Thursday, 7 October 2010

Principles of the team - Learning Methods I

It is important that every team has a clear philosophy. This provides direction for the side and it comes from the coach. These have to be underpinned by a basic moral basis. Some themes I promote include

Independence through responsibility
Fair Play

However there is a tendency for coaches to hear these words on coaching courses, nod, smile, and go back to doing pretty much what they always have done. These principles are not just buzzwords to use but should be allowed to percolate through every session. This series of articles will highlight the importance of these principles and how they can practically be applied.

I will start with some comments on learning methods (coaching styles).

Shaping occurs when you allow the whole to be run through by itself and then you intervene, changing the practice bit by bit until you have the desired result. I like to call this crafting. It is a little like a pottery wheel or a sculpture. You start with a big, brute, unsophisticated slab of marble and slowly hone it until you end up with a product you like.

Shaping is particularly useful for defensive drills as they are essentially reactive to the attack you are facing. The key technical demands of the defensive phase are positional rather than to do with execution.

If you were coaching compactness in defense then you might let the drill run for a short while before stopping it at an opportune moment and moving players to where they should be.

Chaining involves breaking an exercise down into its constituent parts and then building it up. Like a brick house. Or a lego mosque. I find this particularly useful for attacking skills as they can more readily be broken down into unopposed, technical aspects. Passing can be broken down into body shape, contact area (e.g. side of foot, hard, firm contact), weight, accuracy, timing and disguise before being incorporated into a game situation.

Small sided games, whilst not a coaching style, provide a distinct environment from regular technique to skill drills. They are key in providing a context for all other work. The aim of any drill is to be useful in a game. Allowing players the opportunity to practice skills (e.g. passing or compactness in defence) in a low-pressure game environment is key to promoting confidence. Confidence = improvement and winning.

Questioning is an excellent method of checking for understanding. It only works if it is positive and solutions-focused. Don't ask "Why did you do that?!" in a moany voice. This will give off Basil Fawlty vibes and your team will think you're a twat. You are a leader. Ask instead, "How could you do better next time?" or with a more confident player, "What happened there?" More important than the question is the answer. Ensure they understand exactly what went wrong and how it can be corrected. Get them to reply both verbally and by demonstrating.

If the error came whilst opposed (as, perhaps, in a small sided game) then get them to demonstrate free from pressure and then again under pressure.

Always meet your own standards. Failure to do this is a severe failure in leadership. You must work harder than anyone in the team to achieve positive results. You must care more than any of your team. They will look to you to establish how to behave and what sort of attitude is acceptable. If you expect them to come with the correct kit then dress well yourself. Make sure you are well groomed. Ensure you remain focused, positive, punctual, have a sense of humour... in order to inspire a certain quality in your players you must first project that quality yourself. It's not a case of 'do as I say but not as I do'.

Reward effort rather than outcome. This has major caveats which will be discussed in a lot of detail in a later article. As a general theme though players must be committed to constant improvement which only comes through constant work and application.

However, as explained in the last point, if you are happy with defeat then your team will be too. Stay positive and action oriented but not a team of soft losers.

Feedback and self-analysis should be encouraged. 15 minds are better than 1. Sometimes they will spot things that you don't. Its also a good way of understanding how self-aware players are of their own and the team's performance. Getting players to reflect on their own performance in a solutions-focused, positive way is an excellent way of encouraging improvement and responsibility for the team.

All these points will either have whole articles devoted to them or countless examples showing how they can practically be incorporated into sessions.

A significant amount of time you spend together as a team is away from the two hours of game time you have each week. It is normal that the attitude you take away from the pitch affects the results you get on it. Despite this I shall also spend some time discussing match day preparation. Stay tuned!

No comments:

Post a Comment