Another week of training has come and gone. January and February have come and gone too. Hard to believe really but that means it’s time for a change in training themes. The two girls’ teams I’ve been coaching have been working hard the last two months towards their pursuit of one day becoming elite level players.
During January and February we worked on dribbling/running with the ball, vision and awareness and their overall competitiveness. For March and April we are going to be working on turning and receiving, when to pass and when to dribble and principles of play.
A key task for me now is to make sure that the Jan-Feb themes continue on along side the Mar-Apr themes. It would be a shame to have put seven weeks into their development and then have them tail off only to be replaced by the next set of themes. Sort of defeats the purpose if every time you work on something it gets forgotten or doesn’t get used enough to make the change in behaviour permanent.
Finding ways to work on vision and awareness is easy enough. Turning and receiving can be a part of vision and awareness so really we’ve been working on the two all along. When to pass and when to dribble is the decision making attempt to continue to reinforce the actions of dribbling/running with the ball that we’ve already done. This also ties nicely into both turning and receiving and vision and awareness as the question to answer is: can I move the ball forward? If the answer is yes then the next question is do I move the ball forward with a pass, a dribble or a run?
The principles of play is going to be an interesting one. It really is an area of great weakness amongst Canadian soccer players in general (at least what I’ve seen in my travels). Most coaching I’ve witnessed focuses on teaching players positions within systems. In other words, very specific ways of going about learning and performing. Principles, on the other hand, allow the player to have an overarching understanding of how the game of soccer works in both attack and defence. Positions may change, formations come and go but principles always remain the same.
What will make the teaching of the principles even more interesting is that we will be using small-sided games since we’re still indoors for the next two months. By the time May arrives my hope is to help transfer their understanding of principles from experiencing it with 4 or 5 other girls (indoor) to experiencing it with 10 other girls (full field).
In order to do that, I believe my best option is to help these players take ownership over their learning. To simply fill them up with the knowledge of principles of play like filling a pail with water will only give the false impression that progress is being made. The test (when they play a full field game) will then show that there was little transfer. There will be little transfer because giving a person knowledge doesn’t teach them to think critically about that knowledge. A player in that situation doesn’t seem to realize that the principles of play that they learned playing in 5-a-side games still apply when they play 11-a-side.
Instead, I am going to try to challenge both their convergent and divergent thinking abilities. Instead of providing them with answers, I can use questions. These questions can guide them step by step towards a single answer to a problem (convergent thinking). The other choice I have is to use questions to come up with multiple solutions to the problem(divergent thinking).
I don’t actually have to ask the questions either. I can let the games, and the conditions/rules associated with the games, pose the problem for the players to solve. Only when I see that they’re struggling to recognize those problems will I jump in with some questions to try and push their thinking along.
In the end, owning the learning will make it more meaningful to the players and make it stick longer with them. Getting them to think critically about the content will also help them be more flexible in their application of the principles, which will hopefully serve them well when the move from the small confines of indoor games to the open expanses of full field games happens. Or at least that’s the theory. We’ll see how it transpires in practice.
Next post Saturday, March 7th.