Managers articles on WWFC, Youth Football, and football in general
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View From The Dug-Out
Managers articles on WWFC, Youth Football, and football in general
We would recommend that all coaches and parents read the advice below regarding head injuries. Attached is a handy printable version too.
To help identify concussion in children, youth and adults
RECOGNIZE & REMOVE
Concussion should be suspected if one or more of the following visible clues, signs, symptoms or errors in memory questions are present.
1. Visible clues of suspected concussion
Any one or more of the following visual clues can indicate a possible concussion:
2. Signs and symptoms of suspected concussion
Presence of any one or more of the following signs & symptoms may suggest a concussion:
3. Memory function
Failure to answer any of these questions correctly may suggest a concussion.
Any athlete with a suspected concussion should be IMMEDIATELY REMOVED FROM PLAY, and should not be returned to activity until they are assessed medically. Athletes with a suspected concussion should not be left alone and should not drive a motor vehicle.
It is recommended that, in all cases of suspected concussion, the player is referred to a medical professional for diagnosis and guidance as well as return to play decisions, even if the symptoms resolve.
If ANY of the following are reported then the player should be safely and immediately removed from the field. If no qualified medical professional is available, consider transporting by ambulance for urgent medical assessment:
In all cases, the basic principles of first aid (danger, response, airway, breathing, circulation) should be followed.
Do not attempt to move the player (other than required for airway support) unless trained to so do
Do not remove helmet (if present) unless trained to do so.
from McCrory et. al, Consensus Statement on Concussion in Sport. Br J Sports Med 47 (5), 2013
Much is being made at the moment within the world of football of SAF’s autobiography, FA Commissions and whether Messi, Ronaldo or indeed Ibrahimovic will set the World Cup alight next year in Brazil, which thankfully England will now play a part in. However, the recently outspoken Gary Lineker has written an excellent article in the NewStatesman that grabbed my attention and goes to the heart of one of the biggest challenges we face at the grassroots level and can be read at the following link: http://www.newstatesman.com/2013/10/pushy-parents-screaming-abuse-sidelines-are-killing-their-kids-love-football
Yes, the pushy parent. We’ve all seen them. We all know who they are. In the main we all stand back and let it go on. But does this actually help?
The pushy parent clearly has his or her heart in the right place and just wants their child to give their best. Unfortunately as we should all know through many years of being on this planet it is impossible to be at your best at everything every single second of the day and many of these times we simply have no reason why this happens. We’ve all been there trying to do our best and for no reason known to man it all goes ‘pear-shaped’. So let’s understand young kids that are still learning the game and generally prone to more errors are only going to be victims here more often.
The last thing they want is their mum or dad bailing them out from the touchlines, “Come on Johnny, your great granny who can’t walk could do better with her eyes shut…”. How is that kind of comment ever going to help young Johnny??
It is a proven fact that kids thrive on positivity and encouragement and the FA have done studies that evidence this. It is also proven that if young players have no fear of trying out new techniques and skills their development will accelerate. Knowing they can try a trick or try kicking with their ‘weaker’ foot and potentially make a mistake without fellow players, coaches and parents shouting at them afterwards will inspire confidence. It will also stop this country producing robotic-type players that have stalled the game at a higher level and instead see more technically advanced players coming through.
It is one of our jobs as coaches to completely take away this fear. We all see players show wonderful technique in training but then struggle when it comes down to matchday. The human brain is a right bugger here but we can help train it to become more confident and with mini-soccer teams now playing in unpublished leagues all emphasis should be taken away from results and placed on the longer-term development of the players which should provide the right environment for this to flourish.
We can also help this by communicating with our parents at the start of the season and regularly through the season. WWFC has a Code of Conduct that players and parents all sign into. I also used to send a separate Code of Conduct out to the parents of the team I coached at the start of every season explaining what I expected. Certainly no coaching from the sidelines and only positive encouragement, to both teams.
We will always come up against teams where the parents are far more aggressive and we must learn to ignore these. In these circumstances the Match Delegate should speak to their counterpart and if there is no improvement they should then speak to the referee.
The issue over the pushy parent is a subject that can spring eternal debate and I like the suggestion within Lineker’s article that some academies insist on parents being quiet and only clapping. Maybe this is something you could look to introduce with the prior agreement of the opposition in a game in the not too distant future. If you do I would be really interested to hear how you felt it either helped or hindered the players.
The other thing we all know is that the kids do feel pressure when playing and most of that is due to the expectation levied on them from their parents clearly wanting the best but only giving the tools to prohibit this development. Again this is where us coaches come in and have to communicate effectively with the parents and talk through our longer-term development plans and how they too can play a key part in this.
So let’s all think about how we can take the fear away from our players, how we can all help accelerate their development. Here are some suggestions among many more examples I’m sure you can all give me:
· Take on the academy example where parents can only clap and not cheer/ shout…
· Talk to your players alone about the support from the touchline and give weekly feedback via e-mail to parents on this – maybe give them a mark out of 10!!
· Tell your parents to bring along picnic/ garden chairs and watch the match sat down so now they see the game at the same level as most of the players – this may completely change the whole context of how they view the game.
· Empower your matchday delegate to ensure the sidelines are a positive environment.
· Don’t be afraid to speak to any pushy parents. Remember you’ll have the full support of the WWFC Committee behind you in dealing with such issues.
· As a coach go through a whole game (i.e. before, during and after) without talking to the players about the result. Put the whole emphasis on enjoyment and working on certain techniques you’ve been focusing on.
· During game time be a passive coach. Don’t bark out orders from the touchline. Let the kids develop through their own trial + error.
· Make sure that during the course of any training session or any matchday you give at least one piece of positive feedback to every single player and maybe focus this on when they tried something different which on this occasion didn’t come off.
I could go on for ages on this topic but if we can make this work then the future for the game is only going to be brighter. From my regular visits to Butterfield Road I’ve seen many fantastic players across all age groups and little things like the above will ensure that not only do they thrive but also that all the other players develop faster and suddenly become great players as well.
Until next time have a fun weekend and make sure you all enjoy your games.
Article from our Football Development Officer (FDO) - Kevin Lennon.
I’m not sure if you’ve managed to catch the speech yesterday from the new Chairman of the FA, Greg Dyke. If not make sure you find time to catch up on it http://www.thefa.com/News/thefa/2013/sep/chairman-greg-dyke-full-speech-vision.aspx
For me it was very refreshing that someone at the head of the game in this country has come out with such an open speech and wants to address the problems that many have seen for so long but haven’t been prepared to do anything about it. I guess the proof will be in the pudding as to whether he’ll be able to drive any plan through the likely political hurdles he’ll face within the game but one thing that I can assure you that will come out of this will be a focus on better coaches at the grassroots level.
This is the most important level in the whole game as this is where the kids start playing and it captures them in their golden years of learning. This relates to me, you and all the other coaches we come across at Butterfield Road and other playing fields in Hertfordshire on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
But as Henry Winter points out in The Telegraph this morning (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/teams/england/10287856/Greg-Dyke-should-forget-about-England-winning-World-Cup-and-concentrate-on-fixing-grassroots-football.html) it is not just about the quantity of coaches at this level – there are already around 400,000 unpaid volunteers across the country involved – but the QUALITY of these coaches.
How can we as coaches expect our kids to get the best development if we are not equipping ourselves by attaining the knowledge to execute this.
Ask yourself whether you would like your own children to go to school and get taught by unqualified teachers? If not, then why should we expect parents who have paid a meaningful registration fee to hand their children to unqualified football coaches.
So as much as the FA and media can talk about the quality of grassroots coaching it is ultimately up to us as individuals at this level to grab the bull by the horns and ensure we get appropriate qualifications and then not just rest on our laurels but ensure we continue to learn and continually look to become better coaches.
Wheathampstead Wanderers is fully behind coach learning and this is why as a Charter Standard club we want EVERY team to have at least one FA1 coach. The Club covers the cost for these courses and we are also supportive of coaches that want to progress onto either FA2 or the Youth Modules – all very excellent courses and a good step-on from the FA1, which barely touches the surface and ultimately is like your old ‘red’ ribbon you got in swimming when as a kid you swam a width of the pool for the first time!
If you are committed to being a coach then you should also look into registering as a FA Licensed Coach, which is another step in helping create a better coaching culture. It is now FREE to sign up (although there are extras you can pay for). The FA Licensed Coaches’ Club website has plenty of online coaching resources and regular news, video sessions and features from leading coaches in the game while you can also get regular opportunities to win tickets for England home games and training sessions. As part of your licence, you are committing to a minimum of Continuous Professional Development (3-hours p.a. for a Level-1 coach and 5-hours p.a. for a Level-2) but this can be easily obtained from courses or coaching events offered by Herts FA or even just attending the FA Licensed Coaches Annual Conference, which again this year will be held at St Georges Park. To register as a FA Licensed Coach click on http://facc.thefa.com/Users/Account/LogOn?ReturnUrl=%2fnews
Rome wasn’t built in a day so we’re not going to suddenly become world beaters overnight here, however, if we can look to become the best coaches we can (recognising we’re all volunteers and have other commitments as well), can drive forward the philosophy of the game directed from people such as Nick Levett and can show a strong passion and commitment then we can all do our own little bit to help raise standards and create a legacy we can all enjoy when we’re sat back in our armchairs in later years with our slippers on while smoking our pipe!!
Wheathampstead Wanderers Youth Development Coach
As we've been tidying up WheatoFC Towers prior to the new season, we came across another set of great quotes that we have noted from Twitter over the past year. Have a look, there are some gems here...
@nlevett 4 Feb: Grassroots football is not about the amount of trophies you win. It is about the difference you make to young people.
@nlevett 6 Nov: Adults telling kids what to do during games is similar to parents doing their kids homework. Might get 100% tomorrow but limited long-term.
@Samanthagriff17 21 Sep: Intresting quote from Ray Lewington "we teach our players if in doubt stay on the ball" who does this with grassroots kids? @CoachingFamily
@DanAbrahams77 17 Sep: The brain is like velcro for negatives but like teflon for positives - footballers must learn how to manage this mindset challenge
@nlevett 5 Sep: Note to coaches/parents. Defeat isn't the same as failure. Defeat is an inevitable outcome at some stage and a healthy part of growing up.
@DanAbrahams77 20 Aug 12: A coach must teach a footballer to stay in the present. Your team should never lose, they should only run out of time
@YouthFitnessGuy 21 Jul 12: The sound of children playing is the sound of children learning.
@VictorSatei 13 Jul 12: Yelling from sideline = nervous players = more mistakes = more yelling from sideline = a vicious cycle! Ahhhh! @coaches_ont @CoachingFamily
@DanAbrahams77 13 May 12: If you want to create a winning team then avoid the word 'win' in your team talk. The processes take care of winning
@DanAbrahams77 6 May 12: A coach should teach a young player how to speak to herself during the game. His inner voice mediates his confidence, focus & intensity
@DrDickB 23 Apr 12: @nlevett very good!!! i once wrote 3 KEY LAWS OF CHILD DEV. 1) ch is not a mini adult; 2) ch. is not a mini adult; 3) ch is not a mini adult
@DanAbrahams77 9 Apr 12 : Referee's have always made decisions people don't like...deal with it in the moment and move on quickly. That's a winner's mindset
@Sports_Greats 6 Apr 12: It is better to be defeated on principle than to win on lies. -Arthur Calwell
@DanAbrahams77 2 Apr 12: The brain's propensity to dwell on mistakes can be a tougher enemy to overcome that the footballer's opponent
@Sports_Greats 2 Apr 12: My responsibility is leadership, and the minute I get negative, that is going to have an influence on my team. -Don Shula
@DanAbrahams77 1 Apr 12: A footballer's focus during a game easily wanders. It's the way the brain is designed. She must have small targets during the game to focus
@LegendaryCoach 30 Mar 12: The BEST dribblers become the BEST passers when they are older, this is well known amongst program/curriculum builders...
@LegendaryCoach 30 Mar 12: Coaches please, if you coach in the young ages, please encourage the dribble... Be aware that they will fail, don't chastise them for it..
@LegendaryCoach 29 Mar 12: Think about what YOU wanted in a coach, be that inspirational figure for your players... Be funny, challenging, supportive, upbeat..
@DanAbrahams77 29 Mar 12: Pele didn’t play perfectly. Nor did Maradona. Lionel Messi doesn’t play with perfection. Perfectionism kills footballers. Play with freedom…
@Sports_Greats 19 Mar 12: You are never really playing an opponent. You are playing yourself... and when you reach your limits, that is real joy. -Arthur Ashe
@Sports_Greats 18 Mar 12: You're never as good as everyone tells you when you win, and you're never as bad as they say when you lose. -Lou Holtz
@Soccerstarzltd 17 Mar 12: Junior coaches over the weekend remember its only a game! Remember the enthusiasm that u had as a kid going 2 play and share in it with them
@DanAbrahams77 14 Mar 12: Perfectionism slows speed of thought on the pitch. A coach must send the message that 'mistakes happen' to a young player. Play with freedom
@LegendaryCoach 14 Mar 12: Create a fun, positive, environment, that is intense for the players, go after teams when you play them, attack, give the players freedom...
@LegendaryCoach 14 Mar 12: Secure coaches know that they don't have total control of the results, only THE PROCESS, but make that process the best it can be...
@antmccool7 1 Mar 12: The same people moaning about England not having technical ability r the same 1s shouting at little kids to WIN! #changeyouthchangeengland
@DanAbrahams77 23 Feb 12: A winning mentality requires an exact look at the process of winning. Process first, outcome second...or...form follows function
@WheatoFC 13 Feb 12: "The problem is, in England you teach children to win the game. In Spain, we teach children to play the game" - Jose Mourinho, 2010.
@DanAbrahams77 9 Feb 12: A footballer will play as well as his self-image allows him to
@PavlW 30 Jan 12: a) Messi has most unsuccessful dribbles in La Liga for 3rd year running. b) 21 goals in 19 games and won 3 ballon d'or. Risk vs Reward!
And my own personal favourite...
@DanAbrahams77 11 Feb 12: A coach's voice travels with a player...always!
The FA Licensed Coaches' Club Conference 2012 (Levels 1+2)
As a paid-up member of the FA's new Licensed Coaches Club I was fortunate enough to attend the 2012 annual conference over the first weekend of December. Last year this was a 1-day event at Wembley Stadium but this year the event for Level-1 and Level-2 accredited coaches was held over 2-days at the fantastic new facilities at St. George's Park and under the banner "Shaping the Future".
First off a few words about SGP. Spread over ~330-acres there has been a lot of hype about the new £100m facilities that will be the base for 24 different England squads across different ages and across both male and female football. All I would say is that the facilities have to be seen to be believed as they are simply amazing and all of the 300-odd coaches that had assembled from all over the country were equally impressed. Much has been said about the FA's commitment to coaching the coaches and putting an emphasis on developing the technique of our young players and we have seen that with the changing philosophy through extended initiatives as rolling subs, unpublished leagues at younger age groups as well as the introduction of the pathway to 11v11 via 5v5, 7v7 and 9v9 before finally getting the boys onto the larger pitches. The FA has recognised that having this all in place is of no use if the young kids playing are not being coached properly so huge investment has gone onto the coaching side and SGP is a centre which will be accessible to not only elite coaches but also the likes of us in grassroots football.
The conference itself was a great opportunity to mix with like-minded coaches from all the country that share a common passion and that is in training and developing children in football. There is a cross-mix of coaches with some coming from professional academies but the majority from clubs just like WWFC and there certainly is no elitism as I even found myself in a 1-on-1 chat round a table helping solve out a problem that a coach from a Premiership academy was having issues with.
The conference itself was a mix of presentations and attending practical sessions being held by various National Development or Professional Club Academy coaches. The event was started off by Sir Trevor Brooking and Les Howie, Head of Grassroots Coaching. The next presentation was an Olympic and Paralympic Report with the panel including Jessica Ennis' coach, Tony Minichello. This was a fascinating insight not only from the perspective of coaching the best in the world but also into views of coaches from different sports, something that the FA is increasingly encouraging coaches to open their eyes to.
The practical sessions I attended on the first day were on one of the 11 outdoor pitches and the one that is the replica of the Wembley pitch that England will train on before games. The first session was "Ball Retention and Possession for u12's-u16's" with the second session being "Game transfer from 7v7 to 9v9 to 11v11". The coaches were miked up and talked us through each 1hr 15min session while they also had colleagues on the sidelines talking to us about any questions we had. These sessions are fascinating and a great learning opportunity whilst seeing the enthusiasm of these coaches (who you'll see on many FA videos through your Level1, 2 or Youth Module courses) just makes you want to get your tracksuit and boots on and get out there and take another session.
Following a couple more presentations, then a tour of SGP and a quick change of clothes there was a 'gala' dinner in the evening where the after dinner speaker was ex-Bolton manager Owen Coyle with the chair, Mark Clemmet from the BBC, pulling no punches but again another really interesting and enjoyable part of the weekend made all the better over a few pints of Stella, which continued into the bar in the evening as we watched the re-run of England thrashing the All Blacks!
Owen Coyle spoke again the following morning before we went on to what was the highlight of the weekend for me. Dr Steve Peters, Consultant Psychiatrist to UK Athletics, British Cycling and Team Sky Pro Cycling gave a talk entitled "Managing the Mind to Optimise Performance". The audience were spellbound hearing Dr Peters talk about the Inner Chimp and in a quick summary how he has progressed from dealing with serial killers and psychopaths to elite sportsmen as Bradley Wiggins, Sir Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton, Craig Bellamy and Ronnie O'Sullivan amongst others. It was a fascinating insight and just a shame that it was condensed into little over one hour as most people could probably have listened to him all day. For those that want to know more he has written a book called "The Chimp Paradox". It's now in my pile of good books to read so I'll be happy to let people know more once I've found the time away from planning training sessions etc. to get my head down and read it!
The next two sessions I decided to attend were thankfully indoors given how cold it was outdoors on the Saturday afternoon and these were held on the amazing full-size 4G pitch (picture attached). The first session was one around "Behaviour Management" and given how excited some of the boys I train can get I certainly picked up a few tips here for immediate use, with the most important around planning the social side of the session as much as the technical side - those who have done their FA Level 1 and studied the 4 Corners should understand what I mean here. My final session was "Developing Possession" which was also good but the boys doing the session (Derby u16 development centre players) were certainly a few steps ahead of my u11 Tigers!!
We ended back in the warmth of the main building where Brendan Batson, who many of you will remember playing in that great West Brom team under Ron Atkinson but who since has made a name for himself through the PFA and as a football consultant. He talked through the coach bursary programme in place for black and Asian coaches that are currently hugely under-represented in the coaching fraternity.
This was an extremely well-organised event from the few people involved in FA Learning that get involved with the FA Licensed Coaches Club. To-date you have been required to pay an annual subscription for membership and this year the fee has been scaled as to what service you require. Once you do join you get access to a members-only website that has a plethora of coaching material and drills/ computer-animated videos all based on the FA's latest bible - The Future Game. You an also get a coaching magazine/ booklet entitled 'Boot Room' that comes out 3-4 times a year and is full of coaching related articles from top coaches in the UK and around the world. The FA Licensed Coaches Club is open to all coaches that have at least attained Level-1 and kept their accreditation current. They are looking to make this free to join next year although I guess there will be a climbing scale for the additional resources. If you want to know more then click on http://facc.thefa.com/Users/Account/LogOn?ReturnUrl=%2fnews
As a final message. There are over 400,000 volunteers every week taking part in football of all ages across England and around 79% of all youth clubs have a licensed coach. Much has been said recently about the volunteers that made the Olympic and Paralympic games such a great spectacle but every week rain, shine, frost or with those bloody cold winds over Butterfield Road we'll get out and make sure kids of all ages have the opportunity to participate in the world's finest sport and in the main get some thoroughly good coaching in life as well as football. Most weeks we don't get any thanks for that but it was great to hear people like Sir Trevor Brooking and Owen Coyle say that we are the true unsung heroes of the game without which the professional game in this country would be nowhere like it is now. The game is supported by the grassroots at the base and we are those volunteers that can help shape the future...
U11's Head Coach
There has been a fantastic twitter conversation over the last few days, using the hash-tag #FootballAsAKid
See how many of these you recognise !! (and work out how many of these should be reinstated into today's world asap!!)
@RoyCropperNOT: #FootballAsAKid Having a game with your mates and a randomer comes over 'alright mate can I play?' 'Dunno mate its not my ball'
@fransteele96: #FootballAsAKid being the only girl down the park with about 5,000 boys looool #playaa
@TheJCartwright: #FootballAsAKid Arguing about whether the ball went over the invisible bar or not..
@UKBanter: #FootballAsAKid - Your mate turning for numbers to go in goal, and putting all the numbers on him
@RoyCropperNOT: #FootballAsAKid Shouting "Play on" when you're the keeper if you can't be bothered to go and get the ball
@thomasjames95: #FootballAsAKid freezing cold Sundays, bomb sites for pitches, angry dads ridiculous score lines and the best memories I will ever hold.
Andy Coley Cole : #footballasakid using a plastic bottle in the playground when you didn't have a ball
Phil Bernard : #FootballAsAKid You're losing to some randoms in a park. Ball goes off. "Mate that's a corner"....."Nah mate we're not playing corners."
@FootyMemes: #FootballAsAKid When you're supposed to be home at a certain time but you're having so much fun you stay because it's worth the consequences
@Sads3110: #FootballAsAKid watching Gazza's free kick against Arsenal, then going straight out to the park for the afternoon trying to replicate it ...
@Arctic_Mack: #FootballAsAKid that one badass kid who would always go into peoples gardens to fetch the ball. #wesaluteyou
@BroxiBear9 #FootballAsAKid Commentating out loud when your palying by yourself lol
@FootyMemes: #FootballAsAKid (playing in the street) stop the game! there's a car coming!
@STRSkillSchool: #FootballAsAKid Best present in the world was a football. Still is!
@Supermac_27: #footballAsAKid Older boys walk over to you "Gis us a kick a the ball" *Lads get the ball & boot it half way across the world* #NiceOneMate
Jack Preston : #FootballAsAKid Scoring the winner in world cup at break, then running away abusing my mates and being chased by the entire school.......
@BigJohnTerry: #FootballAsAKid running round the street beating imaginary defenders and curling a sweet strike past a non existent goalkeeper
@BigJohnTerry: #FootballAsAKid bringing your fresh ball out and not playing on concrete with it
@MarioBaloltelli: #FootballAsAKid losing by about 10 goals... "Next goal wins!"
Erick Holguin : FootballAsAKid - Getting to school 30mins early for a game of footy before the school bell!
@johnterry1986: #FootballAsAKid "if that ball comes over here again I'm putting a knife through it" ( next door neighbour)
declan_mckay : #FootballAsAKid not needing a referee because a group of 10 year olds are more disciplined than a group of professional footballers
cbutcher_94 : #FootballAsAKid My ball my rules!
The_Boot_King : RT @Neary22: #FootballAsAKid 'Offside' every goal the opposite team scored!
@Houghy28: #FootballAsAKid 'pick numbers!!' 'whats your number?' 'ermm .. right do it again, ONEEEEEEE!'
@HOUGHTON_J: #FootballAsAKid. No pitch, don't stop until you reach the other side of the field
@JenniferKiko: #FootballAsAKid *shot goes over jumper* that was post and in !!
@MarkManning8: #FootballAsAKid #cupsy you're out!... "Im not playing anymore, give me my ball I'm going home".... Ok you're still in
@Gerrard8FanPage: #FootballAsAKid When you're about to pick numbers telling your mate the number you're going to be so you'll be on his team.
@StevenBurns_1: #FootballAsAKid "PENALTY" "here im taking it" "na man makers takers"
@WheatoFC: #FootballAsAKid playing until it was too dark to see, then 'next goal wins' cos no-one knew what the score was
ThomasStalker1: #FootballAsAKid playing out by yourself in the rain dreaming about being the next Gazza
This is a great article, which is highly relevent to all those involved in youth football.
Its the players that make the formation, not the formation that makes the players.
I am sure that you have heard this statement many times before – but after watching Euro 2012 and to be currently experiencing one of the greatest footballing generations in the history of the sport…Spain for me are the ultimate example of this statement.
For many watching the European Championship it might of appeared it was business as usual – playing their brand of “tiki-taka” football – which has served them so well over the past 4-5 years. A brand that has once again left opposition players and coaches scratching their heads as to what the best solution may be to stop ‘La Furia Roja’ in their tracks.
In this article I aim to dig a little deeper into the history makers. The subtle changes and evolution they have made as a nation in their football since ‘El Niño’ Torres netted that famous winner against Germany in the European Final of 2008 to get the ball rolling…and my word it has not stopped rolling ever since!
Our way or the highway!
Xavi…the pass master
A key characteristic of the now world famous ‘tiki-taka’ brand that I feel is sometimes not given enough credit is the incredible amount of concentration, composure and focus it takes to maintain Spain’s very high standards when it comes to retaining possession and passing the ball. You can see the frustration and almost self-hate when the likes of Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets give away possession through a sloppy pass or poor touch.
Watching the Euro’s unfold I thought to myself…Why can’t other nations play this way? Why are what appears to be only a handful of other players at the international level (outside Spain) incapable of executing one of footballs most simple and basic techniques…pass the ball and keep possession?
The players I am talking about are the likes of those who are playing at the same level and competitions as the likes of Xavi, Iniesta, and David Silva. Players who are playing at some of the world best league and biggest teams, and in some cases alongside these players in the same teams and leagues.
What Spain made absolutely clear at this European Championship is that they do not obsess with the shape and lineup of their team. While the rest of us where making noises, doubting and turning our noses up at how a team could/couldn’t play ‘without a recognized’ striker, Spain and its ‘tiki-taka’ troops knew they had something which they could fall back on, something that kept them moving in the right direction and something they knew others didn’t have…their footballing foundation.
Football without fear
Spain’s current world dominance both domestically and Internationally over the past 8 years is not luck, its been a long process of reinventing, up-skilling and educating players and coaches from top to bottom across the nation, in a unified philosophy of how they want to play the game. This process is now beginning to bare fruit.
The leader of this philosophy and the Spanish National Team Vicente Del Bosque sums it up perfectly before and after the big game vs Italy…
“In the structure of our football, in the academies, and in better coaches. The Spanish clubs are devoting themselves to training youngsters.
“Before we would travel abroad to look at the academies in France, Russia, Germany. Now many of these countries come to see what we are doing in Spain.”
After their historic victory Del Bosque went on to add…
“We’re talking about a great generation of footballers, They know how to play together because they come from a country where they learn to play properly. This is a great era for Spanish football.”
“To win three titles is almost impossible. Congratulations to the players. I didn’t really want to be the coach who wins but the coach who educates. I want to keep preparing them for the future.”
This message from the national coach is shared by the devoted coaches across Spain who preach this to their players. Its about the education, the future and not the winning.
As a player if you are allowed to grow in an environment where risk-taking and decision-making are encouraged and managed to the finest detail it is no surprise at all to see Iniesta ask for the ball even in the tightest of spaces when surrounded by opponents, or to see skipper Iker Casillas leading by example playing cooly out from the back under pressure.
The Spanish players do not have fear in their minds when they play…all they have is their philosophy and years of trust in their education that this is right way to play, the success along the way has only helped to reinforce this bond.
Another aspect of Spain’s historic victory at Euro 2012 that stood out for me is just how brilliantly adaptable they are. From the opening game fielding the then infamous “4-6-0″ formation (with Cesc Fabregas playing in the false 9 role), to the change of tempo/contrast of their play in the final between David Silva’s opening goal – 14 passes, 36 sec’s of possession – to Jordi Alba’s second – 4 passes, 13 sec’s of possession – was a joy to watch.
I truly believe that regardless wether its 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1, 4-4-2 or even 4-6-0…the football foundation that Spain’s players have been built upon since they could kick a ball; awareness, timing, touch, vision allows them to fit into any system, and I feel they could of played any of the above systems and the outcome would’ve been exactly the same at Euro 2012.
The facts are there to see:
Since the start of 2011-12 season Sergio Ramos has taken to his role as a central defender like a duck to water and after Euro 2012 is now considered one of the worlds – lets not forget less then 18 months ago he was strictly a full back for both club and country.
Cesc Fabregas was the first to admit he was a surprised as anyone to see his name in the starting XI as a false 9 for Spain’s opening game – seeing he has never played their before this season for Barcelona on rare occasions – however he still scored in that game and created David Silva’s opening goal from the same ‘position’ in the final.
With Iniesta and Silva playing ‘from the flanks’, Xavi playing as an advanced play maker and Sergio Busquets ability to play both as a deep lying midfielder and center only strengthens my belief that with the right foundation, formations mean nothing.
As coaches we need to look beyond putting players in ‘boxes’ on the field and ask them to perform certain actions which that position requires. England’s performances at the Euro 2012 and South Africa 2012 are perfect examples – they can follow instructions, they can be well organized without the ball but when it comes to having the ball under pressure or finding themselves in situations outside of their specific role they really struggled - The players I speak of are the likes of Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney, John Terry who are not only key members of their club and country but who many agree are ‘World-Class’ in their position.
What Spain have shown us over the past 4 years far from boring…I believe its groundbreaking and further supports my view that football is not about formations – its about having players who can execute thoughts into actions in accordance to their surroundings.
A very interesting article from Sam Wilkinson on the 'Keep The Ball' Blog -
It always worries me when a 9 or 10 year old player tells me they are a full back – by no means am I demeaning full back as a position, but why would a young player that is being developed skilfully and has their whole career in front of them limit themselves to a specific position so early on?
I often watch English Premier League matches and find myself wondering………..Could a player like John Terry go and play comfortably and cleverly in midfield? Could a Micah Richards type player fill in as a right winger? Yet when watching Spain, Barcelona or the Brazil teams of a few years back I never questioned whether Dani Alves or Cafu could play higher up the field or whether Pique or Lucio could fit comfortably into midfield. Why is this?……..because first and foremost they were developed as great players not positions!
Are we concentrating too much on developing players to play certain positions or roles? At young ages are we too transfixed with the stereo typical criteria of positions – big tall centre back – pacey winger – workhorse midfielder? Players, and in particular young players should be developing the skill and understanding of the game style to go and play in any area of the field. By forcing players into specific positions too early they end up only developing very narrow skill sets and understanding, that is restricted to certain roles.
How often do players convert to new positions early in their senior career, Carlos Puyol – winger to centre back, Thierry Henry – winger to striker and Gerard Pique – central midfielder to centre back to name but a few. All of these players were able to make these conversions because their skill level and understanding was sufficient enough to cope with the demands of the game not just the demands of a position. It is very hard to tell at 12 years of age what positions a player will be playing at 25 years of age, so why try and make that decision so early?
Aside from the pitfalls of pigeon holing young players into positions too early there is also the limitations it can place on the game style at senior level. Skilful and Total football involving rotations and overloads requires players to cover and “fill in” a variety of different positions. How can your centre back get into midfield if your centre midfielder is not comfortable filling in for him? How can your centre forward drop and rotate back into midfield if your central midfielder cannot go and play up front for a spell? Why get your full back over lapping if they don`t have the skill and cleverness to be effective higher up the field? Great teams are made of great players that cope with the demands of the game in all areas of the field.
I believe our challenge as coaches is to equip players with the skill and awareness to be great all round players not specialists, to give players an understanding of the whole game style so they are able to play skilfully and cleverly regardless of where they find themselves on the pitch
See http://keeptheball.wordpress.com/2012/03/28/great-players-not-positions/ for the full text.
In his excellent blog, the FA Head of Youth Development (Nick Levett) talks about the focus groups he has run nationality to find out more about why kids play football. I have copied a key passage below, but would recommend that you read the full article here - http://youthfootballdevelopment.blogspot.co.uk/
The interesting thing for me is to compare the motivating drivers for the kids, against the input they often receive from parents and coaches. I'm sure that as adults we can all recognise occasions when we've really wanted the team to win a match, or to beat a certain team, or to learn a certain drill which we perceive will make kids play more like adults. Does this motivate kids, or de-motivate them? How can we support/coach in a manner which complements the kids motivation, rather than seeks to change it? Do we consistently demonstrate that our love/support is not related to results?
I don't have any answers to these questions, and if we are truly honest I would expect that most coaches/parents would admit to occasions where we have been motivated by our own goals rather than our kids. It is very interesting just to read the kids views and question our own!
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