Coaches - Power Training (Wallace Minor Soccer)

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Power Training Tips for Effective Coaching


Liam Power, Power Soccer
Inside Soccer magazine
March 2004

This article is comprised of some thoughts about factors which influence the effectiveness of team training sessions.  It is an overview of some general Principles of Coaching.  In future issues I will share with you some insights into my experience as a full time soccer coach and what has proven successful for me.  I believe that a practice session is successful when players achieve technical and tactical improvement in a session that they enjoy.
Write down the plan on a piece of paper.  Spending the time to write the plan will focus your mind and will result in a session that runs smoothly. I believe that an organized written plan facilitates teaching. Certainly, your plan should be flexible, but that is not a reason to neglect writing one in the first place.   Jot a rough diagram/s, this will clarify your thought process.  Note some key coaching points related to the session theme.  

If you work on wall passes, introduce this in the warm-up, and take it through the whole session.  In the game-play portion of the session, coach wall-passes, and not some other aspect of play. 

Communication is the key to successful coaching.  It can be broken down into many aspects and today I will briefly touch on a few.  Imagine the following scenario:
Your team played on the weekend and their passing was an area you identified as a weakness in a game they lost.  Most goals conceded were the result of giving the ball away because of poorly paced passes.  So you want players to put good pace on their passes.  You need to show them, even if the players are experienced.  Tell them but with a demonstration, this will have a bigger impact.  The visual cue is strong and so the message has better delivery.  Coaching is about communicating ideas and skills, demonstrations are so useful to clarify a point for a player. 

Additionally tell players why crisp passing gets better results.  This is true for any skill that you teach, i.e. relate the skill to the game.  Some 10-year old players understand that the coach insists on playing firm passes to the feet, but they cannot tell you why.  The coach can clarify this; alternatively, ask the players what the reason is; 
- chance of interception is reduced
- speed of play is increased
- space is created
- strikers can gain an extra second to get off the shot.

There is a tendency for coaches to want to “fix” the game.  Players are often capable of problem-solving.  So if you freeze play, give the player the opportunity to fix it herself.  Additionally, catching players doing right things, and using these moments to teach players has a lot of merit.  How players learn is not fully understood.  Stopping games to say “that is wrong, and this is right”, may be the opinion of the coach, but it is not the only way to get players thinking.
In the same vein, when teaching new skills, allow players to demonstrate to the rest of the team.  This will be good for the confidence and self-esteem of the player, and also relevant for teammates.  Make sure that you share this opportunity with everyone on the team.  Speak with players individually at the session, and not just about soccer.  Arriving early will allow the coach to prepare for the session, and to have a quick word with the players about schoolwork, family, hobbies, etc.  Players respond to a coach who shows an interest in them, who treats them as an individual.  It is well recognized that the coach is a role model for the child.  Being interested in the player shows him or her that you respect them. 

Game Play at Practice
Recently, before a practice session, a 12-year old player asked me “Coach, can we just play games today?”  Not such a bad idea.  As coaches, we have differing views on how to structure a session.  My view is that 50% of your session should involve playing soccer games.  No doubt we want to make the session game-related;  playing soccer is as game-related as we can get.  Real game situations occur and allow players to learn in a realistic environment.  While playing games we should keep score, because in soccer, winning and losing have relevance.  Players should learn how to do both. Tournaments at practice are fun because they engage the interest of young players.  Anything that causes more competitive games to be played in practice will replicate game situations and so develop players. The role of the coach is a key factor.    It is the coach’s function to guide the players to play fairly, to capture some learning moments in the game and to fully enjoy the experience.
New Ideas
I participated in a coaching course some years ago along with a coach from our club.  Directly after the course, I accompanied this coach to a team training session which he conducted.  His session was based on an aspect of play which was covered in the coaching course.  It was a great session mainly due to the enthusiasm of the coach.  There is a lot to be said for a coach using new exercises/games with his/her team presented in an enthusiastic way.  The success of a session has more to do with the attitude of the coach
than almost anything else.  Variety for its own sake is not such a bad thing, as long as the coach sticks with the fundamentals of teaching good soccer habits.  Players love to do new things.  They get repetition of basic soccer skills through a variety of skill exercises.  Variety keeps players interested and having fun, and when this happens, you can be sure that players are learning