Posts Tagged ‘teaching’

Just returned from my first residential course assignment as Associate Staff for the NSCAA.  It was a great experience and I’m excited to be on this journey of developing myself as a coach of coaches.  I’ve been on state staff for Federation courses now for five years, but it’s been a great experience to see the other side of the NSCAA.

For the my first course as staff I “apprenticed” with the senior staff.  Basically shadowed a few  instructors in the National Diploma and Advanced National Diploma courses, watched how they conducted model sessions, and I was a part of the candidate evaluation process too.

The differences in the philosophy and mentality of coaching education is drastically different in my mind between the NSCAA and the Federation.  Maybe it’s more fresh in my mind since I only completed my “A” license this past January, but the emphasis on development versus evaluation is very apparent, and I even experienced it as an instructor in training.  It’s always been something I’ve really enjoyed about the NSCAA, they want you to go home a better coach because you’ve been at their course, no matter what grade you end up with.

During the National Diploma course the four instructors were always available to the candidates for help.  We ate in the cafeteria, we stayed in the same dorm, the staff were regularly walking through the lounges to make themselves available to the candidates, and even the course social the second evening sets the tone for the remainder of the course.  It’s a community of coaches, and the more experienced ones are trying to share knowledge with the less experienced, and one another.  It’s a coaching fraternity, and once you’re in, you’re in, and you have just as much right to the information and feedback as anyone else.

I felt all of this as an apprentice this past week as well.  Senior staff were asking for my input on model sessions they were running, asked for insight on candidate training sessions to make sure they were evaluating properly, and treated me as a member of the instruction staff from the get-go.  It reaffirmed the reason why I feel passionate about educating coaches, especially with the NSCAA.

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

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.

Four weeks into the spring semester for our university and second week of off-season training.  Just thought I’d discuss our off-season principles and priorities.

Technical, physical, mental and tactical development are all intermixed in off-season training.  We break our spring semester into two phases; Phase one runs from mid-January to early March and we focus more on technical and physical development during this phase.  Phase two runs mid-March through April and the focus is implementing tactical elements and developing the mental side of the game.

Phase one will run six weeks and includes three main elements.  The first is individual skills training in small groups of 4-6 athletes twice a week.  One session is always a touch and passing accuracy skills circuit that the players are ranked on every week.  Scores accumulate for the whole six weeks and players are ranked for the entire period.  The second skills session is up to the coaching staff to focus on the technical elements that were seen lacking during the previous season.

The second element of phase one is weight training.  We lift year round, but during this six week period we will run through a metabolic routine that really pushes the players lactic acid threshold.  We have two lower body days and an upper body day with at least 72 hours rest between the two lower body days.

The final element involves film and tactical sessions once a week.  These sessions are held with the entire team, or in their lines depending on the tactical elements that we want to address with the players.

Phase two is a five week period when we go back outside and also schedule three dates of scrimmages that we normally term “spring ball.”  For each spring ball session the coaching staff identifies a couple tactical elements that we feel need attention before the upcoming competitive season.  It is also a time for us to look at new line ups that will be options for the upcoming fall.  We normally train three times a week at normal training times, and have a team meeting once a week to either watch film or address mental skills training.

According to league rules we are allowed to schedule three competitive dates during this period.  Normally we schedule scrimmages against non-conference schools to give us a different look, and we prefer playing teams who are a division above ours to really push our limits and prepare us for the fall.  And if we can schedule it, we will try to have an alumni scrimmage in the spring as well to give us a fourth date of competition and to bring the graduates back to campus and see where the program is headed.

Over the years I’ve noticed that spring semester is a tough time for fall sports.  The season seems so far off in the distance, and the winter months seem long.  Motivation is usually a tough thing, and it’s important to keep team goals for the upcoming season in front of the players.  Still, it is a challenge to keep the intensity high during this period.  But it usually helps to get back outside in March and start getting back to playing other teams.

An information packed day with some great ideas for us to take back to our own teams.  Topics covered were high pressure defending, speed of play, finishing, and possession with a purpose.

Some key things that I took from the clinic had more to do with the demeanor of the clinicians than specific activities they ran.  For instance, one of the clinicians was an NCAA DI coach at a successful school here in the midwest, and his demeanor with the ’98 ODP team was great!  He was very down to earth and kept the players engaged in the session.  To put it in the most simple terms he was a great teacher.

Got me to start thinking about what does it mean to be a great teacher?  The first thing I took from him was he knew the audience.  Night and day from the Dutch coach the day before, who was handed a group of kids that he’d never seen before and spoke a different language, and were not at the level he was expecting.  This college coach came in early, learned the boys’ names, and walked through the session with them before they went in front of hundreds of coaches.  As he progressed through the session he would talk to the boys by name and knew what space to use and what they would understand because he took some time to get to know where they were at on a developmental level.

The second thing I noticed was he didn’t take himself too seriously.  I’m sure it’s different when he’s working with his college team fighting for a conference title at times, but this coach took himself so lightly and accomplished the task at hand by keeping the boys engaged.  If they didn’t get it he threw his hands up and said, “we’ll go back a couple steps, not to worry.” 

Finally he made sure that the players understood the objectives and the correct way to do things before he moved on.  The Dutch clinician started an activity and would get frustrated if the players didn’t do it right away.  So he’d go back and demonstrate it.  By the end of the clinic he was demonstrating everything before hand.  But the college coach walked the players through it, pulled specific kids to the side if they still weren’t getting the hang of it, and was very patient with them beccause he knew some of the information was new for them.

Great stuff!  Like I said, there was a lot of great “soccer-specific” stuff that was covered, and I’ll post some of it in the weeks to come, but the dynamics of the coaches really caught my attention.  Very smart men, but what does it matter if the players aren’t learning from that knoweldge and applying it to the game?