When designing a session it's important to know what your learning outcomes are and what it is you're trying to address. One option for planning a session is to start from this end point and work your way backwards from there. Once you've got the session structure in place, can you drill down further into your activities so that you give the players everything they need to meet that learning outcome? This is what I call the "Who, What, Where, When, Why."

 

Who?

If you've already got the learning outcome in mind, the Who becomes fairly straight forward. If I'm working on the scissor, I'm probably working on the player in possession of the ball (1st attacker) and their ability to beat a defender 1 v. 1 with the scissor move. 

The Who might relate to any number of players:

  • Individual player (therefore everyone in the session working on that topic)
  • Group tactics such as 2 v. 1 attacking
  • Team tactics. This could be defensive shape or counter attacking play
  • Functional training, you may only be working with one player or one position (coaching the #10 and their role linking the midfield and attack).

Either way, the Who is usually fairly evident to the players and this is a question they should be able to answer fairly easily at the end of the session. Who does this session relate to?

 

What?

While a player may pick up very quickly on Who the session relates to, the What of the session may not become apparent right away. For example, last night my players didn't know until halfway through our first activity what they were working on. They were set up in a 1 v. 1 game with a gate at either end of the area to score in.

 The White team plays into the Blue team and is live after the pass. They play 1 v. 1 until a goal is scored or the ball goes out.

The White team plays into the Blue team and is live after the pass. They play 1 v. 1 until a goal is scored or the ball goes out.

After my first few coaching points, I asked my players what we were working on. Their first guesses were passing and communicating. It wasn't until after a few more specific coaching points that they discovered we were concentrating on 1 v. 1 defending. This What is very important as there is a lot of noise and distraction within sessions. If your players don't know What they're working on, how can they focus on making sure they are deliberate in their practice of the topic?

The What can be split up broadly into the following categories;

  • Technical
  • Tactical
  • Physical
  • Psychological.

Components of these can be the focus of entire sessions and it's the coaches job to know what the learning outcomes are going to be and how these components build into achieving those learning outcomes.

For example, if working on 1 v. 1 defending as above, the What of the session might be twofold; defending technique, body shape, how to tackle (technical) and building a defenders mentality, the desire to keep a clean sheet and the challenge and pride in not allowing the opponent to score (psychological). What did we work on in today's session?

 

Where?

The Where of a session is vital for teaching young players any topic. Different techniques are more suited to different parts of the field and specific situations that may only occur in certain areas. As such, the coach should look to communicate this to their players.

When coaching the overlap, you're probably not telling your centre back to get around the centre midfielder (though you might if you're Emre Can). Therefore, it's important to show players Where on the field that particular combination play would be useful.

  A passes square to B. B plays diagonal to C and follows as a passive defender. 

A passes square to B. B plays diagonal to C and follows as a passive defender. 

  C drives at B and commits them before playing in D who has made the overlapping run.

C drives at B and commits them before playing in D who has made the overlapping run.

 If space allows, can you set up your session so that players can see it in relation to the bigger picture i.e.  Where  they would do it in a game.

If space allows, can you set up your session so that players can see it in relation to the bigger picture i.e. Where they would do it in a game.

The activity above is a small snippet on performing the overlap. On it's own, it can address the technique and movement involved, but without the Where, it lacks all the information relevant for the player to fully understand how to apply it in a game and is learnt out of context. Where would you use the overlap in a game?

 

When?

The Where and the When are closely linked but the difference lies in the pressure that the player is under, where that pressure is coming from, the speed at which it's coming and the space available. For example, I might ask, when would you do a scissor in a game and have a number of answers relate to whereabouts on the field a player would perform that move (usually final third). 

However, this doesn't address the When but the Where. The When of the scissor move or any move that's being used to beat a defender in front is when there's space behind the defender to get into. Therefore, I would teach my players to use the scissor when there is space behind the defender. Otherwise, it's a pretty ineffective move and may be unnecessary. Take the example below:

 In the activity above, the defender can only move side to side on the green line.

In the activity above, the defender can only move side to side on the green line.

 The highlighted area shows the area of the field the attacker is trying to get into.

The highlighted area shows the area of the field the attacker is trying to get into.

In the images above, you can see a 1 v. 1 game with the purpose of the attacker being to beat the defender and penetrate the space behind them. Though you could set the activity up in the relative area of the field, it is the space behind the defender that is the key to the activity and shows the attacker When to use the scissor to beat a defender. When might you use the scissor to beat a defender?

 

Why?

One of the best parts of coaching is when a player questions Why you're doing something a certain way. This shows me that they're engaged and actively trying to build an understanding of all of the above; the Who, What, Where, When.

The Why means players want justification for the activity/topic they're working on and you may not always have an answer - but that's the best part. By thinking these questions through beforehand, you may come up with one or at least be able to justify some component of it.

Take the example of the scissor again. If the defender is in front and there's space behind them, my preference is the shimmy or the scissor. Why? Because it's a move that you can do whilst dribbling at speed, which is much harder to defend against than someone that's going 70% trying to do a fancier move.

 Doing the scissor is effective because it can be done whilst dribbling quickly.

Doing the scissor is effective because it can be done whilst dribbling quickly.

The added benefit of the scissor is that you can go left OR right, providing you drive directly at the defender. I see some players try the Maradona and have less success with it in this scenario. They struggle because it's more of a change of direction than 1 v. 1 move to beat a defender in front.

Whilst I will let players try any number of moves and tricks to beat defenders, I can show them some of the most effective and be able to justify Why they're effective so that they have a greater understanding that may go into their decision making in a game. Why would you do a scissor v. a Maradona move in this situation?

 

Feedback Loop

If you can incorporate the above elements into getting across your learning outcomes then you can start to ask the following questions of your players and really test what they've been learning. 

  • Who does this session relate to?
  • What did we work on in today's session?
  • Where would you use ____ on the field?
  • When might you use ____ in a game?
  • Why would you do  ____ v.  ____  in this situation?

 

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