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In the last few weeks I completed my review of how you can use formations for player development. On Episode 57 I looked at 7 v 7 for U9/U10 teams. On Episode 58 I reviewed the different formations for teams playing 9 v 9 at U11 and U12. Last week on Episode 59 I looked at the transition from small-sided games to full-sided 11 v 11 matches. If you missed any of those you should check them out.
Last weekend my teams finished up their league seasons. Two of my teams are attending a tournament over Memorial Day weekend but then they’ll be finished as well. The next thing on the calendar is tryouts which should be especially interesting this year with the changes to the age groups.
Today I want to describe how I use short phrases to connect the work we do in training to situations that the players face in games. There are times that we want to get points across to our players but they don’t have time to stop, listen and think so we need to make our point quickly but in a way that affects the players thinking and actions.
I’ll describe my favorite 19 short phrases. I’ve divided them up into six different areas of the game ranging from ball control to defending. You may already be using some of these yourself without considering why they work and how you could use them more effectively. This episode will get you thinking about more ways that you can connect important coaching points to key phrases so that you can help your players learn without over coaching them.
Coaching is transferring your knowledge to your players. You can’t do it for them, you have to give them the tools and teach them how to apply them correctly to the situations they’ll face in the game.
Whenever we’re working on something in training I try to connect it to a short phrase that serves as a que to get the players to make the connection between the phrase and the important factors of the skill or idea that we’re working on.
This type of shorthand helps me get my point across to the players without having to reteach the technique or tactic during the exercise, scrimmage or actual game.
I don’t think I’ve created a new idea here. There are some of these phrases that you hear over and over like, “Far Post” but that’s telling the player what to do not how to do it. I prefer to say, “Twist Your Foot” to describe how they can position their body to shoot toward the far post.
Here are the short phrases that I use with my own teams.
- Ball Control
- Safe Side
- Putting the ball on the player’s farthest foot from the pressure
- Protect It
- Shielding the ball and keeping it until it can be dribbled or passed
- Foot Over or Under
- Controlling the ball out of the air by cushioning it with the top of the foot or trapping it with the sole
- Magic Hop
- Being on their toes cushioning the ball by opening their hips and touching the ball in the direction they want to play next
- Safe Side
- Foot next to the ball, leaning forward and following through to land on their passing foot
- Bounce It
- Locking the player’s ankle and striking the ball in the middle of the foot so that the ball bounces off of the foot
- Slide It
- Keeping the ball on the ground while it is traveling from one player to another
- Twist Your Foot
- Pointing your plant foot in the desired direction of the shot
- Land on It
- Landing on the shooting foot means that the player needed to lean forward, strike the middle of the ball and keep it low
- Twist Your Foot
- Eyes Up
- Looking up so that the dribbler can see where the pressure and space is to make a good decision
- Have a Plan
- Think ahead so that when you have the ball you already know what you want to do
- Fake or Pass
- Don’t just dribble, use a move or make a pass rather than running into pressure
- Start Over
- Passing the ball backward to a supporting player away from pressure to restart the attack
- Eyes Up
- How Can You Help
- This is one of the most powerful phrases you can use
- It makes them think about what positions they can take up to support the ball
- You’re not telling them what to do but to THINK about what they should do
- Two Runs
- Moving away to draw the defender and then checking for the ball
- The first run is for the defender and the second run is for the ball
- Windows Not Walls
- Find ‘Windows’ to receive the ball through, don’t stand behind ‘Walls’ (defenders)
- How Can You Help
- On Your Surfboard
- Taking up a defensive position
- One foot in front of the other on a diagonal (ie quarter turn)
- Balanced with a bit more weight on the back foot
- Stand Her Up
- The first job of the defender is to slow the attacker
- This gives time to recovering defenders
- Makes sure that first defender does not dive in and beat themselves
- Get Across Him
- Moving your body across the defender to separate them from the ball
- On Your Surfboard
There are many other phrases that you could use to describe these actions and ideas. There’s no magic in the phrases that I use. The key is for you to select phrases that are both short and memorable. Then you have to link those phrases to what you’re doing in training. The players need to hear them over and over again to make the connection. That way, when they hear them in a game, they can instantly remember the process from practice and apply it to the situation they are in during the game.
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In Future Episodes
I won’t have a podcast to release next week because I’ll be traveling with a couple of my teams to a tournament in Chicago. I’ll be back June 3rd with more training sessions and coaching tips.
Great podcast again.
I have one addition I often use. That is “backfoot”
I use it when players don’t use their fartest foot / backfoot to control a ball and it leads to miscontrolling the ball.
Thanks Bjorn. That’s a good one. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks Tom, great podcast. I think a lot of coaches dont get that half of their job is simply to communicate ideas properly so that players can pick them up and internalize them. What’s the saying… ‘coaches teach, but players develop’?
Anyway, without explicitly saying it your list of words embodies the main principle for coaching tips for youth players – ‘dont give outcomes; give actions/directions’.
For example, ‘take up a defensive position’ is an outcome you (usually the coach) want achieved. Whereas ‘get on your surfboard’ is the action the player should perform.
After listening to this, in my own training I will even change from ‘shield the ball’ to ‘protect it’. I am an adult and have well developed language skills; the fact that ‘shield’ can be both a verb and a noun (abstracted in this case) is a typical english-language ambiguity that I can deal with. But my players are young kids. If I say ‘protect it’ that is a clear action and not some potentially nebulous outcome. Small, but subtle, and it will also keep my coaching tips correctly focused.
Thinking about this makes me wonder just how much trouble coaches have when they move to a new country/language. I’m pretty sure that if I translated ‘magic hop’ into, say, chinese, there is a lot of context that’s going to get lost. My hat is off to those coaches that can manage it. I guess this is where all those stories come from of the times when a foreign coach resorts to miming and mimicking an action just to get the idea across (bypassing words all together!)
Anyway, great podcast topic. Thanks for the coaching tips!
Thanks! I’m glad that the episode helped you think more about your own coaching.
This was an amazing episode… one of your best! I found myself going back and replaying certain parts of it. Would these points work well for younger kids U8 and below? Depends on the group I suppose. Eyes Up, Protect It and How Can You Help stand out to me as easier for the younger ages. Thanks!
I think short phrases work well with players of any age. You just have to make the connection between the phrase and the technique or tactic you’re focusing on.
Timely episode. Last week I attended a coaching work shop led by Doug Lemov. One of his most important points was “plan your words”. If you are not familiar with Doug’s work check out http://teachlikeachampion.com/blog/coaching-and-practice/spend-hours-sometimes-thinking-words/
Thanks for the link Kevin. I love hearing parallel ideas from other sports.