Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Player Development Approach

Justin Wheatley is a UEFA B qualified football coach working with Chelsea FC, In this article he explains his approach to Player Development.

As a grass roots coach, having coached at many levels, and having held a few Development roles at local clubs I feel very passionate about player development!! As coaches we should be doing our utmost to help players reach their full potential.

Personally I think we need to change our systems and mentality toward development, and we need to develop ourselves as coaches. We should all regularly try and attend refreshers courses, swap ideas and training sessions with our peers, and even look for other coaches to be our mentors!

I have been involved in a research project, (which I am trying to roll out on a big scale (if you would like to be involved and would like more details please feel free to email me)) which has given me a great insight into how I believe we can help improve our players from a young age. Currently as you know, they start at 7-a-side at U7 and then move straight up to 11-a-side at U12. It's a big change from when I first started playing - I was 6 years old playing 11-a-side on a full size pitch with a full size ball, the FA saw the need for change and introduced 7-a-side, which is much better for player development - BUT I know we can still improve on this!!

What I would like to see is the following introduced:

U7-U9 playing 4v4
U10-U12 playing 7v7
U13-U15 playing 9v9
U16 upwards 11v11

Surely we should introduce 4v4 before going 7v7?? You divide a 7-a-side pitch in 2 and have two 4v4 running simultaneously side by side, after all U7s are meant to be non competitive.

At the younger ages this will mean more touches of the ball, more decision making opportunities, etc,etc - this can only be beneficial for everyone involved, we will start to produce players who are comfortable in possession, comfortable under pressure, etc.

Why is it that the girls go from playing 7v7 to 9v9 to 11v11, but we don't do this with the boys? I hear coaches saying it's a waste if time, but I beg to differ!!

When the boys first make the transition from 7v7 to 11v11 it can be very daunting - suddenly they are on a huge pitch and some players hardly touch the ball during the space of the game! Moving from 7v7 to 9v9 on 3 quarter size pitches with 3 quarter size goal is much more of a natural progression (it's still like the senior game with off sides etc).

All we need to do is look at our national team to realise that something needs to change, our European neighbours are all progressing so much faster than us!!

Would like to hear your comments or views on this subject??

Coach Justin

Monday, 13 December 2010

Passing The Barcelona Way?

Objective: Passing - The Barcelona Way? How I think a Barcelona Youth coaching session might be run?

Warm Up: Ball Work - El Rondo
Players play 3v1 in a tight space (10 by 10). The player in the middle has the job of getting the ball off of the other players by intercepting it as they attempt to pass it to each other. When the central player intercepts the ball, the player who made the pass must become the central player. This is a fast paced game, so ensure one person doesnt spend too much time in the middle chasing the ball. This can also be progressed to 4v2 in a larger area.

Here is a video of Barcelona using the Rondo for a warm up

Work in small groups: 3v3v3 - This drill is shown on the Uefa Training Ground video below:


Work in small areas: The Cruyff Game - This game is from Paul Coopers excellent books on learning through play. Johan Cruyff, as well as being one the all time greats as player was also an excellent coach. At Barcelona most of his training sessions consisted of playing two touch football, six against four in an area half the size of the penalty area.

• Pitch sizes 30 x 20 – or 20 x 15 for U14s and above.
• Number of teams – 2
• Team sizes – 4v4 plus two extra players (one on each side who plays for the team in possession)
• Bibs optional
• Goals – Normal goals or have a number of passes equal a goal.

In a small area the movement is fast and the passes must be accurate. Two of the six play wide and play with the team in possession. It is always six with the ball and four trying to regain possession.

Group Work: Normal Match Focus on the skills learnt in the session, giving particular praise to players passing well and moving into space when their team is in possession. Let the players be there favourite Barca, or Spanish player.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Preventing Bunching When in Possession

Objective: To encourage players to spread out when in possession

Warm Up: Ball Work - In two’s, the players should be passing and moving freely around the pitch. When the Coach calls out a number the players need to play that amount of passes between themselves. Using the inside of the foot. Progressions can included: The first team to complete that number of passes or asking them to try and take a number of touches before passing. 

Work in small groups: Play Out, Go Out. - Six players compete to keep possession 3 v 3 in the middle of an area appropriate for the age of the players. The aim for each team is to keep possession. Each team has two players stood outside the area, on opposite lines. In order to maintain possession a player can pass the ball to one of his team outside the area, but they then have to swap places by going out of the area. The receiving teammate must pass or dribble the ball into the area.

Work in small areas: Target Game  - Following on from the previous training this week we will play the target game 4v4 in an appropriate sized area. Initially there will be a target player for each team in the end zone so that the game is directional and 3v3 in the main area. Then this can be progressed to playing 4v4 in the main area with player needing to make runs into the end zone to receive the ball and score a point.

Group Work: Normal Match Focus on the skills learnt in the session, giving particular praise to players passing well and moving into space when their team is in possession.

Follow this with a penalty shoot out between the teams adding any goals scored to the full time score. The winning team gets to run other to the imaginary press core behind the goal and celebrate.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

TW Sports Group

Tim Wareing holds his UEFA European A licence and has over 10 years of coaching experience. Living in Belfast, Northern Ireland, former Academy Director of Lisburn Distillery Football Club in the Irish Premier League. Here Tim explains his philosophy on developing youth players.

Last Mondays El Classico was so one sided it was embarrassing. Jose Mourinho and his multimillion ego driven squad simply didn’t deserve to be on the same pitch as the slick Barca side. 4 years ago I had the pleasure of spending a week with FC Barcelona and I learnt back then the importance that they put into developing youth (you can read my report by clicking here). So how many players came through the Academy that represented Barca on Monday? What is the organisation and structure to their Academy and how does this affect their approach to games? Read on…

My philosophy and coaching is all about developing young players that play with creativity and flair. I encourage them to run at opponents and beat them with skill. I also concentrate heavily on possession games. I always use Barca as a great example of a team full of players that play with freedom, creativity and flair but at the same time are very disciplined. When you watch Barcelona you will see triangles all over the pitch. The player on the ball always has options. They are such an exciting team to watch.

Against Real Madrid every player knew each other’s game. It wasn’t a simple case of Barca having the best players in the world. Every player instinctively knew where every other player was on the pitch at all times. Out of Barcelona’s 14 players involved against Real Madrid only 4 where not developed through the Academy (Abidal, Alves, Keita and David Villa). This compared to Real Madrid only producing Casillas with the remainder being assembled to the tune of nearly $500 million!

While Real and a host of other top European Clubs spend millions on players hoping to buy success Barca continue to develop their own home-grown players. Messi, Iniesta and Xavi all came through the Barca Academy and cost nothing. Barcelona’s youth Academy, which in Spanish goes by the name of ‘La Cantera’, meaning the quarry.

Other players to come through the Academy include Cesc Fabregas, who Arsenal took away at the age of 16, Mikel Arteta from Everton and Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina. Barca manager, Pep Guardiola, also came through the Academy. In his first season as manager he helped Barcelona win every competition they competed in, 6 in all, including the Spanish League title, World Club Cup and the Champions League against Manchester United.

Against United in the Champions League final, 7 of Barca’s starting line up were all produced from the Academy. Goalkeeper Valdes, defenders Puyol and Pique, midfielders Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta and forward Messi.

When I visited Barcelona I loved the fact that the training complex was beside the Camp Nou. The club has a boarding house that accommodates the older boys from the Academy. Boys from the age of 13 or 14 that live outside the city are housed here so they don’t have to worry about travelling to and from training. Typically they will train for 6-8 hours per week along with playing a game. The club insures they also develop their lifestyle and attitudes along with their football education, preaching the importance of healthy eating and early nights.

The boys live, sleep and eat together. Each morning they are bussed to the best local schools. Barcelona stresses the importance of finishing their education to the boys. They return at 2pm for lunch and siesta, with training early evening. They do their homework in a library with access to private tutors and have a games room with table football, pool and PlayStations.

The boys have 3 objectives when playing matches. First, they must be the more sporting team, committing fewer fouls and being less aggressive. Then they must try to win by playing very well, more creatively than the opposition, with attacking football. Finally they need to win on the scoreboard.

Reina and Arteta were great friends at the Academy. Although Arteta suffered from homesickness and cried himself to sleep many times. Iniesta also had problems with homesickness after moving from central Spain to Barcelona at the age of 12. Saying goodbye to his parents at the end of each weekend would become a mini-drama. Although Iniesta only had to look out and see the Camp Nou to remind himself of his goal to play there.

Messi arrived at Barcelona from Argentina with his family at the age of 12. He had a growth deformity and no club in Argentina would pay for the drugs he needed to treat it. It is no surprise that Barcelona took on Messi unlike in England, where size, strength and the ability to throw your weight around is highly prized.

The model of Barcelona is that 50% of their team should be from the Academy, 35% should be the best players from Spain or Europe and then 15% from the top ten players in the world. Although the Barcelona Academy is so successful it is also producing players who are among the top ten in the world.

The Academy has 12 boys’ teams. In the Academy each squad has 2 coaches and there are 23 or 24 players in each group. At least half of the coaches have a UEFA Pro licence. The club provides the budget, around 6 million Euros per year, and is fully responsible for the academy facilities and training programme.

The qualities that Barcelona look for in a young player is pace, technique and someone who looks like a player. The speed of decision-making, the way he approaches the game, the vision to pick off a long pass – in other words, the mental qualities to go with the technical ability. The emphasis is on speed. When this speed is combined with top-quality technique, then they believe they have the ingredients.

From the age of 7 to 15 everything is about working with the football at the Barcelona Academy. With the very small boys, the most important thing is to control the ball very well, to have the ability to run with the ball and to think very quickly and execute their passes very well. They use the same playing system as the first team, so all the youth teams play 4-3-3 formation. The development teams have to play attacking, attractive football. Barcelona believe if they do everything well, the winning comes as a consequence.

They also like to keep an open mind and expose players to different playing roles as part of their education. They work intensely on the individual skill, but also on group play, including each line of the team. They train the Barca way which involves fast movement of the ball, player mobility, use of width, and a lot of fast, effective finishing. They watch the passing movements of the first team as they provide the role model of the youth teams.

Another factor which helps continue the development of young players is that Barcelona have a ‘B’ team. They play in the lower Spanish League. This helps the club continue to develop young players between the ages of 18 and 21 in a controlled environment. In England the FA prevent Premier League clubs from having feeder teams in other domestic leagues.

The Barcelona model is based on a number of people providing specialist skills and all working in the same direction, with the same objective: to prepare players for the first team.

Based on last Mondays El Classico, the people behind Barcelona’s youth Academy are certainly working in the same direction.

TIm's website
http://www.trainsoccer.org/ brings all of his sessions and data together to assist fellow coaches and managers. Whether you coach at high school level or you're a parent coaching your child's local club you will find everything you need. Tim has included an extensive collection of coaching sessions from Toddler Soccer to Mini Soccer, developing to more advanced sessions for developed players. I would also recommend you take a look at his blog http://www.coachtim.org/ in the coming weeks Tim will be adding training sessions and videos.