Layering your coaching content can be a very difficult thing. If you get it right, or even partially right, you’ll see some pretty cool results.
A few years ago I set out on a mission to transform an already winning and dominant team into a freaking powerhouse. I started with baby steps… and continued with baby steps… all the way until the very end. The hardest part was usually waiting to teach certain things because the TEAM was not ready for them yet. The team hadn’t come close to mastering the previous step, so there was no point in moving onto something different.
The first year we focused almost entirely on possession… ball retention, circulation, and retrieving it once we lost it. Lots of small rondo type drills and lots of bigger keep away games. We started to introduce patterns, but not too heavily. In my second season with the team we introduced ‘losing your man’ in a couple of simple passing exercises coupled with lots full field patterns that backed that theme. We also damn near perfected our short goal kicks that season. You could tell everything was sinking in. But It wasn’t until the third season that we really got to start doing some fun stuff.
The basic principles of our possession based system had been hammered home and the team was ready and willing to learn more. Because we had kept relatively similar themes at each and every practice throughout the first two years, the girls were extremely familiar with everything, even after taking time off to go play with their club teams (most of the girls played for me during club season) and because we did things in baby steps it allowed them even more time to get comfortable with everything and let it really sink in.
When we revisited and began to hammer home ‘losing your man’ in our third season… we saw progress pretty quick. Most of the focus was on our wingers. It was their job to lose their marker and receive the ball under little or no pressure, or even better, going towards goal. The second or third game of our third season was basically a clinic on how to make the other teams outside backs spin in circles. We ended up winning 6-0 against a team that was in the division finals the year before. That quick progress allowed us to eventually move on and introduce movement from our outside backs.
We’re all pretty familiar with defenders who just stand near midfield and don’t do anything besides kick the ball when it comes near them. I don’t think mine have ever been like that, but until this third season, we never really gave them a ton of details about getting involved in the attack and starting their runs from near midfield and ending up going towards goal or putting in crosses.
So I introduced a couple of different things:
1) When the holding mid received it and was facing forward… outside back(s) take off and go full speed while the winger checks away and then back towards the ball.
2) When the center backs received it under no pressure with time and space and took touches forward… outside back(s) take off and go full speed while the winger checks away and then back towards the ball.
The first challenge was getting them to recognize these moments and when they should take off. They picked up on it pretty quick though. The second challenge was getting them to recognize these moments 2-3 seconds before they would even happen. Recognizing when to stop back pedaling and expanding towards the sideline and to turn their hips and start sprinting up the field. And then recognizing when it’s not on and to get back in the right spot. That was a big challenge. They did okay with it.
Not going to lie… It was pretty cool to see it happening in games. I was going through some videos of our third season and stumbled across some moments where you could actually see the wheels turning with our outside backs. That sparked this quick post and video clip.
I’d like to dig deeper in our footage someday and show off some other moments of the girls executing this. Who knows if I’ll ever get around to it though. For now, enjoy these quick clips and ask questions, make comments, and critique!