Google+ Blueprint for Football: March 2017

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Best Coaching Links of the Week: 3 at the Back, Free Coaching Book & More

There are countless stories of people who have loads of talent but when it comes to showing their ability in a real life situation, fail.  The pressure gets too much for them and they are unable to show what they can do.  It is why a guide like this explaining how not to get too caught up thinking about your situation is so important.

It was interesting to see Gareth Southgate experiment with three defenders at the back during England’s game against Germany.  It is a formation that goes in and out of style although there are some, like in this case, who are willing to argue that it can be the formation of the future.

The FA tend to have some very good coaching articles on their website and this on how to organise a 1 v 1 session is among them

Italian football coach Luca Bertolini has prepared a PDF guide with 50 coaching sessions that deal with technical exercises, Individual and team tactics exercises and Small Sided Games.  This guide can download for free and can be found here.

“I don't believe much in luck. I believe more in work, in convincing, in stubbornness and in capacity.” - Diego Simeone

Monday, March 27, 2017

A Passion For Technical Coaching

Blueprint According To...Ben Trinder

Three years ago I spoke to Ben Trinder about his blueprint for the game.  At the time he was still relatively early in his coaching journey but had delivered an important tool to coaches worldwide with the establishment of the Coaching Family twitter feed.  That is still going strong (there are now more than 50,000 followers) and, happily, so too is Ben himself although time and experience have helped shape his views even further.

Blueprint for Football: A little bit more than three years ago we spoke about your Blueprint. What has changed since?
Ben Trinder: I like to think I’ve evolved and progressed with my coaching. I passed my UEFA B Licence in 2014 on a reassessment. The course was brilliant but if I’m being totally honest I wasn’t ready for the assessment days when they arrived, I hadn’t been able to practice enough with the players I was coaching. Ben Bartlett and Ted Dale did my reassessment and their support gave me great confidence to put over my ideas in my session. 

I listen to more coaching themed podcasts and audiobooks in my car. I’m not a fan of sitting and reading a book and don’t get much free time to do so, so audiobooks are a blessing. I’ve also recently started my own business, LTG Technical Football Coaching. I’m focusing on delivering 1 on 1 and small group technical coaching to kids aged 5-11 years old in my area, it’s an area we don’t pay anywhere near enough attention as a nation. Away from football, I got married in summer 2014. 

The following year my wife gave birth to our little boy, who is now 18 months old. Being a dad is the most amazing feeling and I try to make the most of every minute I get to spend with him.

BfF: How has your philosophy for the game developed since then?
BT: I am more focused on individual development rather than the team. I plan my sessions to challenge the different personalities and abilities I’m working with, whether that’s a hyperactive 6 year old who loves to run and dribble the ball or his lazy friend who needs a lot of personality and encouragement from me to get him engaged. 

I’ve developed a passion for technical coaching and believe this has to be the foundation for any young player wanting to play professional football in the future. That belief is based on my experiences coaching and watching youth football for the last 10 years. In England, too often we throw kids into kits, arrange them on a pitch and expect them to know how to play the game, poor kids. It’s setting them up to fail. Kids that young need a balance of free play (no instructions) and technical unopposed coaching. If a child cannot pass the ball against a wall from 5-10 yards how will they pass or share the ball in an opposed game situation? 

I’ve spent time researching the benefits of technical coaching, speaking to coaches from different nations and reading up on different ideas from the likes of Ricardo Moniz (ex-Spurs), Rene Meulensteen and Pepijn Lijnders among others. It’s a culture topic for me but I do feel like more coaches are coming round to the idea. I’ve also taken a keen interest in street and playground football. 

I’ve even done a few of my 1 on 1 sessions on those concrete basketball/football courts you see everywhere these days. Players need a mix of environments and as many different experiences of football as they can get.

BfF: At the time, you mentioned Michael Beale as one of your mentors.  At the time few people knew about him yet he has just joined Sao Paolo as assistant coach.  How closely have you followed his career since then?
BT: You can only admire what Mick is doing in the game, he’s an inspiration to hundreds of coaches, including myself. We first met in 2011 when he invited me in to Cobham to watch some sessions at Chelsea’s Academy. I put a tweet out about going to observe coaches and luckily he responded. Mick got me involved in the pre academy development centres there just before he left for Liverpool’s academy in 2012. 

I’ve kept in touch with him since then and went up to Liverpool in 2013 to catch up with him and watch him coach. He’s one of the good guys in football, Mick is really genuine, honest and very supportive of my coaching and ideas, when we speak or swap messages it feels like he always has time for you. It’s great to see him doing so well out in Sao Paulo after such a successful spell at Liverpool. I’d recommend his “Just Kickin It” podcast as well as his “Inspire Coach Education” presentation to all coaches. Mick’s experience and knowledge is phenomenal – he’s probably forgot more than I know.

BfF: How hopeful does it make you feel to see someone develop like that?
BT: It’s massively positive and inspiring for all of us but I don’t think people fully appreciate the commitment, risks and hours on hours of hard work it has taken Mick and his family. He’s created his own pathway from putting out the cones at Chelsea all the way through to coaching the first team at Sao Paulo. For me it sends a positive message to youth coaches, hard work combined with networking and taking your chances can lead to fantastic opportunities. 

We’ve seen the likes of Brendan Rodgers and Paul Clement, who both coached in the academy at Chelsea, step up to do first team duties. It’s great to see Mick following a similar pathway and I hope it inspires other coaches to take the step up. We’d all like to see more British coaches working in the Premier League.

BfF: Are there more people who have played an influential role since then?
BT: In the last few years I’ve started to build my own opinions and views based around my research into technical coaching. I speak to Louis Lancaster now and again, he always inspires me to think away from the conventional routes. His ideas, his innovation and his enthusiasm for youth development really rubs off on you when you speak to him. 

Another big influence in terms of setting up my business is Saul Isaksson-Hurst from my personal football coach. He’s an experienced, inspirational and very knowledgeable coach, he has been very supportive of what I am trying to do. 

To be honest, I take little snippets from everyone I speak to either face to face, on the phone, via email or on twitter. I enjoy meeting new people and I’m big believer in talking, engaging and networking with as many different coaches at different levels of the game as possible.

BfF: You have become a big advocate for 1 on 1 coaching.  What do you think is the special benefit of this approach?
BT: The benefits cannot be ignored for me, both with beginners and advanced players. Technical sessions allow young players to develop their technical confidence on the ball away from chaotic opposed practices where they might only touch the ball a few times in a 10 minute practice. The 1 on 1 coaching helps players learn at their own pace and also allows for 100% attention from the coach. Intensity of a session is a big thing for me, once a player has got the basics embedded it’s so important to try and stress him and test his technique. 

I focus my 1 on 1 sessions around building the player and the person on and off the pitch. Building the player is something they can see and identify with on the pitch. Building the person is an area I try to hide within my sessions, this takes time and creating good people has to happen in the right environment with a good role model or coach leading the way. As I have said previously, for me, too often coaches ask kids to play in opposed game situations where they often struggle to thrive. You see it all the time, a player receives the ball and can’t control it so it runs away from them. Or a player dribbles and overruns the ball, or worse a player goes missing in a game because they lack confidence and are over run by more advanced players. 

Young players, 5-11 especially, need to be working on ball mastery, dribbling, passing, turning and striking the ball from a young age. I see some 1 on 1 coaches running kids through speed ladders and jumping into hoops which has it’s uses but I prefer to do everything with the ball. People in the game don’t always appreciate that ball mastery also works to build ABC’s as well as the various other technical benefits.

BfF: It is an approach that encourages individual development of technical skills.  Do you think attitudes towards such skills is changing in England?
BT: I’ve definitely seen a positive change towards unopposed coaching and ball mastery lately, more coaches are embracing and recognising the benefits of technical unopposed coaching. I’d never say it’s THE way to do things, it’s another form of coaching to run alongside opposed practices, game based practices, strength and conditioning, movement coaching and so on. 

I’ve looked into and researched coaching methods in Spain, Holland and Portugal, they do a lot more unopposed technical work with their young players. Particularly in Holland, they aren’t afraid to spend a 20-30 minute block of their sessions on ball mastery/unopposed work. They’ll do it in their sessions, after their sessions, individually away from a group or even a coach. I honestly believe if you have got 11 technically gifted players at 16 and older then tactics, game plans and so on become a whole lot easier to coach. 

It’s a shame the Football Association don’t cover the technical area of the game in detail on their coaching courses, if coaches were educated on the different topics like ball mastery, unopposed technical practice, 1v1, 2v1, 2v2, 3v3 etcetera then I’m convinced we would have a bigger talent pool coming through our academy system in this country.

BfF: You work a lot with young children.  What is your views around kids specialising in one sport against them being able to play a number of sports?
BT: I am a believer in helping young players gain as many different experiences as possible as they are developing their skills and techniques. Playing different sports and physical activities is a great way to challenge a young person both mentally and physically. In my experience, I think early specialisation is often parent led, which can be unfortunate and counter-productive for the child. 

That said, I know of several local players who have gone through the academy system having been solely focused on playing football. Playing multiple sports develops more creative players, better sports confidence and improves cognitive/decision making skills in my opinion. I wouldn’t advise a young players to specialise in football at 7 or 8 years old.

BfF: You were the founder of Coaching Family.  How has the environment around social media - Twitter in particular - changed since then?  Do you still find it useful?
BT: It’s changed slightly. These days, people are a bit more wary of what they post knowing that potential employers may be watching. Back in 2010, when we started The Coaching Family, we helped to encourage a sharing culture on Twitter where coaches and people in the game could share their sessions, blogs, articles and ideas. We try to encourage coaches to take what’s relevant to them and build on it. For example, a coach sees a great 1v1 practice and screenshots it on their phone. We say, instead of just using that session as it is – can you add something, even if it’s a simple progression. 

I see Twitter and The Coaching Family account as a place to help make people think and not just become robots who clone the same sessions they see online, that would be a waste of time. Twitter is still and always will be massively beneficial to coaches at all levels of the game. There is something for everyone on there. Coaches need to follow the right accounts on there to access what is most relevant to them.

BfF: What do you do to get new ideas? Where do you look?
BT: For me, my own coaching has become less about what I coach and more about how I deliver my sessions. I often use YouTube to aid my session planning for a technical coaching session. As an example, if I want to pin down the technical detail for teaching a young player to turn with the ball I’ll sit with my notepad making notes on videos of Scholes, Iniesta or Messi. 

Mainly I listen to coaching podcasts and audiobooks, I use youtube for TedTalks and research on different academies/coaches. Coaching websites like Player Development Project and Inspire The Game have been very useful in my coaching too. 

For me though, there’s nothing more useful than watching another coach work and speaking to different people in the game.

BfF: Do you follow what happens in other sports, coaching wise?
BT: I’m into my Rugby Union and follow the English and Welsh national teams. One of my earliest coaching inspirations was Sir Clive Woodward who won the Rugby World Cup with England in 2003. I have a DVD at home showing all his team meetings, interviews and behind the scenes footage from their 2003 six nations’ grand slam. The overriding message I took from researching his ideas was the level of detail he would go into to plan for every eventuality. His book called Winning is one I’d recommend to all coaches. I also enjoyed listening to, and reading up on, Sir Dave Brailsford from Team Sky and British Cycling. There are lots of transferable messages from coaches in different sports and we’d be foolish not to ask questions and learn from these inspirational people. It’s great to see England manager Gareth Southgate in the papers recently when he visited England Rugby headquarters to speak with Eddie Jones. There is lots to be learned from other sports for sure!

BfF: How important is it to look at what is happening overseas and in different footballing cultures?
BT: It’s very important. Recently, I’ve been looking at player development in countries like Chile, Uruguay and Argentina and how street footballers like Alexis Sanchez, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez develop and learn their skills. It’s not always to do with the coaching these guys have received. We can learn lots from the culture and environments these boys grow up in. 

I have strong views on the crazy amounts of technology kids play with in the UK. Kids aren’t kids long nowadays; they soon have Facebook on their iPhone while they listen to music on an iPad while they play FIFA on their playstations. It’s a parenting problem for me as well as a “keeping up with the Jones’” attitude to Christmas and birthday presents. 

Technology is fantastic but not when it’s stopping kids playing world cup doubles, climbing trees, building dens and so on. Kids in this country are getting lazier and lazier but as coaches we have to inspire them to get out and play with friends again. 

BfF: Do you feel the urge to test yourself in a different environment?
BT: I always want to test myself and do things that challenge me. My wife and I have been speaking about moving to different countries for a while now. It’s a dream of ours to have a taste of American life at some point in the future. We spent 3 weeks in Florida on honeymoon a couple of years ago and loved everything about the area. I like meeting new people, learning new things and travelling to different places so I’ll never rule out a new challenge in a new country at some stage in my career. I’ve been learning Spanish for the past 6 months and would encourage every coach to learn a new language

BfF: What are three books that you think any coach should read?
BT: James Kerr - Legacy
Carlo Ancelotti – Quiet Leadership
Mathew Syed – Black box thinking

BfF: What do you want to achieve in the future to be happy with what you've achieved?
BT: I used to be focused on the next coaching course but these days my priorities have shifted. I am enjoying what I do. I love working with the under 6’s and 7’s at the development centre, I’m learning about myself and the age group with every single session. Long term, I want to grow LTG Technical Coaching enough so that I can go full time. That’s my dream, to concentrate almost all my energy on improving the technical ability of the very youngest players in the area, and then on to the rest of the country. 

Ultimately, I want to see the boys I work with go on to do well in the game at whatever level they can progress to. 

For more coaching tips from Ben, make sure you follow him on his Learning The Game twitter feed.

Want to hear what fellow coaches think about football, how they learn and build their philosophy? Check out our Blueprint According To... series of e-books here (and here for US readers).

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Best Coaching Links Of The Week: Neuroathletics, Fear of Shame & More

Neuroathletics is difficult to define but essentially it is the practise of training your brain and linking it with your athletic prowess.  It is also hard to prove just how valuable it is as a practise, regardless of the success stories that are relayed as being wholly the result of neuroathletics.  Still it is important to know about it and understand what it is because even if one does not wholly accept it there are undoubtedly certain elements that are worth further study.

“Fear of shame is a waste and a trap”

Recently within the coaching community there was something of an uproar after Fulham FC put out an advert asking children to come for trials to join their academy with the call being open even to children as young as five.  It sparked a big debate that focused on club’s ability to truly judge players that young.  If you’re uncertain what the fuss was all about or would like to read an article that digs deep into the issue, then this is it.

Another in the ‘learn from other sports’ category this time by reading up a bit about the legendary swimming coach Jack Bauerle.

“The first task is to get to know the players really well-watching them as individuals in training and in match play-to see what is good in their natural game. Then, and only then, can we begin to outline the general tactics.” – Helenio Herrera [Legendary Inter FC manager, tactical innovator & father of catenaccio]

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Best of Coaching Links Last Week: Economics in Football, Half Spaces, Maurizio Sarri & More

Economics might seem to be an unlikely place to look for reasons why clubs invest money in their youth academy and then proceed to ignore practically player that comes through.  Yet a developing branch of economics - behavioural economics - that looks at why people make certain decisions has plenty of theories that provide explanations.  Being aware of them might help clubs be more rational in their decision making.

An article on why collaboration, rather than competition, should be the rule among coaches.

As everyday talk about football becomes increasingly more technical then the need to dig a little deeper to learn about some of the newer terminology also increases.  Half spaces is one such term and this is a good explanation of what that is all about.

Maurizio Sarri has emerged as one of the most interesting coaches in European football, capable of developing an attacking side that even managed to overcome the loss of a striker of the calibre of Gonzalo Higuain.  His systems and ideas are discussed in this video.

"Football is the most important of the less important things in the world." - Carlo Ancelotti

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Best of Coaching Links This Week: Tempo, Throw-Ins & More

Philosophy has become something of a buzzword in football over recent years and no manger worth his salt can afford not to have one.  That, however, is the easy part: it gets tricky when you have to instill your philosophy in your players when you only have a very limited number of days during which you can train your players.

Any team that can dictate the pace of the game has a huge advantage over their opponent because they can then determine what gets to be done on the pitch.  But what is tempo and how does it work?  Here's an in-depth analysis.

Every aspect of the game gets analysed these days as teams go out in search of that element which can give them an advantage over the rest.  So it should be.  This focus on all aspects now includes the throw in.

There's always a lot to learn away from football and this interview with Mike Krzyzewski who among other things coached the US to three gold medals in basketball is filled with delightful insight.

“Cups are not won by individuals, but by men in a team who put their club before personal prestige." - Jock Stein.

Monday, March 6, 2017

How Economics Explains Why Clubs Don’t Give Young Players A Chance

Each year, clubs at the highest levels of the game spend millions on their academy or youth system.  Each year, promising players train in these academies.  And, each year, they fail to get an opportunity to show what they are capable of.

It is an anomalous and fairly ridiculous situation that in many respects could only happen in football.  No other business would invest that much money and then fail to use what came through.  At least no business acting rationally would act that way.

The thing is that football clubs (as does any normal business, for the matter) act irrationally.  There is rarely any grand strategy in place and this is evidenced by how quickly confidence in a manager can deteriorate after a run of bad results, regardless of what that manager had achieved in the past.

For the past forty years, economists have been looking at ways to explain such irrationality.  The foundation of behavioural economics, this new branch in the science, was laid by two Israeli professors - Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman – who set economics down the path of looking at what influences people’s behaviour to determine how they act and why they do so in such a manner (for more information on these two and their work, read Michael Lewis’ fantastic book The Undoing Project). 

In doing so they looked at a number of psychological factors that influence people’s decision and prevent them from acting in a rational or consistent manner.

It is such factors that have to be looked at in order to understand what stops clubs from trying to maximise the investment that they make in academies.  And there’s plenty worth looking into.

One in particular stands out.

Any project like a football academy has to be based on a long term vision.  That much is obvious.  Yet it contrasts with most managers’ focus on the present.  It is a vicious circle that clubs effectively bring on themselves by failing to stick to long term projects.

It is a behaviour that behavioural economists will be familiar with, having observed and documented it in what has become known as the present bias.   This is the tendency to over-value immediate rewards at the expense of long-term ambitions, regardless of the impact that it might have later on in life.

A classic example of this is when a person fails to save up any money, opting instead to spend it in order to fully live ‘the moment’.  Eventually a time will come when it is too late to start saving up and that individual has nothing on which to turn.

That is what clubs are doing with their academies.  The absence of a long term project forces everyone on the playing side to focus on the immediate outcome.  Managers, knowing that their job could be at risk with a series of bad results, will opt for his more experienced players on whom he can rely more heavily.

Young players are more likely to make mistakes.  Regardless of their talent they may not by physically ready or might be too slow to react; making critical mistakes in the process.  Those are the mistakes that in truth they need to make in order to develop and learn yet managers rarely have the luxury of allowing them that room to grow.  Managers need players who can deliver immediate results.

They are biased in favour of those players who can help them in the present.

This is costing clubs heavily.  It is a short term view for a number of reasons starting from the obvious that the performances of older players tend to decrease rapidly once they hit a particular age.  The outcome here is that the club would then have to look for another player to replace him, thus spending more money to do so.  

What’s worse is that such spend is the equivalent of throwing money away.  For while that older player might ensure immediate reliability, the value of such experienced players rarely appreciates.  Within a couple of years that player will have to be moved on and often only a fraction – if any – of the initial outlay is recovered.

This contrasts with the value of a young player that tends to appreciate notably as they gain experience, confidence and start to express their ability on a more consistent basis.  Financially, the development of a young player is easily more beneficial than going for established ones.

Still clubs opt not to do so.  Again this is hardly surprising for behavioural economists who have an explanation as to why this happens: they are falling prey to hyperbolic discounting.  Without going into the technicalities of what this term means, essentially it refers to the decision making process whereby the farther away a potential return is, the more it is discounted and less it is valued.

It is only when clubs get to a situation where they have nothing to lose by trying something different that they really start to shed such bias.  A typical case was that of Borussia Dortmund who, after going to the edge of bankruptcy in their bid to regain their status in German football, opted to put their faith in young players (and a young coach).  Their rewards were immediate and significant: two league titles and a Champions League final.

Judging by the players that they have bought over recent months, Borussia Dortmund have made sure not to fall in their old routine – or fall back on their bias – by signing promising young players.  It is a brave move but, if the rules of behavioural economics are anything to go by, it could also be the right one.

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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Best of Coaching Links This Week: Crosses, Learning from Experience, Impressive Huddersfield & more

One of the most interesting ways to learn, I find, is to talk to people.  It might seem to be an imposition but you'd be surprised to find how often people are more than willing to dedicate their time if they see that you are genuinely interested.  And, more often than not, you'll find that what they tell you stick effortlessly in your memory.  It is why I enjoy doing interviews for Blueprint for Football so much.  The most recent of those interview, with experienced Spanish coach Ismael Díaz Galán who has guided a number of clubs in Spain (including Malaga who he led to promotion) as well as elsewhere around the world, was no exception as he spoke frankly about what it takes to be a manager.  Read, enjoy and learn.

I have to admit that the first time that I saw Huddersfield play was when they met Manchester City in the FA Cup but was suitably impressed by how the team functioned as a unit despite the absence of any remarkable talents.  It is an impression that happens to be backed up by statistics.

As football changes so too does what is held to be important.  Wingers, especially those who did their best work as close to the touchline as possible, used to be a vital element in each team but today are considered out-dated.  The same, to an extent, believed about crosses in the box who are considered outdated in an era where ball possession is king.  Yet that isn't the case.

One of the most pleasing (yet surprisingly under-reported) stories of this season has been Atalanta's rise.  Last week they achieved an extremely impressive win in Naples.  Here's how they did it, tactically.

“It is an art in itself to compose a starting team, finding the balance between creative players and those with destructive powers, and between defence, construction and attack – never forgetting the quality of the opposition and the specific pressures of each match.” - Rinus Michels