I don’t want to simply reproduce things that I’ve learned or read, but the FFA Coaching Expertise model reflects accurately what I think. It’s a picture of what knowledge and skills a coach needs to operate well and be successful.
As discussed in the “Football Philosophy” post, what will guide the coach’s work in its entirety is the vision he\she has on how football should be played. And that is forged not only by lifetime of football experiences, but also by the personality, the family, cultural and social experiences. It’s hard to dissociate it from all the rest.
How do you translate that philosophy into the football park? Usually the first and only thing we think about is TRAINING. Obviously a good coach has to be a good trainer. He needs to have a clear picture in his mind of how the team will play and influence the behaviors of his players. There’ll be tons of articles about training theory and practice here, but probably the most important thing is to make it realistic. To think of the situations that will happen in a game and try to reproduce them as precisely as possible.
To make that possible a coach has to be a good manager. And not only of people, but of his own life, his time, his gear, the relationship with the clubs and parents, everything. And here comes the ethics component that can’t be neglected. A coach needs to be a good person, with healthy habits and coherence. Even being aware of all of this, it’s so easy to catch yourself not being fair in the rush of a session, or not using the right words to approach a player. Being either too rough or too soft. Or passing a joke of bad taste, or saying something inappropriate. So many things that I could spend hours listing them. I don’t mean a coach should calculate everything, otherwise he would lose it’s authenticity, but we do need to be careful and assess everything constantly.
The third area of knowledge refers to Match Day. It’s the least important one in my opinion, specially at a young age. We shouldn’t coach at match day. What we need to do is provide the environment for them to remember what’s been practiced during training. From my experience with youth football, we can help them with that by consistently using trigger words (press!, next! reaction! second movement!), but they should always relate to something that has been already established. More often than not I see coaches teaching during games and it’s definitely not a good idea. To be able to deal with the matchday the coach must have planned it in advance. He must think of possible outcomes, what will he do if any player is injured (he must have a sub for each and every one of them). Also prepare team talks for before the game, midgame and post-game. Think about and prepare the warm-up and deal with short notice happenings: state of the pitch, a player that didn’t show up, referees and opponent coaches, etc.
Also, obviously, you’ll try to affect the result of the game as much as you can, by instructing your players from the bench, without overdoing it, and tactically responding to the game resistences that will show up. I disagree that we shouldn’t drive our players, as FFA says, we should just have common sense about it.
If the philosophy is the frame for your entire work, the way you’re going to implement it depends on your football knowledge. You’ll have to put in practice everything you know. Where players should go, how should they touch the ball, tackle an opponent, communicate. And not only that, but also, how to teach that. And again, this knowledge comes from all your past experiences in football.
All those areas of knowledge are important and interdependent. But the most successful coaches are very good in all of them. It does sound scary. But it’s not so much if you love the game. If you do, the bits that you don’t know about, you’re more than keen to learn.