Google+ Blueprint for Football: January 2017

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Best of Coaching Links This Week: Getting Players to Think, the Regista, Midfield Support in a 4-3-3 and More

Johan Cruyff was undoubtedly one of the greatest teachers in the history of the game of football with his views helping to inspire – directly or indirectly – generations of coaches.  Todd Beane was luckier than most coaches in that he had direct access to Cruyff who was also his father-in-law.  Having helped in the setting up of Cruyff Institute more than a decade back, he is now embarking on a new venture – the TOVO Academy – and here speaks about it as well as about his views on the game of football.  His replies on the importance of intelligence, in particular, are must reads.

This, explaining the role of the regista, is perhaps a bit basic but highly enjoyable nevertheless

For those who want something a bit more advanced, here is an explanation on how midfield support works in a 4-3-3 system.

For some time a couple of years back there was a lot of excitement on the possibility of increasing one’s working memory and the impact this could have on intelligence.  It seems, however, that there wasn’t actually enough research to support that belief.  This is a good piece on that debate and why knowledge is actually what determines intelligence.

“Great clubs have had one thing in common throughout history, regardless of era and tactics. They owned the pitch and they owned the ball. That means when you have the ball, you dictate play and when you are defending, you control the space” - Arrigo Sacchi

If you like this list of links, why not join Blueprint for Football Extra, the newsletter that delivers the links and more directly to your e-mail inbox every Monday night?  Click here to join.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Best of Coaching Links This Week: Interviews, Mental Barriers & More

One of the reasons that I started Blueprint for Football was to learn and nothing boosts this as much as talking to other people.  It is something that I’ve come to appreciate more than ever with every interview that I’ve had the good fortune to carry out.  Over the Christmas period I went through six years of the site’s archives to look for the most insightful interviews that I’d done in this period and brought them all together so that they can be re-read with ease.  Boost your own learning by going through them.

Most of the barriers that we face we impose on ourselves.  Here’s a piece that details how they can be broken down.

I still recall when I started work after university and quickly realising how all that I had learned counted very little.  In football it is the same: no matter how many qualifications you have, you learn best by doing.

Ok, so this is about gridiron (aka American football) but there’s so much that anyone from any walk of life can learn through it.

“The culture precedes positive results. It doesn't get tacked on as an afterthought on your way to the victory stand. Champions behave like champions before they're champions: they have a winning standard of performance before they are winners.” – Bill Walsh

If you like this list of links, why not join Blueprint for Football Extra, the newsletter that delivers the links and more directly to your e-mail inbox every Monday night?  Click here to join.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Getting Players to Think

Todd Beane (Photo Courtesy of TOVO Academy)

A lot of coaches have mentors who guide their formation and towards whom they look as they develop their ideas.  Few however can match American Todd Beane who found his tutor in his father-in-law, the legendary player, manager and football visionary Johann Cruyff.

Beane began working with Cruyff in the foundation of the Cruyff Institute – an educational institution aimed at educating athletes, sport and business professionals in the field of sport management - in 2002 and continued his work there until Johan’s passing last year. 

As a player he had played professionally in the United Systems of Independent Soccer Leagues (USISL) in America and, before that, he had also played NCAA Division I football at Dartmouth College.  Eventually he transitioned into coaching where he obtained the US Soccer Federation “A” License, coaching both collegiately and professionally.

His other main calling was teaching where he has enjoyed an academic career in a number of institutes having obtained an M.A. in Education and a Secondary Teaching Credential from Stanford University.

More recently, Beane has set up TOVO Training which is a program aimed at developing players’ competencies, cognition and character through game-based exercises. Using the knowledge that he has gained over the years and which typically is available to players at the top academies, he now wants to pass this on to those who wouldn’t normally have access to such knowledge.  

On top of it all, Beane wants to get football players thinking on their game: the trait that often marked out Cruyff’s teams and players.

Blueprint for Football: Where does your hunger to teach and coach come from?
Todd Beane: I have always enjoyed sport and coaching was a wonderful way to extend my participation in football and give back to the younger players. There is great satisfaction in helping others maximize their potential. 

BfF: What is a coach's most important characteristic?
TB: Passion. If you love teaching the sport you coach, the players will feed off of that positive energy. You will also make the commitment to learn as much as possible about the craft. Passion fuels ambition. 

BfF: How much does a coach need to get involved with his teams especially when children's football is concerned?
TB: I would say a youth coach must love teaching and have both the patience and persistence to work with young players. It is very much a labor of love and guiding players to their potential is very much a hands-on endeavor. 

A coach must understand many detailed aspects of each player in order to bring out the best in them and provide the right support at the right moment. At the professional level it may be more about managing teams, but at the youth level is it principally about developing players. 

BfF: Obviously Johan Cruyff had a significant influence on your career.  What made him so special compared to other coaches?
TB: Johan earned immediate respect from every player for what he had accomplished in the game. He was the best of the best on the pitch and those that played with him and those who played against him all attest to that. 

As a coach, I think more than anything else, he had a very clear vision of the football that he loved and was able to transmit that vision onto the pitch via his players. His teams had a clear identity and brought joy to so many football fans worldwide. 

BfF: What are the things that you learned from him that you feel are most important and you think about most frequently?
TB: There is a great distinction I make between Johan as the grandfather of my children and Johan Cruyff the football leader. 

As my father-in-law, Johan enjoyed tremendously those family moments. Morning breakfast, afternoon lunch and family gatherings in general. Family was a priority for him and I think as a father I always want put my children first and honor my role as a patriarch. 

Professionally, I would say that his vision guided him. He had clear ideas and followed them faithfully. In this respect, I hope to work with clarity and use football as a means to develop talented, intelligent and responsible young athletes. That would honor his legacy and be consistent with my own vision of talent development.  

BfF: Contrary to him, you were a good but not great player.  Do you think that this has had an impact on your coaching career?  If so, in what way?
TB: I think there are great coaches who played the game at the highest level and others who have not. I am neither a top flight footballer nor a top flight professional coach so I respect those that are. I think what has influenced my coaching most was the time I spent dedicated to education. 

While it may seem odd, many football coaches have no idea about sound pedagogical practices nor about child development. What I bring to the trade of coaching is a profound commitment to understand the learning process and how that may be applied to coaching football. Any individual, regardless of their background, who has the capacity to inspire others and guide them on a productive and positive journey is, for me, a master coach. 

BfF: You talk a lot about intelligence in football? Is that something innate or can it be coached?
TB: What is innate is the ability and desire to learn. We as human beings all have that. What can be coached is how to tap into that process for the benefit of the learners so that they may realize their full potential. In fact, I would say that our highest priority would be to guide that process effectively and coach the player before us, regardless of their baseline skills. 

Every player can get better. Every single one if we do not dismiss them as incapable of doing so. 

BfF: Why is intelligence important?
TB: Football is not the sam of disparate parts. We cannot break down each technical skill and think that a player will put that together in some coherent manner in a match. We do not process information nor acquire skills that way. Cognition is what we would term "thinking skills" and we can coach this, practice this and perfect this if we prioritize it as coaches and mentors. 

A skill that we cannot apply when needed is useless. 

A skill applied and accompanied with intelligent articulation under real match demands is of great value. Intelligence is the foundation of all excellence - within and beyond the pitch. It is more than important; it is imperative. 

BfF: How can one improve their footballing intelligence?
TB: Train it. If we set training exercises that demand cognitive processing then players will improve their thinking and demonstrate true game intelligence. We develop football intelligence when we train it within each and every exercise we implement during training. If we conduct brainless training drills we cannot expect players to become adept at thinking. If we train the brain as we train the body, we will nurture remarkably talented players. 

Rondos, position play exercises and training games all demand cognitive processing and should become the core of our training plans. 

BfF: Similarly, how do you coach the different aspects of intelligence needed to play in different roles?
TB: Intelligence is not role or position specific. Technical and movement skills are role specific. Let me explain. Every player needs to implement quickly the thinking process which for us at TOVO Academy is broken down into six steps. Perception, conception, decision, deception, execution, and assessment. These six steps are required in every position and in real time. Perfecting this thinking process is of paramount importance for every player in every position. 

Then we can layer on the technical skills a specific player may employ. For example, a keeper must shot block and distribute the ball with both feet while a winger must utilize 1v1 moves and centre the ball effectively. But both positions require the great cognition. For this reason we prioritize intelligent football training.

BfF: You have set up TOVO Academy with the aim of helping amateur players.  What led to this and how do you plan to achieve that ambition?
TB: After having worked with Johan Cruyff for 14 years we learned of his diagnosis of cancer. I sat down with him and we spoke of my ambition to take what I had learned and share it with players and coaches who are not so fortunate to train at professional clubs like Ajax and FC Barcelona. I told him that I was going to do this through TOVO (TOtaal VOetbal). With his blessing we started as his health faltered. 

Unfortunately, he is not here to enjoy the fruits of that labour, but I know he would be proud of our philosophy to develop talented players and capable leaders through our work. We invite ambitious players to train with us in Barcelona and we also go out to clubs worldwide to share our TOVO Training methodology. In this way the reach will be great and players and coaches will be better for it. This is our greatest ambition now. 

BfF: What does the programme involve and how do you think that it differs from other programmes?
TB: TOVO Training is intelligent football training. There are so many technical training programs in the market. However there are very few programs that train intelligence like we do. We offer what we call 3C Model. We train very effectively the cognition, the competence and the character of footballers. 

Our methodology is a research-based practical program that guarantees results. I am not sure there are many programs on the market that can say that. Those that have experienced our training program are the best to speak to it being perhaps the most dynamic, engaging and effective program to develop a total footballer. We are proud of our program as we know it works. That is why we are so keen to share it with more players worldwide. 

BfF: What do you hope to achieve in the future?
TB: TOVO Training will begin to challenge the traditional paradigm of football training and when it does players will become more complete and more creative. We imagine filling TOVO Academy Barcelona with ambitious footballers. And we imagine working with coaches and clubs to implement TOVO Training worldwide.

Reach out to Todd Beane on Twitter and check out the exciting TOVO Academy here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Best of Coaching Links This Week:RB Leipzig's Tactics, Books To Read, Positive Mindsets & More

Contrary to most clubs making their first appearance in a top league, RB Leipzig haven’t drawn admiration but rather condemnation.  As part of the Red Bull empire they are seen as having bought their success thanks to the financial backing that they have.  Yet there is more to their story and part of it is down to the tactical make-up of the team.

The practice myth – specifically that it is enough to determine who will make it as an elite performer – has long been busted but it doesn’t hurt to read more about this issue.

Given that we’re at the start of a new year and most people want to improve themselves, check out this list of books that any coach should be reading.

Here’s a podcast talking about the need to create a positive mindset.

“Football is a sport you play with the most disobedient part of the body: the foot.” — Juanma Lillo

If you like this list of links, why not join Blueprint for Football Extra, the newsletter that delivers the links and more directly to your e-mail inbox every Monday night?  Click here to join.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Blueprint for Football Interview Directory

From Bristol Rovers to Barcelona, through Liverpool and PSV Eindhoven, over the years Blueprint for Football has spoken to a lot of people working at the best* football institutions in the world.  Their knowledge is yours to experience and here you will find a quick summary of each of the most insightful of interviews that we have done.

If you want to read what fellow coaches have to say about their views on the game, check out of Blueprint According To... series or join our newsletter for a free copy of Volume III.

* Best for us is defined not purely by prestige but also by attitude and willingness to learn.

Inside Barca’s Talent Factory
Interviewee: Marti Perarnau [Barcelona Based Author]
A lot has been written about Barcelona’s La Masia but few people are as knowledgeable about what happens there as Spanish journalist Marti Perarnau who has written books about this subject as well as about his close friend Pep Guardiola.  Here he answers questions about the birth of La Masia’s philosophy, how players are chosen and how they manage to keep the talent flowing
Memorable Quote: “Is physical strength and height given much importance? None.”

Bursting the Specialisation Myth
Interviewee: Dr. Martin Toms [Senior Lecturer at University of Birmingham]
The idea that the 10,000 hour practise rule is, at best, an indicator rather than a rule that guarantees expertise is now quite accepted but at the time of this interview with the University of Birmingham Senior Lecturer Dr Martin Toms his arguments flew in the face of the pop-psychology beliefs set about by Malcolm Gladwell’s books.  A wide ranging interview that delves into the damage that early specialisation does to players and how it would be best to let children try out a number of sports.
Memorable Quote: “Grass roots clubs should all act as they would a surrogate family”

Hamilton Aiming To Be The Best
Interviewee: Frankie McAvoy [Youth Academy Director at Hamilton Academical]
Although Scottish football has, to put it mildly, not been enjoying the best of times there are still a lot of people within the Scottish game who are top class coaches with ideas for youth development that are quite inspired.  Frankie McAvoy is one such person.  At the time of this interview he was the Youth Academy Director at Hamilton Academical who had produced players like James McCarthy and James MacArthur.  McAvoy has since followed Alex Neil to Norwich but Hamilton still field teams made up largely of home grown players, a sure indicator that they still abide by the same ideology for the development of talent.
Memorable Quote: “Our philosophy is very simple: in every sport the goal is to be the best that you can possibly be. That is what we try to teach our kids here.”

In Search of Game Intelligence
Interviewee: Horst Wein
Although he is not a familiar name among many football fans, Horst Wein has to rank among the best coaches to ever think about the game.  His attitude to letting young players learn by playing the game is visionary and in this interview he spoke among others of that belief and how best to achieve it.
Memorable Quote: “The strongest, fastest player without game intelligence will waste most of his potential, but the smallest intelligent player can overcome any opponent.”

Helping the Brain to Win Games
Interviewee: Dan Abrahams [Sports Psychologist and Book Author]
The history of the game of football is littered with players who had the talent but not the mental capacity to succeed.  It is a shameful waste considering how much resources there are out there for them to help themselves.  As for coaches, they too have to have a good handle of the basics of sports psychology and Dan Abrahams delivered a primer on that in this interview.
Memorable Quote: “Too many coaches say that they have players that have lots of physical talent but 'he doesn't want it' and there's nothing that can be done.  That is rubbish.  Of course something can be done.”

Perception is in the Eye of the Beholder
Interviewee: Geir Jordet
Can you teach a player how to be more aware of what is happening around him?  Can you determine how aware a player is of what is happening around him by watching him play?  The answer to both questions is yes and Geir Jordet, who has studied in depth the idea of perception provided a breakdown on how this is possible.  For coaches looking for some different ideas to investigate, this has to be on their read list.
Memorable Quote: “Xavi is a good example.  He doesn't just look, he is one of the most active players out there; he doesn't automatically know what is around him, is constantly searching, constantly looking.”

The Secrets of the Talent Spotters
Interviewee: Michael Calvin [Author of The Nowhere Men]
When he wrote The Nowhere Men, Michael Calvin brought to focus a role that is often mythicized without ever really being understood, that of scouting players.  He did this by spending time with a number of scouts and learning from them along the way.  Some of that knowledge was passed on in this interview.
Memorable Quote: “In any other business, when you've made that massive investment you would have psycho-metric testing but in football you can't do that because the person you want to test is the property of another club.”

Futsal Provides The Technicians That Football Needs
Interviewee: Michael Sorato [Futsal World Cup Winning Coach]
As the games increasingly appreciates technical players, youth football coaches are being faced with a challenge brought about by the decline of street football where most of those players used to learn those skills.  Futsal is a valid replacement and perhaps the way forward.
Memorable Quote: “[Futsal teaches] quick thinking, fast decision making, a higher demand of technique to solve problems in small spaces.  It helps the player to think about the game and to learn how to defend and attack.  The player needs to be complete.”

The Man Who Made Barca
Interviewee: Laureano Ruiz [Former Head of Barcelona’s Academy]
Although Johann Cruyff is widely credited as kicking off the revolution in thinking at Barcelona, the process had actually started under Laureano Ruiz who took over the club’s youth system before Cruyff arrived at the club.  One of his first acts was to abolish the policy where only players of a certain height were considered.
Memorable Quote: “When I refer to my system of play, I stress: order, inspiration and fantasy.”

The Future of Football Lies in Universality
Interviewee: Matt Whitehouse [Author of Coaching Books]
Universality is a concept where players interchange between positions, where they are not fixed to any role and instead simply rotate with each other in games.  It is along the same thinking as total football, the only difference, and perhaps the key aspect for the future game, is that the team is made up of universal players, all with the skills and attributes required to play in any position.  In this interview Whitehouse spoke in detail about that concept, why he thinks that football will evolve in that manner and why every football coach should be paying attention to it.
Memorable Quote: “What coaches need to think is not in terms of position based skills but of what a footballer requires.”

What Goes Into Developing a Coaching Philosophy
Interviewee: Tim Lees,  Ex-Liverpool FC Academy Coach]
In recent years, philosophy has become something of a buzzword within football yet the real meaning of philosophy within the game was somewhat lost.  Lees explained it in detail looking also at his own route to developing a philosophy.
Memorable Quote: “Whenever you ask a top manager privately ‘what’s your philosophy?’ his response will often be ‘one that wins’.”

Working on Aberdeen's Future
Interviewee: Gavin Levey [Aberdeen FC Academy]
Aberdeen have a tradition for bringing through young players and that looks like continuing given the club’s current policy of focusing primarily on bringing through players to their first team, something which they have done successfully.  Gavin Levey is the man charged with their younger age groups and he explains how they do it.
Memorable Quote: “It is vital that as coaches we help develop a winning mentality with individuals from an early age and this comes from the training ground and preparing sessions which are competitive.”

Inside An Academy: Bristol Rovers
Interviewee: Jonathan Henderson [Bristol Rovers’ Academy Head of Coaching and Academy Manager]
Although most of the attention is focused on what happens at the highest level, there is a lot of excellent work going on in lower levels.  Bristol Rovers are a prime example and in Jonathan Henderson they have a head of coaching who is determined to push them forward.
Memorable  Quote: “We want a learning environment; a growth mindset.  That extends to the staff as well as the players.”

“Being A Goalkeeper Is The Greatest Thing In The World” + What a Goalkeeper Needs
Interviewee: Ruud Hesp [Ex-Barcelona goalkeeper & current PSV Eindhoven goalkeeper coach]
Goalkeepers, it is often said, are different.  You have to be when in a game where the ultimate aim is to put the ball between the goalposts you dedicate yourself to stop it from doing so.  Ruud Hesp was one such individual but he sees it differently as for him there is no better role than being a goalkeeper.  In these two interviews he speaks about his career, the lessons that he learned and what it takes to be a top goalkeeper.
Memorable Quote: “You can have good players but if the goalkeeper isn’t good enough then you have a problem.  A house is built on a good foundation. It is the same with goalkeepers.”

"I Never Look For Players Who Take Advantage Of Their Physical Power At Young Ages"
Interviewee: Albert Capellas [Ex-youth coordinator at Barcelona, current-assistant coach at Maccabi Tel Aviv]
Any coach who has the good fortune of working with Barcelona is bound to have an excellent insight into the game.  Albert Capellas has gone further than that, expanding his horizons by working in a number of countries like Holland, Denmark and, now, Israel.  This has been an educational experience and he shares some of what he has learned in this interview.
Memorable Quote: “We can’t split between attack and defense. They are both connected with each other. In attack, one has to think about defense (in the event that we lose the ball) and when we defend one must always think about attack (for the moment when we win the ball) and go on the attack.”

Getting Players To Think
Interviewee: Todd Beane [Founder of TOVO Academy]
A lot of coaches have mentors who guide their formation and towards whom they look as they develop their ideas.  Few however can match American Todd Beane who found his tutor in his father-in-law, the legendary player, manager and football visionary Johann Cruyff.  He began working with Cruyff in the foundation of the Cruyff Institute – an educational institution aimed at educating athletes, sport and business professionals in the field of sport management - in 2002 and continued his work there until Johan’s passing last year. 
Memorable Quote: "Intelligence is the foundation of all excellence - within and beyond the pitch. It is more than important; it is imperative." 

"The coach is the most disposable element in a football team"
Interviewee: Ismael Díaz Galán [widely traveled Spanish coach of clubs like Malaga, Granada and Real Oviedo]
Having delivered tiki-taka and a generation of players that dominated world football for almost a decade through a system based almost exclusively on ability, Spain is rightly seen as the home of technical football.  Fueling this culture are coaches who bring the ideology to life.  Ismael Díaz Galán is typical of this class.  His experiences might have been limited largely outside the Primera Liga but he is a deep thinker about the game and a keen educator who is eager to share the vision that lights up Spanish football.
Memorable Quote: "I do not hope for a win, I aggressively try to make it happen by keeping hold of the ball more than not; creating a collective intelligence that makes us stronger as a group without diminishing individual creativity."

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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Best of Coaching Links This Week: More on Monchi, Communications Skills, Psychology & More

Whilst there is a lot of talk about the importance of psychology in sport it is not always easy to understand the work that sports psychologists do or what they actually achieve.  This interview with Dr Tim O’Brien, who filled the role of psychologist at Arsenal for over a decade, helps clarify matters

Something a bit more basic: ten tips for coaches to improve their communication skills.

With Sevilla currently challenging at the top of the La Liga and Steven N’Zonzi about to be sold for what will no doubt be a significant profit, it is never a bad time to read an interview with the club’s legendary sporting director Monchi who is at the heart of all their success.  An education.
Given that we’re at the start of a new year, here’s an article on how love is at the key to any coaching success.

“Passion exists at the intersection of three or more things you’re really curious about.” — Steven Kotler

If you like this list of links, why not join Blueprint for Football Extra, the newsletter that delivers the links and more directly to your e-mail inbox every Monday night?  Click here to join.