Monday, November 2, 2015

Sports Periodization Course

Coaches want to play with their strongest team. As the final decision-maker of the practice schedule, coaches must take into consideration all the external factors impacting player fatigue and freshness. Periodization is a recent buzzword that encompasses the overall training schedule from practices, to games, to tournaments, and most importantly, training intensity vs training volume.

While we are a soccer coaching education organization, periodization is critical to all intensity sports and speed of action sports. Cross country is an endurance sport played at one tempo. Sports such as soccer, field hockey, basketball, lacrosse, and volleyball are intensity sports. These sports require players to play at 100%, but not at 100% for every minute of the game or match. At times, it is 100% and other times the game or match allows players to jog, walk, etc. How coaches manage the training environment to replicate the demands of their individual sport will be the focus of this course. Unfortunately, players cannot be trained as soldiers during the week and expected to perform as artists in their game.

In this four meeting course, coaches will discuss principles of the periodization model and how best to apply these principles given the external factors unique to their specific team/situation. Often times, coaches implement schedules and/or programs observed from other clubs or university programs. The dilemma with this is that these may be solutions to problems that you do not encounter in your own environment. The principles of the periodization model are objective and are applicable to all situations, regardless of the external factors present.

Topics covered during the course:
  • Isolated fitness                             
  • Fitness vs freshness
  • Is more better?                             
  • Intensity vs volume
  • Playing at 100%                            
  • Components of sport fitness
  • Structuring the training week    
  • Conditioning sessions
  • Tournaments – survival of the fittest?

Click here Sports Periodization Brochure to download the Sports Periodization brochure.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Invest in the Process

All US youth soccer clubs owe a debt of gratitude to their full-time and parent coaching staff. Youth soccer clubs are only as good as their coaching staffs, full-time coaches and parent volunteer coaches.
Club directors acknowledge the importance and role of coaches when speaking about player development. Parent coaches are, often times, directly responsible for the recognition the youth soccer club receives upon teams winning local tournaments, state cups, or regional/national championships. When club directors are asked about what type of coaching education program his or her club implements, the answer is usually silence. Some club directors will boast of an extensive coaching education program that consists of only reimbursing their coaches upon successful completion of a USSF or NSCAA coaching course.

Similar to academia, professional development for coaches and teachers, delivered by the organization to which they are employed, is usually an afterthought. If professional development is even on the radar of club directors, it is usually placed on the back burner because the club director coaches the best team/teams in the club or functions as a club administrator, and there are not enough hours in the day to plan a meaningful coaching education program.

If one examines the best coaching education programs in the world among clubs and/or national federations there are several commonalities between them.
  • Includes theory and practical information (this is something incorporated by the USSF and the
  • Organization views the player/coach relationship holistically
  • Small coach to mentor ratio
  • Allows coaches to go off on their own and then return to the larger group to ask questions and share experiences at another date - this is done periodically throughout the program
  • Club provides a mentor for individual coach or small group of coaches
  • Integrates technology to improve learning and coach reflection
  • Program resembles give and take between club director and coach where both parties improve
  • Coach/parent volunteer feels club director has his or her best interests in mind 

When clubs provide this level of coaching education for their full-time staff and parent 
coaches/volunteers, then yes, they can and should promote their coaching education program. All youth clubs will explain to their constituents that they believe in player development but until their focus shifts toward coach development, youth soccer clubs and their directors’ actions do not align with their words.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Intervention Wheel

The United States Development Academy and numerous youth soccer clubs throughout the United States have increased the contact hours between player and coach. Increasing the number of contact hours without quality teaching is of no benefit to the player. Coaching/Teaching is more art than science. The manner in which the instructor intervenes in the session either provokes thought or prohibits learning. The Intervention Wheel lists the various types of coaching methodologies along with examples for technicians to follow in order to implement each strategy.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Is Three Better Than Four?

Is 3.5.2 making a resurgence?
The prominent formation over the last several years has been or an altered version;,,, etc. Italy, which always pushes the tactical envelope, has gone against the trend of four defenders and has opted for 3.5.2 or 3.4.3. Napoli, Udinese, and Juventus are just a number of clubs who routinely employ three defenders rather than four.

Where do you want the free player?
Is it better to put a free player in front of your midfielders or behind? Many teams at the youth and college level play with two forwards. Ideally the forwards would be diagonal of one another and the player in the hole would function as the free player.

The shadow striker sits between the opposition defenders and midfielders and always tries to position himself at a 45 degree angle to the ball. Offensively this player creates problems because the opposition defenders cannot step up and mark this player or a hole is created in the back line. Opposition midfielders are also leery of dropping back to mark this player as the midfielder may already have a player to defend against.

Below shows the red shadow striker receiving a pass in behind the blue midfield but far enough in front of the center backs they are not comfortable stepping up to mark.

Defensively, the shadow striker is only needed if the opposition plays with three midfielders. Against a 4.4.2 the shadow striker has few defensive responsibilities because there is a 3v2 advantage in the middle of the field.

Below the red team have four backs and two center midfielders while the blue team has four midfielders and two forwards. The green box highlights the numerical advantage for the blue team. B2 has no defensive responsibilities as B4/B5 can mark R5/R6.

Juventus playmaker Andrea Pirlo has raised another possibility for the free player. Pirlo, similar to Busquets at Barcelona, acts as a deep lying midfielder and sits in front of the center backs and in behind his own midfielders. Pirlo’s strength is his passing ability and range of passes. As a deep lying midfielder Pirlo has very few defensive responsibilities and he is involved heavily in the build up from the back third to the middle and attacking thirds. Pirlo’s position enables him to be closer to the ball and he often times has the game in front of him rather than behind.

Three better than four?
The hardest part for defenders to judge and read is whether to follow a forward in if they check back for the ball. If defenders choose to follow they leave a gap in the defensive line and if they remain connected to the backs, they leave a forward unmarked as he checks back to find the ball. If teams play with two forwards you are numerically superior as you have three backs. If they play with one striker then you have two free center backs (while playing with three at the back).

By playing three at the back the decision of whether or not to follow is straightforward, you follow the forward in as far as he checks back. You are able to follow the forward in because there is always one free player at the back who is able to fill the space left by the defender marking the forward.

All players want time and space and by following the forward in you are minimizing the amount of time and space available to make a decision. If the forward is left unmarked you allow the player to turn unopposed and attack the backs. If the opposition plays with only one forward then your back three has two free players rather than one.

Juventus has shown with their recent success in the UEFA Champions League that 3.5.2 is a viable formation and can get results in the modern game. In the next posting ASET will provide several ways for the back three and two wide midfielders to shift and rotate to defend against teams using the 4.4.2 and 4.3.3 formations.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Outsmarting the Typical 4.4.2

Below is one way in which to shape up your team when playing against a 4.4.2 where the forwards and midfielders are flat. The blue teams is playing with four defenders and a box in the midfield. The midfield consists of two holding midfielders and two attacking midfielders. There are no center forwards, only two wide wingers.

What concerns, attacking or defending, would you have if you shaped up your team similar to the blue?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Outdated 4.4.2 Formation

When analyzing MLS and college soccer games it is commonplace to observe a 4.4.2 formation. From the college game to the USSF Development Academy and into local youth soccer leagues, many coaches elect to employ a 4.4.2 where the midfield plays flat along with two flat forwards. At times, teams may use a large diamond in the midfield along with two flat forwards which can also cause similar problems.

How would you shape up your team’s formation to counteract this outdated and problematic 4.4.2 formation? 

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