Study New Guides On Training Sessions

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Change your mindset by giving practice sessions back to the players. Let them play, keep your mouth quiet, and observe habits and problems. Then build coaching points as you designed in your session plan, but adjust for what you’ve seen.

Last issue’s article featured the topic of ‘mindset.’

This time, I would like to expound upon some examples of a growth mindset. It’s very easy for a coach to get complacent once he or she has become established in a community, club, or college setting. You get your systems and routine in place, you establish a culture, and, as the coach, you are the person in charge. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day management of all the things that a coach should be doing — communications, designing session plans, scheduling, etc. — that one can forget to take time for continued growth.

Having achieved the highest level of coaching licensing and diplomas that this country can offer, I have to consistently challenge myself to find new resources and learn new coaching methodology. There are significant changes at the US Soccer ‘C,’ ‘B,’ and ‘A’ License courses in regard to a change in the format of engaging in formal training. Rather than just discussing how to design and conduct a training session, the new courses focus on the following criteria:

  • Leadership: Developing and implementing leadership characteristics in all aspects of coaching and personal development in order to develop the team and players
  • Coaching games: Coaching the team during soccer games, focused on achieving predefined objectives
  • Coaching training sessions: Preparing the team systematically during training
  • Leading the team: Leading a team of players in order to drive and improve team development
  • Leading the player: Leading and guiding individual players
  • Managing the environment: Creating and developing a performance environment

Let’s discuss the objective of coaching training sessions in more detail. First, a coach should start with observing the team play and notice any strengths, tendencies, and deficiencies. This helps create a reality-based training environment. Next, to create a session plan with age/player appropriate training goals, one must conceptualize the analysis in a session plan by using the five W’s — who, what, when, where, and why.

Now, here is where having a growth mindset will come in helpful. The traditional US Soccer Method of a four-stage progression is changing. The previous version of US Soccer Methodology is that four stages are designed to increase in pressure, size, and complexity so that it ends with “looking like soccer.” (Stage 1 Technical Warm-up, then moving into a Stage 2 Small-Sided Exercise that has pressure, followed by a Stage 3 Expanded Small-Sided activity that is directional, and ends with a match in stage 4). That methodology is the way many coaches across the country have learned to design and execute a training session.

However, the new methodology is based around these four stages:

  1. Warm-Up (getting ready for the training session)
    1. Physical & mental readiness. Get players involved, engaged, and motivated.
  2. Orientation Phase (introduction of the ‘problem’ or improvement goal)
    1. Game-like, repetition, directional game. This could very well be a small-sided or full-sided match to start the session.
    2. The players should experience the situation of the topic — get familiar with the problem or improvement goal, and gain awareness of the cues to make decision.
  3. Learning Phase (teach the solution)
    1. Game-like, repetition, directional, positional roles, related to the area of the field, and rules that are appropriate to the improvement goal
    2. Players should gain experience in both successful and unsuccessful decision making, gain awareness of cause and effect, and practice solution-oriented thinking
  4. Implementation Phase (apply the solution)
    1. Game realistic, players in positional roles, even numbers, and full rules of soccer.
    2. Players should experience the learned behavior in a game-like setting and practice adaptability to finding solutions.

After looking at the new format, many of you are probably starting to realize that this is not something new, but very similar to a whole-part-whole methodology where a training session begins with a match, uses the middle portion to teach the topic, and then ends with a match. Well, you would be correct. Our goal is to get the players on the field and engaged in the game as much as possible.

By modeling success as a soccer coach after watching other high-profile American sports coaches, one will set him/herself up for failure. Soccer is not a coach’s sport; it is a player’s sport. We, as the soccer coaches and leaders, need to take a step back and make sure that we aren’t dominating the training session by long-winded speeches and frequent ‘freezes’ which interrupt the flow. Give the game back to the players! Start with a match and observe the players’ habits. From there, you can build your exact coaching points as previously designed in your session plan but you have the flexibility to start at different points based on the ability levels of the players.

Let’s work together to make the game enjoyable, realistic, and about the players. It will be a challenge to train your eye to observe rather than using your mouth to direct and command. Coach the players by using various teaching styles appropriate to the situation and the player (e.g. instruction, asking questions, intervention, demonstration) and involve the players in thinking about solutions and ‘the best ways’ to deal with the cues related to the goal(s) and objectives of the training session by using guided discovery. Use your ‘growth mindset’ to try something new and expand your horizons.

Give the new methodology a try and see how it goes with your team this upcoming season. Keep in touch and let me know how it goes! Good luck, Coach!


About Author

Zac Crawford

Zac Crawford holds the USSF ‘A’ License and National Youth License, the NSCAA “Premier diploma” and “Advanced National Goalkeeping” diploma, and a TOPS Soccer Level 1 Certification. He also earned two master’s degrees (Cognitive Psychology in 2003 and Human Performance with an emphasis in Sport Management in 2009) from the University of Alabama.

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