I absolutely loved the film Moneyball. I really enjoy reading the articles about Brentford FC or the Danish Club FC Midtjylland about how they are using a totally new ways to evaluate players and tactically prepare themselves for their games. The one thing I don’t like is the basic premise seems to get lost in talk of Sabermetrics experts, expensive video analysis software packages or mysterious mathematical algorithms.
For me the basic premise is to look at what we are currently doing and evaluate is that still the best way. My question in this blog is do we need any of these experts to take a Moneyball approach to coaching our teams.
My current role is to run a weekly technical program for all the players at a grassroots club aged up to U12 so the stories I tell are about these age groups but the principles apply to any age group. I watch lots of games every weekend and every weekend I see things happen that make no sense whatsoever and no one appears to notice.
Two weeks ago I saw an U9 team take around about 10 corners in one half of football. Every time the same boy (with the big kick) went over to the ball placed it down took 3 or 4 steps back then slowly looked up into the area in front of the goal then swung the ball over into a pack of U9s. Each time they all got out of the way and the ball either hit someone’s back or arm as they protected themselves or went out of play.
Why in age groups were the players rarely head the ball and even more rarely score a header do I see literally hundreds of corners every season taken like this. Do we need a statistics expert to tell us that passing the ball to a team mate to try to get a shot on goal would probably yield more goals in the long run?
Last season a visiting U10 team took 3 or 4 corners in a short space of time. The same boy took each one and each one sailed over everyone and bounced once or twice and went out for a throw-in. The visiting Coach smiled at our Coach and said ‘that boy really can take a lovely corner’. Possibly if they had an U10 player built like John Terry steaming in at the back post then I would agree that was a lovely corner but otherwise it just made no sense.
Why in just about every game I watch are throw-ins thrown up the line the vast majority of times. Is that really the best option on such a regular basis? If we look at a throw-in as simply a pass with our hands to restart the game then why are players encouraged to do the same pass each time and not simply choose the best option available.
My favourite story about throw-ins occurred at a school tournament about 10 years ago. A player picked up the ball and was just about to take the throw-in when she noticed that all the players up the line were opposition players. She then instructed two of her players who were in loads of space to go and join the pack. One of them said throw it to me to which the thrower replied with the most fantastically exasperated voice and no doubt a roll of her eyes that ‘you’re not ALLOWED to throw the ball backwards’.
Why do I see teams regularly warm up for a game that is free flowing and dynamic by being organised into lines to stand and wait their turn for a pass or shot to a designated target? Is an expert needed to tell us that if a player has not had to make a single decision about where to move to or what to do when in possession of the ball that when the game starts they are not as prepared as they could be.
Why do I hear Coaches bemoan that their players don’t play enough football or harp on about how much ‘street football’ they played in their day then conduct training sessions that involve almost no game play. Again do we need an expert to tell us that if we think they need to play more football then we should consider a way to include more football playing time in our training sessions?
I have just reread my blog and it sounds like I think I have all the answers. I know I haven’t I am constantly amazed, as I have mentioned in the blog before, about how I find I am doing things that make no sense but I do them because I have always done them.
The list above is just the first things that came to mind. I would love to hear from Coaches who have their own story about how they have taken a new approach to any aspect of Coaching. It will help me and I am sure help plenty of other Coaches too.
Please leave a comment or email me firstname.lastname@example.org
Or possible leave a comment on Twitter @SeanDArcy66
Till next time