Earlier this week, I was going over some old posts that we put up on other soccer training sites. One post, and one comment in particular, from earlier this spring caught my attention… In a discussion of the post TECHNICAL WORK: The faster the better, the discussion was centered on training technical work at game speed. Our stance on this is to work technical skills in a slower manner until the player develops a comfort with the task. During this time we are simultaneously working on speed and agility skills so the player learns to move with faster pace with better body control. When both elements are approaching an adequate level, they should be integrated so that the player learns to play at a faster pace with technical efficiency in a situationally specific environment.
A commenter to the post (Coach Root) had this to say…
“I watched the SoccerFIT video of the highlights. Those kids look awesome. Those activities are incredible.
Now, how many of ‘em can get 250 juggles with their head? How many can keep the ball up with their feet only for 20 minutes? Put ‘em in a game of Rondo (5 v 2 keep away) and give ‘em a point for every split. Or have ‘em in a 6 v 6 +1 possession game where they win a point for 5 passes in a row. They know enough dribbling and are fit enough, now teach ‘em how to play the game together.”
Although we never really thought it was our “job” to focus on technical to tactical transition (as that should be saved more for practice sessions with their team), this got me thinking. And as I watched Spain control the ball last night against Portugal in the EURO Semi-final game…specifically the confidence to play what looked like a game of 5v2 in front of their own goal at the end of a game tied at 0-0… I had an idea.
Speed is great. Skill is important. But the ability to see the game and the movements of other players evolve before they actually happen is essential, and is the ultimate form of Game Speed Training.
Athlete’s Performance Coach Nick Winkleman recently tweeted out the following:
“Associated Stage – Learner associating their movement with environment, less errors and variability, and ability to self correct.”
This drives home the point of putting players into situations where they can apply the strength, power, speed, agility, fitness, technical skill and tactical awareness in a familiar, sport specific environment. This is what we should all be striving to achieve.
So today, we started off our session as normal with some of our diamond passing drills that focus on movement off the ball and to the ball, while other players are moving in coordinative patterns around the outside. This got them mentally and physically prepared for the agility work. We then built up into our passing agility programs that work on speed / agility patterns (checking like movements that simulate the start of runs off the ball) combined with target passing (emphasizing the pace of the ball and the timing of the pass).
This usually would lead us into our 2v2, 3v3 or 4v4 conditioning session, but today I decided to play some 5v2 before we went into the competitive portion of our workout. As Coach Root stated in his comment above, we encouraged points for splitting the two defenders, and cued our players to think about creating angles in which to split the defense. This lead to more communication, and passes that set up the split, while players outside where moving into positions that made for easier passes with better angles.
We then went into our 4v4 session and as expected, the players were moving much better, splitting defenders and making runs with crisp enthusiasm (exactly like the passing agility session, but with the tactical emphasis of the 5v2 drill). All in all, we ended up with a session that worked in all of our speed and agility with a secondary focus on passing and first touch in a situationally, specific environment that brought out the love and passion for the game that our players possess.
At the end of one of our sessions this morning, one player commented that they wish they could just come out to the field and play games like this all the time. It’s unfortunate that we don’t have this cultural mindset in this country, but I suppose if we did I would be out of a job!