With the PSL starting up again this week after a long break, we thought we would empower you the supporters with some knowledge and finish our 3 part series on Coaching. Be it Pitso, Gavin, Steve, Milton or Lehlohonolo its important to have better insights as to what they are doing.

In our previous post we saw the dangers of believing that winning teams are well coached teams in the younger age groups and that consistent repetition of action, focus on the individual and keeping the exercises rooted in games that mimic the match are the hall marks of good coaches. This all took place in the nursery of football ages 4-13, to be frank we do a decent enough job at this level in SA, although probably more by chance than intention and certainly more because of our raw athletic talent than purposeful development.

The Motivator

The sad truth is that from here all the way up to the highest level in our country we see hugely imbalanced coaches that make excuses instead of developing their weaker traits. The most common is the “Motivator” coach. He is in fact so poor, rather than strong at motivation, with his method and tactics that all he has is “motivation”. What it leads to is a coach who coaches through fear, shouts (a lot!), and spends most of his training and game day either internally or externally blaming his players for his own failings! Raise your hand if you’ve see this? It’s like a Cowboy entering a gun fight with one bullet in his “six shooter” and then screaming at the passersby for not shooting his enemy.

As I’ve mentioned before the older the age group the more rounded you need to be as a coach. So what then does a good coach at this level (14-19 and above) look like? What should our expectation be of a coach at this level?

The Good Coach

I’ll start by describing what good method looks like because it’s the easiest to see. From 14-15 technique is still the focus of development, however it should be being coached in a pressurized way with tactical objectives to it. What I mean is there should be almost no unopposed training, everything should have a defender that is fully able to defend or slightly limited at least. At older ages tactical understanding and team communication are the most important objective, as a result training's should have a clear tactical objective. Everything you do at training should speak into the team’s style of play on match day. I’ll get into style of play more under tactics.

In short if your coach, or kids coach, is making players run through cones, or run without a ball, or just allow them to play 11v11 (or however many end up at training) every training, HE IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH!

Tactically he needs to understand that the game has four phases and he must coach all four phases to the players: attack (you have the ball), transition to defense (you team is losing the ball), defense (your opponent has the ball), and transition to attack (your team is winning the ball back). You should watch and see a clear intent on how the team is looking to play in all four phases, this doesn’t mean the team will always do it right but the intent should be there.

At a pro level there should be a high level of detail to accompany this. It is not simply good enough to see a team play counter attack football, but rather see a team consistently setting up these counter attacks with intentional defensive strategies, and not only in large groups of players. We should be able to see player X doing certain actions on a field repeatedly and intentionally, not just as a matter of their own natural tendencies.

In youth football an easy way to find out is to ask your child, around a quarter into the season how does coach want the team to play? If the answer is generic, like he wants us to attack fast or work hard in defense, either your child has not been paying attention or the coach isn’t coaching it.

Another simple way to see if tactics are being coached is by watching set pieces, if there is no clear plan it’s probably not being coached.

The coach should also be exposing the kids to a variety of broad tactics at this age (changing every 6-8 weeks, not every game), ie: counter attack, fast break attack, possession based football, pressing, low block (parking the bus) etc. This allows for full development of the player. By 18 this should not be the case and a focus on the style of play that works for the group is the right way to go.

If you sit and talk to the coach and all he can talk to you about is formations, without some detail about how it’s going to work in the four phases, HE IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH!

The Rah-Rah coach isn’t going to cut it anymore! There now has to be an understanding of motivating on an individual level. Not every player will be inherently motivated to be there. Some will be more motivated by the social aspect of friends being there, some will be there to achieve, some will be there to be as good as they can be. It means the coach has a more personal 1-on-1 role to play. Coaches that are good methodologically and tactically will find it easier to motivate the all the players at this point. Getting players to be part of the process is now critical.

If you ask a player what he and the coach have discussed as the team and individual goals for the season and he says we don’t have, THE COACH IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH!

I’ve seen many players forced to train and overload their bodies to the point of injury through poor coaching, more specifically, poor management. It’s often the coach that says, “When I was this age I did xyz, and never complained” that is the culprit. His own lack of understanding that with better management he probably would have been even better leads to a cycle of under-developing, under-performing players.

A great coach is going to know when the best time of the year to load, mentally, physically and tactically is. He would plan the year accordingly and adjust weekly as he gets closer to the session. Great coaches are proactive in communicating about sessions, session plans, giving player’s time off and creating a culture that helps players and parents see the big picture that they are the center and master of their own career.

You should be able to ask a coach to see a session plan for the full week at the very least, if you can’t, HE IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH!

All of what I’ve said is relevant for professional and non-professional programs alike. I see it far too often that the brand of the professional club or academy “sells” the idea that the coaching is good enough when most of the time it’s not better than non-academies.

So, go and watch your team play or your child train, create a check list of what we have posted in this post, and our previous ones in the series, and comment back to us on what you have seen. We would be really interested to hear the realities of your environment.

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In our previous post we got into the four Skill Groups of a Coach, if you have not read it you can by clicking here.

Today I want to paint a picture...You’re at your local club watching your son play. His team never loses! Once again today his team is winning. The thought crosses your mind: what a team, what a coach...this guy really knows how to make us play! The next season a local pro club takes your best two players and now your team can’t win a game. You find yourself thinking about the same coach: he really is struggling, look how poor we are as a team, I’m sure he has issues at work and he is just not thinking about our boys as much.

The reality is at youth football under the age of 13 recruitment is a major part of why teams win. The effect one super talent can have is incredible. I witnessed a team that had two future professionals in it playing at u10. They won the league. By the time that group reach high school, where talents accumulate, only three players played in the highest team in their age group. That’s 3 out of 12! You’ve already worked out that two were the future pros, the other was simply a solid A-team player at high school. All their success at lower age groups were down to two players!

It illustrates my point and means we need to have a much better idea of what the coach should be coaching. The reality is that the coach of that team quite possibly underdeveloped every one of those players, including the two stars, by focusing only on the two stars!

The obvious boxes a coach should tick all fall under the “managerial” and “motivational” quadrants.

  1. There is a focus on safety, participation and fun

  2. The coach teaches, models and demands respectful behavior, fairness and good sportsmanship

  3. The coach insists on proper side-line behavior by parents

  4. The coach is patient, stays calm and never loses his cool

  5. The coach looks for team-building opportunities.

  6. They looks for chances to help her players bond as an effective and cohesive team by, for example, holding team parties

  7. The coach is sociable, empathetic and has good communication skills.

I’m sure we all recognize these traits. But at this age group environment is critical we also have a coach who really grasps and enters the “methodological” quadrant.

  1. Do you see repetition of actions, ie striking a ball at goal (once every 2min of training min, ie 30 in 1hr)?

  2. Does the action happen from the front, back and sides?

  3. Is it a consistent action theme through the session?

  4. Are they game based or competitive? All exercises should be rooted in what happens in the game and by making them competitive they push the intensity more, develop that drive to compete and make it more fun

  5. Does the coach look at the group as one big group or as a group of individuals?Everybody is different so the coach should have a separate plan for each child.

  6. Does the coach talk about the win or does he talk about the players that won?

As mentioned in our previous post you need to use all four quadrants at different levels in different environments. As a result there is a need to create a tactical framework for players even as young as 5. The key is not to try mimic an EPL team but rather give the players a decision making framework and allow them to create tactical solutions. As the age increases, the level of tactics go from the individual to a few groups of 2-4 to many small groups of 2-4 interacting to bigger groups of 5-7 and finally to teams of 11 (where the LTPD guides us and the players are playing to compete.)

Our next post will deal with teenage coaching at a non-elite level, which is one of the toughest to get our heads around (mainly because our standards are so low).

Until then sorry this was more than 500!

#creatingstratergieschanginglives #bettercoaches #kznsoccer #LTPD #coaching

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Updated: Feb 6, 2020

This is a question I have often asked myself and even more often been asked by, friends and parents. In the formative years and if the player has ambitions this is a question of critical importance as it can quite literally be life defining.

Over the next few short posts(I’m aiming at 500 words or less per post) I’m going to answer this question as best as I can, trying to offer examples of what good coaching looks like. My experience tells me that most of this is true for any sport and at any level. I’ll start today by offering a model on what makes up a coach.

The Four Skill Groups of a Coach

Motivational” coaches really on positive energy, imagery, salesmanship and usually a big, bold personality to coach. The “Rah-Rah” coach always looking on the bright side. Great at team talks and often spends time at or after training telling the players how good the session is. Interestingly I think all coaches start here as their knowledge base is

often limited.

Tactical” coaches live and breathe for match day. Their focus is often on using what they can to get the result. Roles, formations and style of play is where most of his talk is directed at the players.

Methodological” or “Method Men” are the guys obsessed with the granular detail of a training session. The right exercise, for the right moment and the right player! They know the modern trends and have a huge knowledge base.

Managerial” are the train drivers, keeping it moving forward on the tracks. They thrive in organisation and look to create order of what can be a chaotic game.

knowledge and experience might let him down. You will see him, run organised sessions that are probably to generic and elementary for his players or be presentable and on time but not know how to manage the match environment to get the best out of his players.

In contrast Pep Guardiola is almost certainly in the high 90’s for all four quadrants, where he might not take training sessions, even though he puts on some of the best, and manages a team of coaches instead. He needs a skilled overview of all four elements to ensure maximum performance in his environment.

The environment is where I’d like to close this one down. Each coach coaches in his own unique environment, that is affected by age, gender, culture to name a few. In my next post I will go into what we cannot compromise on at each stage....

#creatingstratergieschanginglives #bettercoaches #kznsoccer #LTPD #coaching

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