Building your team

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I read this op-ed in the Manchester Evening News earlier today that discussed how Jose Mourinho should build his defense around Luke Shaw (a left back), and it got me thinking:

  • Do you build a unit (attackers, midfielders, defenders) around your best player, regardless of whether he plays centrally? I coached a team once with a dominant right winger, and the team was certainly set up to support her. However, for the vast majority of my coaching career, I built around a strong spine (the central positions).
  • In the modern game, is the outside back position arguably the most important? He has to defend, attack, and usually provides the width for the team. Or is this only the case in dominant teams (teams that see a lot of the ball and can maintain possession).
  • Is the modern outside back more of a defender or an attacker? How does your answer to this question inform how you set up your team and who you choose to play in these positions?

Best,

James

More positivity, ball work, and less shouting

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This recent article from The Guardian highlights some exciting changes in the approach of the English FA’s approach to coaching education. 

In short, coaches are now being instructed to perform as more of a “guide on the side,” rather than the previous method of “sage on the stage.” These terms are not in the article, but I feel they are an appropriate designation in the move toward an approach to coaching informed by insights from education, pyschology, and, in my opinion, common sense. 

Perhaps most important, instead of finding fault and highlighting the negative, coaches will now attempt to “catch players being good” and use positive reinforcement. Jose Mourinho talks about the “emotional bank account” with his players – that is, for every negative/constructive criticism of a player, the coach needs to make four positive “deposits.”

Great advice for any walk of life.

Best,

James 

Get Over the Halfway Line Scrimmage: Sample Activity from the Volunteer Soccer Coach

Aside

Session #15: Introduction to Getting Numbers in the Attack –
End of Practice Scrimmage: Get Over the Halfway Line!

eop_session15

Time: Approximately 30 minutes (or whatever is left of practice).

Area: As per the diagram, extend the 18-yard box out to the sidelines. This makes for a shorter, but wider playing area – perfect for working on crossing and finishing.

Activity: Use (or make) a halfway line and state that all players (except the goalkeeper) must be past it in order for a goal to count. This simple rule, more than anything, has the ability to teach players to get up and support the attack. Don’t scream and shout at your players to “push up” over the halfway line. Just watch and listen. The first time that a team scores a goal and it doesn’t count because one of the attacking team’s defenders was in his own half, players on that team will start telling each other to “step” and “get up”. It works like magic! Play even numbers and arrange teams in a formation that reflects your desired game day formation.

Progressions:

  • If you catch a member of the opposing team in their attacking half, the goal counts double.
  • Add a neutral(s), so the attacking team is always numbers up (producing more scoring opportunities).
  • Put field players on touch restrictions (e.g., 3 touch max).

 

Volunteer Soccer Coach Image

Are you a volunteer soccer coach with a full time job outside football? Then this book is for you! Minimizing jargon and looking to maximize the limited contact time you have with your players, The Volunteer Soccer Coach is a must-read practical book for coaches of all levels.  Utilising a game-based approach to soccer – where individuals actually play games rather than growing old in semi-static drills – author James Jordan offers 75 cutting-edge exercises across 15 detailed session plans which help players develop an attacking mindset, improve their skills, and, most of all, nurture a love for soccer.

Finishing in the Box: Sample Activity from the Volunteer Soccer Coach

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Session #5: Finishing in the Box
Activity #3: 2v1 Continuous*Stacked

activity3_session5

Time: Approximately 20 minutes.

Area: If you have a marked 18-yard box, use it and then mark out another one with cones to create a 36 x 44 yard (L x W) playing grid.

Activity: Divide the players into 2 even teams. Have one team line up opposite each other (see the diagram) behind the 2 cones level with the edge of the 6-yard box. Have the other team do the same on the other side. The balls should be divided equally and diagonally (per the diagram). To begin, you can play the ball into the middle. Players go to the other line once they have had their turn (e.g., attacker goes to the other attacker line). Any time the ball crosses a line (side, end, goal), the team whose possession it would be restarts the game from their side with a new pair (the defending pair stays in). Also, any time a ball crosses the end line from a shot (including a goal), the shooter must run around the corner while the 2 defenders drop out (the attacking team now becomes the numbers down defending team), and a new attack begins by 2 forwards to make it 2v1 (with the recovering defender who just shot the ball running around the corner). Play first team to a set number of goals (e.g., 5, 7, 9) and give the losing team a consequence. After the consequence, you can ask the guided discovery questions, while the players catch their breath. This game will take a few rounds for the players to understand. It is very important that you are consistent with the rules. I find it helps to communicate early and often; for example, if the ball goes out of play, I will say “red team’s ball.” Also, if someone forgets to run, I will remind that player (e.g., “Janie, you have to run”). If she influences the play, I will award a penalty kick to the other team, which will transition back into 2v1 continuous immediately following the kick.    

Possible Progressions:

  • Move the balls to the other side (move the players, too, so the wide player is always on the “weak side”).
  • Give 2 points for first time finishes (encourages combination plays, crosses, etc.).

 

Volunteer Soccer Coach Image

Are you a volunteer soccer coach with a full time job outside football? Then this book is for you! Minimizing jargon and looking to maximize the limited contact time you have with your players, The Volunteer Soccer Coach is a must-read practical book for coaches of all levels.  Utilising a game-based approach to soccer – where individuals actually play games rather than growing old in semi-static drills – author James Jordan offers 75 cutting-edge exercises across 15 detailed session plans which help players develop an attacking mindset, improve their skills, and, most of all, nurture a love for soccer.

The Gate Dribbling Game: Sample Activity from the Volunteer Soccer Coach

Aside

Session #1: Dribbling to Keep Possession:
Activity #2: The Gate Dribbling Game with Pressureactivity2_session1

Time: Approximately 15 minutes.

Area: 25 x 25 yards (L x W) or larger depending on how many players you have.

Activity: This activity is a progression from the previous one, which will allow you to give your players a quick water break and then get straight back into action. This time, start with a “bandit” whose job is to stop players from dribbling through the gates. Change the bandit every 30-45 seconds (get them to keep score of how many balls they kicked away).

Possible Progressions:

  • Add a restriction whereby players can only dribble with their left foot (or right foot).
  • Add another bandit (2 bandits at a time).
  • Replace some of the gates with pinnies (or different colored cones) and say that players must go through a cone gate followed by a pinnie gate (or different colored cone gate).
  • Add another bandit (3 bandits at a time).
  • Make the gates smaller and/or reduce the number of gates.
  • Add another bandit (4 bandits at a time).
Volunteer Soccer Coach Image
Are you a volunteer soccer coach with a full time job outside football? Then this book is for you! Minimizing jargon and looking to maximize the limited contact time you have with your players, The Volunteer Soccer Coachis a must-read practical book for coaches of all levels.
Utilising a game-based approach to soccer – where individuals actually play games rather than growing old in semi-static drills – author James Jordan offers 75 cutting-edge exercises across 15 detailed session plans which help players develop an attacking mindset, improve their skills, and, most of all, nurture a love for soccer.

 

Power Listening: Making Better Decisions

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This is my second post related to the book, Power Listening by Bernard Ferrari (2012).

According to Ferrari, listening is the front end of decision making; it is the most efficient route to informing the judgments that need to be made (p. 13).

Rather than immediately suggest a solution, Ferrari counsels us to approach a conversation as an opportunity to learn. Furthermore, he believes that everybody is a case study with an N of one!

Some clarifying questions when engaged in a conversation in which a decision is needed or an opinion is being asked:

  • So are you telling me we should do this?
  • Does this mean you think we move in this direction?
  • You don’t quite agree with me on this one, do you? Why is that?
  • Am I missing something here?
  • Are we on the same page with this?
  • I hear you, but I’m just not prepared to agree yet. Maybe I could hear a little more at a later date?

One nugget I took away from the book was “Will my comment or question cause my conversation partner (CP) to say more? Not more in terms of just words, but more in terms of analysis, information, insights?” (p. 44).

While this is still very much a work in progress for me, in the past 6 months or so, I have been able to employ this approach to good effect. Whereas in the past, I may have left a meeting or a conversation having assumed a course of action, I now try to challenge that assumption to bring greater clarity…and hopefully better decision making!