Archive for January, 2013

Brek Shea Deal All But Done

Posted: January 31, 2013 in US Soccer
Tags: ,

Stoke City has announced that Brek Shea received his work permit today and they are trying to push his transfer through by tonight’s deadline.  Definitely sad to see a player with such potential leaving FC Dallas, but I know it’s the best thing for his personal development and the continued development of US Soccer.  It’s been a good transfer window for USA based players going to Europe!  Hope it translates to an improvement at the International level for the US Soccer Federation.

http://www.stokecityfc.com/news/article/shea-work-permit-631504.aspx 

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I had the opportunity to preview this book before it was released.  Stevie Grieve does a great job of breaking down the details of the 4-2-3-1, and it builds well on his first edition of the system (I’ve also read the first book).

In the “Advanced Tactics” he breaks down the defensive and attacking principles of the system.  Looks at certain professional clubs and what he has seen from them and this formation.  He also does a great job of looking at pattern play in developing the attack.

In both books he finished with several training sessions related to the 4-2-3-1 and teaching defensive and attacking principles needed for the system.

I recommend this book if anyone is looking for more detail and information on this modern system that everyone seems to be adopting.  There are definitely things that I am going to take away from Grieve’s book and apply to our 4-3-3 system this upcoming spring.

You can find more information about the book and how to order at this link: World Class Coaching

Interesting

Posted: January 23, 2013 in Major League Soccer, US Soccer
Tags: ,

I read this article published by the Wall Street Journal Jurgen Klinsmann challenges the mindset of US Soccer internationals and our soccer culture as a country.  It’s interesting because I’d have to agree with him in some respects.

As a country we’ve taken it as a personal challenge to be the best at almost every sport we attempt in international competition.  And for the most part we’ve found a way to be successful.  No one can deny our dominance in such sports as basketball, baseball, and women’s soccer, but look at the other sports that are not popular in the USA that we have developed to become the best.  We won a gold medal in hockey, compete in wrestling off and on, and have developed a successful culture in winter events like skiing.  So why not soccer?

Soccer is one of the most popular sports in the USA when we look at participation, but we are unable to develop enough athletes to put eleven men on the field that can consistently compete against the top five nations in the world.  Given our natural presupposition to do what it takes to be the best at everything, it is kind of strange that we haven’t found a way to at least be a little more relevant in soccer.  Our biggest accomplishments in the sport since the 1930’s is a single win in the knockout stages of the 2002 World Cup and 2009 Confederations Cup final appearance.  Our FIFA international ranking usually fluctuates between 15 and 30, when we are one of the largest countries in the world with shear number of kids participating in the sport.

Maybe we have become complacent when it comes to soccer.  When we are satisfied with a World Cup appearance and advancement to the knockout rounds are a successful campaign we might want to re-evaluate what success is?

I believe it’s okay to demand more from ourselves, and I think we need to start doing that.  We need to start demanding a higher level of play from our domestic league (after we start supporting it), and demanding more from our professionals.  We need to hold the national team staff to a much higher standard, and should be ashamed when our U23 and U20 National Teams are eliminated from qualifying!

Maybe it is time for a change? Maybe we need to find that “go-old American competitive spirit” again and demand to be the best?

Well, I’ve had a few days to reflect on the course and try to determine the highlights of the process.

One thing that really sticks out to me about the “A” license that I really enjoyed was the amount of quality feedback that we received on multiple occasions.  The instructors stated that the Federation was making an effort to teach coaches how to improve through the licensing process, rather than simply evaluating coaching ability.

For instance, the technical analysis review is something I’ve never seen before.  In the previous coaching courses I’ve participated in we conducted a match analysis, developed a training session based on what we saw, turned it in and waited for two months to find out if we passed.  Giving us the USA v. Guatemala game to watch ahead of time and then spending time to give us feedback on what they thought of our analysis was a big help.  Adding the match analysis as our oral exam also made a lot of sense to me.  As coaches we have to learn how to analyze a game and then verbalize that to our players.  Really thought this was a positive change to the licensing process, and it was added to all three levels of the residential schools.

The dialogue after practice training sessions was also a huge change.  In previous courses instructors have brought candidates in after every practice session and dedicated a few minutes to their thoughts of the session.  What areas could use improvement and what areas were good.  But the amount of quality information that we received (and maybe it had more to do who the instructors were) was a very positive experience for me.  I felt like every session analysis was a coaching seminar in itself.  The attention to detail and the things we were given to improve ourselves as coaches was a positive.  I knew exactly what the instructor was looking for me to change and areas he felt I needed to improve before the final assessment.

However, there were some things that I felt were lacking considering it was an “A” license course.  Although the instructors provided a lot of quality feedback, they were never around for interaction and discussion outside of the structured environment.  Every course I’ve attended prior to this one the instructors made a point to at least be around the candidates one or two nights throughout the process and made themselves available for conversation and just building a rapport.  The Federation has always been a little more distant than the NSCAA courses I’ve taken, but this was on a whole different level.

In general I was disappointed with the camaraderie of the entire school.  Our housing situation wasn’t ideal (candidates were spread out through a condo complex), and the candidates rarely saw each other outside of structured sessions and meals.  It wasn’t until the last couple of days that I really started to find coaches who wanted to hang out and dialogue about the course and the sessions.  The instructors were housed in a separate location, and never made themselves available to the candidates outside of the lectures and field sessions.  In previous courses I’ve found the interaction away from the schedule to be more valuable than some of the content covered in lectures.

Every course has positives and negatives, and overall this was a very good experience for me.  I learned a lot about myself as a coach, and I learned a lot about the game from the instructors.  The positives outweighed the negatives, but I would have to say it wasn’t my favorite course to date.

So this was the final push.  We tackled 15 candidates of the 20 on day 8, and had five candidates left on day 9.  I happened to be number 17, so I was second on day 9 which did not bother me a bit.  I don’t know if the candidates were extremely nervous, but I felt like the quality of our final training sessions as a course were not on par with where our practice training sessions were.  It was strange because several of us felt like the groups on a whole got better as the practice training sessions went on, and they should because later candidates are listening to the feedback that the instructors are giving and applying it to their sessions.  But it seemed that as a whole we took a step back in our final sessions.

There were some very good sessions, don’t get me wrong, but there were some mistakes that seemed to be pure nerves.  My final sessions felt weird.  I took the comments that my instructor made on my practice session and made a very focused effort to minimize the stoppages and coach specifics to what I saw.  I felt like I was leaving a lot about my topic unspoken, but I was much more brief than I was on my practice topic.

My over all personal evaluation is that I underperformed.  Based on how I did in my last few coaching courses (the “B,” Advanced National and Premier) I was very disappointed in my level at this license.  But I did my best to learn from the practice session and apply the comments he made to me, and I hope it was enough.

Now the waiting begins!  Two months before we start getting our results and finding out if we did enough to pass.  Either way I can’t be done learning.  Achieving a specific license is a great accomplishment, but it’s just the beginning.  As coaches, leaders, we can’t be done learning in our short lifetimes.  There is so much better that my players deserve from me, and I need to do my part by trying to stretch myself and grow as a coach and an individual.

Overall I thought the course was quality.  The instructors were top class with their insight and wisdom about the game.  There were some administrative glitches, and the housing situation hindered the social aspect of the course, but it was a good course.  Learned a lot from tactical sessions with my two roommates watching the USA v. Guatemala game over and over again.  We did spend some time as a course together outside of the USSF activities, and it was great to sit down with some guys and get to know them better as people and not just coaches.

A very positive experience for me, it was an opportunity for me to grow as a coach and a person.  There are lots of nuggets that I am going to take away from this experience and apply to my coaching career.

But first it’s back home to my wife!  Then catch up on work and classes, then maybe I’ll get a chance to evaluate the week more indepth.

This is the home stretch, and the end is in sight.  This evening we have our technical analysis interviews (the old oral examinations), which is part one of our pass/fail.

Since we worked so hard on Thursday to finish up the practice coaching sessions we got a little time to sleep in before we kicked off our lectures in the morning.  Jeff Pill’s lecture covered the development and use of possession.  He had put several clips together of the USWNT and clips from the 2012 FIFA WC technical report to discuss the different possession tactics that are being used in the modern game.  Jeff does a great job of organizing his topic and communicating the essential points.  You can definitely tell he is a teacher.

We wrapped the morning up with our last lecture of the course on fitness.  The staff brought in the director of the exercise physiology department at the Florida International University to cover this for us.  He did a great job communicating the demands of soccer, the reasons we do fitness testing, what to do with the results of that fitness testing, and application of the program.  Some of the information was a little indepth for a room of soccer coaches who work with club kids two or three times a week, but the information was solid and had a lot of application for a college level team.

The oral examinations were specific questions about the tactics we saw in the USA v. Guatemala match.  Several candidates had questions on flank play, defensive tactics of the USA or Guatemala, and my question was to describe how the Guatemala backline and midfield combined to get forward in the attack.  I thought it was a fairly manageable question, and I believe I passed the oral exam.  I think this application of a match analysis is a very good change in the Federation’s course.  Talking to candidates in the “C” and “B” licenses it is something that is being done for all three levels, although the games might be different.  The baseline for coaching is the ability to evaluate our players and determine what they need to improve on most to be more effective playing the game.

I was one of the first candidates to go for my oral exam, so I was done by early afternoon and I decided to take a little mental R&R for myself before our final field sessions kicked off tomorrow.  I went down to the beach, took a small jog along the shore, swam for bit, then had dinner at a small seaside cafe while I started putting my thoughts down for my final practice session.  My topic for the final is “Coach a team to produce crosses to score.”  I think this is a manageable topic that I can apply the comments Mark Berson made on my practice session.  I spent the rest of the night bouncing ideas off of my roommates and finalizing my session outline.

Tough day for me mentally.  The morning went by fairly quickly with candidate practice sessions.  We seemed to be running behind slightly so pushed the lecture to the afternoon block.  The lecture covered restarts and systems.  A good topic that could have had a lot of depth and content, but unfortunately we were on a bit of a time crunch and so we covered highlights and moved on.

What I really enjoyed was Paul Rogers sharing one of the USWNT pregame restart film sessions with us.  He specifically chose the pregame analysis for their match against Canada in the 2012 Olympics.  The breakdown of the opponent’s tendencies and how the USWNT would deal with them.  What the USWNT wanted to do to Canada on set pieces and why based on their past performances.  It was very interesting.

I kicked off the afternoon practice sessions with my training exercise, and I was just very unhappy with the way I handled the session.  My topic was coaching a team to defend deep and highlight which passes to allow and which passes to deny.  I had spent a lot of time putting the session together and making sure I had a majority of the coaching points on the outline, but I feel that I over-prepared in the end.  I talked to long on each stoppage, over coached the hypothetical scenarios, and I didn’t achieve the standard that I have established for myself.  The feedback from Mark and the other candidates was helpful, and I just have to do better with my final topic.

We completed all of our practice training sessions today, which allows us a day of physical recovery tomorrow, and a late start.  We had the night off to prepare ourselves for the oral examination based on our tactical analysis of the USA v. Guatemala game, and so my roommates and I watched it again for 3rd time and made up questions to ask one another.  Tomorrow are the oral examines, and the last two days are final testing on field sessions.  Almost there!

Content is starting to get pretty thin from a schedule stand point, but the instructor’s feedback and candidate comments are just as good as any coaching seminar I’ve ever attended.

The day kicked off with two field sessions led by Mark Berson.  The first was addressing possession through the thirds of the field.  I enjoyed how he handled this topic and used small restrictions to help the U18 IMG Academy boys recognize that short, quick possession is used to gain ground up the field towards an end goal.  I’ve seen a lot of teams who possess the ball for the sake of possession with no apparent purpose in mind, and Berson’s session always kept the end objective of scoring a goal in mind.  He followed up this session with a training on flank play.  Fairly standard session, but the coaching points were solid and they players improved their flank play.

The rest of the day was spent on practice coaching sessions.  Every day I grow to have a deeper respect for the depth of knowledge that Tom Durkin has of the game.  I know I must sound like a broken record, but the attention to detail, and his recognition of the small things that make a big difference is remarkable.  Listening to his critique of the candidates during and at the end of sessions is a coaching clinic in itself.  Rough day physically, we’ve been blessed to have IMG kids available for every session but for the afternoon we had approximately three girls available.  We were spoiled leading up to this point only needing three of four coaches per training session, and for this afternoon you could notice an immediate drop in intensity level as every practice session passed and old legs got heavy.  I really do enjoy playing and contributing, but I also recognize that I’m not in the best form I could be to help the other candidates out.

Tomorrow we begin with practice coaching again, with one lecture to finish out the morning, and then it is practice coaching all afternoon.

Today we kicked off the practice coaching sessions.  Since my last name is “Tosaya” I am slated to be 17th out of 19 sessions, so we won’t get to mine until way down the line.  But it’s been really good to hear the instructors feedback and start getting an idea what they are looking for in the sessions.

The thing I keep hearing from Mark Berson and Jeff Pill is “5 W’s” over, and over again.  You must make sure we can answer the “Who, Where, When, What and Why?” of the topic by just observing the session.  Tom Durkin’s feedback for his candidates is intense, but very detailed and good.  I have never heard such in depth feedback from the instructing staff at any of my coaching education courses (and I’ve been through a few between the NSCAA and the USSF), and you will definitely get your monies worth at this course.  The knowledge that this staff has about how to help develop training topics and teaching methodology is top notch.  Keep in mind, it’s still one man’s opinion, and there are many aspects and vantage points to address this stuff, but I’m really enjoying listening to all three and the critique.

After our practice sessions we had a lecture on attacking from the flanks.  This lecture was probably the low point of the course, we simply watched highlights from the 2010 World Cup and left.  Oh well.

In the afternoon we had a field session on pressing from Durkin and it was very refreshing to watch him work with the U18 girls team.  As I’ve mentioned, they are a group that will challenge you to be a good coach.  He handled it beautifully!  The topic was defensive in nature, but during the warm up he couldn’t get the attacking team to maintain possession long enough to allow the team he was coaching to organize and press.  He had to back track, address the possession issue, and slowly introduced his team into the picture and started addressing the topic.  Too many times I’ve seen clinicians and instructors just get impatient with the lack of talent and ability and drop the topic all together.  As Durkin stated after the session, “If players were good enough to play the game automatically we would be out of a job.”  It was very refreshing to see a national staff coach bring the topic to the level of the team he was working with and we saw marked improvement once he got to his topic.

After the field session we hit the classroom again for our player psychology lectures.  The instructor was Dr. Jennifer Etnier, Sports Psychology professor at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro.  She covered two topics in two lectures this evening; Communication and Burnout.  The elements of quality communication, criticism, and relationship building were covered in the first.  The lecture on burnout was very interesting.  We covered the signs and symptoms of burnout and how important periodization is to helping prevent staleness in athletes.

On the third day we were introduced to Ruud Dokter for our first session in the morning.  For a course that is filled with bright spots, Ruud has been the highlight of the course for me to this point, and not just because of the information that he shared in his session.  Ruud was most recently the Dutch National U16 Boy’s Head Coach, he was the National Women’s Head Coach from 1995-2001, and is currently very involved with the KNVB coaches training program as well as helping to consult the USSF on our coaching curriculum and methodology.

Ruud led a field session on counter attacking and finishing.  Very simple build up with a long grid and players trying to win the ball deep in their defensive half and finding the target to build counter.  There were some technical break downs with the U18 boys team we were using, but his coach demeanor was fantastic.  He did a great job relaying the information that was pertinent and made the topic work for the players that he had in front of him.  I’ve seen several instructors get frustrated with the level of demo players, but this is coaching; communicating and relaying an idea about the game to players, no matter what level they are at.  That is the mark of a good coach, not that he can teach the good players how to play, but that he/she can develop the players that are in front of them as they are.

Tom Durkin followed up this field session with another addressing defenders playing out of the back third.  Tom’s coaching style is fantastic to learn from!  He is unwavering about what he wants out of the players and their attention to the small things.  Even though he demands so much from the players, his energy and demeanor communicate that he wants them to succeed and he celebrates their success.  His communication style and ability to transfer the ideas in his head to the players, and WHY, reached the kids and we saw marked improvement in the topic.  The technical level of the U16 team he was working with was drastically different than the previous team, and it was very apparent that Tom was frustrated with the level of play, but he was very patient and stayed on task through the entire session.

Then we went inside for a lecture on counter attacking presented by Jeff.  Here is why I’m enjoying Ruud so much; in the front row, notepad out and taking notes the entire time, was Ruud Dockter.  He is definitely the most senior, and most experienced clinician at the course, however he sits in the front row and takes notes constantly when he is not instructing.

In the afternoon we had two field sessions; training the midfield and forwards in the attack (Mark Berson), and analyzing the 1-3-5-2 v. the 1-4-3-3 (Tom Durkin).  We had the U18 girls to work with, and they were the worse technical group to point.  It was a struggle for the clinicians to get their topics covered, but both did a great job being patient with the ladies and improving their level of play related to the topic.

In the evening with met with our evaluating instructors and did a review in groups of four over our match analysis of the USA v. Guatemala.  Our technical reports were handed back to us and we covered the things that were deficient and what we needed to improve on before our oral exams.