How much do words matter?

An unexpected insight for me since I began writing this blog has been how sensitive I am to how people phrase their feedback. Obviously we are talking about the same topic but sometimes just using different words or phrases to mean the same thing make the sentence sound completely different to me and so affect my thinking.

One of my first blogs was about me challenging a long held personal belief that it is better to coach players to be two footed. In the comments, tweets and emails I received Coaches had to use a term to differentiate between which foot they were referring too.

I was already aware of how much I disliked the terms ‘wrong foot’, ‘bad foot’ or ‘weaker foot’. I just find them so negative and it makes it difficult for the players to believe that they can ever expect success if they use their ‘bad foot’. Almost justifies them not taking the time to practice because it will always be their ‘bad foot’ no matter what they do.

I have never thought much about this beyond how I thought the other terms were negative but really I am actually trying to shape their thinking simply by using a different phrase.

I prefer the term ‘other foot’ with the full title being ‘other foot that needs more practice’ which I think doesn’t have any negative connotations and by the way instead of ‘strong foot’ I prefer the ‘foot that gets all the practice’ but don’t use that too often.

It was more in other blogs when I wrote about small sided games that I noticed something. I got a fair proportion of feedback from Coaches suggesting that they didn’t agree with playing 2-Touch or playing the 5 – Pass Rule at all because they liked to let the players play, they encouraged freedom or players being allowed to express themselves.

This was quite a shock for me as I have always regarded myself as a coach who did allow players freedom to express themselves and certainly allowed them to play plenty of football. To be honest I reread all the comments and my answers to the various coaches numerous times.

I thought to myself have I developed into a negative coach without realising it. To revisit one of my blog topics did I have a long held belief of what type of coach I was but actually I wasn’t that type of coach anymore. Was I the Substitute Teacher at school who thought they were super cool but was the complete opposite?

In rereading the comments I noticed that coaches who told me to allow the players to express themselves tended to refer to the rules applied to the small sided games as ‘game restrictions’ not ‘game conditions’ as I do.

I have no idea why I use the term ‘game conditions’ it certainly wasn’t a conscious decision but it holds no negative connotations for me whereas ‘game restrictions’ certainly does.

Maybe when I first heard about applying rules to small sided games it was called ‘game conditions’ and so I have always thought of it as a way to encourage players to play in a certain way and not about restricting them.

The question is does the term used make the coaches view the same rules in a different way. Or am I just a substitute teacher talking crap.

Look forward to hearing from you

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Till next time


5-Pass Rule – Part Two

Again a big thank you to everyone who retweeted or shared my blogs recently and for those who got in touch directly. I have been able to have some great discussions with coaches plus get some great ideas.

After my latest blog ‘5-Pass Rule – Now I like it’ I had quite a large number of coaches suggest ‘Passes for Points’ i.e a goal is worth the number of passes in the build-up so a 9 pass move and goal could be worth 9 ( or 10 as a few coaches gave extra for the goal itself).

I thought a fantastic way to tweak playing this ‘Passes for Points’ game was suggested by Jack Walton who left a comment on the blog

Depends what your intended outcomes are. If possession then one I have found works well is ‘Your goal is worth the amount of passes that led up to it.’ Keeps the theme and incentivises possession play without losing too much realism. Combine that with a ‘race to the finish’ darts-style scoring and you can create an exciting game with purpose.

I.e. Both teams start with 20 points and the idea is to get down to zero. Score with a 20 pass sequence and you automatically win the leg. The score might come down to 10-1 so one team have earned the right to play more direct whilst the other may continue to focus on scoring with possession.

I’ve used it and it throws up some good problems for the players to solve.

@jackwalton1 Regional Coach Development Manager (5-11) for the FA.

He is worth a follow just for that tweak in my opinion.

If you have your own tweak to ‘Passes for Points’ please let me know.

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Till next time

5-Pass Rule – Now I like it

To follow on from previous blogs about questioning long held beliefs and placing conditions on small sided games For this blog I am trying to bring the two topics together.

As a novice coach asking more experienced coaches for help with what I could do at training I was told about putting a 5-Pass Rule on a game. This meant there had to be at least 5 or more passes without the other team touching the ball before a goal could be scored. I thought what a great idea. It is simple to explain and will get the players passing the ball more.

* I don’t want to confuse anyone as this isn’t the topic of this post but it is interesting to note in thinking back to my early coaching days for the purpose of this blog the vast majority of advice I got was about ways to get the players to pass more.

I started using it and quickly found some real issues

1 – Players would do meaningless very short passes to each other to rack up the five passes then attack as normal

My response – Tweak it by adding that the pass didn’t count if you passed the ball back to the person that gave it to you. Secretly I did like that the players had come up with a tactic that worked although it didn’t encourage what I wanted to see.

2 – The opposition sat back and didn’t press the team in possession near their goal because there was no real reward for doing so as still had to get five passes before they could score anyway. This meant the team in possession just did five passes under no pressure then attacked.

My response – Add a condition that all five passes have to be in the opposition’s half. This often meant that there were almost no goals scored as teams rarely got to five continuous passes in the opposition half.

Another response – To help I tweaked the rules and said that the five passes in the opposition half didn’t have to be one after the other but as long as five passes were made in opposition half before you scored it was OK to pass back into your own half to keep the ball. This helped but as you can imagine caused some disagreements as to how many passes had actually been done.

Yet another response – Was to make it that the goal had to be scored on the 5th pass or between 5 and 10 passes. Neither of these worked really as scoring on the 5th pass was very difficult and both often made the players make poor decisions because they were running out of passes.

3 – Players would be in great goal scoring positions after 2/3/4 passes but would not get the ball or pass to someone else instead of scoring or simply score and the goal would be disallowed with a flurry of protests that ‘they didn’t do enough passes’.

I didn’t come up with a response to that last one because I suppose I was becoming disillusioned with the 5-Pass rule. I felt all I was doing was trying to find ways to make it work rather than it actually working properly so I stopped using it altogether.

Now I cannot claim that I have always followed my own advice to question everything because this was how I left it for quite a few years I simply never revisited the 5-Pass Rule. Until I read a Club Coaching Manual from the US and in it the author mentioned how he had tweaked it. He said that he made a goal after 5 or more passes worth double but a goal in less than 5 passes was still a goal.

I have used this and it takes away all the above issues which caused me to stop using it. I have added my own tweak to it at times to encourage a different sort of passing combination by reversing the points and making a goal in less than five pass worth double and a goal in more than five passes worth one.

I would very much like to hear from other coaches who have found ways to make this 5-Pass Rule work for them or any other tweaks they have made to conditions on small sided games to encourage what they want to see.

Please leave a comment or email me

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Till next time