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.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

U13 - Lots of footwork, touches then 4v4

Today we trained outdoor on a tennis court.  The weather has been nice but the fields are still closed.  Today was a bit chillier than previous days and there was a misty rain falling on us the whole time.  Once the mist turned to rain at 1.75 hours in, I called it off.  We don't want anybody getting sick.

Scheduling is still tricky because of hockey and basketball, but when both teams work together we get OK numbers.  Today we had 16 between both teams.   There was a regional science fair, basketball and hockey tournament and a few boys were sick.

We started training with a 12-minute run and five 40m sprints.

We then went on the tennis courts and did 45 minutes of moving with the ball including various sequences for footwork and practicing turns.

During this our coaching points were:
  • Head up immediately after the turn and accelerate
  • Balance before, during and after the turn so you can pass/move after the turn
  • Keeping the ball close
  • Executing the turn quickly
  • Keeping the ball in a manageable area (not chasing it or digging it out from under you)
The balance thing is HUGE.  Some players throw themselves into a turn or a move but don't have the balance to finish the job.  It's about controlling your body's momentum at all times.  When we jump through agility ladders or over hurdles we stress landing under control because some players just throw themselves forward, losing their balance.

When we got into 4v4 on each tennis court we were looking for the boys to use their turns to keep possession.

To set up some kind of organization/structure for them to work within we said we were looking for :
  • 1 player with the ball
  • 1 supporting from behind
  • 1 supporting wide
  • 1 supporting forward
The player with the ball is never allowed to be the last one back, forcing players to move into support positions.  Now everybody has an idea for how they work within a 4v4 situation.

We set the shape hopefully setting the stage for success.  They were free to do as they chose within those guidelines.  They did not let us down and it was very entertaining to watch.

Of course, as with always, we stressed quick-early-accurate passes.

4v4 is a great practice tool, competitive,  and allows you to work on everything and anything, depending on what conditions you set.

Looking back, I came with a fully planned out practice and we got to the end of it.  Coaches Paul and John helped make it successful with good coaching points and the boys were in a working mood.

Next time I run a similar session I need to include more competition along the way.  Not just 4v4, but 1v1, 2v1, 2v2, races, anything that says "I win".

I felt good on my drive home, the feeling I am looking for.  I know I can feel good about a session while self-assessing what needs to change.

I look forward to our group fitness session on Thursday. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

U13 - Fitness session #1 (with U10/U11/U12/U17)

Acting on an idea from a senior member of our club, Al Edwards, I organized a group fitness session with our U13 boys, our other u13 team along with our U10, U11, U12, U17 teams.  Between all the boys and less the ones who were missing because of hockey and basketball , we had 70 players out.

Our session took place at the track of a local high school.  The set up was:
  • 12 minute run
  • 5 40m sprints
  • training circuit of 15 stations, done twice.
The evening took a little longer than expected because we demonstrated each exercise and organization of players took a little bit.  But over all I was VERY pleased with how it went.  The boys all came out to work and were very co-operative.

The station exercises involved hurdles, agility ladders, some dribbling drills, pushups with and without a ball, 2 planking stations, situps/crunches, jumping on and off a bench, skipping and lunges.  Each station was 1 minute with 30 seconds to move between stations.

I was happy afterwards because I was able to get there a bit early to setup, the time of my day was such that I wasn't rushing and the boys all came in a great mood.  It was such a positive night and the parents and players were the reason.  The setup and organization might have set the stage, but the participants made the evening enjoyable.

A great positive to the night was being able to include parents into the session.  I want to include them more this season so they can be there as good examples for their kids.  Coaches have too much influence on a child and today I think kids need their parents (and vice-versa) as much as they ever did.

There were things that we could fix:
  • More parents on stations so coaches can roam and watch their players.
  • Assign a parent to do the stop watch and whistle
  • Clearly marked out stations for those exercises that did not have equipment (pushups/situps)
  • A first-aid kid on site (I forgot)
  • Ensure everybody had a lot of water handy before we started
  • Check for injuries
We had some experienced parents involved and hopefully they contribute by bringing ideas to the table.  One is a high school football coach and the other is a former fitness instructor.

Next up is Saturday morning, outdoor.  We are training on a playground as our fields are still closed and the weather is too nice to be indoor.  We're planning on lots of individual ball work and 1v1 .  it will be both teams together.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

U17 - First Friendly Match

The U17 Welland boys had their first pre-season match today.  The venue was our indoor field in Welland, which still has boards from the American style of professional indoor soccer.  An example is in the photo below.  Ours is similar, without the 20,000 seats.

Our indoor soccer building was built in 1984 and has served the community well.  The artificial turf is on it's last legs but our new building should be done by next November. 

It was a good break from training and a good chance to get re-acquainted with each other in a game situation.  Have exhibition games for U16/U17/U18 is a tricky venture as it's difficult for them to not turn up the heat 100%.  As a coach you're looking for them to build some game fitness and chemistry and do some assessment for planning purposes.  Winning is nice, but it's not priority number one.

There were some instances of rough play and players hitting the boards, but everybody escaped relatively unharmed (one banged knee) and the boys now have a new focal point going forward.

There were a lot of notes I made for the coach to review ... but the biggies were:
  • deciding when and when not to go forward, and having the support behind if you can't go forward
  • 1v1 defending
  • speed of passes in all directions
It's only their first game and they've been away from each other for 10 days so there was no need to beat on them for a lot of small sticky points that would probably be rectified by fixing the issues above.  As we continue to correct their shape in possession a lot of other problems will disappear at the same time.

Even though their 1v1 defending technique was poor, their desire to challenge and want the ball back is admirable and a great characteristic to build from.  And they are not afraid to shoot which is always helpful ... if you want to score goals.

At U17, mental toughness and physical durability will play a big roll as games get more physical and the verbal warfare moves up a notch.  That was also evident today.

Indoor Soccer Arena in Canton, Ohio, USA