There is an air of excitement in the camp as the very first friendly 11v11 game approaches. An energy of anticipation is brewing, conversations about possible situations, possibilities and of course the opposition.
Its been three years in the making for some of the boys. Many a time it was requested but I always remained firm to my policy of no competitive games other than those the boys play at their respective clubs and academy's. Mainly to manage load and stay within the gambit of my coaching model.
Why the change of heart. Well there are some boys who have played very little football over the last two years and for one boy that does not belong to a team at all but has been training for nearly two years. So as all the leagues draw to a close and the boys prepare to start their exams, I thought why not give the boys a game.
I have given myself two weeks to put a team together from only 12 boys and an array of ages from 13 to 17. Fortunately we have a nice balance of talent and two footed players plus a goal keeper we can rely on.
Still, I also have some boys who require quite a lot of tactical coaching, too much for the time I allocated myself, plus I decided on a different approach too.
The boys were challenged to take the initiative. Together we discussed the merits of the squad, strengths weaknesses plus the objectives on the day. Suggestions and input from everyone was embraced and together we formulated a formation, a line up and a tactic.
This comes from my policy of encouraging players to think like coaches for the simple reason that if they do then half the coaching points and directives a coach would normally make are already taken care of by the players.
In addition, there is a passing of ownership onto the players, a responsibility to understand and apply, a set of consequences, which I believe is a very important lesson for team sport players as well as for life. The modern player is not just an athlete and a fierce competitor but needs to be a problem solver and a leader.
The objectives therefore are very clear in my mind.
First, that everyone participates and can perform confidently with the role they have been given.
Second, that a decent percentage of the tactic is achieved.
Lastly, that together the team adapts to the game as a unit using the fundamentals and lessons they have been given to find solutions to the challenges.
If this can be achieved then I believe the maximum benefit will be derived from this game plus a high level of satisfaction and enjoyment.
Sport we all now should be about enjoyment, but learning and growing as a team and individuals at the same time as enjoying is first prize and here is the kicker, all this is regardless of the score.
The learning wont stop there.
Each boy will have his PLAYERMAKER Smart Tec sensors on his boots. A whole array of data will be gathered for the boys and I to discuss and understand. The data will illustrate masses of physical data from speed to max distance, from the number of accelerations to the total meters of high intensity running.
Then there is the technical and tactical data. Who was most involved with the ball, their technical balance and pass accuracy, even how hard they can kick the ball.
So actually, every boy is a winner because their hard work at training, hours of online during lockdown with repetitious ball skills practice was not for nothing. Now its substantiated and each player will see its value and be motivated to improve for next time.
Again, regardless of the score!