Saturday, March 31, 2012

U13 - Practice Cancelled

We cancelled practice for Saturday.  The unusually warm weather we've had in March gave way to one last cold spell with wet snow before the month ends.  Winter's last roar, I guess.

I did not have an indoor field or gym booked as a backup, so we will just reconvene Monday night.  The forecast is promising.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

U13 - Fitness session #2

Tonight we had our second fitness session involving all travel boys players from U10-U13 and U17.  It was VERY cold tonight and we had a lot of boys winding down their hockey and basketball season.  In total we had 47 boys, down from last week's 70.  Five of our fourteen players were missing, 4 for hockey the other for basketball.  Our other U13 team was also missing 7 players due to winter sports.  

I am looking forward to more players and warmer weather.  :-)

The good news from tonight is that the kids who came did so in a big way.  Their work rate was refreshing.  We also had several new parents manning our circuit stations.

I've been thinking about what we want out of this.  My personal desires are:
  • Ability to bring a higher work rate in games
  • Making the players realize what they are capable of
  • Physical literacy and co-ordination
  • Team/Club bonding
One of the early feedbacks from a parent-helper was to better explain each exercise or why we do it.  So tonight I did a brief explanation and provided each station person a small list of coaching points.  That is something we'll have to keep improving.  We also did a cool-down jog afterwards, acting on more feedback.

We did the same thing as last week:
  • 12 minute run
  • 5 40m sprints
  • 15 station circuit (twice)
I was hoping to free up the coaches and have more parents manning stations, but the lower numbers took some of last week's parent helpers with them.  I want the coaches to see their kids in action and cheer them on.

My personal feeling after the session was good.  The boys are able to help set up, the level of co-operation was good and I felt I had a better handle on the situation, being the second time doing it.  The kids are learning how to train which is good.  Training is always good, but learning HOW to train is important too.

We re-demonstrated 2 of the stations after our break and the boys really refocused their efforts.

I should have done my homework sooner to see who was there and organize the parent helpers in advance.  I was assuming they would all be there but they weren't because it was their boys who were missing.  Never assume.  This week I will get my ducks in a row to make sure the evening passes a little smoother.

Another item that needs tweaking are the stations.  They were OK, but they need to be changed up to keep the routine fresh.  We may opt to change the format of the second portion altogether.  We'll see.  Now that a system is in place I should consult somebody who is a fitness guru to adjust the stations.

I am starting to see a bit of a trade-off with this.  The positives are definitely the energy of the group, the club atmosphere and the guarantee of good numbers.  The down-side is your ability to coach and perfect the technique of each exercise, due to the numbers and format.

The feedback from other coaches has been positive with good tips for future sessions.

I was not always feeling good at the end of training since January, but that has been getting better as time passes this season.

Next up is Saturday morning ... more footwork, more passing, more soccer.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Niagara United CSL Program

Tonight I went and spent some time on the bench of Niagara United's new CSL team.  They had a friendly 11v11 with a local team.

The Canadian Soccer League is considered Canada's Professional League and was formed over 80 years ago.  It's not at the MLS level, but it's an all Canadian league.  The Montreal Impact and Toronto FC of the MLS both have teams in this league.

It was nice to be exposed to a high level of men's soccer again.  I am returning to the OCAA College Men's game in the fall and it's important to stay familiar with that level of player and play.

The team has a lot of nice players at their disposal.  Their fitness and technical level were clearly above that of their opponent but it was important for them to be on the pitch together, getting to know each other.

Because of the commitment level for CSL play it's difficult to lure some quality players away from the top senior teams because of work or family commitments.  The level of play is still very good, but the league does have it's challenges.

I was impressed by how eager they were to counter attack in transition and how quickly the ball got forward when the chance was there.  Their 1v1 defending and on-field communication were also noticeable in a positive way.    

Being so early in their formation, you could see their team shape was a little out of whack but that will come with time.  During this stage in their formation I felt it would have served them better to knock the ball around for the sake of knocking the ball around, drawing as many teammates as possible into the game and flow.  There were situations where they had no play forward but tried to force it anyway.  In a friendly like tonight, there's no need to force the issue if you're under pressure...  just turn, use your support and knock the ball around until somebody has a play forward.

I look forward to running a few sessions for them over the next little while.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Are we sticking to LTPD?

So now that we are moving to our outdoor phase of training I am looking at the LTPD stage for our boys (Stage 4: Training to Train).  See previous posts about Long Term Player Development.

According to the program as it's laid out by the CSA:

Description: At this stage, skill training demands and training loads are increased to develop and refine skills and tactics. Tactical awareness becomes an increasingly important facet of training, alongside mental toughness, concentration, and diligence. Elite soccer groups may express interest in recruiting talented young players, but coaches and parents should be careful to recognize and protect the long-term interests of each athlete. Game formats develop from 8v8 to 11v11 (although no 11v11 prior to 13 years of age) as players grow through this stage, and the season moves toward year-round play that includes appropriate rest and recovery periods. 

GOAL: Increase training loads and soccer-specific skills and tactics. Begin to identify elite players.

Our progress: The load has increased over last year and will continue to do so as the winter sports taper off. 

TECHNICAL: Develop consistency in base skills. Continue to introduce advanced skills. Develop position-specific skills. Practice with increasingly complex and demanding games. Individualized training to address strengths and weaknesses.

Our progress: We have been introducing more complex ball skills and have been more demanding regarding their footwork.  We've introduced more conditions into games and the boys are responding well. 

TACTICAL: Increased emphasis on team play. Understand principles of play such as offensive
width and depth, defending pressure, cover and balance. Positional awareness developed in small-sided games and full-sided competitive matches. Develop understanding of defense, midfield and forward units’ tasks.

Our progress: this has been progressing as we have been setting the shape before exercises and competitions progress too far.  We have not broken things down into unit tasks as we have been training as a bigger unit until we have our boys on a more consistent basis.  We've been working a lot on 2v1 since we don't have our entire team out on a regular basis.   Defending (1v1 and team) is a problem with this group that will be addressed over the next 4 weeks.

PHYSICAL: Regular musculoskeletal assessment to detect onset of PHV and monitor afterwards. Aerobic training after onset of PHV. Girls strength training at onset of menarche after PHV. Boys strength training 12-18 months after PHV. Emphasize flexibility during PHV. Soccer-specific conditioning - stamina, speed, strength, suppleness.

PHV is Peak Height Velocity (growth spurt)

Our progress: we have been very aware that some of the boys are experiencing PHV and exhibiting patience with them.  Through our general fitness and agility exercises Coach Paul and I have been watching the players closely and trying to identify who will need some extra encouragement as they  work their way through their growth spurt.  It's tough because the physically awkward period happens at the worst psychological time for them.

Our fitness and agility workouts are more intense than last season and the boys seem to enjoy that kind of work.

MENTAL: Introduce advanced skills: Self-talk, imagery, profiling and thought-stopping. Introduce training and competition diaries. Relaxation and anxiety control techniques.

Our progress: we started working on this last year a bit introducing game scenarios.  This will progress this season.  I can guarantee the diaries aren't going to happen for u13 boys.

LIFESTYLE: Understand nutrition for health and optimized performance. Manage rest and recovery and time management.

PERSONAL: Responsibility and self discipline. Positive communication and teamwork. Issues of peer groups, alcohol, drugs, school, family.

Our progress: this will become more of a challenge as the boys enter their "Grade 8" summer, more sleepovers, etc.  Busy families also make it difficult to maintain an athlete's diet and rest schedule.  I also think it would be a difficult sell at this age.  But the development stage covers to age 16 and it would apply more as elite players are identified.  We give out guidelines for eating during tournaments, etc, but it's nothing carved in stone as we can't control what happens when they are away from us.

I am happy with the direction and progress so far.  We will make more progress as we move towards working with our group alone.  

Soccer and Supply Teaching

I have been supply teaching for secondary schools in the Niagara Catholic District School Board since November 2011.

I just finished a conversation with a young lady with whom I have many common acquaintances through soccer.

It's unbelievable how rarely (and I mean rarely) I have had a class where a student didn't recognize me or vice-versa because of soccer, or a name is recognized or something. The kids light up when they know you can identify them because of sports.

Making a connection to young people is always enjoyable, whether through sports, socially or through family, etc. I never thought soccer would play such an important role in helping me settle into a strange class and keep my day moving long.

Sports are not the only way to make a connection as I also ask about students' surnames, clubs/groups identified on their jackets or anything I can pick up.  But soccer has expanded my radar scope for finding a link between us.

As a final note, I always joke that my father's goal in life is to find a connection between him and everybody he meets ... and here I am doing the same thing.