SV Mailbag: Coaching and Training (October)
In the SV Mailbag, we answer questions from our followers. For this edition, George Jones answers your questions relating to coaching and training.
Which training philosophy is the most effective for young players (non professional)?
The most effective training philosophy for young players is a fun one, in which they can learn, develop and ultimately love the game. If you are training maybe 1 or 2 hours a week with juniors then play lots of small sided games and read anything you can about Horst Wein’s development methods.
What are your main principles and rules when coaching transitions either offensively or defensively?
The main principles I work on when coaching transitions are taken from the WFA model of football actions and are as follows:
Transitioning from attacking to defending:
- Regain ball possession.
- Prevent build-up of the opponent (how build up is prevented varies depending on opponent and game context).
- Build-up of the opponent is allowed, but we regain defensive compactness.
- The opponent creates a chance to score (or scores).
Transitioning from defending to attacking:
- A chance to score is created (or is scored).
- A forward pass is made, and possession is kept.
- Possession is kept, and positional structure is maintained or improved.
- Possession is lost to the opponent.
The rules are qualified from 1-4, with one being the outcome we most desire and 4 being the outcome we desire least.
One rule I constantly reference to my players is after regaining the ball, play “as vertical as possible and as horizontal as needed”. This ensures that we look to play the pass that will get us closest to the opponent’s goal, but if it is not on, we look to retain the ball, and maintain or improve our positional structure. It is often important to play vertical in these situations after regaining the ball because the opponent has often entered their attacking organisation, and as rest-defending is often not (if at all) coached in England it is the opportune time to attack the opponent as they are disorganised. It is imperative to remind the players that “as vertical as possible” does not mean a “hoof” into space to chase, but the best possible pass for that moment to create a scoring opportunity, supported with a good positional structure.
Which formation would you use with 9 players (including GK)?
I quite enjoyed coaching 9v9, as it allowed me to think about building up systems towards 11v11, consider which two positions to “cut out” of the shape, and what kind of individual development challenges this could set for my players. Obviously when selecting a formation, you have to have the characteristics of your players in mind as well as your game model, without knowing yours all I can do is list a few of the ideas I have tried.
Some Ideas include, 2-3-3/4-3-1 to mimic a 4-3-3 without fullbacks or wingers, depending on how you instruct the “outside” players to act, 3-2-3, nice central diamond, could be used for 4-D-2 or 4-2-3-1. One shape I often use is a central 2-2-2, two centre backs, two centre midfielders and two strikers, with a player playing on the “outside” of this shape on either side. The roles of the two “outside” players changed quite frequently depending on game state and their own characteristics, sometimes they would play deep in build up as full backs in a 4-2-2, other times higher onto the next line, and sometimes we would play 2-2-4 with a focus on overloading the last line. I enjoyed creating specific challenges for these players due to their positioning on the pitch. With correct staggering this allows for amazing diagonality and combinations, very good for building towards implementing a 4-2-2-2/4-4-2 at 11v11.
Any tips to encourage players to defend/attack loose balls more aggressively/with more confidence?
I like to play SSG’s where the defensive players (CB’s, etc) must at least be over some sort of dividing line on the pitch, i.e, the opponents half, the middle third etc to encourage a more aggressive starting point for a pressing action, this is then constantly encouraged with explicit coaching. One thing I often tell players when defending aggressively is that it is easier to defend high, because if you lose the duel, at least then you have the chance to potentially recover and force another defensive action, rather than losing the duel close to your goal, allowing the opponent to create a goal scoring opportunity, obviously this isn’t an absolute in every context, but I feel it helps players.
Would you rather try building up and try to play “good“football and die trying and learning from it (or being mentally broken afterwards) or park the bus and die trying?
Always the first. For me, personally I take on Cryuff’s words, “Imagine having to sit through a season of ugly football – and you might not even win the title! The whole season would then have been wasted.” Most importantly, for the players. I want the players to play in a style they enjoy, they want to have the ball and express themselves. Obviously, from a developmental perspective, we need parts of both mentalities to develop well rounded footballers who understand different game states and contexts, but for sure, my teams will always “try to play football.”
How do I transfer my knowledge of tactical theory(how teams play at the highest level) into a coaching capacity, where I can become an effective trainer?
The most important thing to remember is that analysis and coaching are not separate entities, coaching is essentially analysis in action. By improving your analysis skills, you are able to better understand how players and teams interact and how they interact within game plans, thus allowing you to make more informed decisions on the field as a coach. It’s important to remember that the game is not just about your team, football is played by two teams, and analysing how you affect the opponent and how they affect you, is very important. It is vital to understand the context within which you are coaching and to understand your players, so you can take the information and tactical theory you already know and transfer it to your players, so that it is useful to them.
Like Richard Feynmann says, “Knowing the name of something doesn’t mean you understand it.”. It is not just enough to know these things, we must be able to communicate them to our players and make these ideas tangible.
SV author AO (unconsciously?) tweeted a thread recently with a very clear and concise answer to this exact question that I wholeheartedly agree with.
I think analyzing football as a game itself, and then a lot of matches to understand how the teams interact and move through all phases of the game would improve coaching.
From my experience with coaching courses, meeting other coaches both in grassroots or ex-players…
— AO (@AdinOsmanbasic) October 3, 2018
When using a game model that has a heavy emphasis on playing the deepest pass (towards the opposition goal) as often as possible, yet also is based around quality ball progression and playing through the lines. How would you coach players to play the passes at the right time and with the right quality? I.E. not too soon so you have a poor support structure around the receiver, and not too direct so then you are only challenging for the second balls?
The short answer to this question is to make sure the players understand the context of their football actions, so by training these situations in game forms, players will understand which pass to give and how to give the ball, because they are training these situations in full context, not just with an isolated action with no next action, in for example, an isolated pattern.
The idea of training football actions without regarding the context of the game is quite prevalent in football coaching. We can see this by using 1v1 training as an example, often 1v1 training consists of a player starting with a stationary ball, facing a defender “front-on”, after the defender is beaten, the player then usually scores in a goal, or dribbles over a line. How often in football does a player start with a stationary ball at their feet? Coaches then wonder why players are “not good at dribbling” or fail to beat the second man after they beat the first player 1v1 and make a poor decision after the 1v1.
This is because the players are often not trained to adapt to what happens after beating the player 1v1, and lose the ball, because in their “training”, the objective after beating the player is to score instantly. By not coaching pre-actions and post-actions in the 1v1, the players are comfortable at beating the opponent, but not comfortable at adapting to the situation after the action. Hence the need for coaching realistic situations before and after the actions to improve follow-up actions.
In regards to the question, rather than doing an isolated passing practice to solely focus on the actions of the pass, it is better to train for the purpose of the question in a game form to allow the players to understand the context of how to create a good support structure both before and after the pass, whilst working on the action of the pass in a game state.