I am 11 years old, I love football and it is all I do. My juggling record currently stands at 634, I have excellent skills because I practice a lot, and everyone says I am very talented. However, I never seem to get selected into any representative team, I don’t know what they are looking for.
Does this sound like you, or someone you know? Do you ask yourself what is missing, and what is it that the selectors are looking for?
Football is a game of deception, perception and decision making, execution is the glue that binds everything together. We are going to discuss what makes a great footballer, and learn that the answer to this question, is the same answer to all life’s questions, balance.
The Tools Needed to Become a Smart Footballer
This is a misunderstood term in some parts, especially Australia, I feel. The obvious understanding of technique is mastering of skill, and ability in execution. The best way to master execution, is by simplifying the task, isolating the skill, and performing it with repetition. This in fact is only part of what technique actually is, as described by Johan Cruyff.
“Technique is not being able to juggle a ball 1000 times. Anyone can do that by practicing. Then you can work in the circus. Technique is passing the ball with one touch, with the right speed, at the right foot of your team mate.” Johan Cruyff
In other words, execution combined with decision making, equals technique. If you cannot translate skill into the game, then you are going to be ineffective, not matter how well you have mastered the ball. Of course, it is important to be comfortable on the ball, and to be able to execute skill. If you do not have the ability to hit a thirty-yard pass, then you are not likely to even think about looking that far for passing options. But it is important that players are given opportunity to transfer knowledge, so that they learn to apply the skills in a game.
I believe that good footballers are mature players.
Behaviour, discipline and knowledge helps develop maturity in players. Social skills are important in a team sport, and the environment needs to cater to the opportunity to develop this skill. When you take players away from groups, you don’t just isolate their learning of skill, but also their learning of social behaviour. A player cannot learn to communicate, they cannot learn to deal with group dynamic, whether it be positive, or negative. They will not learn consideration, sportsmanship or any empathetic traits. And they will definitely not be able to improve their decision making.
And football is about a lot more than just what you can do with the ball. It is about what you do depending on the circumstances presented. An example;
– If you have the ball, what should you do in a 2v1 situation?
You should attack the lonesome defender with speed, to engage them. You then either beat them, or use your teammate. This is all dependent on defender reaction, timing of your execution based on your speed, and the movement of your teammate. You can pass too early, or pass too late, and what side do you prefer to attack. Are you slightly to the right side of the goal, and coming onto your left would open up the goal face for a higher percentage of scoring, but you are right footed and prefer the tighter angle to give you a more comfortable strike. Do you get outside your defender and then cut back? So many possibilities.
As you can see, there are many factors that determine technical ability, most of which are not execution based. Knowledge is very important for a player, without it they will favour their strengths, and never work on their weaknesses. Why would you attack onto your weaker foot, unless you understand the advantages in such instances.
Good coaching is very important to young footballers, what information they learn is key to the decisions they make. Session design is therefore key to a coach, as its effectiveness will present the right opportunities to educate these important lessons.
What we must also differentiate is that individual coaching is not the same as team coaching. A winger that is directed to maintain width when in possession, is taught a system lesson, not an individual lesson. An individual coaching point would be to show yourself, or present a line of pass. This may be to come in field rather than stay out, depending on defender positioning.
The most powerful coaching is the one-on-one time a coach has with an individual. Being deliberate with pulling players aside for a chat is what I believe to be the most effective coaching for any individual. Praise, and positive reinforcements are also very powerful to a player’s development. When you consider that most our coaching is corrective, balance is found through the other two methods. Just as important as demonstrating what players need to learn, is acknowledging the things they do, that you want them continuing to do.
What is important is to have balance between enough isolated practice and game related exercises. It is also very important to connect it all together so that the acquired knowledge can quickly be applied into game related instances.
At the academy, we understand the benefits of the sum of all parts, and design our practices accordingly. Players should have enough isolated practice to master skill through repetition and task simplicity. They should also be provided with opportunity to transfer knowledge into game related exercises such as 1v1’s and specific game components, with conditions. And there should also be room for free play, allowing for freedom of expression, independence and fun.
But what is underestimated, and not considered a lot of the time, is discipline. We feel that the culture of our academy, plays a big part in how the players learn. Uniformity, punctuality, team work and respect are all rules of conduct that help develop maturity. Fun is not compromised with over use of mundane exercises either, when it is fun, a player will be more open to learning.
Follow the link below to read the article that inspired this latest blog.