Friday, August 24, 2012

U17 boys - still moving forward and making progress.

Our U17 boys team is still at the top of the table.  But it's not the results that turn my crank with this team.

Working with this group has been interesting.  They're tough, athletic, they want to play and still want to learn.  We still have a few players who fight us on staying organized and working through bad habits, but we make progress with them too.

During games I look to remind them of their shape, keeping the ball moving, involving everybody (including the GK) and looking to play entertaining soccer.

A few players have had a lot of success in new spots and that has given us more options to get more players on the field for more minutes.

Between players, we've had a lot of positive talk on the field and a few all our arguments about how things should have been played at certain times.  I can live with that as long as they're talking about the soccer and not each other, and get back to the business of playing.

My hope for these boys is that they all take what they've learned and apply it with their high school programs and beyond.

For each position we continue to give them suggestions on how to play different situations and getting out of jams during games.  My biggest pet peeve has been wide midfielders trying to take guys 1v1 when there was a wall-pass or penetrating-pass option already present.  We gave them options for this too.

We'll see how the season ends.  We have 3 games left with a 4 point lead.  One of our final 3 games is against the second place team.

U13 boys - 2 steps backward tonight

After two very productive training sessions this week, that last thing I expected was a flat 8-0 loss.

Our opponents were bigger, stronger and faster,  but we still have to offer up some resistance to stay in the game.

I can accept losing.  I don't like it, but I can accept it as long as there is something to gain from it.  Tonight I felt like we were teetering on the fence of success and ended up falling backwards.

With this particular group in the division we are in, we are going to run into a lot of teams that are stronger than us.  But I do expect the team to compete and look to execute what we learn in training.

During our sessions we always apply every new concept and technique in small sided games and exercises with pressure.  They will not always succeed in games right away, but we have to attempt it and attempt it again until it works in a higher pressure environment.

With the exception of a few games, I have been wrestling with this all year and unsuccessful in finding a permanent solution.  Our production in games is not even close to what they are willing to try in training.   Our passes are lighter and slower, tackles are incomplete, etc.

We've been physically overwhelmed in a lot of games, but I still want to see sparks of brilliance around the field at different times.

We have 2 games left.  One session before the first then 3 sessions before our final home game.

The kids still come to learn every session and work hard.  For this I am proud of them and it's a stern reminder that it's always the coach's job to set the boys up to succeed. 

My job is to teach, nurture, continue demanding that they compete during matches and look to execute what we learn in training. 

I do not worry about finishing last and being relegated.  It might actually be a blessing so these boys have a chance to succeed and enjoy their time with the ball on the field.  At this age success is important to keep the players interested.  It might not be team success, but there has to be individual successes somewhere along the line.  Maybe the prospect of a lower pressure environment is good medicine.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Niagara College men's tryouts

It was with great excitement that I started tryouts through my new position as coach of Niagara College's Men's Soccer Team.

Over the past two days, 46 players have come out to show their stuff.  My biggest accomplishment to date is that I now know all of their names.  For me, this is important so players know they are not operating in anonymity.  You never want somebody who wasn't selected to suspect you never knew who they were in the first place.

The sessions have been basic.  Dynamic stretch, personal stretch, warm-up drill to help evaluate individual technical levels then on to a game.  It's tryouts and they want to audition.

The first day, things went OK and I saw everybody play.  The second day really showed me what I was working with.  We have  plenty of players how can compete at the college level, but I can't keep them all.   The pace and intensity of the game today was promising.  There was a lot of communication on the field and players were really working to combine to develop smart plays.

We have several lefties out and the type of players available cover the spectrum.  They are all good athletes with suitable physical characteristics for competitive soccer.  Technical proficiency is what will separate players in the end.  The players know that their "hustle" and physical gifts are not useful if they can't control a ball and make decisions under pressure.

I shared one thing with them.  Tryouts NEVER end.  You are trying out to win a spot on the team.  Then you are trying out every session to be one of the 18 players dressing, then to be one of the 11 on the field. If you're not on the field, you want to be the first one I call from the bench..  If you're not one of the 18 dressing, you want to be the next one called.

In support of LTPD, I work to make this experience encourage the guys to be players for life.

They have 3 days off until we reconvene Friday.  The group will be trimmed after Friday then again after Monday.  We have a pre-season game Aug 30.  The season starts September 8.  Some players still have club commitments and we'll have to see how that plays out.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

District Program - 1v1 attacking - letting them play

I coached the Niagara District boys program for four years and last night I visited their weekend camp to deliver a session.

The District program is for players in their U12 year and prepares them for an identification showcase for the U13 Regional program every fall.  Our district covers the Niagara area.  Our Region (Region 2) covers Hamilton, Niagara all the way up to Brampton.  The players in the Regional program are working towards spots in the Provincial program during their u14 year.

This system will be changed in the near future.

The topic of my session 1v1 attacking.  My coaching points for 1v1 attack were:
  • See the ball, defender and space behind the defender
  • Attack the space behind the defender
  • Change of speed/direction (deception)
  • Accelerate after the move
  • Keep ball close when under pressure
When I arrived, I saw 28 boys and the weekend was just getting started.  I decided to coach the details less and reworked the session a bit and let the boys compete and play as much as possible.  It was a good opportunity to set the mood for the camp.

We reviewed the non-technical aspects of what the Regional coach will be looking for:
  • Compete for every ball, all the time, every day.
  • Show willingness to make an impact
  • Every pass to start a drill must be of high quality
We started off by doing a warm-up exercise where the boys were dribbling at full pace down a lane-way.  There were 2 players in the lane-way trying to knock your ball away.  This set the mood for 1v1 attack.

Next was a group dribbling drill review several 1v1 moves that can stem from a double tap of the ball.  This video from the Internet shows the little double-tap with the outside of the foot:

We then set up four 1v1 grids with mini-goals, 10x20 bordered by cones.  One player serves the other and they play.  We stopped them a few times for coaching points, but for the most part we let them play.

The intensity level was "OK".  We stepped in to influence the defending a bit and added pushups for the loser of each play-down.  The intensity went WAY UP, quickly.  Now, we were getting the boys ready for their showcase event. 

We them moved the boys to a 3v3 situation in a 20x30 grid.  To score, you had to dribble over the end line of the grid the other team is defending.  Coaching points:
  • Look to attack forward and with speed (attack open space)
  • Do not be afraid to take on a defender
  • For near shape, do not stand behind a defender who is pressuring your teammate.  By checking back at an angle you open up the ability for 1v1, give-and-go or a simple pass.
This was going well and got better when we made it a tournament.  The boys had pizza coming afterwards and the prize was the winners had their pizza served to them by the others.

When I saw how many boys there were upon arrival I had a nightmare of coaching details while a lot of restless boys listened.  We were successful in keeping the group active and moving with a ball.

I was hoping to arrive earlier to have everything setup for the boys when they arrived.  As a guest coach you don't want the players standing while you run around setting up your session.  It ended up being ready for the boys by 6pm, but I would have rather spent that time goofing around and getting to know them.

It was satisfying to see them all playing and whooping it up, and sticking to the theme of the evening.  I was also happy to be able to share some insight with them regarding the type of player who advances through the identification process.

It was also nice to see 8 boys that I've worked with before.  Letting a player know you remember them is important for their self-esteem.

Friday, August 17, 2012

U9-U12 Soccer Camp

27 players, 4 days, LOTS of soccer.  Soccer Camps are always a good experience for me.

This past week we ran a soccer camp under an old project name that I started a few years ago, . I can’t summarize how much I enjoyed it in a single sentence.

We opened the camp up to players ages U9-U12, male and female.  The content was in support of LTPD and it could not have worked out better.  The feedback from parents was encouraging and the enthusiasm of the players was motivating. 

We spent 60 minutes of each day on individual ball work and Agility/Balance/Control.  The rest of the day alternated between technique and applicable small side games to apply those techniques.  All games started with offering a few ideas then letting them play.

Using LTPD as a framework made organizing and planning the camp very simple.

I organized the camp and was helped by my two older sons and a former player from the Niagara College Women’s team that I coached.  I’ve worked several camps in the past but I enjoy implementing my own vision.  

The camp was a success.  I have a few tweaks I would make t the organization and content, but that would be with any organized event.

Olivia Page was a hard-nosed, well-coached central defender when she came to Niagara and she has taken an interesting coaching.   She will be successful and I will utilize her talents again.

All of my sons played for me for several seasons.  Watching them work with players and listening to them I realized something … they really were listening to me and my assistants all those years!