Technical or Tactical which comes first?

As a coach, having a team to my name is a luxury I feel grateful to have. So to have three I truly feel blessed. I am very grateful to be out here and to have the contact time on the field with my teams so regularly. It really is a great development time in my young coaching career and I feel now is as good a time as any to take a pause to appreciate this, after being on what has been on a steep upward climb in terms of education, qualifications and experiences in a short number of years.

However. I don’t plan to just sit and take stock for long. There is serious work to be done and I want to continue on this path by building on my experiences through actively applying knowledge.

As mentioned in another post, I have gone into this season with a strong desire to focus on the development of the player and the development of a consistent team framework I believe will be crucial in supporting this. This will certainly cover the psychological-social aspects of my session makeup over the season which I have admitted to neglecting to before. However the actual ball related content and the nature in which it will make up sessions is something I have also attempted to re-examine and think carefully based on the range of abilities and experiences of the players I have at my disposal.

Two of my three teams I have are young teenagers. Players firmly within the ‘development phase’ of their soccer development. Under the English FA education to which I have been schooled in, players in this phase now look to build upon their technical foundations on which they were exposed to in their formative years and now begin to experience playing the game more in line with the real game; XI a side, offsides, more opponents, more teammates. There’s a lot to deal with.

So after some consideration, I went with the decision that we should firstly establish our tactical structure and introduce the game’s principles upon which will underpin all we do, our house foundations, before we turn our attentions to the technique which we will use to navigate within the structure, the bricks of our house. Thinking about it in this way made my decision easier.

In my first two sessions I therefore planned to use some practices that would allow the girls to experience both the attacking and defensive principles to best demonstrate this using varied transitional moments in different parts of the pitch. Of course, having a plentiful squad rather than just a team of XI and a few subs certainly allows for greater variety and realism of practices to demonstrate these principles. I had learnt to appreciate through the UEFA B course’s requirements, how important it is to have correct positional match ups within practices to increase game relevance. This need also corresponded with some first team sessions that I had seen on youtube, (such as this recent one of Dortmund in Japan this pre season), in which players were placed within points of the practice area that related to their on the field position. The last sessions were perhaps a little information heavy but I tried to explain to the girls in such a way as not to overwhelm them and to keep it bite-sized and memorable through scenario setting and then funnel questioning. Basically attempting to keep it player led as much as I could. Fortunately, the information seemed to be being retained slowly but surely.

So this is what has happened and I’m glad I’ve taken this approach.

Probably saying 'penetration' again
Probably saying ‘penetration’ again

However…

This may all be fairly pointless if the players are not able to execute the actions required to a good enough level. This is why ultimately, technique will always be king in my view.

Having established and examined the ideas of the game’s principles and repeatedly checked for understanding over the two sessions, I feel that it is highly important to turn our attentions back towards our technique. Now we have the tactical structure and we know what individual and collective actions to take within it, what remains is to increase the quality of how we take those actions. So from here, now we will begin to start revisiting the importance of the basic technical fundamentals. Our sessions will continue to have a tactical objective but the session content will not have an over emphasis on game-like practices as I had been having in those first two sessions. Time to wind things back and get in touch with our ‘foundation phase’ like practices, in order to increase our individual quality; ball manipulation: both feet, varied surfaces, different angles, different combinations. Dribbling, juggling, varied passing, aerial control, shooting.

What must then happen however, is a progression from unopposed and comfortable experimentation to opposed and masterful execution to allow for an effective transfer for games. Practices such as 1v1s, 2v2s, and small overloads are excellent for providing quick and hopefully with time, quality actions. Time should not be lost on executing technique in isolation for too long. Particular during squad sessions as these are the times that player numbers should be geared towards team objectives. Furthermore most technical fundamentals are things players can and should be doing on their own and I will certainly be demanding this with great urgency of all my players across the three teams!

So an important part of our work has been set up.

We have begun to lay the foundations with our tactical structure and game principles. Now to focus on mastering the masonry with our technical fundamentals.

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