The what and the how

As a coach one of your main duties is to decide the tactics for your team, the communication between your players in the game. Based on the players you have available, the league you’re playing in and other external factors you have thought of a certain way of playing, tactics, that will increase the chance for your team to succeed.

For example you may decide that when defending and disturbing the build-up of the opponent you want your players to press horizontally because you think that will give you a greater chance of reducing scoring opportunities and win the ball back.

So what your players are supposed to do in the game is press horizontally, that’s your tactics and the communication which your players will base their decisions on. How your players press horizontally will be depending on the opponent, their team-mates and other factors as for example the pitch, the score and time remaining in the game.

In the game, your players will make the decision to press horizontally based on the communication described above and execute that decision from a certain position, at a certain moment, in a certain direction and at a certain speed.

These four space/time characteristics of position, moment, direction and speed are part of all football actions. Your players decide to press from a position on the pitch, at a moment, in a direction and at a speed.

When you are coaching your players you first coach the communication (tactics) to make it clear what the players are expected to do in the game, in our example horizontal pressing. Then you coach the players decision making, how they are going to press, by helping them figure out the right position, the right moment, the right direction and the right speed in which to press.

Coaching the decision making of your players is most efficiently done by asking questions, for example; what is you position in relation to the opponent and your team-mates? Would it be better if you positioned yourself here or there? When should you press? Should you wait until the opponent received the ball or when the ball is played towards the opponent? What direction should you press? Should you run straight or maybe come in at an angle? How fast should you run? Jogging or sprinting in the beginning and always at the same speed or slow down closer to the opponent? Etc.

In order for you to be able to coach the decision making of your players you need to be able to recognize the situations when they are happening on the pitch. Then you can choose to either stop play when the situation is happening or coach a player shortly after it has happened.

Since the decision making of one player of your team will impact the decision making of other players it might be a good idea to sometimes stop play and ask questions loudly so also the team-mates of the player you decided to coach can hear.

In addition, you might for example ask the central midfielder if the position of the winger before pressing is good and if not why and what position would be preferable. Let the central midfielder coach how the winger presses in training and you will increase the chance of this coaching also happening during the game.

Naturally this can only be done effectively if the tactical reference is clear to your players. The tactics you have decided, what the players are supposed to do, is what they base their decisions on. Then you can coach how the players do the what and the four space time characteristics of every football action; position, moment, direction and speed.   

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