Last month we hosted the 2019 Expert Meeting. This annual Level 2 course with 50 coaches from around the world took place at Hajduk Split in Croatia. The topic of this year’s edition was the Individual Training within Team Training. In other words, developing individual players within the context of the team training.
Individual development to become the best individual?
Obviously, talent development in football is about the development of individual players. However, many coaches in football take the word ‘individual’ literally. They end up training an individual player isolated from the team context. Unconsciously and unintentionally, these coaches are training the individual player as if football is an individual sport.
In an individual sport like sprinting, an athlete like Usain Bolt has been training on his own for many years to become the fastest individual in the world. Bolt did not need other sprinters in training because during competition he is not interacting with others. He just had to be as fast as possible independent of others. So, he was literally doing individual training on his own. Obviously, he had training companions but they did not compete in training.
Individual development to become the best possible team player!
In football it is a different story. Football players have to become the best possible team players and not the best possible individual players. They have to prepare themselves to excel in the game 11v11. Talented football players have to become experts in an 11v11 context. Nothing more and nothing less. But how many times do youth players train 11v11 from age 12 to 18? Not often! So, football talents have to become experts in a context they hardly ever train.
Communication is WHAT players have to do
In football, the communication between players is of the highest order. This verbal and non-verbal communication is trained in tactical training session. In such tactical training the coach teaches his players tactical references in terms of WHAT they are supposed to do together when attacking, defending and transitioning. For example, the team is disturbing the build-up of the opponent horizontally’ which means that players have to shift from left to right or from right to left. This is WHAT players are supposed to do. But HOW each player shifts horizontally can not be determined in advance by the coach because football is not a game of robots.
Decision and execution of the HOW of football actions
The HOW of football actions in terms of position, moment, direct and speed is the responsibility of the player. The training of the decision making (game insight) and execution of decisions (football technique) by individual players is something else than developing the communication between players (tactics). But it still does take place within the context of team tactical training. In other words, it is the individual training within team training.
During the 2019 Expert Meeting the Arsenal Director of Coaching Marcel Lucassen and myself delivered the training sessions with the Hajduk Split Under 23 team. Based on the above football references, I first of all demonstrated to the players WHAT they were supposed to do. In other words, what was the playing style when building up in a 1-4-3(2-1)-3 formation against a 1-4-4diamond-2 formation. It took a full session to implement this playing style.
During the second session on the next day the attention was gradually shifted to the coaching of the individual players in terms of HOW they were supposed to perform their building-up actions. Marcel Lucassen coached the Hajduk players in terms of their position, moment, direction and speed of their actions. In the meantime, I controlled the playing at team level and made sure all players kept doing their job.
Cdef coach and cDEf coach
As the training of the communication between players (tactics) on the one hand and the decision making (game insight) and execution of decisions (technique) on the other hand, are two different things, it requires two coaches to overload both aspects within one training session. The Cdef coach takes care of the the tactical coaching at team level while the cDEf coach focusses on the coaching of the decisions and execution by individual players.
Ask yourself the question whether you are more a Cdef coach who coaches the bigger picture at team level or are you more a cDEf coach because coaching the details at individual level is more your strength? And what is the strength of the coach you are working with? Are the two of you complimentary to each other or more or less the same? And if you do not have an assistant to take one of the two roles, it means you yourself have to address both topics in different sessions.