The importance of t. Gordon Craig, Coerver Coaching Director

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1 Gordon Craig, Coerver Coaching Director The importance of t Inspired by the ideas of the Dutch coach, Wiel Coerver in the 60 s, that all the great skills from the top players at the time could be taught and trained by everyone, especially young players., Alfred Galustian and Charlie Cooke officially created in 1984, COERVER COACHING, a training methodology that focuses on improving the skills of the players, without disconnecting that skill learning process with the game. After 25 years, it s still considered the world s number one soccer skills teaching method, having evolved throughout the years, and still continues to, be recommended by some of the top clubs in the world, soccer coaches and players! Gordon Craig is one of the European COERVER Directors, and we talked with him to discover more about why the technical work is so important, and why this method is still the world s number one! By: Gordon Craig and Hugo Vicente 16

2 echnique! Blending Coerver Coaching s vision with your own ideas as a coach At Coerver Coaching we believe that any team is only as good as the individuals within it, so technical training is therefore the foundation to a player s development. As a soccer coach, I also believe in this statement, but I simply can t disconnect myself with all the other aspects of the game, and this is what makes Coerver such a powerful tool, because as a technical coach, working with our methodology, all the game aspects are always present, and therefore it s more than just teaching the technique, its learning the effective use of skill, through realistic coaching. Goals for a technical coach If, for example, I m working with a team at academy level, my goal is to improve each individual player s ability to perform within a team at an elite level. My aim is to see a consistency of success for each player, in the game, within in any given phase of play. To do this, I look at the level they are at and what are the expectations on them. Working with several players around the world, with different cultures, different abilities, gave me a better view of what is expected from a player that plays at a certain level in a certain competition, and using those references, it s easier to understand how far can, or should, this player go. Then, it s all about the players behaviors in the game, the quality and success of their decisions, on the effective use of skill to create space or opportunities, etc. For example, with a professional club, I expect a player to have an 80% success rate on the quality of his decisions and execution of his skills. To achieve this, I like to constantly challenge them through high tempo drills and exercises where pressure variations and competition can be added, with constant measurement of what the player is producing, because if you can t measure, you can t control it. But the real test is on the pitch during the game: Has all the time, effort and hard work the player has dedicated to practice converted to success on the pitch? And as a technical coach, my focus is on the team also, but more important for me is not the team performance or results, but what was the influence of the individual in that process. 17

3 Adapting the technical training to a club vision Dependent on any given brief, we obviously have to adapt our work to the club s needs. For example, when we talk about a first team or U19 s, a club usually is looking for improving a certain area in their model of play, more than wanting a general technical work, which is more common at younger ages. We can be requested to help the club to increase the amount of shots at goal, switching plays or crossing opportunities for example. In this case, the problem can be in the center channel, where the team is unable to switch play, or the problem can already be on the wings, where players usually make bad decisions or don t have the right technical answers to the tactical problems ahead of them. If this was the case, for example, after watching some videos, or after being requested by the head coach/manager and analyzing the problems, we will create drills that can replicate how the player on the wing usually receives the ball, from what direction, where the opponents come from, and what are their common solutions But a better efficiency can be simply achieved by increasing and improving the wide player s moves in 1v1 situations, giving him more tools to beat the opponents and making him understand, that sometimes pure speed can be the answer, with the quality of first touch and direction, or simply playing a one - two This alone might be the answer to simply create more space for that individual and therefore more opportunities to get crosses into the box. Of course we then need to make sure he is delivering quality crosses and that can and should be improved on too, as a continuity to our work But, as Is aid before, we need to be aware that it s not all about just teaching the mechanics of the technical skills! To produce high conversion rates of success, we need to make sure that we are able to create stressful situations within the sessions, that can be totally game related and test player s character, working the Skills together with Strength, Stamina, Speed and Sense. If they can perform and practice using this formula, then we know that we can really make a difference in producing top players who can make good decisions and really improve the quality of a team. What kind of technique is taught and where do tactics appear in the training sessions Depending obviously on the age group, but if we imagine regular work with children, the list is quite endless, within some basic core categories. But it needs to be what I like to call core teaching i.e. Ball Mastery, Passing & Receiving, Moves, 1v1, Speed and Finishing, which are all part of our Pyramid of Player Development. That s what you teach, but the art is in how you teach it and how you plan your session and bolt it together through adding that stress, to make it even tougher then a real game, through pressure variables and competition. Where speed and stamina work is always there as a consequence of the technical work, and taking all that into reality group play situations and small sided games. That s the real art in technical training! It isn t enough to choose and teach a skill So progression and variation is very important, and since we teach the effective use of skill and not just skills, a typical technical session would progress from learning the skill, we call it the How (The Techniques), and then we have to progress to situations that players can see, feel, live and understand Why (The Purpose), When (The Position of the Opponent/Teammates and Space) and Where (Area of the field) the action learned can be effective! And for me, this can only be achieved if the tactics are connected with the learning process of the skill how? This progression is to blend game like situations with several possible solutions for players to make decisions, where the game principles and the action in the center of the game (where the ball is) are part of the problem to be solved. For me, this is the only way you can practice soccer, and still teach technique, where the physical training and mental capabilities of the players will also be a consequence of all the work, not seeing things as separate, but as a whole, like a jigsaw where certain details are only pieces of it. Reasons for having a technical trainer in the coaching staff I think every club, better still, every team should have a team coach and a technical coach, but it s not team coach v technical coach the two simply should complement each other. They just concentrate their analysis differently in different areas. In general, a team coach is looking at the whole team, how they play and function together; they are more focused and aware of the players without the ball. As a technical coach, I should and do, predominately, focus my analysis on the person on the ball. Having a technical coach at every age would be the ideal scenario, but the reality is that some clubs don t even have a full time technical coach at the whole club and those who do, find he is an over stretched resource, so he can only spend a limited time with each age group or he can only 18

4 concentrate on the younger ages, which of course is vital, and more then advisable, but I really think if you are investing and committing as a club to expert technical training, then not only should the younger teams be catered for it, but should run all the way to u21s with and more specific analysis at first team level. For example, when I worked with Heart of Midlothian FC youth academy, in Scotland, although the youth director would want more time with the players, reality was that you had 1.5 hours per week to do your technical work with any given team. The rest of the time was with the team coach or Sports Scientist. Ideally and realistically 3 to 4 sessions per week with any given player would allow you to do your job in making a big contribution to developing elite players and that s got to be the goal when developing players. Typical Coerver Session This would obviously depend a lot on what your goals are for the session. But, let s imagine we are in a general session, teaching a simple move like the scissors, for example. Obviously we can have several variations and ways of doing it, but i will show you one as an example. First of all, we would start to do an introduction to the players on where this skill could be used, what is the purpose of it, showing them some of our videos with successful plays where this trick was used, in real games, with real players, so that they really understand that this is soccer, this can be really effective! So, when we start the session, players are more aware of the importance of what they are doing, and more focused in learning that skill! Second, already on the pitch, we start with the acquisition process, where players have the freedom to try, to do the moves, with several repetitions, using both feet, and where corrections are often made by themselves by trying, by watching their teammates, and with some individual feedback from the coach. We can make this process of learning the skill longer, simpler or more complex, according to the quality of the players, but we can challenge them, by simply adding a competition in pairs or in groups, on who is faster, or who can do certain tasks with less touches of the ball, etc At this moment, the work is more analytic, but now that they already learned the mechanics, we need to stress them in game like situations, where they can feel that this skill can be really effective in the game! This is where we create a finishing situation, 1v1, 2v1, 3v2 where players can have the freedom to decide which solution to use, but, our goal, is creating situations where using this skill would in most of the cases, be more successful and since they have been practicing them, it will definitely come up as their solution to solve the problem! To finish, we would play a small sided game, where all the game ingredients are there, like a 4v4 or a 3v3+1, in order to create an overload situation, to incentive the players to take the opponent with a trick, and the one we practiced, can be one of its solutions. After all, we only want to give them more solutions for soccer problems and it s up to them to choose the best ones at that moment. 19

5 Technique Training Warm-up Goal: Warm up by repeating the move Action: At the coaches signal, perform the scissors move in mirror image. Change directions to work with both feet Progressions: Make a competition out of it: who reaches the next position first wins! (this will make players lift their heads to see if they arrived first) Coaching: - Overreact the movement of the body Always protect the ball with your body Use both feet Heads up As fast as possible and as slow as needed. 2v2 Goal: 2v2 situation, adding speed to the execution of the skills Action: Player passes to teammate (he has a cone in front of him just as a reminder of the game principles, if he cannot advance, pass the ball to the free player). Both defenders approach immediately. Player who receives the ball decides, take him on with a scissor move or any other move, or pass the ball. They score by hitting one of the two balls in the end zone. Progressions: Progression 1: Start only with one defender Progression 2: Create a time limit for the attack to ensure fast decision making Coaching: - Quality of passes - Quality of first touch, the worst the pass the harder it is to take the defender on - Defensive principles: one approaches the ball the other covers the teammate - Second attacker: where do you go? 20

6 Finishing Goal: Finishing exercise, 2 v 2 stimulating the skills learned to score a goal or create a scoring opportunity Action: Attackers (yellows) pass the ball to the coach and run around the marker where one of the receives the ball back from the coach (white). At the same time, two defenders start from the other side, but they have to round different cones. The closer defender will be a real threat to the attackers, who make a scissor move or other feint to create a goal scoring opportunity. If defenders recovers they have to pass to the coach or to one of the small goals on the sidelines Variation: Decrease area to pressure attackers even more Small Sided Games Coaching: - Speed: don't give the defenders the time to create a 2v2 situation, be faster in the 2v1 moment! - Decision: Pass, shoot, or trick the opponent - Two attackers: communication, who goes for the ball, who will create width and space to be successful? Goal: Small sided game to encourage individual actions Action: 4v4 game with four goals, where players can opt between a good passing game or taking on the opponent. Players have to be aware that the existence of 2 goals might create more solutions if we are successful taking on an opponent, but since its a small sided game, the risk of failure and conceding a goal is also there, so players must decide when to do it or when to pass the ball. 21

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