Friday, November 16, 2018

Proof: Over-coaching from the bench is illogical.

So you like to control your players from the sideline, eh?

If the theoretical, anecdotal and experience arguments don't sway you away from over-coaching during games, let's look at it from a logical standpoint.  Scaling back your desire or need to over-coach from the touchline is no easy task, but it's something you need to aspire to.

Enough has been written about why you shouldn't over-coach and those articles revolve around a player's freedom of expression, developing decision making, increasing Soccer IQ, joie de vivre, etc.  Those arguments aren't backed up with facts or measurable quantities.  If you aren't buying those arguments, let me attack it from another angle.

Before we begin, think about how long most interactions or moments are during a game.  A ball is coming, you scan your area, receive the ball, your opponent is coming, you look again then execute. How long? Two seconds? Three or four if you're lucky?  Depending on position, maybe one second?


Familiar scenario: you are driving your 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO down a highway in North America and the person sitting in the passenger seat tells you that your gas tank is showing 1/4, but you tell them it's at 1/2. The debate starts.  You know EXACTLY what I am talking about here.  The problem is analog gauges are meant to be viewed straight on, not from an angle.  When I teach students to read older analog meters at Niagara College , the main teaching point is that the display is to be read straight on.  Many have a mirrored strip behind the needle to help you know when you are straight on; when you can't see the needle's reflection you are reading the meter from the right angle.

What does this have to do with coaching soccer?  (As a side note, EVERYTHING has to do with coaching soccer. Never forget that.)  Point-of-view (POV) is everything.  You can't possibly see what your player sees when they have the ball on the field. From the touchline,  what you think are their open teammates and available channels are usually inaccurate.
As a coach who coaches from the sideline, there is nothing that works in your favour.
Here is an exercise to help you understand this.  When you stop a functional or small-sided-game to make a coaching point about options, walk over to where the ball is and see that player's POV, from where they stand.  You will immediately notice how skewed the POV was from your coaching position.  Not always, but very often.

When you're working on your team's shape while defending, go to where the ball is and look towards goal to assess how compact the defending team is and if there are any holes you can exploit.  Can you get a more accurate assessment of a team's defensive shape from another angle?  No.

This is all to be done in training because during games is when your players need to interpret what they see and make decisions from that.  If what you see from the touchline is inaccurate, then the decision you make is based on poor information and your instruction will lead your player to failure .

(My favourite is when a coach is trying to set up a wall from the touch line while defending a free kick.)

Propagation Delay and the Speed of Sound

Propagation Delay is a techie term that basically describes the time it takes from input to output.
The speed of sound, for everybody that listened in science, is usually 330-340m/s, depending on conditions. For our example, let's say the average 10 year old can run at a pace of 3.5m/s (12.5km/h).

Let's spell out the scenario:
  • Your player is 40m away from you when they receive the ball
  • A defender is 10m away from your player and approaching the ball.
  • You see the situation
  • You make a decision based on what you think the player sees
  • You yell out the instruction
  • Your player hears the instruction and needs to process it
  • Their body attempts to execute your instruction.
  • You see your player receive the ball.  Let's say you need 1s to make your decision for the next play.
  • You relay the instruction to your player.  Being 40m away, with your voice travelling at 330m/s, it takes 0.12s for your voice to reach your player.
  • Let's say it takes them 1s to process what you said.
  • So from the moment you saw them receive the ball to when they are ready to execute, 2.12 seconds have passed.
  • During that time, moving at 3.5m/s, it takes the defending player who is 10m away 2.9s to reach your player.
  • Your player has 0.78 seconds to succeed in executing your instruction.  I used the word "succeed" loosely here.
(By now you're thinking I am crazy, but I know I have you thinking.)

All this does not take into account that:
  • it didn't take your player a second or two to bring the ball under control.
  • the incoming defending player is not distracting them while you are relaying your instruction.
  • a second/third/fourth voice (assistant coach or parent) may be sending another and different instruction. 
  • the wind is not against you. Wind doesn't alter the travel of sound that much,  but it is annoying 😁 
  • your instruction is probably wrong.
As a coach who likes to control everything from the touchline, there is nothing that works in your favour.  Time and space are the two things we crave while in possession.  Your distractions are taking away your player's time.

Of the factors you can prove, the timing and the POV are both against you.  Add to that the unmeasurable components and distractions; cheering parents, poor touch, fear of making a mistake, hearing the instruction being relayed to the defending player (by their coach with a poor POV) and other parents telling your player to pass to their child (I couldn't resist that one).

Work on game scenarios in training, give them the confidence to play their own game and spend your time relaying more useful information regarding shape and reminders while the ball is out of play.  The game is more enjoyable for the players and the coaches alike.

(This was meant to give you something to think about until you discover that the unmeasurable theories are the REAL reasons you should not over-coach during games.)

Thanks for reading.

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