Coaching- "Be the best you can be"
by Roger Wilkinson

(Roger Wilkinson is the Former Director of Coaching for the New Zealand Football Association, Crystal Palace Academy Coach and author of the videos "Soccer Success One on One Coaching DVD", "Advanced One on One Coaching" and "Coaching the Youth Team". He is now Director of Coaching for Premier Skills � Oceania Region and Project Manager for the newly launched a modern on line coaches diary for coaches at all levels.)

All coaches whether grass roots or professional search for those special ingredients that will make them outstanding and successful. There is no shortage of advice and courses for the novice coach and so their biggest problem is to sort through the avalanche of detail to determine what is relative and important to their development.

Here I want to share some insights after over 25yrs of coaching and being privileged enough to work with and observe some of the world's best coaches.

Here I indentify the 3 key elements that we can identify with special coaches and how the novice coach can learn from them.

  1. Playing philosophy

    Develop a playing philosophy - have a playing vision so you know what good football looks like and then break it down in to the tactics and skills needed to make it succeed. Now the coach has the base for programming their coaching.

    Developing the philosophy is not easy for the novice coach it will take time to study great teams and players but by observing live games and videos of these teams and by observing and questioning experienced coaches the time will be well spent and will be worth it. Everything stems from the coaches playing vision.

  2. Programming the work

    The special coach programmes his/her work so that the players develop in a systematic fashion. The game style should be introduced in easy to learn progressive stages that ensures the players fully understand the skills and tactical understanding required of them. The coaches methodology is graduated to ensure the players are successful in reproducing these skills and tactics required at each stage before moving on. EACH SESSION SHOULD BE THE FOLLOW ON FROM THE PREVIOUS SESSION AND THE PREPARATION FOR THE NEXT SESSION. The best examples of this in the modern game are the Dutch.

  3. Coaching methodology

    When the special coaches work it is almost as if they have choreographed the session so that the players move smoothly through the learning stages. They make it look easy when of course it�s not. The secret of their methodology can be further broken down into 3 key factors:

    1. Knowledge- Having sorted out their playing style the coach meticulously establishes the technical/tactical detail that allows successful play to happen anything from body positions, foot movements, degrees of touch on the ball, angles, weight, disguise when passing for the individual player to establishing sophisticated rotation as a team when in possession of the ball. Soccer is NOT a simple game but great coaches break it down in to simple learning modules. They can do this because they have studied the game and have the knowledge. The novice coach needs to make the time for this back ground research.THE COACHING BATTLE CAN BE WON BEFORE A BALL IS KICKED IN PRACTICE.
    2. Preparation - this is the same for coaches of all levels but the best coaches really do follow the rules. It is important to have the right equipment in the right amount from balls, cones and bibs to portable goals, when needed. To make sure that every player in the session is catered for and is fully involved in the session .It is crucial that the practice areas are realistic to the game, and the abilities of the players, and are clearly marked and the number of players are appropriate to that area. However the most important factor is REALISTIC practices that include skill and tactical information, where every player is involved whether on the ball or off it. In other words throw away the static drills where players are standing in line waiting for a turn. The special coach prepares their work in three fundamental stages.

      Small group work- where players mainly start with a ball each and work in a grid area intermingling and learning to stay with the ball and make decisions on time and space. The advantage of this type of work is that the players whilst learning their skills in the close proximity of other players must be alert and keep their eyes up to develop the vision to look for safe spaces. YOU CAN,T DO THAT STANDING IN A LINE .

      Small area work- where gradual opposition is introduced to ensure the players can successfully reproduce the skills they have previously rehearsed. With very young players it may be 5 v 1 in a 20m x 20m grid with older players it could as tight as 3 v 3 in a 15m x 15m grid. To be a special coach you have to be able to manipulate the playing numbers and size of area to challenge the players but to also ensure success.

      The Game stage - where the results of the work in the small group and small area practices is tested and assessed. The game can be small sided or the full game depending on the age and experience of the players. The game is in itself a learning system and the coach may divide the pitch in to halves or thirds in order to bring out the understanding required by the players. CLEVER UNDERSTANDING OF THESE 3 STAGES IS WHAT IDENTIFIES THE SPECIAL COACH.

    3. Delivery- To coach successfully the coach must deliver the key points in logical easy to learn progression, this is the secret of the special coach. A simple example of this is you often hear novice coaches saying" when you get the ball get your head up to see where you want to pass" in fact the sequence is not receive, look and pass it is LOOK,RECIEVE,THEN RUN WITH,OR,PASS THE BALL.A coach may be making relevant coaching points but if they are out of logical sequence they are harder to learn, and make sense of, for the players. The special coaches have great observation skills because of their research, knowledge and preparation they see things the ordinary coach misses but part of this observation is simply that they stand in the right position to coach where they can see all of the practice area LIMITED PLAYERS ARE SOMETIMES KNOWN AS BALL WATCHERS THE SAME APPLIES TO NOVICE COACHES they cannot help themselves following the ball and only coach what they see around the ball. Just as great players have great vision the same can be said of great coaches it is important for the novice coach to develop their observation skills. The special coaches have tremendous communication skills, when showing examples to their players they demonstrate correctly to show the skill or tactic desired and when giving verbal demonstrations they use words and IMAGERY that stimulate the players understandings above the ordinary. They have a way of keeping the players eye contact and attention and no effective coaching can take place without that. Good coaches display enthusiasm and transfer that enthusiasm to their players so they build confidence, as well as skill, in their players. They tend to "Accentuate the positive" saying "Do it this way" rather than "Don�t do When the coaching starts the special coach does not complicate the coaching process they make it simple and effective.

      In conclusion the grass roots coach can learn so much by watching , studying and imitating the habits of the great coaches. In the modern era there is easy access to videos and DVDs of top coaches working and many national coaching associations like the NSCAA hold regular conventions where outstanding coaching practice can be observed. So there is no reason why any coach has to settle for ordinary when they can aspire" to be the best they can be."

      (Roger Wilkinson is the Former Director of Coaching for the New Zealand Football Association, Crystal Palace Academy Coach and author of the videos "Soccer Success One on One Coaching DVD", "Advanced One on One Coaching" and "Coaching the Youth Team". He is now Director of Coaching for Premier Skills � Oceania Region and Project Manager for the newly launched a modern on line coaches diary for coaches at all levels.)