Northern NSW Football had the chance to attend a Newcastle Jets training session as they ramp up their pre-season preparation ahead of their Hyundai A-League opener against Adelaide United at Hunter Stadium on Sunday, October 9, 2016.
Here are 5 coaching tips we learned that can be implemented at any level of coaching.
1. Be Organised
I arrived at Newcastle Jets training ground shortly after 7:30am, the coaching staff were already preparing the session, setting out markers, and organising equipment. By 8:15am they had finished setting up, tinkering and making a few final adjustments prior to the 9:00am start.
The players were organised quickly and within 30 seconds Senior Assistant Coach Luciano Trani had provided a quick demonstration and the passing practice was underway. Within two minutes of the first activity ending, the next practice was about to start. The equipment was already set up and Luciano’s support staff helped collect the balls and other gear so he could focus on the players.
Being organised is the hallmark of a good coach and the good thing, is anyone can do it.
What you get out of your training session depends on the time you put into it.
Are you planning your session on the drive home and still setting up your equipment when the players are arriving? Or do you take the time to plan your session beforehand, thinking about what equipment you will need, and how you can set up as much of it as possible before the session starts.
While community coaches can’t arrive to training an hour and a half early, fifteen to thirty minutes may be possible, and will make a big difference to your session. If you can’t get there early, here are ways to get your session set up on time.
2. Have lots of touches of the ball
Each player had over 100 touches of the ball within the first five minutes of training, and hundreds (300-400) more by the end of the one hour session.
It was a conditioning session; using small games which were played at a very high intensity which also contributed to more touches, so players only had to wait 5-10 seconds to get a touch of the ball and were actively engaged in play throughout the entire session.
The Football Federation Australia (FFA) Curriculum recommends that young players have 50 – 150 touches of the ball in a training session.
Kids learn football by playing football, if you do nothing else, just let them play.
All this means is that kids have a ball at their feet and are not running laps, doing push ups, or standing in line for long periods of time waiting for their turn.
As a coach, think of ways that you can maximise the amount of touches your players receive, and how to engage them more in play. If they are waiting more than one minute to touch a ball, they are waiting too long.
3. Play games
At the end of the Jets training session, there were two games of 3 v 3 played simultaneously with teams competing for two minutes before changing fields or opposition. Scores of each game were kept to see which team would win overall, and the players thrived on the competition.
Prior to that there was a 3 v 2 transitioning game, where three attackers had to score as soon as possible against two defenders. Because of the competition and the reality of the game the intensity and effort was at an all-time high.
From the professional player to kids just playing for fun, games are an integral part of your training session.
Playing games engages and motivates your players therefore energy levels and participation increases.
Your players want to play games. This doesn’t mean letting them wildly kick and chase a ball across half a field (because most players won’t be engaged in play or get many touches of the ball), it means providing a challenge and a task that players are motivated to accomplish.
Every activity you do at training, ask yourself the question, ‘What is the challenge?’
If players don’t find your practice challenging, it’s just a matter of time before they become bored and lose interest.
Another application of playing games is what we call the ‘game sense approach.’ This means having elements in your practise that relate to a game situation. Is there opposition? A means of scoring? Is it directional? Does it challenge their decision making? Because the game has all these things.
Why do we train? To improve our performance in a game!
The more you can recreate game situations in a training environment, the better your players will perform in those same situations within the real game.
Play games, get the most effort and interest from your players and develop not only their skills, but their decision making to apply them effectively.
4. Stick to your session objective
The objective of the Newcastle Jets training session was conditioning and improving attacking combinations of the front three in confined areas. As a result the session was intense and fast paced which worked on the conditioning; the games were played in attacking areas of the pitch on small fields.
In approximately twenty five minutes of playing small games, there were over 160 shots on goal all coming from combinations between the front three in front of goal; that’s a shot on goal every 9 seconds.
As a coach, I should be able to guess what your session objective is by viewing what is happening.
If your objective is to develop a particular core skill (first touch, 1v1, running with the ball, striking the ball), then there will be repetition of that skill being executed throughout the session.
If your objective is working on a game moment (playing out from the back, midfield play, attacking, pressing or transitioning) then the session will most likely be in that area of the pitch, with similar passages of play being executed with players placed in similar positions.
The biggest impact a coach will ever have on his players is done by effective planning.
A purposeful practice means having a focus for the session as well as giving your players the best opportunity to improve by the constant execution of a particular skill or game situation.
The goal is to set your session objective, plan your session content, and observe and modify your session to successfully achieving the objective.
5. Give feedback
The Newcastle Jets coaching staff are constantly reviewing their training schedule and performances.
Players sit down in front of the big screen to review video footage, the players are constantly monitored. The training schedule is planned around how many + or – days a session occurs around games played.
There is a constant process of the giving and receiving of information, all working towards the improvement in overall performances.
Again, this process can be implemented at a community level, however to a different extent.
Filling out a self-evaluation form after a training session will help you reflect on what worked well, and what you can change next time to improve.
Having another coach or mentor observe your session and give you feedback is another great way to improve. Many coaches plan a 6 week training cycle and review the progress of their players before planning the next cycle.
Ask your players if they understand what you are explaining, use visual aids and diagrams to help you communicate effectively, check in with their progress and see if they are practising at home, or if they are carrying any injuries.
The Jets will often repeat the same session several times throughout the year to not only build familiarity with the practise, but to improve each time, building on from what was previously achieved, and then raising the standard.
If you want to improve your coaching style, and your teams performance, then feedback is critical.