It's definitely been a crazy week for everyone involved in the game of soccer around the world. Coaching seems to have moved from the pitch to the phone with social media. With may coaches looking for ways to impact and communicate with players this week, I was really impressed after seeing the work done on Twitter by Scottish Premiership club Aberdeen, I was keen to speak with Head of Academy Coaching Gavin Levey about their work. Is this just a social media fad aimed at keeping players busy during this time of uncertainty, or is individual practice embedded in the culture of Aberdeen FC? I think Gavin more than answers this question in the full interview below.
There are a few takeaways for me from that conversation with Gavin. Firstly, their club culture seems to have made so much of the messaging around 'isolated skills' easier. Practice is one of their cornerstones, as is the relationship with parents, which Gavin alludes to having a massive impact on the player away from the academy. Because practice plays a prominent role at the club and is a big part of the coaching vocabulary, communicating them via phone or email can be easier. Secondly, you can tell that there are key objectives with the technical work. It's not just a case of basic juggling or encouraging young players to do something spectacular on social media. Gavin's example of the player doing an exercise in a squash court with him advising on distances shows that there still must be a reason and detail behind the work. He talked about measuring it, setting goals, and being able to see the difference between a player commits to it or doesn't. In my opinion, if the player is aware of this level of quality control at the top, they are much more likely to buy-in to the work and embrace it.
Another aspect that I thought was excellent was that they are not just looking at the technical piece. Gavin mentioned that the sports science department, analysis department, and the education department, and were all ready to go with their 'homework' and programs for the players to take to their homes. This shows two things for me: firstly that there is very much a collaborative approach at the club with departments all moving in the same direction cohesively. Secondly, they value the holistic development of the player and not just the technical side. It's easy to see in the interview that Gavin values many components necessary to develop an elite-level player, and that is consistent with the processes that they have in place.
On that last note regarding tactical 'homework', if you don't have access to an analysis department and want to work with your players remotely, please take a look at our podcast sponsors and friends at SportsLab360. It's a platform specifically designed to improve players tactical IQ, as well as allowing coaches the opportunity to guide learning and reflection on that side of the game. We have worked alongside them for over a year and I have even helped Nick with some of the content on the site. Please check out their work below and shoot Nick an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. He is always been generous with his discounts to MSC Podcast listeners and is keen to help coaches and clubs during this difficult time.
If you would like to listen to the MSC Podcast version of the intervew.