Monday, 25 October 2010

Square One - Short Passing and Ball Control

One university women's team. Two resounding losses. 12 more games. 90 minutes of training a week. Players who have never played the game before. What to do?

It's back to basics. I will document the weekly training sessions I put on. There will be some interesting ideas for other coaches to implement as well as some structure. I am constrained by time and the shortness of the league (there are just eight teams).

The first session will be on short passing and ball control. These two elements are key to football and getting them right at this level will dramatically improve standards.

The drill starts off with very simple passing. Four cones are set up in a ten by ten square. The players must pass to each other in any order or direction. The focus here is on the key technical aspects of short passing. Place the standing foot beside the ball you will strike pointing in the direction you will play the pass (except if making a disguised pass). Also strike through the ball firmly with the side of the foot. It is important to hit through the ball rather than allowing the foot to stop on contact, in order to make a nice, firm pass. Other technical considerations include:
Accuracy - into feet
Weight - Not too heavy so as to make control difficult, not so weak as to make interception likely.
Disguise - Pretend to pass to one player but actually pass to another.
Timing - Not so relevant in this drill as it it is unopposed but the player still needs to consider if the person receiving the pass is ready.

My standards are EXTREMELY high for every player. If I see that some technical aspect is deficient in a pass I will stop that group and demonstrate how I want it played, explaining what went wrong. I will then get the player to show me the pass in a controlled environment before sending the drill live. It is by setting high standards for every single second in training that you create a winning mentality. This transfers across to matches.

It is also important that every single player takes every drill seriously. Central defenders shouldn't be held to any lower standard than central midfielders. Everyone needs to have key technical proficiencies. I will only move on once I have seen everyone make a good pass.

Next we take one of the players out and have them acting as a passive defender. This means that they can intercept the ball but not tackle. This is to ensure the emphasis is still on maintaining the technical quality we saw in the first drill.

The aim here is for the attackers in blue to keep possession by staying on or behind the lines between the cones. Additionally there is now some movement involved. To begin with I will let the drill go for two minutes to see how they fare. I will correct for technical proficiency. Once they have get good at this I will begin to coach the following:

As the ball is played from position a to position b the player not involved must run so she is in a position to receive the ball. This means "creating an angle". I really hate that term because I love maths. What it means is moving into a position in space, ready to receive the pass. The defender then has a choice about whether to block the left hand player or the right hand player but he cannot hope to mark both. This creates SPACE.

This is ostensibly a short passing drill and they are practising this but they are also beginning to see how it fits in to the wider picture. In a game it is vital to have someone to pass to, otherwise with all the technical prowess in the world you will not be able to string two passes together. It is important that the third player makes the run AS THE BALL IS PLAYED. This means early. This means the ball can leave the receiver faster.

I will keep this running until I start to see some continuity. Because time is short I envisage leaving about 8 minutes for the technical section and 8 minutes for the opposed skill. After 20 minutes we must be done.

Ball Control

It's all well and good making a pass but we must also be able to control the ball. Having done short passing it would now make sense to concentrate on receiving the ball solely on the floor. My team need help controlling balls in the air as well and FAST. So I don't have the luxury of breaking it down. I must get the basics of controlling the ball however it comes at you immediately.

The cones are 10 metres from their nearest brothers and form a big box. The blue players serve the ball from their cone in a variety of ways to the green players in the middle (as listed below). The player controls the ball as the exercise demands before running off to find a new server somewhere. Plenty of communication is required. Emphasise the need for good service from the players in blue. Give a demo for one minute, allow them to do it for two minutes, then swap round servers and receivers for two minutes so everyone gets a go. 20 minutes for the whole drill.

1) Serve from floor. Make a short pass. Receiver takes one touch to control and one to play the pass.
2) Thrown to the thigh.
3) Thrown to the chest.
4) Random. Leave to servers to decide.

The key technical demands for all ball control are simple. Keep both eyes fixed on the ball. Judge the line of the ball and select which surface to control with (although in the first three exercises this decision is made up for them: this only really comes into play for the fourth). Then cushion pass in line with the ball (so you take the full force of the pass out of the ball). The ball should be a little away from you - "out of your feet" - but close enough to have it under control. It is important to keep balance the whole time. Then make the pass back.

So far 40 of my 90 minutes have been used up. It is now time to apply this learning. This is crucial. The players must understand how to apply what they have learned to a game. This involves three distinct stages that I implement in every training session.

1) Structural work.
2) A small sided game (coached).
3) A small sided game (uncoached).

Each one lasts ten minutes. I will explain them now.

1) Structural work is essentially slow motion tactical work (shadow play). I set the team up in formation over a small area (20 x 20 say). If we are doing attacking work then I ask players to shift shape according to where the ball is when in possession. If we have been doing defending drills then I will ask them to respond to me as an imagined attacking threat.

In this session I will give the ball to a player and expect others to move to be able to receive the short pass. I will begin by coaching the person closest to the ball. Once they have understood I will then cast my net wider and wider, expecting those far away from the ball to be anticipating where the ball might go next. This draws on work done at the end of the short passing drill (third diagram).

2) I then set them up into a small sided game (8 v 8 depending on numbers). I will choose their formation to best mimic the key roles in the team. I have A LOT of things I can coach. I will only coach what we have practised during the training session but I will expect high standards. This includes:
a) Short passing.
b) Controlling the ball.
c) Moving into space to receive the pass.
d) Communication.
...and all that these three points entail. The players will find this exacting as play will be stopped A LOT.

3) I will then let them continue without being coached. This will develop their decision making skill and give them a bit more freedom.

This brings our time to 70 minutes. I allow 20 minutes for moving between drills, quick water breaks and a cool down. Also I announce expectations for the coming game and field final questions.

There is a lot in this post of use to coaches looking for some STRUCTURE and TECHNICAL DETAIL.

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