If your interested in becoming a football coach, this may help you! I’ve spent hours upon hours over the past 20 years looking for and researching the game. Everything from youth development to senior footballing principles. The fact is that there are literally thousands upon thousands of documents available from all over the world. It would be pretty difficult to get through them all. I still have a countless number of articles that I have collected of which some I haven’t even opened for lack of time and energy!
Football is a game which is totally open to interpretation. Two coaches looking at the same player may well see two completely different players! A coaches opinion of the game is usually a product of his or her environment. I have made it a rule not to discount anyone’s opinions about football. It is possible to learn something new every day. The more you expose yourself to information, the more creative and innovative you become. Over many years of trial, error and observation I have formulated “a way”, not “the way, to develop my methodology as to how to create an environment for players to reach their full potential, both as a team and as an individual. So today I want to highlight the template I use to create my sessions.
The key is to begin with a detailed curriculum being a blueprint to follow. If we can present a manner in which we can collectively operate and deliver an innovative, functional and proactive curriculum the chances that those we work with will agree with the philosophy and see the benefit for all. It is simply not enough to say you MUST do it our way there needs to be evidence-based scientific research along with examples and evidence that what we are stating makes sense to those around us and that those individuals are willing to embrace the philosophy and methodology.
Part One The Vision
As it stands that vision should be dependant on the people who have been assigned to take care of the everyday running of a club. The reality is that this does not exist in Australia. I can’t speak for every club but I would be surprised if any entity had any idea of what their Football vision is? The question, therefore, is what is the vision? what or who does it represent and what does the club wish to accomplish as a community entity. The vision need not be an instant ideology that we can proclaim, it is more important that there is a collective contribution towards a mission statement that involves all stakeholders.
The club should have a detailed plan that incorporates systems which ensure that procedure in administration and technical practices are understood and easy for anyone new to follow as people come and go. The main aim is to ensure that we look after coaches and volunteers by providing them with the tools necessary to undertake their roles with purpose and enjoyment. A philosophical and technical curriculum addresses the behaviours in order to safeguard the well being and improvement of the participants that we are here to support and most importantly it protects the vision or mission of the club.
The main objective is to deliver practical educational experiences that will empower the coach to improve and deliver the clubs curriculum. We will achieve this by outlining the phases of development through a working model that integrates all aspects of what we call the CALS. These are the areas of the game that must be present at all times. We will factor in the two most important factors of group training and that is Environment and Time. I will explain how these two factors will impact on every decision and why it is critical to ensure that a model of development is created based on these unique factors which are intertwined with the CALS, the CALS are:
Psychological -Technical -Tactical -Philosophical -Biological -Morphological –Physiological
Within each one of these parameters are aspects of the game which need to be taken into consideration and some are more inherent than others depending on the phases of development.
Methodology – Practical
My methodology is based on FFA’s model of how to structure a training session. The difference between the FFA model ie: methodology and what we will discuss is an attempt to influence a different perspective on the delivery of the methodology. Football is very much a right-brained activity and there is a mountain of scientific and researched evidence to suggest that built up stages and static or isolated versions of training do nothing more than improving the player’s balance and coordination or “technical movement/actions”.
The main focus should be to deliver a training session where we maximise the number of real game scenarios with constant interaction and intensity that stimulates problem-solving. In doing this a players skill will continue to develop as all the actions of a technical practice are still present. Due to time limits and constraints, I will explain why this form of training is by far the best option for player development in group environments. Please be aware that I do not by any means say that isolated practice is not necessary, in fact, they go hand in hand but I believe that isolated work should be done by players on their own or spare time.
I will go into more depth on the how a geometrical training system will operate which asks players to learn to position themselves based on shapes primarily triangles and diamonds as a way to improve players processing speed or his awareness or intuition and understanding of the game or movements within the game. 98% of any football match is played without the ball and this is the part with which most coaches spend the least amount of time teaching. Statistics show that up to 65% of all lost possessions are not due to a skill deficiency but a lack of decision making.
We will combine the 4-5 parts of the training session with this methodology focusing mainly on game intelligence and real game situations through reduced spaces and ensuring that players are constantly in an environment where they are as close as possible to doing the real thing. The environment has to be competitive.
During the 1960s, Edgar Dale theorized that learners retain more information by what they “do” as opposed to what is “heard”, “read” or “observed”. Through environment, mistakes and repetition players learn to master awareness whilst still developing a solid skill base.
The three main principles to successful outcomes
Geometrical training system.
FC Barcelona use a geometric positioning system to help players understand the system (or positional play) from the very youngest right through to the first team, as well as this system they have an open philosophy which constitutes their belief that the game must be played with creativity, attack mindedness with the principle of keeping the ball intelligently . They do this by cleverly using the players positioning in multiple lines and angles and most importantly creating maximum depth and width to increase space.
if a system works well it makes sense that we try to encapsulate that knowledge and use it to our advantage.
How does it work?
Positioning as opposed to positions is a mental exercise. Players must be aware of the 4 main moments. 1 Where is the ball. 2 what is my position in relation to the ball. 3 what is my position in relation to my teammate and the ball. 4 where is the opposition. We train this through games that correspond to triangulation or in other words creating triangles through teamwork and awareness. We do this by starting with the rondo. The rondo is the foundation of positioning and if done properly trains virtually every aspect of the real game in overload situations. From rondos, we progress to passing and positioning games which also require teams to position themselves based on triangulation. We then take these positional concepts into real game situations. By doing this we are continuously exposing players to an environment where decision making and solving problems is a constant. By reducing the spaces in which we work we also speed up the thought process.
#NOTE THESE ARE JUST A SMALL SAMPLE OF HOW THE SYSTEM WORKS! THERE IS A LOT MORE TO IT THAN A FEW DRILLS. THE PROCESS IS QUITE EXTENSIVE AND REQUIRES TIME AND EFFORT TO UNDERSTAND THE INNER WORKINGS OF IT ALL.
Triangulation, triangles and diamonds
The starting point is 3 vs 1
Depending on number every time you add a player he/she then makes up the next piece of the puzzle.
4 vs 1 – 4 vs 2 – 5 vs 2, 5 vs 2 with pivot – 6 vs 2 – 7 vs 2 – 8 vs 2 max
Every position can represent any number of positions on the field.
The more players you have the more complex the rondo, (progression) as player age and ability increases you can continue to make the groups larger and add more defenders. The rondo is also used as a warm-up. Every team regardless of age should commence the session with 10-20 minutes of varied rondo games. The aim is to introduce many different rondo games that challenge the player to make decisions. The coach is not the centre of all learning the game is.
By far the exercise that has the most impact on players understanding of positioning through transition is a game we call the Barcelona passing practice. Its an extension of the rondo where two teams play against each other by way of possession using overload. The floaters provide the central positions whilst the two other teams must battle to remain in possession. This game can be adapted in many forms and is an excellent way for players to not only understand how positional play helps the team work together better but puts them in constant game-like situations that develop insight and awareness and most importantly processing speed and skill.
As you can see the theme to every exercise is the same triangles and diamonds. The actions in these small-sided games mimic the actions in a real game, therefore, the progression to the real game is a constant reaffirmation of the actions and situations which occur repeatedly through these games. As you progress the theme the objective determines the outcome and the player’s mindset can be conditioned to understand their roles and responsibilities through each position. The full team shape of the 2323 system is in place but in a compact reduced amount of space, the size will be determined by the age group and level. Try not to make it too big as you want them to speed up the thought process and enhance their skill level and this takes weeks to months to get it right.
Phase 3 and 4
Training Game and Game training
This part of the session is very much dependant on the needs and ages of your team. Older groups will work on more tactical elements based on problems that may be occurring in the game. An ideal situation is to work on tactics early on through full games 11 v 11 (9 v 9 for SAP) with stop-starts to correct and identify what may be the errors that are not being addressed. For the younger players, many of the topics can be covered in reduced size space games of 6 v 6 – 7 v 7 e.t.c. It is my opinion that this part of the session should always make up the majority of your time, putting players in real game situations without overload gives them more realistic opportunities to delve into the systems you must implement, roles responsibilities and actions. Players must recognise and understand their own individual capacity and play to their strengths. Players must also learn that where they are, determines their behaviour on the ball and by playing as many real games as possible you can find opportunities to coach these facets of the game. First and foremost coaches need to understand the game have a distinct philosophy we can all share about how we will be playing and collectively look for ways in which to deliver the educational processes to the players so that they can understand and perform at optimal levels.
Personal development – participant and parent education
One of the most important elements of football is a mindset. Over the years I have created a personal development model where players can clearly understand the processes of development both in a football sense and a personal sense. Having, aiming for and reaching for goals are essential and each player in every team should have some sort of goal to work toward. The other factor is the education level of the parents, this is a huge problem in Australia and it is essential that we offer some sort of educational process to the parents so that you do not lose your best players to other clubs. If the Parents and players are happy with the levels of coaching you provide and they understand the process just as well as we do then it will make it easier for you or the club to retain and keep the best players for longer periods. We should not be reliant on individual reputation, the culture we create is to defend the idea of the club to create an immense passion and connection for the entity via community, (common-unity.)
One thing to remember here is that it took me many many years to formulate my philosophy and methodology which I believe allows players a consistent platform to operate from. Consistency in the learning model is, in my opinion, the most important facet of youth development. You want your kids to enjoy the training, to feel challenged and to have discipline and structure present that forms the habits needed to excel in sports participation.