Greetings one and all,
November’s update is finally here, I can only apologise once again for the impact my non coaching life is having at present. Rest assured I am doing my utmost dear reader to do as little as possible in the day job (whilst somehow keeping it) so that I may focus on what really keeps me going, my future career aspirations in football. I’ve talked about the balancing act I have in my life and how all aspiring coaches have to do this well I’m pleased to say that I am making in-roads at last after what seems like a bit of a lull. Truth be told it’s been anything but. My family and I are finally moving house which means that a few improvements aside the first major financial hurdle to overcome on my path to greatness (*cough*) has just about been cleared.
Coaching wise it’s been an extremely interesting time, I’ve probably learnt more about myself in the last 6 months than I have in the previous 12 and I’ve done no courses, attended no events or workshops, I’ve spent the time purely with the kids at the centre and seniors at the clubs I’ve been involved with. To add another perspective to it I’ve also been injured for the past 2 months, as frustrating as this has been it’s also been a good experience as I’m getting to the age where my playing days will soon be over and it’s been good practice to be solely focused on coaching football. So what have I been up to well, the results of the EPPP programme has had its effects and down at the centre we’ve had a far more proactive attitude to paperwork than we’ve ever had, we’ve also expanded age group wise and it’s looking promising for my own development that I’ll be able to take on another age group in the new year. Super stuff. Probably the biggest thing for me however has been the work myself and the coaching team down at CTLFC and the various approaches we’ve taken and it’s this that I want to share with you in November’s update.
Last year was my first year with Cheltenham Town Ladies and it’s safe to say it was a major year of transition for the girls, the management changed , the players changed even the facilities as well, just about everything you can think of. Despite some good performances results weren’t quite there and we survived relegation due to league expansion. Changing the culture of a club takes time and we set about implementing a much more rigorous pre-season and defining a way of playing that we felt suited the playing staff we have and that would ultimately stand us in good stead to take the club forward. To assist us a fantastic Strength and Conditioning coach joined the staff and with his help the players really started to work hard on their football fitness and general health and nutrition.
Having assessed the playing staff and looked at the teams that had been successful long-term in the women’s league we decided upon a formation / shape and a way of playing. We elected to look at the 433 / 451 transition as the shape to our play with an emphasis on aggressive pressing when in defence and short, quick passing triangles when in possession. The immediate problem that was presented to us was that it soon became apparent that a number of the girls had never played anything other than the good old-fashioned English 442. I’m sure many of you have come across this in your coaching. To address this we immediately set about organising a process board; a number of sessions based around the use of this system / shape with core tenements of shifting, shape, support, triangles and tempo. This was all well and good for the 1 sometimes 2 sessions a week we were able to do but come match day we resorted back initially to our old type. This was the challenge, how could we get the information we wanted to the players outside of training sessions?
We sat and thought about this long and hard and then one day, as my good friend @crombie74 says I had my Jerry Maguire moment. I was sat down one night puzzling over this whilst idly messing about with @iDrills and I just started writing. The result was my first tactical brief on playing the 433 / 451 transition, you can find it here:
By no means the definitive thesis on how to play this shape, this was the results of my initial take on this and more importantly by putting down on paper what was in my head the players could actually see where the sessions were going long-term. What the long-term vision is and a small break down of what their own individual responsibility is on match day. What was even greater about this was not only did this give them something they could read at any time and on any device but the response from the squad was brilliant. Suddenly players who have never piped up in a training session were asking me questions, I was getting emails, texts and individuals coming up to me at training asking for explanations and guidance. It was brilliant, their questions and input allowed me to further refine this document and prompted myself and the management team to consider other scenarios, it was very much a two-way thing. This is incredibly important when trying to change the culture of a club. You absolutely need the buy in of all involved to really move forward at pace.
Slowly but surely we started to see some improvement both in training and within matches which actually surpassed my own expectations. Settling on a new shape and system can take an awful long time in the professional game let alone in the amateur one. Something was missing however and it was a conversation with @danabrahams77 that provided the missing link. I’ve posted earlier about Dan’s book and his use of key words and it was considering this that gave me the nudge I needed. If a player has their own key words to build up their personal soccer image, what about key words for the team or the way we play? How can we prompt players quickly from the sidelines without info overload, what buzz words can we use to get them thinking and how can we help them retain them? That’s when we hit upon the idea of using key cards. Little laminated cards with buzz words on them. I’ve attached a sheet of samples here:
I cut them out, laminated them and made sure they were credit card sized. We dished them out at training and encouraged players to have a glance at them throughout the day. Although it seems gimmicky at first, how great is it when you can shout one word from the side line or in training and the players immediately react and change their shape to deal with a problem. To further encourage use we’ve been running a competition for players to take a photo of the card in an unusual place. One of our players even managed to get the approval of Cheltenham Town’s skipper Beno (Alan Bennett) to give our cards the thumbs up:
We’ve done quizzes on the shape and had the players presenting their own white board sessions to the coaching team to show their understanding of the system. All of these additional tools have helped us to try to encourage and stimulate learning. Learning after all can continue outside the session environment. By this point I can tell you’re eager to hear the results. Well, as I said before changing the whole culture of a club, the style of the play and indeed the system all in one go is a massive change and there have (and still are) a number of issues that need addressing. This time last year we were rock bottom of the league now however we are comfortably mid table and though we’ve had one or two poor performances on the whole the standard of play has been significantly better. That for me shows great progress and the girls deserve a huge amount of credit for that. Sir Alex did not make Utd great in a day and there were definitely ups and downs before they went on to become the established force they are now and that is what it’s all about, building for the long-term success of the club.
So there you go, I told you I hadn’t been idle :) I hope you find this interesting and I’d certainly welcome any of your thoughts on the materials I’ve produced above. It’s always fantastic to get other opinions and insights so feel free to send them my way. I look forward to hearing from you.
Yours in sport until next time