Coaching Articles

The Principles of Learning And Coaching
By Glen Buckley

These notes will form part of the E and D License Curriculum. They are home study papers designed from various Coaching Manuals I have used during the past 20 years of coaching.

1.

Much teaching and Coaching is based on the misguided notion that practice makes perfect. This is not necessarily so. Practice makes permanent and that fact applies with equal certainty to both good and bad practice. Incorrect practice, therefore eventually will lead to permanent bad habits.

There are two other misguided notions regarding the Coaching of Soccer..

  1. Soccer players are born with natural flair and so do not need Coaching.

    • The fact is that the progress of civilization through the ages is largely a commentary on the progress of education, whereby each generation has handed to the next more knowledge and techniques of teaching and learning. And so Man runs faster each year, steps foot on the Moon, and climbs the highest mountain. These achievements happened through research and advanced knowledge harnessed to correct and purposeful practice.

      There is no reason to believe that Soccer players have been granted immunity from this process.

      No two players are alike. They are unequal physically, mentally and psychologically.

      We are not born with equal talents, and do not have, environmentally speaking, equal opportunities. The challenge of the Coach is to recognize potential talent and give it the best possible environment in which to realize its potential.

  2. Techniques practiced in isolation can not be transferred into the game.

    • If a player struggles with a technique unchallenged then they have nothing to transfer in to the game. It should be also understood that the player who is sound technically when playing unchallenged or unopposed, will not necessarily be able to perform under pressure.

Effective coaching and learning of Soccer is very much bound up with establishing correct attitudes, correct habits and correct movements.

First in order of importance, is the attitude toward learning by both the coach and the player. This attitude should be broken down into two qualities.

An open Mind.

An enquiring mind.

An open mind means you are receptive to new ideas, which is essential for progress. A closed mind indicates that a person knows it all. It also indicates that a person not only feels old but is old.

An enquiring mind is essential to evaluate new ideas. Not all new ideas are good. We should not accept them as such just because they are new. This is as foolish as discounting it before evaluating it. We should be like a sponge, open up and slowly absorb everything and squeeze out the bits that we believe are not good. Question new ideas, try them, analyze them and establish if they are correct in principle. Only after the most careful consideration should any idea be accepted or rejected.

What is Technique and what is Skill ?

Technique is the execution of a simple performance…a pass, a shot, a dribble, a turn or a jump. Decisions are involved and so the performance requires mental and physical elements.

Skill, in Soccer terms, is the ability to be in the right place at the right time and to select the correct technique on demand. Skill is therefore concerned with making selections and judgments. Decision making.

Many Sports are predominantly games of technique. Soccer is predominantly a game of judgment. How do we arrive at this ?

By a simple analysis of the facts…

In a 90 minute game of Soccer the ball is only in play for 60 of those minutes.

Out of those 60 minutes in which the ball is in play, in an even game, each team will have possession for 30 minutes each.

During the time the ball is in play. It will be in flight and so outside the playing distance of any of the 22 players on the field.

Therefore anyone person can not have the ball for more than two minutes in any game.

This then raises another question…What is the player doing for the other 58 minutes that the ball is in play?

Answer…..Making decisions, selections and judgments…

Add to this the fact that Soccer is the most fluid of all games. There are very few stoppages, and so situations are constantly changing. This requires a high concentration level and mental alertness.

Which brings us back not to the question of how does one coach, but rather, how does a young player learn ?

How a young player learns.

Youngsters have a desire to achieve and to prove themselves to others. The Coach should take into consideration the following factors ,when trying to motivate them…

They must be interested.. The player who is not interested has a closed mind, and that, if it can not be changed is a recipe for disaster.

They must have enthusiasm.. Players should have a desire to be involved and participate. Coaches should be aware of the child that lacks enthusiasm. People who are enthusiastic tend to do more not less.

They should see good examples and be set good standards..

Seeing good players play live or on T.V. Is important. By seeing older role models deliver a good performance not only on the field but off it too.

By observing people they respect and admire, attitudes and habits are formed.

They will learn through correct practice and the frequency of that practice.. The quality of the practice is more important than the frequency. However if the quality is good, and the time devoted to it is greater, the better the results.

They will learn through knowledge of results.. The more progress the player makes the more likely they are to want to practice. Setting players targets that are achievable is essential. This task belongs entirely to the coach.

They will learn by being challenged.. Progress involves a continuous process of reaching beyond ones grasp. Progress can not be achieved by constantly working within ones limits. You do not climb higher by looking down. Playing with and against better players will improve both technique and skill. Coaches must set the challenges of their players, calculating on the probability of success.

The Principles of Coaching.

Having outlined how a young player learns, it is logical now to turn to the task of Coaching. What are the principles involved in effective coaching.

Know the subject. It is self evident that to coach well one must have an understanding of the game of Soccer from a technical and tactical standpoint. One must have underpinning knowledge of the Game.

Know how people learn. The principles of learning covered earlier are essential for the coach to know. Without knowledge of those factors, effective coaching is not likely to take place. It is the task of the coach to create an effective learning situation. If that situation has been created correctly, from an organizational view, then it is likely that a certain amount of learning will take place without too much direct coaching.

Know the key factors in coaching.

1. Purpose. Without a purpose, direction is not possible. Purpose is usually concerned with long term factors. For example, the purpose may be to improve the general attacking play of your team. Many factors come into the attacking subject involving techniques and skills that your players may not yet be capable of. Therefore from the overall purpose emerge short term objectives. These short term objectives will eventually serve that long term purpose.

2.Objectives. In the example quoted above there may be several objectives that can be divided into two sectors. Play with the ball, e.g. passing, control, dribbling, crossing the ball. Play without the ball, e.g. movement, support play, diagonal or overlap runs.

A coach can not coach all these things at once, and so it is necessary to determine a priority order and logical sequence within the overall objective.

Priority order and logical sequence.

To continue with the example already quoted above. If the attacking play is poor, and the passing inaccurate it is best to concentrate on those techniques that will help to keep possession of the ball. Short passing, control or dribbling. This will enable us to work the ball toward the opponents goal. Once this is achieved we can then concentrate on crossing and finishing and shooting. It is not really difficult to determine priorities or a logical sequence, but it does require an understanding of two factors.

*You can not coach effectively several facets of the game at the same time.

*Out of any two key factors one will always take logical precedence over the other. If a coach gets two key factors out of logical order learning becomes difficult, because it makes less sense.

4.Planning and organization. Planning is concerned with a best use of the facilities, time, equipment and players. It is also concerned with the provision of balls, vests, cones and goals. Planning takes place in advance of the practice and makes sound organization possible. The organization of an actual practice involves the following considerations…

A. The area of the field the practice will take place.

The area should be clearly identified with cones or markers or lines.

B. The number of players involved in the practice.

The number of players must be appropriate to the area, and the area appropriate to the number of players. Defenders and attackers clearly identified.

C. Realistic practice.

All players should position themselves realistically as if in a real game.

D. The start of the practice and the type and quality of the service.

Many practices flounder from the start because insufficient thought went into how they should begin.

Most practices should begin with a moving ball, so that players are reacting to it and so are already alert when the ball is played in.

The Golden rule of organization is simplicity with clarity.

Keep your instructions clear and precise. All players should understand the purpose of the practice and their role within it.

Observation. Analysis is the basis of diagnosis.

Observe the session to gather the facts. Your opinions will carry more conviction if they are supported by the facts.

Observe the organization is correct

Observe that the players attitude is correct.

Observe the general performance of the group.

Observe the specific performance of the individual.

Communication. The ability to observe and organize counts for very little if you lack the ability to communicate. A coach communicate in two ways:

By showing

Visual communication can be in the form of video or book, but more likely will be by physical demonstration. The demonstration could be of a technique or tactical movement, but in all cases the following qualities must be evident:

It should be correct and an excellent example.

It should be simple.

It should be clear and isolate the Key Factor.

Your demonstration sets the standard for the whole group.

By speaking Demonstration will often be accompanied by verbal explanation, the object of which is to assist clarification. Communication through speaking is a skill in itself. Its importance is grossly underestimated. Its difficulty in terms of performance in front of a large group is grossly overestimated.

The difference between speaking in front of one person or hundreds is entirely down to confidence. Along with confidence must be the ability to speak effectively. There are certain ground rules to effective communication, that coaches should understand:

8. Be convinced that there is something of value to say. If its not worth saying don’t say it. Think before speaking. Avoid Jargon ….its confusing. Speak clearly. Vary the pitch of your voice. Its more compelling. Speak concisely. Short words are better than long, one word is better than two. Be positive with your instructions…Say do this, rather than Don’t do that. Make eye contact with the group. This is compelling and helps the groups concentration.

When the play begins, observe the performance. If the instructions are not put into action then the communication was not effective. Effective communication, just like effective playing, just requires that the simple things be done well..

9.

The ten qualities of a good coach.

  1. Enthusiasm
  2. Integrity
  3. Persistence
  4. Patience
  5. Good standards
  6. Open and enquiring mind
  7. The ability to diagnose, Analyze and think logically
  8. Knowledge of how players learn
  9. Knowledge of the principles of effective coaching
  10. The ability to inspire.

The Coaching formula.

  1. Observe
  2. Diagnose/identify problems
  3. Freeze the play
  4. Correction by demonstration
  5. Rehearsal…Let the player have a go
  6. Play

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