Monday, March 19, 2012

Play the Opponent or the Ball?

This week as I watched my daughters Classic Competitive Soccer game I noticed something. The girls who have been playing basketball in the off season started "guarding" people instead of "marking" them and guarding the ball. This led to a problem in the transition from defense to offense. When on defense our player would mark the player very well, sticking close to them even though the ball wasn't anywhere near them. That's fine but then I noticed that they kept marking them even when we regained possession. That creates a problem. When the play transitions to offense they are still stuck to the player on the other team.
 My thought here was that the defensive training we have been doing is making them forget what offense is about. On offense you want to be away from the traffic and finding space to move and penetrate. On Defense you want to be the wall or anticipate the passes coming in. You need to stay close in order to insure that the player cannot do what they want or to make them do what you want. Controlling the offensive player by what you do is as much a part of the game as good footwork is on offense. The idea is to control the offensive players movements by making movements that force or lead them in a direction they do not want to go. Good defensive positioning is essential. 
            But that isn't the issue here. The issue here is when a player does not realize their team is transitioning into the attack. This leaves your team with one less person to utilize in the attack because you are not open for a pass, shot, or screen. You are already covered and cannot help out the offense. This gives the upper hand to the defense, thus it is essential to get away from that mark as soon as the ball transitions to the offense.
On our team I feel basketball has been the perpetrator of this focus on marking a person. The two games are very similar but a striking difference is that Basketball is a much more offensive game. Most of the rules are geared toward punishing the defensive player as opposed to creating a balanced game. At the youth level heavy emphasis on the marking of an opponent leads to kids being stuck to their mark like glue even if they are on offense. 
Instead of teaching them to "Mark" a person I would prefer them to mark the ball. Or pay more attention to who has it. You still have to mark the person but the ball is what you want and it should be your focus. 
            Marking the ball still means you must be aware of the transitions. Once the ball is transitioned to the opposite team every player should flex to the correct position.
To combat this I feel that youth soccer coaches need to emphasize focus on the ball, then on the player movement, and then on tactical awareness. Many of us talk about utilizing the open spaces but what may be confusing them is the transition from defending close to getting away from that person ASAP. This next season I will set up at least one or two sessions devised around developing this transition awareness. These are drills that can be done as a progression in between warm up and free play or cool down.



The first is an exercise that is for transitioning in restricted space. It’s keep away with teams. You start with three teams. In order for the defending team to switch they must gain possession of the ball. If the ball goes out the team that sent it out is in the middle.



The second is a divided field 3 goal game. You need to split them up into 3 teams. The team in the middle is the attacker. The attacker can move into either of the goal ends. If one of the defending teams obtains possession of the ball that team becomes the offense. The middle zone is neutral thus the team that loses the ball on offense must try to win it back before the other teams gets it to the middle. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Possession Football vs Effective Possession

Anyone familiar with Swansea FC (in Whales) or Barcelona FC (in Spain) is familiar with what "Possession" football looks like. Lots of good, completed passing and patience. However, when I watched the Swansea vs Man City game this weekend I could see the stark differences between Barca's  effective possession football and Swansea's lack of finishing.

That led me to start thinking about those differences. As I see it the styles are very similar although the patterns of passing are different. The big difference seems to be in the finishing movements. The Swan's just couldn't get the ball in the net even though they had several chances. Does that mean the offense should be drilled more heavily in a possession system?

It seems clear that good decision making in passing is a big part of the system. I wonder if that is due to the manager effectively recruiting the right type of players specific for this system or is it due to the system creating those chances and removing the possible mistakes? As a coach I am always looking for the right thing to tell my players. I also am looking for ways to eliminate mistakes or options to make mistakes by the system (plays or movements) I choose? 

Here are a few of my thoughts on the game. If anyone has comments feel free to send them.
  • One touch passing requires a very high level of fitness because you must move constantly to keep up with the flow of passing.
  • You must have an exceptional finisher in the offensive positions. Swansea seemed to lack this piece this weekend whereas no one can say that Barca doesn't have exceptional finishers.
  • Even though Man City are the leaders in the league the Swan's made them look ineffective and slow.
  • Defense is dependent upon quick reactions and zonal positioning. Even though the Swan's lunged at many balls they were covered and the height difference didn't seem to be a factor in the game. Covering the space as opposed to the many seemed to be very effective but I may be oversimplifying that.
  • When you possess the ball more you make a less patient team very frustrated which leads to penalty's and fouls. 
  • Almost no injuries during this match but in the same vein not enough fouls were being called. How many times do we have to see Balotelli take a dive before he is reprimanded? 
  • At the beginning of the Season Man United were playing much more like this and having great success at it. 
  • How do you train for this type of  offense? 
  • The Diamond formation change seemed to really help Man City defensively. The Swan's had more trouble building through the midfield which resulted in more balls over the top and easier interceptions. 
  •  How much do you emphasize controlling the ball as opposed to passing as quickly as possible. I saw the Swan's make several mistakes simply by not controlling the ball and getting rid of it early.
I'll be doing some research on this style so if you have any references please send them over. Thanks.

TL Owens

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Striker Training-intro

The other day I was watching Robin Van Persie scoring goals and creating plays from all over on a 5-2 win over in form Tottenham Spurs team. I heard the announcer mention that he loved the way Van Persie sticks his leg in before the defender can get there first. It occurred to me that this is natural for many strikers and not for most players. Having been a Striker and a Defender I started to wonder what makes up a good striker. As a coach I found that I had never really asked myself this question. I had been more preoccupied with teaching the fundamentals of the game. Thus I wanted to create this series to explore what it means to "Make" a good striker.

First off if you have seen it yet I am working on a Rules for Success list. I have broken it down into a few key categories: Offense, Defense, Coach, and Player. These are merely from my humble experience so if they work for you great!

Introduction to being a Striker

Definitions and Fundamentals
If you are new to the sport of Soccer/Football then some of these terms need definitions. A Striker is the person who plays at the front of the formation when facing the opposition goal. That's pretty easy right so let get into more detail about the strikers role. Many people will tell you that they are born to be a striker. While I admit that some traits do help a person to become a good striker I a believe anyone with enough determination can be trained to be a striker. If you want to be a striker then be one. But you have to put the work in to give yourself the tools to show your talent.

Age, Size and Shape?
I'll be the first to tell you it doesn't matter. As a Youth Coach I don't like to put kids into one single position. There are too many drawbacks to this approach. They may fit better into a position but I believe you should never tell them that is where they have to be. When you get to the competitive ages U11 and up then they need to start making decisions about where they want to play on the pitch.
This holds true for a players size and shape too. Kids are still growing when we start coaching them. You can't tell as a coach how a player will develop 3 or even 1 year down the road. Shape and size only matter when they become a drawback to the players growth in soccer. When they get to U11 and up you may start guiding them to an area of the pitch that will work within your system. However I would avoid making to many judgements based on physical attributes until they are out of 5th grade or starting competitive soccer. 


Myths: 
Strikers are Type A's and Glory Hounds. It does help to lean towards a type A personality but the place where it gets out of whack is when they focus on themselves too much. That is easy to do because Strikers get a lot of press being the one that normally scores a goal. A true striker must always be looking for a way to get the ball in the goal. They need to be single minded but able to see when they can't move forward. When this happens the decision must be to get the ball in the best scoring position. You must think 2 passes ahead!

A Striker must run fast. I would say a striker must have fast feet but that doesn't always translate into speed down the pitch. The ability to hold up the ball with your back to goal is essential when playing a long ball style or even a possession style. Along those lines the ability to move the ball quickly in tight spaces is invaluable. Quickness training is a must.

Strikers only know how to smash it into the goal or They are not too bright. Many strikers have given this myth a boost. However to play good soccer you must be able to make good decisions very quickly. Following a playbook will only get you so far. What happens when the situation doesn't fit the playbook? You must be creative and have the ability to think quickly about the tactics in a given situation. 

That's it for this section. I have some more research to do on the next section so it may be a little while before I get back to it. That said, I will be finding specific drills and training and posting them here.

Cheers!
TL Owens "Coach T"

Monday, February 6, 2012

Soccer and Coaching Equipment and Supplies in the Portland Area


You would think that after 30 something years in the sport I would realize the amount of equipment needed for a program. Little did I realize the amount of equipment a club uses or what they need to keep it going. With a few seasons of equipment coordination under my belt though I think I have a grasp on who to talk to and where to get equipment from. So for anyone else who is a new equipment coordinator take a look and I hope this helps you out.

Who:
For me the best info I received was from other board members. Now in my situation I was new and behind when trying to get things ready so I'm sure I pushed a little too hard to try to get resources and names from people. Someone did it before you did so ask them. AND don't be timid. You have a whole club to buy for and you need answers and resources quickly. Your job is to insure the coaches and kids don't have to think about whether or not you have the equipment available. So don't be timid just ask until you get a name and then ask them too.

Timing:
I'd advise starting to get your contacts in order at least 5-5 months before your Fall season starts. Also keep in mind that if you have a Competitive Program you will likely be called upon to refresh supplies for them year round. Keep extra equipment for them on hand in storage so you can pull quickly and refresh at your leisure.

What is needed:
A typical recreational coaches bag should include these basics short cones, tall cones, balls, practice vests, a medical kit, and a bag to put them in. At our club this is the breakout, by age group, of what quantities you need per bag.

K-2nd:
2  - Practice Balls (size 3)
12- Short Cones
8  - Tall Cones (may not even need them but it gives coaches some options)
8  - Practice Vests (size small - one color)

3rd-5th:
2  - Practice Balls (Size 4)
20- Short Cones (aka disc cones)
8  - Tall Cones (8-12 inch)
10- Practice Vests (size junior or small - one color! only half of the team should need them at any practice. If you are scrimmaging another team you should discuss before to insure they have separate colors)


6th-8th:

2  - Practice Balls - (size 5)
1  - Game Ball
20- Short Cones (disc cones)
12- Tall Cones (at least 12 inches)
14- Practice Vests (size adult)


High School Rec:
6  - Practice Balls (or more depending on the program budget)
2  - Game Balls
30- Short Cones
12- Tall Cones (consider also agility poles if your club can afford them. It's much cheaper to make them yourself out of PVC)
20- Practice Vests (Adult)

Where:
The big chain stores are fine in a pinch (Dicks, Sports Authority, ect..) but from my experience there are two other sources that will get you what you want either cheaper or faster than they can, Online and local shop's (like Tursi's in the Portland area). Fold-A-Goal is an excellent west coast based company that has all types of equipment at good prices. If you are just starting out or are a little behind schedule they can help you out. Also consider that if you have time and plan accordingly you can make some of the equipment your coaches may want to use. For instance a few years ago I started integrating more agility training for the 4th grade and up so I made agility poles from PVC. The trick here is finding the right ground stakes for the end of the pole. I found mine at Fold-A-Goal online but they are available at many other stores that sell field equipment such as flags. You can do the same with passing arc's, 10 yard rope squares and boxes, hurtles, and even kick back targets. I'll do another post on making your own equipment.  

Medical:
I put Medical second as it should be the first part of equipment you think of and for me it was the most difficult to source. Most local places will have very over priced small medical kits ranging from $15 to $50 but hardly any of them under $50 will have an ice pack. In my numerous trips to stores I couldn't find any I could buy in bulk for an entire club that were reasonably priced. If you have a member in the club with a "Safety Supply" business you may be able to get a good deal but barring that Fold-A-Goal has a great little kit that is inexpensive.
If you want to try to save and build your own kits keep in mind you need to prepare for different injuries at different levels of play. Kindergarten through 5th or 6th grades tend to be simple scrapes and knock injuries. A small kit with band-aids, a few ice packs, an ace bandage and a larger dressing (just in case) should suffice. As they get older the number of ice packs goes up and the possibility of breaks does too. Therefore the best thing is to spend the money to buy a trainers kit (or make your own) and definitely get those coaches and Assistant coaches into a First Aid/CPR class. Knowledge is power.     

Balls:
But shouldn't balls be obvious? The short answer is no. There are many different styles and quality differences between manufacturers. Most generally fall into practice, match cheap and match expensive. The practice balls are going to be the most durable and depending on the manufacturer they will be the cheapest. These are what you want to put in coaches bags!They are usually heavier and the materials may be harder than match balls. The first place to check is with your club to see if they have an agreement with any particular vendor. If not then go with the balls you like best. Personally I find that Adidas balls perform better than almost anything around and are a higher quality in the lower price ranges.

Bags:
There is a difference between what a recreational coach needs and what a competitive coach needs. Your competitive coaches will be experienced and likely tell you just what they want. However your rec coaches just need something that will transport the normal equipment needed for practice. A plain "mesh" sports bag is the right option here. It's simple and comes in many colors in case you want to separate by age group. I find this extremely helpful due to the different ball sizes and player counts in different age brackets. For instance your typical Kindergarten teams are 4v4 and a size 3 ball. Your 3rd grade teams are typically 6v6 and size 4 balls. Having the bags created in advance of handing them out and separated by color makes the whole process smoother.  

Field Equipment:
This is tougher than it seems. In this one you may want to take a visit to the local HS team or college team to get some advice. First you will want to look at your goal sizes. Different clubs may have different goal sizes. Locally in the Portland area I go to Tursi's. They are always helpful and know exactly what to get once you give them the goal sizes. They can order anything they don't have in stock also. When you go to measure a keep in mind the depth of the top of the goal. Not the width, that is standard. The depth may be different but usually will fall into a the area of a few different sizes. When in doubt order a size up. It's better to tie down the excess than to have holes in the goal. 

Checklist:
Timing - Start at least 3 months before your practices start
Who - Ask other club members!
Where - Big chain stores are ok for emergencies but better deals and quality equipment will be found at the niche' stores and Online. (In the Portland area: Tursi's, the Corner Kick, )
Medical Supplies - Just the basics.
Balls - "Practice" balls for daily and a "Match" ball for games
Bags - Keep it simple
Cones - get them in bulk and save a lot of money
Logo Equipment and Team Branded Merchandise:


Coach Trevor

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

First Post - Let's get started

Let's keep this first post simple. This blog is my effort to grow my own knowledge of Football or Soccer as we call it here in the US. Currently I am a coach and a board member with the local Soccer Club. I have been studying and playing Soccer since about 1978. Suffice it to say I was really young. That's a bit of time but I know I don't know everything. Don't agree with me? That's fine. Comment and let me know why I'm wrong. You never know, it could happen.