I remember my first experiences of organized coaching when I was a child growing up. It mostly involved line drills which required us to wait for our turn before we performed a skill. Most of the time, the players would be talking among themselves not concentrating on the task at hand.
What you tend to find is, the less able players would not take part in the drill because all eyes would be on them and the better players found them tedious, not always putting in the effort. The coach would spend a lot of time trying to keep the players interested and stop them from messing around.
Whatever the coach decided to teach me I could do no problem in isolation, but that wasn’t always the case when it came to the game at the end. Fortunately for me, I was a player who would not only train with my team but also play with my friends in parks and street football cages that were hard-surfaced.
I learned more about playing street football with my friends then I did with the coaches of my youth team, but why was this?
Traditional Methods of Football Coaching
Today, Traditional football coaching methods are still very clear in grassroots football. Coaches at this level, tend to find that traditional methods are a lot easier to coach as it is a more ‘command style’ of coaching. With the coaches feeling more in ‘control’ of the session, they can instruct the players to do certain tasks on their command.
Many grassroots coaches still choose to coach this way, as it’s the way they were taught. The problem with this method is that it teaches your players the skill/tactic in isolation. This form of training has no connection with the real game, meaning your players will find it difficult to transfer what they have learned to a match situation.
Isolated training drills don’t promote good decision-making skills. For young players to learn how to apply their skills it must involve them solving a football problem. You cannot teach good decision-making if your training involves lines with long bus queues or the coach continuously instructing his players when to do their skills.
A football match has many chaotic situations where a player doesn’t have a lot of time or space with the ball. It is also played with little interference from the coach because once the players cross the line you don’t have much control of what the players do on the field.
If the training has relevance to the game then players will struggle to become independent footballers, all players should practice how they play!
I have spoken before about how street football helped produce many of the ‘natural’ football players you see today. The hard playing surfaces, small areas, and many chaotic situations taught young players many of the vital skills they need to play the game effectively.
Even though playing street football or playing on fields can teach you a lot, this method isn’t perfect.
That is why coaches, should be using all the great things that street football teaches, and create a football curriculum which produces skillful players who have sound tactical awareness.
In the streets, there are no line drills, no laps and most notably no parents or coaches screaming at the players to pass the ball, yet Messi, Ronaldo, Gascoigne Etc have all claimed playing in the streets taught them a lot about football.
If most of the great players can learn all the vital skills from just playing in the streets, then there is no need for us to try to over-complicate the game. It is better to take everything that works from an already proven method and add your guidance as a coach to develop thinking players, who will eventually learn to play without your help.
Realism At All Times!
As stated before, all forms of football coaching must be relevant to the game. In order for young players to learn the game, all skills/tactics should be taught within a realistic situation.
Now when I use the term realistic I don’t mean you should play a small-sided game throughout your football session. What I mean is your football session should contain situations that can occur in a football match.
This should take place from the warm-up right down to the small-sided game at the end, going from unopposed to opposed with gradual progressions.
Every part of your football session should be a gradual progression of what was taught before. Let’s say your topic for today is dribbling, then your warm-up could begin with everyone holding the ball.
Every player begins to move in and out of each other with the ball low in one arm, shifting it over to the safe side when another player is by them.
Get them to change direction, attack the spaces quickly and use tricks when necessary.
Once the players understand the detail of the session, bring the ball to their feet and do everything they did with the ball in their hands, now on the floor. To complete the first part of your session add a couple defenders to increase the player’s decision-making when dribbling the football.
The mid-section of your session would then include a 3v1 or 4v1 situation. Within an area of 10×10 place three gates to encourage the players to dribble the ball through them.
There will be one defender and the others are attackers, the aim of the session is for the players to keep the ball whilst looking for opportunities to dribble through the gates to get points.
To encourage dribbling, tell the players they must dribble through a gate before they pass the ball. Whoever gives the ball away must become the defender.
The Final section of your session would feature a conditioned football match, with four small goals on either side of a 40×30 area.
The aim is to encourage the players to dribble the ball through the gates to score a goal. To progress the session I add gates inside the area to encourage players to dribble across defenders or attack the wider areas of the football pitch.
As you can see, every section had some relevance to the real game. Getting your players to dribble in and out of cones in straight lines may teach them the skill, but it won’t teach where, when and why to do the skill which is also important.
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