So I had a plan for defensive work. I more or less stuck to the plan, although I didn't have enough players to step a 2 vs. 3 scenario while trying to keep everyone moving (I had eight on the night). What I wanted the girls to understand by the end of the night was the importance of providing the right kind of support and when the best time top tackle a player was.
Say you're the last defender. Generally I would expect the defender to hold off the attacker until:
- a back-up arrives in the form of a team-mate,
- the attacker makes an error so that the defender has a chance to win the ball, or
- the attacker makes a move where the defender has no choice but to be a bit more reckless in defence.
I think they understood the action of supporting, especially as they took it upon themselves to continue the drill after the first defender made their move. i.e. the first defender went to back up the second if the ball was not won. :)
An interesting part of the night came up when my players (strange to think of them as “my players” but I suppose they are. Also, I think “my girls” sounds weirder) noticed another group of women training at the other end of the fields. They asked me who they were and I informed them that the other group was the local senior team (one which I had played for on previous occasions and knew the club fairly as well). Had a bit of a chit chat and when it came to why I stopped playing with them, well, I couldn't find any nice way of explaining all the politics involved so I told them that the only way I would go back to that club is if things changed. And I told them that was all I was going to tell them.
Not to be mysterious, but they simply don't need to know. Later the ex-president (possibly the current president again?) came to say hello to me (I'd bumped into him numerous times after Victory matches on the train home) and suggested that if I didn't have enough players that maybe we could join up with some of the women's division 4 team. I'm not in any position to really say anything, so I told him that we'll see what happens. I'm not particularly keen on the idea because of the jump between open and U16 (alright, and because I don't like the senior club at the moment). When current/ex-president left our group we chit-chatted about it and I said I wasn't keen on them playing open because it's a far competitive and less fun environment. One of the girls had been training with a senior team and agreed with me, which put the rest of the girls at ease with my evaluation.
I think the most important aspect of coaching kids is knowing how far to push them. I don't know my players all that well yet, but based on the chatted from Sunday they're still quite carefree. I don't think they'd enjoy football if winning was the main priority. Sure, I'm competitive, but I'd be more satisified to lose knowing we played well that take a poorly deserved win.
Anyway, I finished the session with a mini-game, which I plan to do every training night. I do stop them quite a bit to explain what I want from them. I don't particularly want to play in these mini-games as I found it very frustrating when I was a player for the coach to do this. Often they'd end up doing everything, so how was I supposed to learn? Anyway, I found with these girls that after a few stoppages and some direction they understood why I want them to play with a support player behind the player with the ball. They may not have used it, but by understanding the reasoning behind it I could say the first step is accomplished. Whether they remember for next week is another matter...
About coaches playing during training, it was amusing that the email I got the next day from Fine Soccer was about this. I completely agree with the article and will link it once it appears in their archives. In the meantime I recommend that you sign up, even if all it does is refresh your memory about a certain aspect of the game or reminds you of a drill you haven't done in a while.
To answer some of my (two) readers' questions...
Firstly, this is my first time coaching. Luckily I have my dad watching most of my sessions so he points out things I could have done better and he sees things in players that I sometimes miss. Although I was defending a player after Tuesday because I think her head works in terms of football, but she's just missing the connection with her feet – the only reason I know is from discussing why she did something and the idea was good even if the execution, or rather, talking to team-mates wasn't. (She has a preference for passing the ball in front of a player, expecting them to run on to the ball. It's a style I prefer to play when compared to. a game that's always played to feet, and so I won't discourage her from playing that way. I know there's a place for both kinds of balls – but I like a fluid form of football, which can't really be achieved by passing to feet.) Anyway, in regards to my dad being there, it's good to get the kind of feedback that I won't get off players – I think I might be a little spoilt as a result, but I'm not complaining!
Anyway, Hamish - the only way I can think of trying to figure out your, “unlike you we have had very little experience” comment is that perhaps I haven't been as inactive as you as a player. That being said I more or less was assistant coach when my dad was coach of my team a few years ago – simply because I knew what my dad was on about and would try and ensure it happened during matches. I think it'll be interesting to see how we (incl. John) all go in our coaching mis-adventures.
Now to Watt with his more technical questions! I plan to structure my team on a spine-like basis. I want my central midfielder, central defender and goal-keeper to be my best players and hold the team together. Whether I'll have this luxury or not is another matter. In regards to losing the ball if passed backwards and the risk of the girls being discouraged – I've already found during training that the girls don't quite connect and they lose the ball quite cheaply. There are a few reasons – lack of talk, lack of touch (in controlling the ball) and poor passing. I find that they respond well when I applaud or congratulate a good idea and discuss why it didn't work and why it was a good idea.
While I like the idea of playing with a sweeper, I suspect playing with an outright sweeper would end up putting the other team onside most of the time. So I'm thinking of playing with a pseudo-sweeper, where I'll let my central defender know that I want them to sit back about half a metre to hold the whole defence together and still be enough of a jump on a long ball over the defence or through-ball. It will depend on how much speed the defender I have in mind is. I don't like doing running drills in training, I think ball time is far more precious but I'll need to figure out their speeds sooner or later.
Parents may be an issue. So far they've let me do my thing but I suspect match day may be something different. I will not tolerate parents giving instructions to players. Support your kid by all means, but telling them to go “all the way” is downright selfish and ignoring that football is a team game.
"One thing there is no doubt, if they do what you tell them they will play beautiful football." I hope they do. I feel a bit sorry for the girls at the moment because I think I overload them with information. I know I overload them, but I'd rather they started to learn how I want them to play now, rather than let them get away with things that I then have to change later. I've spoken to them about how perhaps I give them too much information, so they know that I don't expect them to remember every single thing I say and that I would not be surprised (or annoyed) if it takes a while for things to sink into their heads. Hopefully if certain situations recur in game situations they can start to identify what needs to be done themselves. Like so many things, it's going to take time.
Long post, I know, but a few things happened between the girls, my playing history and that the local senior women's team train at the same time is amusing. I'm not going to deny that I'm looking forward to the day that their coach decides to pay me a visit and I can tell him to bugger. off. Perhaps not in those terms exactly, but I know that I have some of the senior club on my side. ;)