Deliberate Design and Tactical Creativity for a Deliberate Learning Intent

The player is one part of a dynamic system. The system is compromised of the game/training environment, the task, constraints and the interactions of players in attack, defense and transition. The player acts in context. This dynamic context creates information that needs to be perceived. Therefore, it is important to train the perceptual and action systems of young players together. What information sources are designed in to practice is of the utmost importance.

We want to help learners to develop understanding IN the game as opposed to just an understanding OF the game.

Training sessions should be deliberately designed for young learners to learn how to play with purpose. In other words, to play with a deliberate “learning” intent. The training design is deliberately flexible, allows for the manipulation of task constraints and affords various actions for the young player. Skill emerges as a solution to the problem in that moment.

We need to design training sessions that allow for a variation of solutions to emerge as opposed to the same solution being repeated time and time again. It is vital that the training environment reflects the performance environment

Design a task that simulates an aspect of the performance environment

defending game 1

Prevent your opponent from scoring using defensive football actions (individually and collectively)

A goal is scored by dribbling the ball through the coned goals

Goal in red goals = 1 point

Goal in Yellow goal = 2 points

The game starts in this case with Red playing the ball to Blue (Note Red have width and Blue are compact). The red team then move up-field in an effort to win the ball.

How does the Blue team behave when they receive the ball?

How does the Red team behave when the Blue team receives the ball?

I designed this training for a group of 13 year olds I worked with recently

I let the young players play the game for about 10 mins and then called them all in for a quick discussion and to show them two photos that I took with my mobile phone.

image (5)This photo was taken at the start of the session. The blue team have received the ball and the red (orange J) team have collectively moved up field to try and win the ball.

 

image (6)The blue team found it easy to identify a gap to pass the ball through to a player making a run in depth behind the defensive line.

I felt that while at times some players may have been correct with their individual actions they rarely acted collectively to solve the problem. I asked the players to quickly analyse the photos and to come up with some suggestions as to how they can use collective and individual football actions to prevent their opponent from scoring. We first placed a particular focus on the actions of the team as they moved up-field to try and gain possession of the ball.

Player and coach reflections from two quick group discussions  and individual feedback during the session

  • Neither team has control of the ball as it is kicked up-field
  • The need to collectively press up-field without leaving large gaps between players
  • When the opponent receives the ball and we have collectively moved up-field ensure that there is defensive balance, stability and we are also prepared to deny space behind us. (Do we hold and organise or do we immediately press?)
  • The defender nearest to the player in possession presses. What information does this player communicate to his teammates with the decision how the pressing action is carried out? How do the other defenders react to this to maintain the defensive balance?

The movements of team mates and opponents provides information that drives our own movements. For instance, players can communicate and share information with each other verbally or non-verbally. Isolated drills can lack the inter-individual communication of essential information This session also uses the principles of co-adaptability at the scale of performance and learning. What defenders do impacts on what the attackers do and what the attackers do shapes what the defenders do. The coach can try and “nudge” the young players in to constantly trying to adapt new ways to counteract new strategies that opponents are introducing in to the game.

“Football actions” are underpinned by

  • Communication
  • Decision
  • Execution of Decision

Football is a game of constant decision making based on communication/information. Every “football action” involves a decision.

A recent blog  (see here) hosted on the inspiring Player Development Project homepage, the excellent Todd Beane coincidentally refers to a similar idea that I have been using while giving coach education courses here in Sweden. When the topic of skill acquisition and training environment is been discussed I write the “football action” points below on a whiteboard and I ask the coaches which one of these do players use the most during a game.

  • Pass
  • Dribble
  • Decision
  • Shoot
  • Tackle

The unanimous verdict is “Decision”. We are also in general agreement that players are constantly making decisions during a game (both on and off the ball). So why remove it from training? This is also echoed in the ideas of innovative Swedish goalkeeper coach Maths Elfvendal who promotes a more integrated approach to goalkeeper training.

Football is a game of constant decision making based on communication/information. Every training session should have as many aspects of football as possible. The aspects used should interact and should also influence each other.

There’s only one moment in which you can arrive in time. If you are not there, you are either too early or too late (Johan Cruyff)

Resources and inspiration

Nonlinear pedagogy in skill acquisition (Jia Yi ChowKeith DavidsChris ButtonIan Renshaw; Routledge December 9, 2015)

Periodization, planning, prediction: And why the future ain’t what it used to be! (John Kiely)

Richard Shuttleworth: Decision Making in Team Sport (Sports Coach Vol 30, No 2, Pages 25-27; 2015)

Teaching tactical creativity in sport research and practice (Daniel Memmert; Routledge April 2015)

Daniel Memmert: Interview Footblogball (footblogball.wordpress.com) July 2015 (https://footblogball.wordpress.com/2015/07/31/teaching-tactical-creativity-dr-daniel-memmert/)

Shane Pill https://twitter.com/pilly66 http://learningthroughsport.blogspot.se/

 

A quiet revolution – Swedish youth football and the idea of avoiding exclusion

process

The developmental environment of youth sport is ever changing. Our coaching methods, our curriculum and learning environment (The Learning Space) need to not only be adapted for the development of the individual over time but in some way must respond to the ever accelerating changes in our world, social structures and immediate environment. Many models are developed on the assumption that they can predict and control future out-comes when clearly it is not possible to do this just by knowing the existing conditions. Early “ability” that is identified as talent and used as an indicator of future ability and performance is a common example of this erroneous assumption.

A quiet revolution is taking place in Sweden. The Swedish FA has reformed child and youth coach education. They have translated both national and international evidence based findings into guidelines for coaches and coach educators. The emphasis is on the young person, their perspective, their learning, development and needs.  A common problem when presenting evidence based material is that the academic language is not appropriate for the dissemination of information. The language used in the new coach education curriculum ensures that the content is accessible for coaches, parents and coach educators.

“Children and young people who devote themselves heart and soul to football deserves responsible and knowledgeable leaders- We have high goals. A children’s rights perspective and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child are the basis for the wording in our curriculum” Urban Hammar (Swedish FA Head of Coach Education)

With the aim of keeping as many as possible as long as possible viable and playing football the municipality’s Skåne and Halland have decided to abolish their district teams. Traditionally seen as a shop window for scouts and National youth team selection the “District elite” selection process, training camps and national competitions are beginning to be viewed more as an optical illusion. It seems that the decision taken by the districts of Skåne and Halland is based simply on the idea of avoiding exclusion. Is this a reaction to a system and structure that is been understood as counterproductive and in conflict with development (biopsychosocial) and the young player’s natural learning process?

The idea of avoiding exclusion

“We took this decision for the sake of the children, it was a very easy decision. Our mission is not to exclude children and young people. We have a wide mandate and that is to protect football in Halland” says Johan Johqvist, Chairman of Halland District Football Association. Daniel Oredsson (Zone leader Hässleholm, Skåne) simply said that “our decision is based on the idea of avoiding exclusion.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) in an effort to advance a more unified and evidence informed approach to youth athlete development organised a consensus meeting of experts in the field in November 2014.They critically evaluated the current state of science and practice of youth athlete development. In a research paper published May 2015 the IOC presented recommendations for an approach that is sensitive to the conditions required to aid the evolution and emergence of healthy, resilient and capable youth athletes/people, while providing opportunities for all levels of sport participation and success. This statement is analysed is a precious blog “Investigating the Complexity of Youth Athlete Development and the IOC consensus Statement”

The International Olympic Committee Consensus Statement on Youth Athletic Development (2015) stated something that is very relevant to this discussion. Youth athlete development is contingent on an individually unique and constantly changing base of normal physical growth, biological maturation and behavioural development, and therefore it must be considered individually.

Traditionally the most common models used in talent identification  is the Standard Model of Talent Development (SMTD). In the research paper The Standard Model of Talent Development and Its Discontents (Bailey, R.P; & Collins, D.) It is suggested that  “the apparent success of this pyramid structure is ultimately an optical illusion as there is no way of knowing who might have succeeded through different systems, and who were de-selected from the system but might have (under different circumstances) gone on to achieve high performance”.

Development is nonlinear, learning is nonlinear. Therefore, talent is nonlinear.

 

Many pyramid structures (SMTD) based on early talent identification discriminate against those born later in the sporting calendar year. This phenomenon is often referred to as the Relative Age Effect (RAE) and is one that often creates a false picture of early performance.

Relative age effect (RAE): A bias that seems to favour a higher participation rate amongst those that are born early in the selection period.

The decision taken by the districts of Skåne and Halland is about removing a system of selection and exclusion where statistics show that children born early in the year often have an advantage. The selection process is done at the cost of the wider group where focus is placed on those who have been identified as talented.  Sport Scientist Ross Tucker refers to in his excellent presentation on Talent Identification. We base our selection on the illusion of often seeing ability as a function of maturity. The result is that the majority of resources are provided to “better” performers who happen to be relatively older.

I would advise anyone involved in youth sport to watch Ross Tucker’s (twitter) presentations on Talent Identification, training, early specialisation. Start here

http://sportsscientists.com/2016/01/talent-id-video-series-1-fundamental-concept-and-definition/ and work your way through these excellent 6 episodes.

RAE

Hancock, Adler, & Cote in a study from 2013 suggested that RAE is more than just a physical advantage. The research suggested that there are also some powerful social influences at play.

Parents (Matthew effect) – The rich get richer. Those who are perceived to have ability are given preferential treatment and extra support. This in turn increases that ability which leads to more support.

Coach (Pygmalion effect) – The higher the expectation placed on people the better is their performance. Those who are perceived to have ability are given more attention. Others feel neglected.

Athletes (Galatea effect) – A player may see that she is able to perform better than her peers. This performance can be due to due to early maturation A player’s opinion about her ability and his self-expectations about her performance largely determine the performance.

Johan Johqvist Cairman of Halland football association says that we do not want a system that supports the exclusion of children. “I am convinced that under the present system we are losing young people that can become elite players. Having district teams is going against much what the research is suggesting”.

However, the next step is crucial. How will the available resources be used? With the aim of as many as possible participating as long as possible a more flexible framework will be needed. As a person moves from infant to adolescence and in to adulthood various transformations take place. Traits slowly appear and differentiate over time. Individual needs change at different stages of development. The importance of constraints such as motivation, strength, speed, peers and family vary, fade and emerge over time. Understanding this is critical.  In the blog post “Participation in sport is a human activity with all its baggageParticipation in sport is a human activity with all its baggage” there are suggestions for a flexible framework where our training and planning is designed around emerging information, whilst being underpinned by sound developmental principles. One that puts a focus on the learner and the learning process.

For me this quiet revolution that is happening in Swedish Football is challenging a narrow way of thinking. Level one of the Swedish Football Associations coach education curriculum, the one that most parent coaches will attend sets the agenda for the future by encouraging the development of a more “informed opinion” around the subject of the child in sport. I believe that the development of a more informed opinion is key in closing the gap in what has become a polarised debate. With more informed opinions come bigger questions. Hopefully this will lead to more informed decisions that help us navigate the complexity of working with children in sport. As Swedish FA head of coach education Urban Hammar says “We have high goals”. This of course sets even greater demands on coach educators.

Youth participation in sport is a human activity with all its baggage. Today within youth sports programs we have many people who talk the talk but they don’t apply it. For to wave the flag with the slogan “As many as possible as long as possible” like many clubs do, then their model and its contents need to promote a more inclusive sporting structure.  At the heart of this structure there must be a commitment to learning, a commitment to creating high quality learning environments.

“We need a flexible framework where our training and planning is designed around emerging information, whilst being underpinned by sound developmental principles” (Mark O’ Sullivan & Al Smith; 2016)

References and Inspiration

Bailey, R.P: & Collins, D., The Standard Model of Talent Development and its Discontents Kinesiology Review, 2, 248-259

Côté J, Vierimaa M. The developmental model of sport participation: 15 years after its first conceptualization. Sci sports (2014), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scispo.2014.08.133

Early Sport Specialization: Roots, Effectiveness, Risks (Robert M. Malina Department of Kinesiology and Health Education, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX; Department of Kinesiology, Tarleton State University, Stephenville, TX)

International Olympic Committee consensus statement on youth athletic development (Michael F Bergeron, Margo Mountjoy, Neil Armstrong, Michael Chia, Jean Côté, Carolyn A Emery, Avery Faigenbaum, Gary Hall Jr, Susi Kriemler, Michel Léglise, Robert M Malina, Anne Marte Pensgaard, Alex Sanchez, Torbjørn Soligard,  Jorunn Sundgot-Borgen, Willem van Mechelen, Juanita R Weissensteiner, Lars Engebretsen; May 2015)

Nonlinear pedagogy in skill acquisition (Jia Yi ChowKeith DavidsChris ButtonIan Renshaw; Routledge December 9, 2015)

Sports Specialization in Young Athletes: Evidence-Based Recommendations (Neeru Jayanthi, MD, Courtney Pinkham, BS, Lara Dugas, PhD, Brittany Patrick, MPH, and Cynthia LaBella, MD)

The Dynamic Process of Development through Sport (Jean Côté, Jennifer Turnnidge, M. Blair Evans, Kinesiologia Slovenica, 20, 3, 14-26; 2014)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Participation in sport is a human activity with all its baggage

Human systems are made up of people and people make decisions for complex reasons; moreover, they learn, they interact and they live in complex environments which themselves are constantly changing (Jean Boulton, Complexity and the Social Sciences; June 2010)

Humans are not systems that behave like machines. They are dynamic, not static and not predictable in their behaviour. Humans (in this case as individual athletes and sports teams) are complex adaptive systems

“Complex from the perspective they are comprised of multiple systems that interact in non-linear and unpredictable ways. Adaptive, from the perspective that they are capable of spontaneously modifying behaviour in order to accommodate unexpected change or sudden perturbation” (John Kiely; Periodization, Planning, Prediction: And why the future ain’t what it used to be!)

Cultural beliefs and assumptions

“It’s as if, if we do not separate them out we are not able to see them “. This line from innovative coach Juanma Lillo (once mentor to Pep Guardiola) explains his thoughts on clubs, coaching and society. Traditionally, through a reductionist approach we have been spoon fed the illusion of predictability and control.

Let’s take the example of trying to perform a technique exactly the same way through repetitive drills. By narrowing and standardising everything we have been placing a focus on decontextualized technique training. Here, the learning process is emphasised by the amount of time spent rehearsing a specific technique and usually involves the use of explicit teaching methods with verbal instructions. This does not simulate the performance environment and may narrow the focus of attention for the learner. We challenge this pedagogy and promote the influence of context. Daniel Memmert’s takes this approach to task in his excellent book “Teaching Tactical Creativity”. Coaches should avoid obsessing over correction of technique at a young age as this is likely to induce a more internal focus.

“We know from studies that technical training is not as effective as combined technical-perception training. It is important that children experience in which situations or constraints they have to evaluate which technique they use. Only then they will be able to apply those techniques in real complex game forms or the real match” Daniel Memmert, (Footblogball interview; July 2015)

Reflecting on a previous blog, Maths Elfvendal and I challenged the traditional approach to goalkeeper coaching. The role of the goalkeeper is broken up in to its structural components and it is proposed that the goalkeeper needs to work in isolation. We suggest the need for a better understanding of the goalkeeper’s functional role in the modern game. This will help coaches in designing a more integrated goalkeeper training, therefore meeting the needs and the demands of the role of a modern goalkeeper. We need to design training sessions that allow for a variation of solutions to emerge as opposed to the same solution being repeated time and time again.

“It is not about maintaining a specific set of wiring connections it is about trying to maintain the capacity to perform a specific function – Learning organises the perception- action system with respect to what happened” (http://psychsciencenotes.blogspot.se/2011/08/theres-more-than-one-way-to.html)

From my experience as a coach educator I see that many blame the failure of the performance of a technique on the fact that the young learners whom they assume will react in the same way did not behave like they should. The reductionist approach seems to be focussed on teachers and coaches as they attempt to organise, control and manage the complexity of working with young children in sport.  However, it does not work as well for the learner as learning is highly individualised.

In the excellent book Nonlinear Pedagogy in Skill Acquisition the individualised differences in learning are discussed. Some constraints that can have a profound influence on the young learner are suggested.

  1. Physiology 2. Morphology 3. Aptitudes 4. Needs 5. Personality 6. Attitudes

These constraints change over time due to developmental differences. These variables have an impact on each individuals training (and learning) response.

“… the potential to shift the dominant paradigm from that of the still-dominant mechanical world view towards a view of the world as interconnected: where variation cannot be ignored, where new eras and behaviours can emerge, where change is not predictable and understandable in simple single-dimension relationships”. (Jean Boulton, Complexity and the Social Sciences; June 2010)

A flexible framework where our training and planning is designed around emerging information. One that puts a focus on the learner and the learning process.

CLA BLOGThe Constraints Led Approach

A Constraints – Led approach, I find is a useful framework to help us integrate vast amounts of complex and emerging information to give us an understanding of skill learning during practice and play. Constraints whilst not always negative or limiting are boundaries that channel the learner to explore and search for functional movement solutions. Constraints are factors that can influence learning and performance at any moment in time

Individual Constraints:

Physical aspects: Height, weight, limb length, genetic make- up, strength, speed,

Functional aspects: Motivation, emotions, fatigue, anxiety

It is important that the coach can identify rate limiters (lack of strength, flexibility).

Environmental constraints:

Physical environment: Light, wind, surface, temperature

Socio-cultural: Family, support networks, peers, societal expectations, values and cultural norms.

Task Constraints:

Rules, equipment, playing area, number of players involved, teammates. Opponents, information sources

Coaches have more control over the manipulation of task constraints than individual and environmental constraints. Representative Learning Design (discussed in a previous blog) and manipulation of task constraints are cornerstones of nonlinear pedagogy.

The constraints that need to be satisfied by each learner will change according to the needs of different individuals at different stages of development. Constraints decay and emerge over time meaning that their importance can vary.

“We need a flexible framework where our training and planning is designed around emerging information, whilst being underpinned by sound developmental principles” (Mark O’ Sullivan & Al Smith; 2016)

 References and inspiration

Nonlinear pedagogy in skill acquisition (Jia Yi ChowKeith DavidsChris ButtonIan Renshaw; Routledge December 9, 2015)

Periodization paradigms in the 21st century: Evidence-led or tradition-driven? (John Kiely; International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance 2012, 7, 242 – 250

Periodization, planning, prediction: And why the future ain’t what it used to be! (John Kiely)

Richard Shuttleworth: Decision Making in Team Sport (Sports Coach Vol 30, No 2, Pages 25-27; 2015)

Teaching tactical creativity in sport research and practice (Daniel Memmert; Routledge April 2015)

The Brain in Spain (Sid Lowe, Blizzard issue 1, 55-64, 2011)

The Newtonian Paradigm (Jean Boulton, May 2001)

Complexity and the Social Sciences (Jean Boulton; June 2010)

Daniel Memmert: Interview Footblogball (footblogball.wordpress.com) July 2015 (https://footblogball.wordpress.com/2015/07/31/teaching-tactical-creativity-dr-daniel-memmert/)

Notes from Two Scientific Psychologists http://psychsciencenotes.blogspot.se/2011/08/theres-more-than-one-way-to.html

Endless twitter conversations!

 

 

Representative Learning Design for Goalkeepers – Maths Elfvendal (IFK Norrköpping)

CLA GK

Maths Elfvendal is first team goalkeeper coach at current Swedish champions IFK Norrkopping. He is also responsible for general goalkeeper development and performance throughout the club.  Maths has taken part in a few discussions and meetings that Daniel Bäckström (IFK Norrköpping youth co-ordinator) and I initiated. Some of the main themes at these rather “nonlinear” discussions are training design, skill acquisition, nonlinear pedagogy and how we can use these to develop a more inclusive approach with regard to player development.

A key challenge for coaches is to design training and create learning environments that result in sustainable motivation. Recent research in coaching is highlighting the importance of players experiencing and developing game understanding (i.e., technically, tactically, mentally and physically) by learning to play via learning environments that contain the key information sources present in performance or match environments. This will of course have technical and pedagogical implications. By moving from an instruction led approach to a more enabling and supporting role we can meet and support the skill acquisition and basic psychological needs that underpin a nonlinear pedagogy and self-determined motivation.

This citation from a previous blog was very much on the table for discussion in our last few meetings. Recently Dennis Hörtin (who I work with at Stockholm club Älvsjö AIK) and I were invited by Maths Elfvendal to attended a workshop he was giving on “Integrated Goalkeeper Training”.

The aim of the workshop was to initiate discussion and reflection by informing how we can design learning environments that can ultimately lead to highly skilled goalkeepers with highly developed game intelligence. Tradition often dictates that the goalkeepers are isolated, trained separate from the outfield players and join in later when needed (game situation or shooting exercise).

Using video analysis Maths explained how the modern game looks for the world’s best goal keeper’s, the contents of the goalkeeper’s involvement in the team’s offensive play and how they see and read the game. Once we know how the best goalkeepers in the world play, and we have a deeper knowledge of their role in the modern game, we can then look at designing the training environment.

From analysing the goalkeeper’s role at the top level in the modern game Maths Elfvendal made the following points:

  • The importance of the modern goalkeeper’s role in creating a numerical advantage in the build-up of play. Offensively always at least 11v10.
  • The goalkeeper moves up to 6000m per match
  • A goalkeeper makes between 25-35 passes per game.
  • Offers depth, availability to receive a pass and can offer width.
  • Utilise the offside rule.
  • Goalkeepers today have a higher frequency and variation of movement as they are more than ever adjusting their movement in accordance to the dynamics of the game. There is a concentrated and focused adjustment of positioning during the offensive play (i.e.to provide a pass alternative) and in finding the optimal defensive recovery position when the opponent wins the ball

Offensive play “Goalkeeper actions”

  • Creating Depth
  • Switching the play
  • Short – middle – long passes
  • Distribution of ball from hand
  • Distribution of ball with feet
  • Intercepting passes (especially during counter attacks)

 Representative Learning Design for goalkeepers

Goalkeeper training should be representative of the performance environment. It should be designed to contain key information sources that are necessary for the goalkeeper to become attuned to the appropriate affordance for action (“Goalkeeper action”). Affordances are about action they are invitations, possibilities for action in the environment. If they are to be perceived there must be information about them.

“Goalkeeper actions” are underpinned by

  • Communication
  • Decision
  • Execution of Decision

Football is a game of constant decision making based on communication/information. For instance, players can communicate and share information with each other verbally or with hand gestures. Isolated goalkeeping drills can lack the inter-individual communication of essential information. The movements of team mates and opponents provides information that can drive the goalkeeper’s actions (as does position of ball and where there is space). Every “Goalkeeper action” involves a decision.

The best goalkeepers are attuned to the information that is being communicated to them as circumstances on the pitch unfold. Game insight (the ability to read the game quickly, and decide on an appropriate “goalkeeper action” based on what is perceived) underpins the ability to make the right decision. It also underpins the ability to change that decision before it’s execution as new circumstances unfold and a more appropriate affordance presents itself. Goalkeeper training should expose the goalkeeper to as many aspects of the game as possible. The aspects used should interact and should also influence each other. Therefore, we need to design training environments rich in varied dynamic information.

Training sessions should offer affordances – possibilities for action, choice, challenge and variability.

Purpose of using Representative Learning Design for Integrated goalkeeper training

  • To develop goalkeeper – outfield player’s communication and organisational abilities
  • To develop the goalkeeper’s decision making
  • To develop the goalkeeper’s ability to perform the appropriate “goalkeeper action” under realistic game situations,
  • To develop the goal keeper’s concentration levels (which will be more representative of the game)

Coaches are designers

During a discussion with Maths Elefvendal sometime in late January the topic of integrated goalkeeper training came up.  I had early introduced the idea that us coaches should maybe see ourselves more as designers. We design the training environment for learning. We create a learning space. I introduced a session I designed from analysing one of the teams I work with.

Problem: Many young players have difficulty in applying the principles of the game under stressful situations. They become limited as to how they can become perceptually attuned to the dynamics of the game that is unfolding around then. One such situation is when a ball is played behind the last defensive line and the back line is turned facing its own goal. Will the ball reach the goalkeeper or does one of the defenders have to chase the ball and play it back under pressure from an opponent? When I speak with young players about these situations I try to encourage a different mind-set. Even though you are being chased down by a forward and even though you are facing your own goal with or without the ball (team mate or goalkeeper has possession), you are now an attacker. As a group you need to apply the principles of attacking play (width, depth, open passing lines, communication) once a teammate, in this case the goalkeeper is in possession of the ball and facing the opponents goal.

The training I designed to work with this problem seemed to interest Maths Elfvendal who had already been designing his own sessions based on his integrated goalkeeper training ideas. It was representative of the goalkeeper’s performance environment and afforded many opportunities for communication, decision making and the execution of various “goalkeeper actions”.

I was very happy when Maths used the session I designed in his Integrated Goalkeeper Training workshop. He was also kind enough to film it.

Design a task that simulates an aspect of the performance environment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The role of Representative Learning Design in creating a Learning Space

cruyff

In my role as district educator for the Swedish FA coach education courses I try to help the coaches to understand what information and invitations may be available to the young player in a given game context. So if we are playing a 3v3 game where the task is that we want the young players to identify and attack free space, I ask them what information should the young player be seeking out and what invitations are being sent or communicated to him/her by opponents and teammates actions?

A key challenge for coaches is to design training and create learning environments that result in sustainable motivation. Recent research in coaching is highlighting the importance of players experiencing and developing game understanding (i.e., technically, tactically, mentally and physically) by learning to play via learning environments that contain the key information sources present in performance or match environments. This will of course have technical and pedagogical implications. By moving from an instruction led approach to a more enabling and supporting role we can meet and support the skill acquisition and basic psychological needs that underpin a nonlinear pedagogy and self-determined motivation. Adopting such an approach is not easy; perhaps not as easy as setting up static drills where little game knowledge is required by coaches. To design effective learning environments using this approach, the coach must

  1. Have a good knowledge of the sport
  2. Have a good understanding of learners and the learning process
  3. Always take in to consideration that growth and development happens in direct contact with people (individuals) and takes place in a variety of different situations
  4. Design training where decision-making is returned to the performer (The traditional passing drill A to B, B to C, C to A does NOT achieve this)
  5. Understand that learning is not a linear process and that there will sometimes be periods of steady or sudden improvements as well as periods of regression.

The challenge for the coach is to design individual learning environments that ultimately lead to highly skilled technicians with highly developed game intelligence. It is proposed that this can be achieved by following the key principles of Nonlinear Pedagogy, one of which is Representative Learning Design.

 Representative Learning Design

For the purpose of retention and transfer, training should be representative of the performance environment. It should be designed to contain key information sources that are necessary for the learner to become attuned to the appropriate affordance for action, that is “footballs action” (pressing, dribbling, shooting). Affordances are about action they are invitations, possibilities for “footballs action” in the environment. If they are to be perceived there must be information about them.

To understand “football action” one must understand the big picture. A picture that dictates that no action is isolated but is nested in interactions between team mates and opponents both within the game and from previous games.

Every “footballs action” involves a decision

Every technique is functional, context and situation- dependent, infinitely variable (repetition without repetition) and highly individual. As a consequence, isolated physical training that only focuses on specific aspects of fitness is limited in terms of developing football specific aspects of fitness. For example, how a player sprints during an isolated running drill and how that player sprints when performing the football action of pressing are not the same! Isolated strategic (11 v 0) and isolated tactical drills lack inter-individual communication of essential information. For example, the movements of team mates and opponents provides information that drives our own movements but also players require them to communicate and share information with each other verbally or with hand gestures.

Example, consider the options for an attacker when two defenders are converging and closing the gap between them. What are the possible affordances offered to the player in possession?

  1. The player can dribble the ball between the two defenders
  2. The player can pass the ball in depth between the two players to an oncoming or dropping forward

These are just two of the affordances offered. The information has been communicated and now a decision must be made and carried out using “footballs action”. What determines the choice of a “footballs action” by the player in possession is that player’s “effectivities”, or put another way, his or her capabilities to act on the possibilities invited by the dynamic affordance in the environment.

  1. A fast/explosive player may see this as a possibility to dribble the ball though the gap between the two converging defenders
  2. A slower player may know he/she lacks sufficient pace to exploit the narrowing space and pick up on the affordance to pass the ball through the gap to an oncoming or dropping forward.

How the player is perceiving and acting is very important here. Often referred to in the research literature as the role of “agency”. Players can choose to accept or reject invitations provided by affordances. In a dynamic sport like football it may be necessary to delay or to even stop an invitation that you have begun to address, and perceive how through another action you can change it towards another path.

The player in example 1 above may delay his action by slowing down for a split second. This was a “football action” typical of the great Johan Cruyff. As soon as the approaching defenders would respond to him by also slowing down Cruyff would suddenly explode in to action. The use of creativity, deception and disguise to generate uncertainty in their opponents are all traits of top professional footballers.

The player in example 2 may have perceived the information and decided to play a penetrating pass between the two defenders to an oncoming forward. However, due to a problem in communication the forward may have timed their run incorrectly and ran in to an offside position. Thus, the emergence of new information for the player in possession to perceive and a new path with a new decision to be carried out. A second oncoming attacker may have been perceived by the player in possession (think Pirlo) who plays a pass between the two defenders. The oncoming attacker receives the ball and attacks the space in front towards goal. The “offside player” is now onside and may well provide an extra passing option for the attacker in possession. Here we are entering the realm of “the perception of shared affordances (for others and of others) as the main communication channel between team members”. (Shared knowledge or shared affordances? Insights from an ecological dynamics approach to team coordination in sports (Silvia P, Garganta J, Araujo D, Davids K, Aquiar P; 2013)

Representative Learning Design is essential to develop understanding of team mates action capabilities and of course opponents. Only then can we see the through ball into the space of an oncoming forward. The weight and direciton of the pass is therefore informed by the knoweldge of how quick the team mate is.

PIRLO

Guidelines for coach adopting the ideas of Representative Learning Design

  1. We promote the influence of context. The use of game forms in training sessions that “directly talk to the players”.
  2. Attacker, defender actions are co-adaptive. Using the principles of co-adaptability (One individual evolves the capacity to behave in a certain way. The other individual then has to adapt to that so there is a co- adaptation process going on). Through effective game design, the coach can try and “nudge” the young learners into constantly trying to adapt new ways to counteract new strategies that opponents are introducing in to the game.
  3. Manipulation of time and space task constraints to facilitate change in the perception action coupling

Training sessions should offer affordances – possibilities for action, choice, challenge and variability to the players/learners to learn and to re-learn.

The use of questioning and context in creating a motivational climate

Questions are a useful tool in generating feelings of involvement, relatedness and the promotion of self- determination behaviours. Questions in learning environments, that contain the key information sources present in performance or match environments can be a powerful tool. Questions can be directed at both groups and individuals and should be formulated to open the learner up to new perspectives or information to guide their perception and action.

Football is a game of constant decision making based on communication/information. Every training session should have as many aspects of football as possible. The aspects used should interact and should also influence each other.

Examples of how to design effective learning environments using Representative Learning Design

  1. Generating uncertainty and becoming attuned to key information sources https://footblogball.wordpress.com/2016/03/10/generating-uncertainty-and-becoming-attuned-to-key-information-sources/
  2. Using the principles of co-adaptability https://footblogball.wordpress.com/2016/03/22/identifying-opportunities-to-generate-uncertainty-using-the-principles-of-co-adaptability-at-the-scale-of-performance-and-learning/
  3. Preparing for uncertainty – creating competitive stress https://footblogball.wordpress.com/2016/03/01/preparing-for-uncertainty-creating-competitive-stress/

 

A special thank you to Ian Renshaw (co -author of Nonlinear pedagogy in skill acquisition) who helped and challenged me while I was formulating this piece.

 

References

Nonlinear pedagogy in skill acquisition (Jia Yi ChowKeith DavidsChris ButtonIan Renshaw; Routledge December 9, 2015)

Richard Shuttleworth: Decision Making in Team Sport (Sports Coach Vol 30, No 2, Pages 25-27; 2015 )

Shared knowledge or shared affordances? Insights from an ecological dynamics approach to team coordination in sports (Silvia P, Garganta J, Araujo D, Davids K, Aquiar P; 2013)

Teaching tactical creativity in sport research and practice (Daniel Memmert; Routledge April 2015)

Daniel Memmert: Interview Footblogball (footblogball.wordpress.com) July 2015 (https://footblogball.wordpress.com/2015/07/31/teaching-tactical-creativity-dr-daniel-memmert/)

http://www.myfastestmile.com

 

 

 

Identifying opportunities to generate uncertainty – Using the principles of co-adaptability at the scale of performance and learning

I think a lot of people forget about co- adaptability when making games up – Ian Renshaw (Co-author of  Nonlinear Pedagogy in Skill Acquisition, Senior lecturer Queensland University Brisbane Australia)

Keith David’s (Professor of motor learning) touches on co-adaptability during his “Perception & Action” podcast with Rob Gray. There is a reference to co-adaptation at the evolutionary scale where the work of theoretical biologist and complex systems researcher Stuart Kauffman is cited. Animals in the wild, predators and prey forming different systems are engaged in a sort of arms race. One group evolves the capacity to behave in a certain way and that will allow them to not get eaten as much. The predators then have to adapt to that species so there is a co- adaptation process going on.

Using the principles of co-adaptability at the scale of performance and learning the coach can try and “nudge” the young learners in to constantly trying to adapt new ways to counteract new strategies that opponents are introducing in to the game.

A key point is to use game forms in training sessions that “directly talk to the players”. This means that feedback is directly “coming from the game forms”, so that the coach has to give less feedback from the outside by providing instructions that reduce the player’s breadth of attention – Daniel Memmert (Footblogball interview)

Creating, identifying and attacking free space: We want our players to identify key information sources that enables them to perceive opportunities to attack free space. We must help our young players learn to become perceptually attuned to the dynamics of the game.

Design a task that simulates an aspect of the performance environment

3v3 1

3v3 game-A goal is scored if one team dribbles the ball over the opponents end-line

We  want to encourage our players to create, identify and attack free space. From this game many “1v1” situations should also emerge.

 

3v3 2

To encourage the players to create, identify and attack free space we can add a “no forward passes” rule. This also creates another learning opportunity with regard to the principles of the game.  A player will naturally take up a position of support and depth behind the player in possession and this will in turn create space for that player to attack with the ball.

 

Let’s develop the game and open up for the possibility of the use of other tactical components.

3v3 3

We still want to encourage the players to identify and attack free space (gaps) by dribbling the ball. Now we also want them to achieve something similar by passing the ball in depth to an oncoming forward (identifying gaps and timing).

Rule: Forward passes may be played from the attacking teams own half.

Before this rule was applied there is a distinct possibility that the defending team will press high and try and gain possession high up the pitch.  Now we are creating an opportunity for the attacking team to also exploit the space created behind the defending team if they press high.

We should not forget about co-adaptability when designing games.

 

 

Generating uncertainty and becoming attuned to key information sources

Generating uncertainty and becoming attuned to key information sources

Problem: Many young players will meet the ball facing their own goal and turn directly, often in to an opponent or away from the space that would have provided the better attacking option. This behaviour can limit how players can become perceptually attuned to the dynamics of the game.

Design a task that simulates an aspect of the performance environment

This is a simple game to work with the player’s body positioning to help their decision making.

7v7 game (5v5, 6v6)

Generating uncertainty open body

Rule: If you receive the ball facing your own goal, then you have only one touch.

Coach Observation: Some young players (receiving feedback directly from the game) started to adjust their bodies to “open up” to the play. This made it possible for them to become more aware of when they were closely marked or when they had time and space to continue with the build-up of play. They began to read the game, adapt and ‘play what they see’ and develop the decision making process. After all it is the defending team’s movements that is the main information source that helps us to make decisions and allow for a variation of solutions to emerge.

A well designed learning space will demand heightened perceptual sensitivity and in the process help players to (often implicitly) become attuned to the key information in the environment that can be used to guide actions- ‘attunement to affordances’ (MarkUpton)

Evolution: We discussed (questions/guided discovery) with the young players how deliberately playing a pass to a marked player facing his own goal can be used to provoke a reaction from their opponents.

Teams that use variability in games usually try to vary their movements or points of attack and use creativity, deception and disguise to generate uncertainty in their opponents (Richard Shuttleworth: Decision Making in Team Sport (Sports Coach Vol 30, No 2, Pages 25-27; 2015 )

How does a defending team react if a ball is played central to a marked forward facing away from the goal? Where may this create space for the team in possession to attack?

How does the defending team react if a ball is played to a player who moves in to a space (in depth) between two defenders? How may this provoke the defending team and where may this create gaps for the team in possession to exploit?

It is the opponent’s movements that are the main information source that help us to make decisions and allow for a variation of solutions to emerge.