My UEFA B – Block 2

Block 2 – Blog 2

First of all, thank you to anybody who read the first blog in this series which covered Block 1 of our course. It seems to have been fairly well received and has certainly made writing this one easier! If you haven’t already, you can read it here.

In-Situ 1 – Feedback

To start, I thought that it would be worth revisiting my first in-situ visit and in particular, the feedback which I received afterwards from Andy, as it had only just happened when the last blog was written up and so I didn’t want to add even more content to the first ramble.

The session itself, I thought went averagely, maybe a 4 or 5 out of 10 but certainly not my best work. It was great during the session to have Andy asking questions of both me and my players to allow us all to show our knowledge and for me to pick up little things I had missed during the session. I was pleased that Andy took the time to work with one of my players so that the team could really see the level of detail I am working towards and appreciate the hard work that I am putting into it so far in an effort to help them improve.

I won’t share all of the content of my feedback form, in-fact I will keep it pretty succinct (one for my fellow candidates there), but I must say that the level of detail really impressed me as it has given me so much to work on moving forward and also a bit of confidence with the list of positives that Andy also took from my session.

In short, Andy commented positively on:

– The environment I had created for the players to work in

– My use of ‘fly-bys’ being great and an effective tool when used properly

– The evidence that there was a lot of depth in areas of my planning (though personally, I am learning that some of this might be in the wrong areas!)

Andy noted that it would be even better if:

– There was a little more realism in my session in regards to practice design

– I had managed the opposition a little bit better in their set-up and objectives

– There was greater technical and tactical detail evident in my questioning and instruction to players

– Some behaviour management RE my players, some of which I hadn’t spotted!

His final two pieces of advice was that “the principles of play are our foundations and having that knowledge in the locker will make all of the difference.”

Block 2

Going into Block 2, I was a little bit wary of my knowledge base given the experiences of Block 1 and those moments where I felt I was a little bit behind where I should be. To counteract that and off the back of Andy’s feedback, I have since spent a lot of time building that base in order to ensure I have the required tools to help my players in improving, not saying it is anywhere near perfect, but it certainly lifted my confidence a little going into days 4 and 5 of the course.

During that time I had also had a fair amount of contact with some of the other course candidates, which I always think eases the nerves that might come with going back into a coach education situation, particularly when you see and hear that some of those coaches are having similar struggles or yourself or that there’s a situation they can solve for you and vice versa. I genuinely think that there’s a great group on this course and that alone is helping me no-end. 

Workshop Day by Day

This time around, I’ll keep a lot of the detail relatively brief on the day-to-day as there was a lot of great delivery including some by the candidates. My partner for this task, James Thwaite has written a piece about our session which you can see below as a part of the day 2 breakdown.

Day 1

This block was was titled ‘Plan, Do Review – Practice Design’ as that was going to be our theme for the coming days, something I was very pleased about, given my recent feedback!

To start, Andy reminded us that the UEFA B is a big step up from where we started the course as it is the highest grassroots qualification that can be achieved. He also noted that from the in-situ visits, it was clear to see the journey we were on and he appreciates the hard work that the group are putting in.

We reviewed some of our learning from Block 1 and the time leading up to now and then were given time to plan some sessions to deliver ourselves. Heading out onto the pitch and in pairs, some of my fellow candidates delivered sessions on working with a goalkeeper, creating chances for a ‘9’ and defending against direct opposition.

In the afternoon session, Richard covered some work on ‘Units Within Units’ which really challenged the group on how to identify the players you are working with in a session. To start, we were tasked to define ‘a unit’ and came up with “a group of players who work together to achieve a goal for the team” after a few varied, but similar attempts from tables around the room.

We also defined the ‘Primary Player’ (your main focus), the ‘Secondary unit’ (the next player or group ‘around’ the ball) and clarified that a unit can be lateral, vertical or in zones, depending on the session or area of the field you are working on.

Day 2

Day 2 started with a planning session for some candidate delivery. As mentioned above I worked with James Thwaite to deliver this session and he has kindly written it up for us, to save you from having to read even more from me! James holds the FA Youth Award and is a coach with Sunderland Foundation of Light and Durham University. He has also worked for Hartlepool United FC.

You can follow him on Twitter here.

2.James

(James now writing)

Our Session – Planning

So initially, groups around the room were given different scenarios and told to plan a session around these themes. We were presented with the problem of having to play against a team who are comfortable on the ball and like to play through the thirds, whilst set up in a GK-4-4-2 shape. Our team were to be set up in a GK-4-3-3 system, and our focus players for the session were to be the midfielders and forwards, as we sought to disrupt and prevent opposition attacks and developed a session for this outcome accordingly.

After some discussion around the problem we faced in larger groups, myself and Kieren convened and both agreed that we needed to create a high pressing situation from our forward players to deal with this opposition effectively. To do this, we wanted to develop a session where we maximised the amount of times of this particular scenario arose.

It is sometimes difficult, and something I sometimes find a little frustrating, when having to plan a session with somebody you haven’t really met before and you both aren’t on the same wavelength. Thankfully the only thing myself and Kieren were not able to agree on right away was the kind of session that we were going to put on to achieve our target. The basis of this was that Kez regularly trains on a third of a 3G and I often have a full half (lucky me). If I were I planning this session around myself and my Durham University team, I would likely have chosen to create a phase of play in a half pitch. However, with a third of a pitch seemingly slightly more (a) challenging/interesting, and (b) realistic to what other coaches may be faced with regularly, we opted for the third.

We decided to be a little brave and try put on a session that we hadn’t really seen anything like previously on the course. We wanted to create a small sided game, but try and use all of the space we had available in our third to create slightly more realistic angles and distances between players and units, seeing as we were working on an out of possession topic where these factors are fairly key (i.e. we didn’t want to make it too easy for the out of possession side, as they already were working in reduced space).

Our SSG was fairly constraints-based I guess. We had our goals offset to one side (KL – you can see this in the diagram at the end of this section), so it was as if we were working down one side of the pitch only, in this case the right hand side, the idea being that had we the time, we would switch this over to give exposure to players on both sides of the field. We also split the pitch into lateral thirds.

Taking a bit of inspiration from the FA Youth Award, we decided that this game would be well suited to being dubbed a “Classico” in that our in possession team, the team we’re trying to stop, would be Barcelona and the focus of the session, the high pressing, out of possession team should be Real Madrid.

2.RRR.jpg

To help us in creating a realistic version of the situation our challenge asked of us, we used ‘the 3 Rs’ that are pictured above. We REWARDED Barcelona for every pass played resulting in a bonus goal if they finished off the move (5 passes and scoring = 6 goals) and asked them to try and play out from the back which is an objective directly RELATED to the way we wanted them to play and a potential tactic in a game situation. Real Madrid on the other hand, scored points for winning the ball back in advanced positions (4 for final third, 2 for midfield third) and got bonus points if this resulted in a goal for them. Further constraints or RESTRICTIONS we considered and kept up our sleeve in case our scenario wasn’t really coming out and included keeping Barcelona below head height or putting a time constraint on Madrid for winning the ball back.

The starting point was always from the Barcelona ‘keeper and we asked them to play out to the right centre-back (5). Real Madrid (the side we are coaching), were not permitted in the opposition third until the GK had played the ball, allowing us to create realistic closing angles and distances, instead of already being pressed high, creating the situation where the goalkeepers’ only real option was to play long which was not what we wanted.

Every time the ball went out of play, the session restarted from this position. Because of the space available, we limited the players being used to 15, with 2 goalkeepers. As in the diagram below, the numbers used were:

Barca (Red) – 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9.

Real (White) – 1, 3, 6, 8, 9, 10 and 11.

2.Session Plan.png

Our Session – Delivery

There were a couple of situations that arose fairly early on in the practice that we needed to manage in order to keep the theme of the session on target. Initially, the Barcelona ‘2’ kept on dropping into deep positions to receive, instead of setting up high and wide, as you would expect from a team who are playing out from the back, in order to create the necessary space to do so. In all honesty, we didn’t pick up on this right away and in reflection we thought that happened as it simply wasn’t a situation we were expecting to arise and so weren’t necessarily looking for it. As it was on me to manage the opposition whilst Kieren led, this one was completely on me. My bad, Kez haha! (KL – well I didn’t spot it either!)

The second issue was that our Madrid ‘8’ was not closing space and shutting off passing lines effectively. When we got back inside and started discussing around this with the coach/player himself, we realised something that we simply hadn’t considered in our practice design set up. When setting up our Madrid midfield 3 we had opted to only use 2 of them, in order to create an 8v7, and elected to put a ‘6’ in instead. This was an error as it created a 2v2 in the midfield, as opposed to the 3v2 overload that we realistically would have in a game. Whilst our ‘11’ pressed the Barca ‘2’, and our ‘9’ and ‘10’ covered off the passing lines infield, our remaining midfielder was caught in-between 2 unoccupied players, giving rise to confusion for him, and an unrealistic scenario for us.

Our Session – Reflection

Looking back on the session now, I believe that this session was a good indicator of what is required at UEFA B License level. Our technical knowledge was sufficient. We coached on, around and away from the ball, asking for arced runs to cut off passing lines, press, cover, balance etc. However, where our session fell down slightly was in our design to allow all of these coaching points to arise naturally, simply because we had made it 2v2 in the middle of the pitch. A small oversight, but one that proved quite significant on the grass (KL – though at the very least we’re aware of it now!).

I admit that I quite enjoyed our daring to try the unorthodox small sided game style and I suppose we were trying to get towards what used to be termed a “function” on old-style B License courses, whilst maximising and working within limited space. It also achieved our initial aim of digging around for some feedback surrounding something we hadn’t seen yet. Given more than 30 mins to debate and plan, it would have been interesting to see what changes we’d have made and I think it was slightly more interesting than a standard phase of play anyway! (KL – here’s a photo of our actual plan, pulled together on the day and quite hectic as you’d imagine)

2.Whiteboard.jpg

Another point worth mentioning is that it’s quite telling that the majority of what I have written here is in the “planning” section. Not to take away from what happens on the grass, as this is obviously the most important area of coaching, but coaching at this level certainly challenges you to think and plan in much more detail than most (if not all) coaches on this course have previously. In time, I’d imagine that this time allocation would balance itself out as I grow in knowledge and experience, but for now planning looks like it will occupy the majority of my coaching minutes.

(Kieren now writing)

Brilliant, I enjoyed reading that and I hope any readers have too. Thank you for your time in pulling this together and for delivering with me, James.

Finishing Day 2

To round off Day 2 and bring the block to a close, our Tutor Graeme Clark delivered a session on ‘blended practice,’ the term he used to describe his session design process with considerations for; different game scenarios, the development needs of his players, his own coaching and playing philosophy.

The session Graeme delivered was a game, based on ‘Maintain and Build vs Possession’ and he took us through his planning process, using this brilliant little tool to help with your thinking.

So, as you can see, by identifying the player you are working with, then the unit, secondary unit and then variables around it, you really start to get a picture of a session before you’ve really got into an in-depth session plan. Give it a go with your next session; it’s amazing how much it helps.

In the session, it was really hard work on the counter team but really enjoyable to be a part of, which are two points that as a coach and as a player I really want from a session.

We also took part on a session with Lewis Dickman, who is an FA Youth Coach Educator and works very closely with the professional clubs in our area and has a lot of experience within the professional game. His session was based on working with wide-players on varying their runs and interestingly used an overload in favour of the defending team (something I can’t recall ever doing!) to make the session a great challenge for the team he was working with.

In review in the classroom, we agreed as a group that there was a lot of technical detail in both of the sessions, the ‘3 Rs’ (from earlier) and also a few different styles of coaching and interventions to use. Brilliant. On that note, Richard made a great point around coaching styles, in that we will all have a preference, but there are benefits to using a few. There isn’t a ‘correct’ way to coach; coaches should never lose their personality as their style should represent who they are.

Reflection and Progress

Overall, I think the block came at the perfect time for me in my UEFA B journey as I needed support on the topics we covered, but also felt myself beginning to get lost in my learning away from the corse and needed redirecting. Block 2 refilled my confidence, in particular being able to deliver for my peers and the feedback that James and I received after doing so.

Also, as I mentioned in the previous blog, we each have to complete a project about our club, our team and our own styles as coaches to ensure that there is a clear understanding of why we do what we do. This entails the session and match plans which we’ve used throughout the season, whilst working with our teams and also some more detailed, tactical information about how we like to play and our expectations of individuals within our side.

A few of my fellow candidates have shared some brilliant content on this already and it’s great to see how differently everyone has looked at it and used their own creativity to bring it to life. One aspect which Andy Lowe spoke about was position specific detail for your own players and how creating a ‘spider diagram’ or ‘mind map’ of a position, can really help you to understand the role of each player on and off the ball and also whilst designing your own sessions.

Here’s an early version for a number 3, a position I am hoping I have somewhere near right as I play there too!! (Excuse the scribble)

2.position

Elsewhere in the project, I feel I am making good progress with the number of sessions I have now delivered (the expectation is for 18 sessions and 18 match plans) though I am aware that the standard of my early attempts isn’t as good as the latter and so I may be tagging more onto the end to lift that standard higher.

Overall, I am really enjoying this course and the amount of learning that it demands you do away from the course. I am really starting to recognise that me going through this process is hugely benefiting me as a coach and most importantly the players I am working with.

Thanks for reading,

Kieren

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