When we have the chance, and the club give the freedom to the coaches, we usually build the style of play taking into account our players and their characteristics.
In my coaching style, when developing football/soccer players, I try to make them think about the game. This process needs on going interaction: back and forth communication between players and coach and among the players. Players won’t get consistent learning if they receive orders. They need to believe in what they do to get the most of it.
The modern teaching approach is based on how important is the decision making, related with psychological aspect, and then the execution, related with the individual or team technique, meaning that we can not breakdown the game in different pieces since all of them are connected and interacting when playing the game.
However, we sometimes forgot the cognitive aspect, which is the beginning of every action. Players and coaches need to understand the game and share the same ideas and concepts., something that we usually define as “to be on the same page”. We, the coaches, and the players, need to keep asking WHY this is happening, WHY do we do this, WHY the opponents do that, etc. The game is so complex that there can be many WHY but, as a team, players should identify the key aspects of the style of play.
If you want to do a practical exercise with your players, you should invite them to OBSERVE a game instead of WATCH it. Why to do this? I consider for: to identify patterns of play, pay attention to details, anticipate the next play or get additional and useful information. Eventually, they will be able to understand the game.
The cognitive aspect demands a previous knowledge of the game based on the different moments and abilities. That’s the WHAT part, which deals with different aspects:
- Tactical –> Cognitive
- Technical –> Coordinative
- Physical –> Conditional
- Mental fortitude
Then , we will use the game analysis tool, identifying disposition versus movements and main aspects for both items. This way, coaches and players, share not only the same philosophy but the same vision too.
One activity to do with your players is to make them OBSERVE a game individually, then the coach can identify video clips with relevant information to be discussed together in a virtual video session or in the classroom.
These are 3 video climps as an example could be a U17 boys game top level in a tournament final. You, as a coach, chose the length of the videos and then discuss with the players. You can set different videos for different players or groups of players. E.g. video 1 for back line, wingers and forwards
There are three important considerations when doing this activity with your players: first, is to be open minded and accept discussion if different points of view show up. It doesn’t mean that you are losing control, but the opposite, they are trying to think hard about the game. Second, the duration of this activity should be 20 minutes maximum since your some of the players must lose the interest. Third, I consider that the best moment is during preseason time in 3-4 different sessions.
When coaching in an Academy, players should try to get involved in this activities when they are 12 of younger, and adapting the level of the concepts. You can also, create groups of 3-4 players and they can be the ones who prepare a video clip and a presentation to their teammates. Obviously in an Academy environment. not in a professional or semiprofessional team.
But, would be possible to do the same with your players? What would it be beneficial to involve them in this process? What would it be the pros and cons of it?