There are a lot of resources online about how you can coach football. These resources usually have their starting point in someone else’s subjective application of coaching football in their particular environment. This in itself is not a problem as long as you as the coach who are visiting these resources understand that this is the case. However, the problem arises when your own subjective application of coaching football takes someone else’s subjective application as the starting point. In this post, let’s look at what coaching football is from a philosophical viewpoint to give you as the coach an objective starting point for your subjective application on the pitch.
First, we need to understand that coaching football is something that happens within the context of the game of football. This game contains of the team functions; attacking, transitioning and defending, with the objective of winning which is done by scoring minimum one more goal than the opponent. The team functions have different team tasks, when your team is attacking they are executing the team tasks of building up to create chances and (hopefully) scoring while when defending they are disturbing the build up of the opponent and preventing scoring. Each player on the pitch contributes to the respective team task by executing different football actions, i.e. passing, creating space, pressing, blocking passing lanes etc. A football action is communication, decision making and execution of that decision. In football, the players are the ones that make the decisions on the pitch which is why we call football a players sport and not a coaches sport (as for example baseball).
Now, imagine that you as the coach of your team would ignore the context of the game in your training sessions. How would that look? It could for example mean that you have activities where players are kicking the ball around cones, executing ”passing patterns” without opponents and other, similar activities without the need for (verbal and non-verbal) communication and decision making. Execution for the sake of execution. Does this example sound familiar? Coaching football means that you as the coach help the players improve their football actions. But how can you improve a football action without any communication and decision making?
Since the game of football is played 11 against 11 (in youth football the game is simplified with fewer players on each team) it is not enough to coach each player individually without taking their team-mates, opponents and the context of the game into consideration. Therefore, coaching football is done in the context of the different team-functions; attacking, transitioning and defending with the appropriate team-task and opponents. In addition to improving the individual players football actions, coaching football also means improving the quality of the different team-functions in order to help your team perform better and increase the chance of winning.
To summarize, coaching football is enabling players to execute better decisions (football actions) in the game of football. This is done by helping the players improve their football actions together with their team-mates in the context of attacking, transitioning and defending against an opponent. How you help the players, or how you coach, is your subjective application, or style of coaching football.
If you are interested in more football philosophy, I strongly recommend the book Football Theory by Jan W.I. Tamboer that you can buy here.