I have read many times that Coaches need to think creatively about how to engage with their players. Also I have read about how about blending how a PlayStation/Xbox game engages players into a training session could lead to interesting results.
This week I decided it was a good time to give it a go. Instead of me introducing progressions within the session the players had to earn the progressions. I run a technical program within my club so I work with many different groups of players. I have done a similar session three times this week all with groups aged from 11-13 years of age.
The focus of the session was to work on the players 1st Touch specifically using the 1st Touch to create an angle for a pass. Two of the groups were of mixed ability and one group above average ability.
The four things I wanted to see the players do were
1 – Positioning themselves to support player on ball plus having option to pass/shoot.
2 – Adjusting body shape to play forwards.
3 – Players maintaining possession on 1st Touch.
4 – Evidence players planned ahead i.e repositioning themselves before receiving a pass.
Normally I will tell the players what the topic is plus what I want to see but at these sessions I simply explained the conditions of the session and let it unfold.
We used 2 x 30 x 20m pitches with four small sided teams and simply played 5 min games through the session.
For a team to pass all the way through First Level
Level 1.1 1 x player must score a goal with a 1-Touch finish
Level 1.2 2 x players must score two more goals with a 1-Touch finish
Level 1.3 3 x players must score three more goals with a 1-Touch finish
All games last 5 minutes and if you haven’t progressed through a stage of a level when the whistle went then any goals scored were wiped for next game i.e if on Level 1.3 and have scored 2 goals when whistle went then these goals are wiped for next game and you have to score 3 goals again.
I wanted it to be easy to get through the first levels so that players could get hooked on the idea. When they got through a level a player had to come out and write the colour of their team on the board that had a table draw on it with all the levels so all teams knew what level the other teams were on.
To help teams who got stuck I had an occasional Bonus Round were teams could nominate a player to take a penalty if they scored they advanced. There was only one penalty per team so it was nice and quick then back to the games.
Level 2.1 1 x player must score a goal with a 1-Touch finish with ‘other foot’
Level 2.2 2 x players must score two more goals with a 1-Touch finish with ‘other foot’
Level 2.3 3 x players must score three more goals with a 1-Touch finish with ‘other foot’
On reflection I think the Second Level possibly slowed the progression of the mixed ability groups down too much. When I redo with players at this level I will probably allow a finish with a maximum of 2 touches.
Level 3.1 All players must be involved in the move to score a goal (inc GK)
Level 3.2 The goal must be scored on the 3rd, 4th or 5th pass of a move.
Level 3.3 The goal must be scored on the 5th, 6th or 7th pass of a move.
The above average ability group was the only group were teams reached this level but their session was 15 mins longer than the mixed ability groups who only had 60 min session this week. This level progressed smoothly because with all groups there were lots of passing combinations so it didn’t require a change in play just put a new condition, therefore more decision making, into the passing combinations.
I think the asking for a 1-Touch finish somehow influenced the play because there was very little running with the ball in any session. The focus was to work on the players 1st Touch specifically using the 1st Touch to create an angle for a pass and I think the players got solid practice at this. I will watch closely to see if allowing a maximum 2-Touch finish in second level doesn’t in some way affect the style of play.
I believe the session was a success on two fronts
1 – Players who I have had some trouble keeping focused and engaged for a full session in the past were sprinting past me to write their team colour on the board in the last 15 mins.
2 – The players got multiple opportunities to practice their 1st Touch in the specific way I was hoping for from the session.
I think the concept would lose its appeal if done too often however I would recommend you play with the idea to see if it can provide your team with a different type of session.
I would love to hear from Coaches who have tried something similar to find out how they went.
Look forward to hearing from you
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Till next time