At a time when digital communication impacts so much of our lives, it's perhaps only natural that more coaches are struggling around the area of communication with their team. In addition to our reliance on technology, another recent impact could be the increase of tactical models at every level of the game. This generation of players could be the first who are exposed to 'game models' from their early experiences in the game and, although this has the capacity to increase tactical understanding, it also has the potential to remove the player from the conversations on the training pitch. So many game models today are taught with a hierarchical leadership style, where the head coach dictates detailed movements in every phase of the game. Former Arsenal and Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas recently commented on the changes that he experienced in the game. “The freedom I had at the start of my career compared to the end, was day and night. Coaches today tell you exactly how they want you to play, what you have to do, when you have to do it, and with five subs there’s a 50% chance you will be substituted in a game.“
With these challenges, coaches now have to be better prepared than ever to facilitate more conversations and communication around their training sessions. With better communication, team cohesion can increase, individuals can thrive, and team spirit can grow. In this week's breakdown, we take a look at three ways in which coaches can do this on the training pitch. If you would like to watch the full video breakdown of the exercises, please click here. Below are a breakdown of these three ways:
1. Transitional Games
As coaches become more deliberate about where and when to give players more space to communicate, the type of exercise can be simple but very effective. A competitive, transitional game where players have to organize, re-organize, and support one another can be a very powerful exercise to build confidence and good habits when it comes to communication. Below is an example of a game with a number of transitions: 2v1 into 2v2, 3v2 into 3v3, and finally 4v3 into 4v4. If the players are clear on the rules and conditions of the game, the coach can let them 'coach' their own team and it can be a great teaching tool for this specific aspect of the game.
2. Tactical Games with Specific Leaders
The higher the level, 'what' is being communicated amongst teammates becomes more important. For example, moving beyond individual encouragement to tactical information can now help players pass on information and feedback to one another in key moments of a game. In this game below, teams play 7v7 four-goal game with a key condition: one player from each team steps behind the playing area and is the only player who can communicate with their team. Within this exercise, coaches can observe two things. Firstly, are the players aware of defensive principles within the game model? Secondly, how confident are the individual players in passing on this information to their team? Coaches can help support the players and change the 'leader' every 90 seconds to give everyone the opportunity to participate in the role.
3. Team Games with Reflections
Potentially the most organic and natural way to develop more conversations within practice is to empower the players to have those important conversation during stoppages, rather than the coach continually taking responsibility for it. Again, having a tactical topic can always challenge both the understanding of the players and the effectiveness of the teaching. Teams can play a tactical game and then coaches can allow them 90-seconds to talk amongst themselves during the breaks. The coaching staff can modify who addresses the team or what specific area they are to discuss, or they can just let natural conversations take place and see what emerges. As players get more familiar with these situations, it's common to see more individual conversations take place around the group, which can be effective on match day also.
To watch the full breakdown on YouTube, please see below.