I always say this but the mark of a good player is not just in their executions, but it’s in their intentions.
Sure, quality execution comes over time. It’s a repetition thing. But making smart decisions, having good intentions, that in my opinion comes first and also, is more important. It’s all about establishing the player’s perception skills first, how often are they scanning.
Greater scanning = Greater decision making = Greater actions.
Of course over time, quality comes, but quality can only foster once quantity is there. That’s why I think even at the youngest possible ages that we have working with players they should be encouraged to experience some form of decision making in all their exercises. Build the habit early, and the great thing is it really isn’t that hard to incorporate into sessions.
Let’s start with the warm-up, encouraging the players to observe first and then follow through with a specific action, related to that observation could be something like a ‘traffic lights’ game. For me, getting that deliberate observation action into the players at the earliest stage of the session is so key.
Sure, you’ll have some players that are a little slower than others because they aren’t as far ahead as their peers in terms of ball mastery and thus have to take those extra looks at the ball.. But, they can learn at their own pace.
Taking it a little more forward into the session, and things are increasingly game realistic. You could have some 1 v 1 or 2 v 1 games for example with multi goals. Perhaps you could have your defender having to cover 2 goals and thus it’s up to them how to manage the man on the ball, the spare man and the two goals.
Finally finishing with a small sided game, you could easily use some constraints such as not differentiating opponent color, or using deliberate small or irregular spaces. Again, keeping with the multi goal idea is effective or perhaps having
All examples you’ll notice, are more environmental conditions and needn’t take away from the core objective of the session you’re looking to achieve. So you could easily have a very technical or tactical objective, with all exercises built around that, but by using these perception based conditions within the exercises you not get you’re players actively having to think for themselves, you also get good technical competency.
Increased perception leads to better decisions. Better decisions leads to better actions. This separates good players from great ones.
So what things have you done in the past that have worked well to increase your players scanning? Let me know.