All coaches whether grass-roots or professional search for those special ingredients that will make them outstanding and successful. There is no shortage of advice and courses for the novice coach and so their biggest problem is to sort through the avalanche of detail to determine what is relative and important to their development.
Here I want to share some insights after over 25 yrs of coaching and being privileged enough to work with and observe some of the world’s best coaches.
Here I identify the 3 key elements that we can identify with special coaches and how the novice coach can learn from them.
1. Playing philosophy
Develop a playing philosophy –have a playing vision so you know what good football looks like and then break it down in to the tactics and skills needed to make it succeed. Now the coach has the base for programming their coaching.
Developing the philosophy is not easy for the novice coach it will take time to study great teams and players but by observing live games and videos of these teams and by observing and questioning experienced coaches the time will be well spent and will be worth it. Everything stems from the coaches playing vision.
2. Programming the work
The special coach programmes his/her work so that the players develop in a systematic fashion. The game style should be introduced in easy to learn progressive stages that ensure the players fully understand the skills and tactical understanding required of them. The coaches methodology is graduated to ensure the players are successful in reproducing these skills and tactics required at each stage before moving on. EACH SESSION SHOULD BE THE FOLLOW ON FROM THE PREVIOUS SESSION AND THE PREPARATION FOR THE NEXT SESSION. The best examples of this in the modern game are the Dutch.
3. Coaching methodology
When the special coaches work it is almost as if they have choreographed the session so that the players move smoothly through the learning stages. They make it look easy when of course it’s not. The secret of their methodology can be further broken down into 3 key factors:
a. Knowledge– Having sorted out their playing style the coach meticulously establishes the technical and tactical detail that allows successful play to happen. This can be anything from body positions, foot movements, degrees of touch on the ball, angles, weight and disguise when passing and establishing sophisticated rotation as a team when in possession of the ball. Soccer is NOT a simple game but great coaches break it down in to simple learning modules. They can do this because they have studied the game and have the knowledge. The novice coach needs to make the time for this back ground research. THE COACHING BATTLE CAN BE WON BEFORE A BALL IS KICKED IN PRACTICE.
b. Preparation – this is the same for coaches of all levels but the best coaches really do follow the rules. It is important to have the right equipment – from the right amount of balls, cones and bibs to portable goals. This will make sure that every player in the session is catered for and is fully involved in the session. It is crucial that the practice areas are realistic to the game and the abilities of the players. Areas must also be clearly marked and the number of players must be appropriate to the size of the area. However the most important factor is REALISTIC practices that include skill and tactical information where every player is involved whether on the ball or off it. In other words throw away the static drills where players are standing in line waiting for a turn. The special coach prepares their work in three fundamental stages.
Small group work – Where players usually start with a ball each and work in a grid area intermingling and learning to stay with the ball and make decisions on time and space. The advantage of this type of work is that the players whilst learning their skills in the close proximity of other players, must be alert and keep their eyes up to develop the vision and awareness to look for safe spaces. YOU CAN`T DO THAT STANDING IN A LINE .
Small area work – Where gradual opposition is introduced to ensure the players can successfully reproduce the skills they have previously rehearsed. With very young players it may be 5 v 1 in a 20m x 20m grid. With older players it could as tight as 3 v 3 in a 15m x 15m grid. To be a special coach you have to be able to manipulate the playing numbers and size of area to challenge the players but to also ensure success.
The game stage – Where the results of the work in the small group and small area practices are tested and assessed. The game can be small sided or the full game depending on the age and experience of the players. The game in itself is a learning system and the coach may divide the pitch in to halves or thirds in order to bring out the understanding required by the players. CLEVER UNDERSTANDING OF THESE 3 STAGES IS WHAT IDENTIFIES THE SPECIAL COACH.
c. Delivery– To coach successfully the coach must deliver the key points in logical easy to learn progression, this is the secret of the special coach. A simple example of this is you often hear novice coaches saying” when you get the ball get your head up to see where you want to pass” in fact the sequence is not receive, look and pass it is LOOK, RECIEVE, THEN RUN WITH OR PASS THE BALL. A coach may be making relevant coaching points but if they are out of logical sequence they are harder to learn, and make sense of. The special coaches have great observation skills. Because of their research, knowledge and preparation they see things the ordinary coach misses. Part of this observation may simply be that they stand in the right position to coach where they can see all of the practice area. LIMITED PLAYERS ARE SOMETIMES KNOWN AS BALL WATCHERS THE SAME APPLIES TO NOVICE COACHES they cannot help themselves following the ball and only coach what they see around the ball. The special coaches have tremendous communication skills. When showing examples to their players they demonstrate correctly to show the skill or tactic desired and when giving verbal demonstrations they use words and IMAGERY that stimulate the players understandings above the ordinary. They have a way of keeping the players eye contact and attention – no effective coaching can take place without that. Special coaches display enthusiasm and transfer that enthusiasm to their players, this builds confidence as well as skill in their players.
In conclusion the grass-roots coach can learn so much by watching, studying and imitating the habits of the great coaches. In the modern era there is easy access to videos and DVDs of top coaches working, organisation like Premier Skills also regularly put on exhibitions and seminars where top coaches can be observed. So, there is no reason why any coach has to settle for ordinary when they can aspire” to be the best they can be.”
To discuss any ideas or thoughts in this article contact Roger Wilkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org