Friday, August 3, 2012

U13 - We finally tried to stay calm with the ball.

I was very proud of my U13 boys team last night.  Under unbelievable pressure they were still working to solve problems and establish a passing game.

We have struggled to play possession soccer because we have been panicking under pressure.  Rather than trying and failing, we've been avoiding the issue.  Last night  I saw a crack in their collective stubbornness last night.

Playing possession draws more players into the game, builds everybody's confidence, helps us develop each player and is MORE FUN.  Successfully solving problems is a tremendous buzz for everybody involved.   Panicking and smashing balls for 80 minutes is not enjoyable at all.

Right from the opening whistle they were trying to string passes together.  Passes were being intercepted or misplayed or way off target.  As each minute passed we were connecting more passes and making progress.

Let's be clear, we were not going to beat this team last night, and didn't.  But it was a great opportunity to force the issue.

The message was clear.  Possession soccer, first and foremost, regardless of the score.  Figure out a solution to the problem of playing a stronger team.  Panic kicks were not acceptable and failing was OK as long as you tried again.

By the 25th minute we were crossing half on a regular basis and by the early part of the second half the game was still in reach and a full back-and-forth affair. 

The first step to becoming more competitive with the ball was fighting to keep it.  There was a lot of shielding and a lot of our boys drew fouls while forcing the other team to fight to get it.

We still have a lot of work to do but last night was the first time we rally tried to stay calm and establish some form of possession.  This weekend we have 3 games and that will be the message again.  Luckily we have another crack at the same team we played last night.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

U17 - who is ready for the last 5 minutes?

I have always believed you learn most about a player during the last 5 minutes of a 1 goal game.  Are you the type of player your teammates want on the field?

Our next session we will be spending 30 minutes on simulated situations to better prepare the boys for that very situation.  Both down or up a goal.  Last night we were up 2-1 and letting our opposition run freely as they were trying to tie the game.  We escaped with the three points, but it's the third such situation in the past 3 weeks where the end-of-game grit was nonexistent.

In two of those games we escaped with three points.  In one of them (cup game) we allowed a goal  at the very end and lost the game in penalty kicks.

The boys have been doing so many good and exciting things on the field.  If we could add this end-of-game insight into their tool box it would make them all the more competent for their next soccer experience.

When you are leading by a goal you have to defend and work on the assumption that the other team is very eager to score.  Physically, mentally and emotionally, the opposition is pouring out all of their desire and willing to walk off the field drained in search of the equalizer.  They are anticipating the celebration and have nothing to lose at that point.  Are you ready to contend with that as the defending team?

How about when you are down by a goal?  Smarter possession?  More daring players who want to make an impact?  Are some players being too selfish and want to do all the work?  Are your players level headed enough to not get frustrated and work to win the ball back and relaunch their comeback attempt?  Are your players to anxious and exposing you to an easy counter attack too early in the come back attempt?

What role does fitness play?  Are the right players on the field?  Have tactical adjustments been made for the situation?

There are a multitude of tactical discussions to have, but I feel you need the right people on the field to do that job.  As a player, the last 5-10 minutes of a close game are so exciting.  I feel the mental and emotional condition of the players are the bigger factors in succeeding.

At U15-U18, emotions and discipline are all over the map. Co-operation is sometimes hit and miss and you don't want to be criticizing or over-coaching players during those moments.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

U9 Boys - Pelham - receiving the ball

Few situations are more rewarding than watching the instant improvement of younger players.

Tonight I went to run a session for my nephew's U9 team in neighbouring Pelham.  I always felt silly running around doing sessions for people and never working with my nephews.  My brother helps with this team and I also wanted to support his coaching endeavours.

Tonight's topic was receiving the ball with the inside and outside of the foot and moving the first touch away from pressure.

I started them off with a small sided game for my own diagnostic purposes.  We had some fun and I saw what I needed to see.

We ran them through various passing drills focusing on the way they receive the ball and move out from their first touch.

Coaching points throughout were:
  • Attack the ball
  • Look-touch-look-play
  • First touch out from the feet
  • First touch away from pressure
I enjoyed the session and a lot of players quickly picked up on what we were doing.  We let them play enough, but next time I think I would let them play more or have more competitive challenges.

I kept the practice on an individual level for a few reasons: it supports LTPD to do so and I am not aware of their coach's philosophy during games.  Some coaches are not comfortable with certain styles of play and I respect that.

If I get the chance, I would like to work with this group again on footwork and turns.

Tonight reinforced what I people say regarding coaches going back and working with younger age groups to stay sharp.