for D who is close in support; D plays a 1-2 to return ball to E who speed dribbles to A.

W3

 Progression 2
A plays B; B used 2 touches to open up and play C; C half turns and plays E; E opens up and plays and 1-2 with D; E receives the 1-2 and speed dribbles Back to line A.

Small-Sided Possession
8 v 4 in a 25×20 yard playing space.
The team with eight plays one touch, the team with four have unlimited touches when they win it.
Play two min games counting passes; each person gets one chance being the 4-player team and two being on the 8-player team.
Coaching Focus is on the 8 players and their movement.

11 v 11 Tactical Work
We work on our 11 man shape playing vs a 3-5-2. Looking to exploit their outside backs and the space in the corners. Defensively making sure our weak side WMF and a FW tuck so that we are not out manned in the Center of Midfield.

Do you have other shapes that you use to in passing combinations?

Have a great day!

Tom

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’ »