Every coach should watch a lot of football. And by a lot, I mean, A LOT. It’s huge part of the process of forming a football philosophy. Everything that happens in a game will make the coach think, reassess his own team, form an idea of how football should and shouldn’t be played, and, in case the football knowledge is already solid, provide new ideas.
Well, that conclusion was easy to reach, but now other problems arise: What to watch? We can watch pretty much any game we want these days and that can be overwhelming. With internet, one has access to any game of any league, live (or with a few minutes of delay). And, in case we’re too busy in a given time, the full games and extended highlights are within two clicks of the mouse. Plus, the local fields everywhere are loaded with games from regional leagues, of any age group. It’s personally a source of anxiety to me, because I feel I’m out of the loop if I’m not following the games. Specially in times like this when we have the EURO, Copa América and Brazilian football, all going on at the same time. But who, in our days, has time to stop and watch 2 hours of football twice a week or more? It’s unrealistic, unless you’re paid for it.
So, how can we pick? My idea (and I’m far from doing it as I write) is to plan ahead and pick two games a week, from the Top Leagues in the world and have a look at them. It’s imperative to watch a few games of top english, german, italian and spanish teams to start with. Not only for tactical purposes, but to have a look at the technique standards of contemporary football. It’s not bad to have a favorite team and watch every single game. Maybe that team reflects our football philosophy and learning about it in detail will give us a better insight on the coach’s mind than an occasional game. Also, it’s good, in case we’re coaching, to watch a few games of our own league. In the beginning of the season I went to watch 2 games of the U14 Div 1 in Brisbane to see what kind of opposition I would face. Obviously I won’t watch a game every week but it’s a good exercise. Top football is, for many reasons, completely different of amateur football, and watching the local leagues brings our feet to earth. Whatever we see in the top notch game we’ll adjust to our reality.
Another important issue is: how to watch it? Sit in front of the TV screen and relax while drinking a beer? Yeah, we should watch games just for fun sometimes. But usually what I like to do is to use pen and paper to write down important moments of the game (with the correspondent times), my observations, and brainstorm ideas. Most of what we think and see is easily forgotten. Currently I’m in the process of forming a Portfolio of watched games, with one file for each. There are softwares that will make it really easy to edit and file moments of games, but unfortunately they’re too expensive for an amateur coach. So, while I don’t get there, pen, paper, excel, a cheap video editing software and a bit of organization will do the job.
Just to illustrate, I’ve read a lot about Marcelo Bielsa and one thing that caught my attention was that when arrived for his first interview to coach a team he had a whole suitcase of files, videos, magazines and other data, explaining his views on football and how he would translate that into reality.
So, coaches, let’s not neglect it. Let’s not take our knowledge for granted. The game is rapidly evolving and we risk become outdated within a blink of an eye.