The bare necessities to coaching soccer is a pair of eyes and a mouth that speaks the same language as the players. Sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? Soccer coaches need to interact with the players by observing and giving the required feedback. Observational skills and feedback are the most important skills any coach could have to improve the overall performance of the team.
The best opportunities to provide feedback to players is during training, before a match, half time, after a game and to some extent during a game. Although most players can improve by themselves through repetitive training and practice, the rate of improvement can be significantly increased by a quality coach.
The objective of most coaches is three-fold,
- Obviously to win games and silverware.
- To improve the overall performance of his team by improving and increasing the rate of development of the individual players.
- And to impose his style of play, ideas and tactics on the individual players that should effectively increase the overall performance of the team.
For a coach to be sucessful he must be able to give clear, concise, specific and positive feedback (encouragement) to allow the players to mould into the system he is trying to utilise. Bad coaches or ineffective ones have little impact in the overall performance of the team. Signs that a coach is being ineffective range from,
- Inconsistent performances and a low win/loss ratio.
- A lack of team cohesion.
- And relying heavily on certain individuals to get results.
The best place to provide positive feedback is during training sessions. The best coaches in the world have their own system and style of play. The system is addressed to the players and then the coach will inevitable sit and watch the overall function/performance of the team. By watching from a distance the coach can evaluate and observe whether the players understand the objectives of the team. From a distance, the coach can see if any players look confused or are taking up the wrong positions. By observing, thats right, just by watching you can see where problems might arise in your system. This first step has nothing to do with coaching but involves the use of sight to observe. Pretty simple right.
Observation also allows you to replicate and enforce the system of play. Once the coach is satisfied with the sequence of play and style, he can then proceed to give feedback and make the required corrections.
When coaching at any level, the sequence of feedback is crucial. Feedback and corrections should be made in this sequence,
- Make sure the team is playing your system and have correct shape.
- Address the style of play and the movement of the ball.
- Last but not least, correct the decisions on the ball.
If the sequence is confusing, let’s break it down a little with some real life examples. Your the coach and your observing your team in a practice match. You’ve just witnessed a bad pass from one of your players. What do you do? How do you react? From my own experience, the majority of coaches would either stop play to address the poor decision or simply yell out and threaten to take off the player if the mistake happened again. Does this sound familiar?
It’s ludicrous and pointless to address the bad passing decision of one player if the team shape was incorrect to begin with. If the shape of the team is incorrect, then the decision on the ball is irrelevant. Coaches need to observe the positions of all the players in the team, especially the ones that are not in direct contact with the ball. Have they taken up the correct position? Are they supporting the ball? Are they providing cover? Once you get the shape right, the player on the ball will have better support and a variety of passing options that will allow the player in possession to make the correct pass or decision. Makes sense doesn’t it?
Once the shape is correct and your players understand your system, you must focus on the behaviour of the individual players. Are players demanding the ball? Are they positioned correctly? Are players making the correct runs to recieve the ball? Are you implementing the counter attack and so on.
Although all this sounds easy in theory, its quite challenging to replicate in real life. But once you’re happy with the shape and movement off the ball, you can then address decisions on the ball. Are players dribbling, passing, shooting or crossing at the right times? Are they making the correct passing decisions? Do certain individuals see all the available options? Only when you get the shape and formation/style right can you address individual mistakes.
So lets repeat the 3 steps to coaching.
- Establish and enfore your shape.
- Establish a style of play, movement of the ball.
- Correct individual mistakes or decisions on the ball.
The best coaches just don’t tell players what to do. They explain why they are implementing this formation or tactic. The main objective of coaching is to make your players less dependant on you, the coach.
To create players that respond to situations and adopt your style of play and become problem solvers based on your tactics. At the end of the day you do not want 11 Robots but 11 players that will adopt and uphold your playing style.
Now that you’ve come to the end of this post, you might sit back and disagree that coaching only involves these 3 steps. Basically it doesn’t. But the above is the advice that Sir Alex Ferguson gave at a coaching clinic. That’s right Sir Alex Ferguson. One of, if not the best soccer coach in the world. Get these 3 steps right and the rest will fall into place.
Let me address one more thing before I go,
If the coaching feedback at the end of the season is the same as it was at the start of the season, then you have failed as a coach in developing a team. Think about it!