By John Cartwright
There is an attitude amongst coaches that is becoming a major problem when teaching the game; that problem is lack of patience. All too frequently I hear or am asked about the next stage of the work when the present work is still far from complete and not fully digested by young players. By progressing too quickly the coaches are leaving areas of work behind that have not been fully understood and therefore not used naturally by players.
A program of work should not be seen as something to exit as early as possible. Continuous assessment of players against suitably organized opposition that is set according to the level of work under practice should be part of every coaching session. The ability to verify the understanding of the work under practice is vital for the coach and is best scrutinized when players are involved in competitive situations. Unrealistic practice is not only waste of time, but it also provides false standards for real progress to be ascertained.
Coaches who ‘leave the ground soft behind them’ are deceiving themselves as well as those working with them. All work should be thoroughly completed before adding a new aspect to it or entering a higher phase or level. If ‘solid ground’ is left behind it allows future work to be established on firm foundations. Any progression attempted without a firm foundation to support it will leave gaps in the development structure that will create problems for players as they become involved in the game at more senior levels.
Premier Skills coaching methods are a re-invention of ‘street football’ in a modern context; players practice what they are expected to play and play how and what they have been practising. There is nothing better than playing the game, therefore, it follows that all practice should be as realistic to playing situations as possible. Recognition of situations when playing in competitive games must comply with those situations already practised or presently being practised or confusion and indecision amongst players will occur. Coaches must learn to introduce details of work more cleverly and more gradually so that the desire to change the teaching process too frequently is not necessary. Because an aspect of work was attempted in one session does not mean that another aspect or a completely different piece of work should be undertaken in a following session. If the coach has not assessed a satisfactory improvement in the work attempted he/she should continue with the same work content but might readjust the methods (increase in space – decrease in opposition) until the players can comply with the demands they have been set.
Variety may be ‘the spice of life’, but in coaching terms it can often mean changes that are untimely and subsequently, unhelpful to coach and players’. The need to have a multitude of different practises to maintain the interest of players can become an almost impossible task. Random work methods lacking continuity are a blemish on the coach and become a burden on the shoulders of players working with him/her. Through the gradual erosion of careful continuity during practice time in order to appease impatience, players exit their most formative years without fulfilling all the necessary playing requirements – adding to the piles of simplistic players only able to play a simplistic version of football that already dominates our game.