by Gary Williamson
To give purpose, variety, progression, and some measure of inclusiveness, you must give each session a structure. This structure should build confidence in the players by moving from easy to difficult; simple to complex; low pressure, small units to large units and so on. It should encourage the coach to give a thoughtful coverage to all aspects of the game within the immediate resources of the players, time and facilities. It should give maximum activity in the time available. The structure I suggest meets all these requirements and is simple to follow.
1.Warm-up – Intensive control, dribbling or passing 1 ball per player.
2.Individual techniques – Control; passing; dribbling; running with the ball; shooting; heading; tackling; goal-keeping. Teach it, drill it, fun game it, pressure it!
3.Individual skills – All the above techniques in opposed situations.
4.Unit skills Offensive and defensive practices for defenders, midfielders, and attackers. Also practice transition from one unit to another.
Functional : for a player or group placed in the game setting in the precise area of the field where the problem exists. The result is to condition a particular pattern of response to set stimuli in the game
Phase : practice allows more variations than functional and involves repetitions to reinforce a particular part of play, e.g. set play, overlaps, 2v.1. Thus weaknesses are practiced and strengths developed
5.Small-sided game – Advantages include: Constant involvement, greater ball contact, group on ability, easy coach control. E.g. 1v.1,2v.2,3v.3,4v.4,5v.5, 6v.6. Conditioned : useful in ˜stamping in’ a specific facet of game, yet false because the unpredictable quality is lost. Therefore, short spells of condition followed by free play = best formula for success.
6.Coached practice match – Represents the culmination of a process of training over a period of weeks (N.B. whole-part-whole method provides motivation in the form of proof) and is a dress rehearsal for the real thing. Concentrate on 1 aspect of play. 1 team 1 theme. Work through the thirds of the field.
Shadow play : feeling for a team pattern not inhibited by opponents.
7.Fitness work – Fitness isn’t everything but without it your players are nothing. You can never make the team fit enough, but you have to economize on time; make it highly intensive but short, and keep it to the end when they are thoroughly warmed up and fairly tired. This allows maximum mental concentration when it is the most needed in acquiring and developing skills. For younger players use balls during fitness work to to stimulate motivation and enjoyment.
You cannot hope to do more than a selection in any one session. Your selection will be guided by (a.) observing what was unsatisfactory in the previous game; and (b.) having a clear idea of what will be needed in the weeks ahead, and (for the players) the sessions ahead.
THE PRACTICE MUST BE INTENSIVE
a.Have the program clear in your mind and a list of things you must concentrate on;
b.Put players and/or unit in clearly marked areas and give clear instructions;
c.Have set times or numbers of repetition for each activity;
d.Keep the space used clear and limited;
e.Aim at one ball per player or two players.
THE EMPHASIS MUST BE ON QUALITY
Set quality standards as soon as possible : e.g. if the ball is not passed accurately, everyone starts from the beginning. Aim at letting no mistake go unchecked or unhelped.
THERE MUST BE COACHING
You must be in there improving performance all the time : if something goes wrong, there is a reason for it and your job is to point it out and put it right. No exercise will do any good of itself -:it may simply ingrain existing faults: get in there and COACH. And preferably introduce something new every session, if only a variation on existing practices. But, remember that coaching is basically concerned with the hard unglamorous work of making sure that the team does everything effectively, and that needs repetition and untiring attention to detail.