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Head Coach Corner: Are you an average coach or a great coach?

by Nathan Linley


Manchester Futsal Club Head Coach Sergi Saldana returns with his monthly feature which brings an opportunity for all futsal coaches to reflect on their approach to delivering high quality futsal sessions that will have development opportunities for the players and more importantly the coach themselves.

Nowadays to be a futsal coach it is very easy. Anyone can do it through having some basic concepts about this fantastic sport and having clarity about how I want to attack and how I want to defend, meaning, my offensive system and my defensive system.

Everyone has access to the Internet to see different kinds of exercises to work on any aspect of the game, and many coaches learn the exercises from other coaches or because they have been players previously.

When I completed the third level of futsal, Fede Vidal (Assistant Coach of Spain) told us a very important thing and I completely agree with him; a coach has to think what he wants to train, how he wants to do it and which aspects to focus on in order to correct the mistakes. If we see exercises on the Internet or we have seen it done by other coaches and the only thing that we do is "copy" the exercise without knowing the ‘why of the exercise’ and what we should correct, we will only achieve being copybook of other coaches.  Even worse, the likely quality of the exercise will be much lower than the real performance that could be taken from it.

When a coach wants to train any aspect of the game, he should think carefully how to train it, think how it will favour the growth of the player and not automatically use an exercise that he has seen previously or has found on the Internet.

When a coach thinks about what he has to train, and it arises in his mind how the exercise should be delivered to achieve the proposed aims, then this is when he grows as a coach as well. The players make mistakes, and from the mistakes, they improve.  The coaches are quite simply no different. If you plan how you could train some elements of the game and you carry it out and then you carefully analyse if the aims that you wanted to achieve have been fulfilled and you change whatever it takes (space, density of players, rules, time, etc.) is when, over time, you will have a much greater control of the quality of your sessions and you will know what to train, how and what to correct.

For me, a good coach is not the one who demonstrates that he knows a lot of exercises and can teach to the players his capacity to do a lot of different exercises. For me, the great coach is the one who is clear about what he is training, why he is training it, what the aim of the exercise is and what he has to take notice of to correct the mistakes.

In the end, the most important things are the details that you give to your players, the information that they receive. The player cannot do an exercise where you ask for maximum intensity, but, when there are mistakes to correct you are not able to even identify them. The difference between an average futsal coach and a good futsal coach is the quality of his sessions and that means the information that the player receives, and the details that are given. The great coach is the one who prepares exercises knowing what he wants to obtain through them, what details he should give to his players and what mistakes he has to correct.

I am going to give you a simple example here.  Your team defends in half court and you see that your team have a lot of counter-attacks during the matches. So you decide to train, for example, overload 3v2 where the players have to attack continuously 3v2 in both goals, asking to finalise the attacks as fast as possible because if not it would no longer be a counter-attack and in a match the defenders would arrive back in position. Therefore, you ask maximum intensity and continuous attacks from side to side. At the end of the first series of, for example, 3 minutes, you say to them that they have done pretty well, at a great intensity but that we should arrive more times to the back post and try to score more goals. The exercise is easy and you have seen it done a lot of times by other coaches and, apparently, it seems that the work you have done has been excellent.

The Problem: What are the details, the premises that you have given to the player at a qualitative level? ZERO! Where should the player drive the ball? When should they pass the ball? If the player with the ball is in one side, what should this one do and, most importantly, what should the player without the ball situated in the middle have to do? When do I have to go to the parallel or stay in the middle, offering a pass line? When do I have to cut and how? Do I have to face the defender? Why and how? I know what is my dominant leg and that of my opponent? What should the players situated in both sides do? Keep open in maximum width? Approach the player with the ball? When should I arrive to the back post? What is more important, width or depth?

Realise that in a simple exercise of continuous counter attacks 3v2 you can make it easy because it is simple, the players will understand easily and you have seen it many times. You finish the exercise very happy with the intensity in which it has been done and in addition, the players have scored more goals in the second series that you have done and it seems that the aim has been fulfilled.

But, what was the aim? If the aim was conditional, physical, you have probably fulfilled it. If the aim was to improve the efficiency of the counter-attack of your team to be more effective during the matches, the aim has not been fulfilled because you have not given the relevant information to the player, you have not given those details that really are the most important when you are training.

If you want to be a great coach, do not copy exercises, do not look for them online, think what do you want to train and how you could do it and, the most important, you must ask yourself what is the aim and what details you should give to your players.

The typical topic "the quality is more important than the quantity" in that case is 100% applicable. Less exercises, more details and stop always whenever it is necessary to correct and explain the mistakes. As much as the players do not like it, it is the only way to improve and grow.

If you give the player the answers to the problems that you pose, or you help him to find the correct answer, this approach will be when the player will understand better what it is happening and what he should do to solve the problem. So, your player will grow, and you will be a great coach for it.