By John Cartwright
The Issues of SPACE and TIME are probably the most important factors we naturally and constantly assess in our daily lives. Without these important judgements life would be a tangled mess .…. so would playing the game of football!
Decisions on SPACE and TIME in the game in both attacking and defensive situations must be first recognised and acted on quickly to exploit or resolve them. The development of players with regards to SPACE and TIME issues in the game must be carefully introduced and wisely adapted by coaches as players move up the playing ‘ladder’.
Young players need to practice in both suitably sized areas and groups that are consistent with their stage of learning and playing ability. The practises must provide realistic game situations in which decision-making for individual skills and tactical awareness can be learned and improved; for this to happen and be successful in the early stages of development young players must be given sufficient TIME and SPACE in which to make those decisions.
The type of practice during the early development years must have an emphasis on OVERLOADING (extra players against a lesser number of opposing players) this situation can begin with large overloads and as players develop it is gradually reduced until even numbers are reached in the practises. Following this UNDERLOADING (less players against an extra number of opposing players) in practises is gradually introduced as players move from junior up into youth and senior playing levels.
I believe that the playing of games should always be an ‘examination’ of work (practises) already completed as well as practises being used at the time. Games should examine ability levels……. the playing of equal numbers 5v5: 7v7; etc. is not the best way to ‘test’ the ability of young players. Practises and the games that follow should include the same aspects along the development ‘pathway’, if not, teaching, learning and ‘testing’ factors cannot be conjoined to provide a satisfactory and reliable assessment of player improvement.
UNDERLOADING should be a natural extension of the practice programme. The work completed during the earlier development years that forms a playing foundation for young players must continue but increase in difficulty. At Youth and senior levels of the game players must continue to improve both in skills and tactical appreciation to enable them to encounter more difficult situations at the higher levels. UNDERLOADED practises combined with related ‘games-testing’ should be used by coaches to gradually create the realistic problems associated with the ever-increasing lack of TIME and SPACE encountered at senior levels. As with OVERLOADING practises, coaches should employ UNDERLOADING in both practises and in games in gradual stages to create the increasing lack of SPACE and TIME when playing competitively at senior levels.
If players are brought up through a development program that introduces the game to them in careful and realistic stages, their emergence into senior football with all the playing qualities required to deal with SPACE and TIME issues would be far better than it is today.