Thursday, June 7, 2012

U17 - Focus wins the game

Mental toughness and focus won the game for our U17 boys last night.

Our U17 boys traveled to Flamborough last night for their 4th season game.  I had to take the bench for this one as Coach Ben was stuck at work.

As soon as we got there I knew what we were in for.  The official lined all the boys up to check their equipment and then gave the captains a 5-minute speech.  We warned the boys that we potentially had a ref who was going to worry about the protocol of the game and not actually ref the game.

Boy, were we right!  In the first 5 minutes the referee barked at both benches about our technical area and was a stickler for the boys changing at the half line.  All this while the boys were throwing elbows and sliding studs up.

Our boys just played their game and paid little attention to the official.  The game was getting a bit dangerous and the referee heard from me (briefly).  I was just glad nobody was injured on either team.

The field was a bit narrow so the boys had to work hard to maintain width and create space.  Our GK is nursing some discomfort, so our centre-defender stayed a little deeper than usual.  The first half saw us keep our shape well and the ball was doing all the work.  The game was very physical but nobody lost their cool.  Good players know when a game is not under control and just keep the peace themselves.  I was very proud of both teams.

We took a 1-0 lead from a good, low cross from the goal-line to the top of the goal area.  They responded with a goal off a 1v1 from our keeper.  

Half time score: 1-1

The second half became a bit more physical, but nothing came of it.  The field was also getting more slippery as it was very hard and the rain had been falling since kick-off.  Players on both teams were losing their footing and long balls into the keeper were becoming more difficult to handle.

We started losing our shape and our defenders starting launching balls 40-50 yds every time.  Our strikers have only so many sprints in them and long balls/poor shape leave you vulnerable because of the large gaps left on the field.  It took some work to get everybody reorganized, but they did and that calmed things down.

On a wonderful penetrating pass, our left midfielder got behind the defenders and scored to make the score 2-1.  Flamborough had 2 glorious chances on crosses, allowed by poor 1v1 defending on the wings.  With about 10 minutes left, we scored an insurance goal off a footrace for a stray ball.

We escaped the match with no injuries and only 1 caution for dissent.  With the physical play, lack of a firm whistle and the field conditions, that makes me happy.  And I am proud of the boys for sticking to their jobs.

Final score 3-1.

Notes from the game:

  • The last 4 goals allowed have all been off 1v1 with keeper.  The pass is always coming from a free player in front of the central defenders so we will work on one pressuring the ball and the other supporting.
  • Better understanding of shape.  We still haven’t had a full team practice to work on that.
  • More organization on restarts, putting the right players ion the right place.
  • Three different players scored, 2 for the first time in a LONG time.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

U13 - First Season Game

The good, the bad and the ugly.  Our first game of the season took us from one extreme to the other.

Last night our U13 boys played Mississauga Croatia.

We saw all of our work at training put into play during the first half.  We were challenging for balls, wall passes, crosses and penetrating passes.  Our 1v1 defending was a bit off, but overall we played a solid half.  We were stretching the field a lot more than usual, but it started getting a bit out of hand the last 5 minutes with some passes going nowhere.

We took a 1-0 lead on a beautiful sequence and a nice finish.  We conceded a goal on a string run by the opposing striker. 

Half time 1-1.

Our coaching points for halftime:
  • Good challenges so far.
  • Good choices on flick-ons and laying the ball back
  • The forward pass is only good if there is a forward target.
  • More patience while defending 1v1 on the wings and in midfield.
  • Not moving as a unit, leaving too many gaps the last 10 minutes or so.
The second half got messy.  Boys were losing their focus off the ball, there was less running and more errant passes.  But what really killed us was losing our shape.  We tried to make some changes to plug up some holes.  Some boys were walking forward while others were walking back.  Our challenges stopped altogether for a 20 minute span.  So when a pass was short or a challenge lost, we were caught off guard.

We ended up losing 5-1.  
I am not disappointed.  The first half showed we can play and know what to do.  The last 10 minutes of the game the boys were showing us they still had some great ideas and we managed to put together some scoring chances.

We had some players show us they were definitely improving in their specific roles on the team.
I could say we didn't work hard enough.  That might be partially true, but that's blaming the kids.  It's our job to coach, observe, adjust and coach some more.  The kids look to us for information and guidance.  In the coaching world, the players win and the coach loses.  :-)

This weekend we go to Erie, PA.  After the three games we can determine the main topics of the next few sessions.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

OSA - Active Start Course

Last night I facilitated an Active Start course at our club.  It's the Ontario Soccer Association's first course in the new education pathway under LTPD.

We had 15 coaches in attendance.  The course involved tasks that reviewed the role of the coach and the development characteristics of the players we work with.  This was complimented with a few on-field sessions delivered by me and some coaches in the course.

I really enjoyed facilitating the course because I love attending courses myself, and my goal is to make the course as enjoyable for the coaches as they are for me.

It was the first formal coaching course for all of the coaches present.  I am happy they took the step because it's not always an easy transition from player to coach.  Getting coaches into the first course is the biggest challenge.  Once they see what's offered they usually come back.

One of the main discussions revolved around physical literacy

The two tasks  revolved around discussing 4 questions each, in groups.  We then shared answers and received input from others.

Task 1
Why are you an Active Start coach?
Why does an Active Start level player play?
Development Characteristics of the Active Start players?
Suggestions for training sessions?

Task 2
Safety considerations?
Manner and appearance of the coach?
Activities: Choosing, organizing and running.
Managing parents?

I would say the course was successful last night.  The OSA's new approach of full coach participation is a lot better than the old tradition "I speak you listen" model.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

U13 - VERY productive session

This morning we had one of our best sessions of the year with the U13s.  

We had a tight plan, everything was laid out and ready, they kept busy and moved from one phase to the next and we kept it competitive.  The stage was set and the boys' hard work made the practice enjoyable.

I wasn’t happy after last practice because I let the end fizzle.  Today, we had 13 boys out for 90 minutes.

We started off with a run that utilized the one hill at our club and later incorporated the hill into a relay race.  Losers do push-ups.

What I wanted to get done today was:
  • Improved 1v1 attacking
  • Penalty kicks
I have been trying to use 30-40 minutes/session to work on a variety of things before getting to the theme.  The boys need work all over and we don’t have enough sessions to focus on one each session. 

If I run a session for another team with a very specific theme, my session is more focused.  They are their coach’s work for the remainder of the season and I am brought in to tackle a specific topic.  Because I have these boys all year and need to assemble the complete package, I don’t feel I have the luxury of dedicating the entire session to one topic.  Not when I know most of these boys do not touch a ball away from my program.

Today our drills were:
  • Various dribbling turns and sequences
  • Keep away (9v4)
  • Heading
  • Playing the ball out of the air
  • Flicking a ball forward
  • Striking long, with laces
All are areas where they are building confidence as their technique improves.  AND they are using those skills more in games.

I moved into a setup where we were demonstrating and rehearsing three 1v1 moves, all starting with a slow down and double tapping the ball with the outside of the foot.  The three moves were
  • double tap, turn back
  • double tap, chop across
  • double tap, explode past defender
After the boys repeated those three moves we moved into a 1v1 setup in a grid, giving them ideas of where and when they can apply the moves … then we just let them figure it out on their own.  And they did.  Some of the boys have a lot of ideas 1v1 and hopefully this gives them three more.

Coaching points:
  • Change of pace/direction
  • All parts of the foot
  • See ball & defender
  • Deception
  • Attack space behind defender
We were assigned the mini field, but I wanted the 1v1 on goal to be on a full size net.  So we let them have a 7v7 small-sided-game first.  What I wanted was to get the boys used to playing balls out of the air again, so GKs had to send the ball in the air to the central part of the field. 

Coaching points:
  • No bounce
  • Defending team redirect ball to a teammate forward
  • Attacking team, look for a flick-on over the defenders
The boys were attacking balls in the air with more confidence and sending them in the right direction.  The nice thing that I was seeing was that they were using their new moves and also playing long passes out of the air, on the run.  I felt the game went long enough to see 15 balls into the middle yet did not go too long as to turn into a circus.

Once the game was over, we snuck onto the full field.  With the attacker starting at the bottom of the centre circle and the defender starting at the top of the penalty area we went into a 1v1 drill again.  The attacker passes the ball to the defender who serves it back and the game was on.  The goal was to finish with a shot.  After the player shot, he became the next defender.  It moved through everybody with relative ease and good flow.

The players were using their new moves as well as their own repertoire.  We did NOT coach the defenders other than to pressure. The coaching points were the same but we did have to remind them to explode and cut back in after beating the defender to create the shot. 

Next session with me, the SSG will be dribbling focused with the goal to dribble past the opposing goal line.  Should I have done it this session?  Maybe, but I am not there next session and I wanted them to get some unconditional, regular soccer in before our season opener Tuesday.

To finish practice today we had all of the boys take 5 or 6 penalty kicks.  We’ve never really gone through the gang to see who can hit a ball off the spot and I would hate to put them in a shootout at a tournament and not be ready.

Did we see improvement on 1v1 attacking?  You bet.

Would I change the plan or organization?  I would if we didn't have to work with 2 different fields.  But it went well.

There was enough time to complete our plan and keep the boys interested.
I was happy with our session today and I did see improvement.  It wasn't a text book session in terms of a plan you would use during an assessment,  but I felt it served the long and short term needs of the group.  

If I was tight for time and had to choose, I would run a session with a very focused theme only.

It was nice to have Coach Paul out as well as a parent helper.  Coach Paul is developing some good observation skills and the parent helper keep the session moving by serving and retrieving balls.  I will share the coaching points of each drill so they can offer advice if they feel comfortable.