I have been lucky enough to attend the United Soccer Coaches Convention (formerly NSCAA Convention) in the US a few times and one moment sticks out for me from all my visits and to sum it up….it’s all in the detail!
Setting up a fancy exercise with a load of cones isn’t actually going to make the players any better, but what is going to make them better players is a simple exercise with the correct coaching points given at the right time.
When I was at the convention, I watched a session by a German coach and the first exercise was very simple and the content was spot on, but because it was such a simple exercise, you could see the convention hall slowly start to empty and some of the coaches that stayed were discussing how annoyed and offended they were because it was such a simple exercise. Their thoughts were that this coach clearly didn’t think much of us as coaches to only show us that!
After the session, I got into a discussion with another coach and friend of mine and we thought that those coaches had missed the point completely. In this exercise, the content was the most important thing and not the set up itself.
In terms of the exercise, there was a 30×30 yard square, split by some cones into 4 squares.
The players are divided into four teams of three and have to pass and move in their teams. The only rule is, you can’t receive a pass in a square that a team mate is already in.
A very simple and easy exercise from the outside, but it was what the coach proceeded to ask of the players that made this intriguing.
The first coaching point was where they should take their first touch, so being aware of what is around them to take their touch into space and not into a player from one of the other teams passing and moving.
The main coaching point was about the speed of the pass. At first, the speed of the passing was quite slow, but the coach challenged them to pass the ball in firmly. What happened was quite interesting, it was such a simple request, but the players couldn’t do it! Passes were now going astray, first touches were going all over the place and the coach ended up having to step in and correct technique. What I really took away from this was, if you don’t demand these things from the players, then they won’t be able to do them come game time. Being able to pass the ball firmly is key to being able to move the opposition defence around and exploit any space….move the ball slowly and your team will be easy to defend against.
From that point on, I started to think more about whether the exercises I am running are needlessly complicated and if so, how can I simplify them. Setting up something that looks complicated and fancy may look good to an outsider, but ultimately if the content/coaching points aren’t right, then the players won’t benefit from it.
So my advice is, keep your sessions simple, but focus on the quality of your coaching points and getting them in at the right time!
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