A month on from my week at the ESPANYOL academy I decided it was time to sit down , reflect and write my observations and thoughts. As well as being at the Espanyol academy I got to see many other local grassroot academies at work. Through discussions with many of the coaches I met while there (especially Toni Diaz Losquino ) and with a few emails back and forth in the last week ,I feel I have managed to formulate in some way the methodoligy used at grassroots level in many Spanish clubs . In describing my observations I have leant heavily on the collective sports model of GAME SENSE . This of course is nothing far off what has already been written about and discussed on this blog but when you see the top coaches that work with the development of players from the country that has produced the last World Cup winning team and the last 2 European Championship winning teams in action ..well, then you just try and take it all in and hope that some of it will stick / footblogball.
GAME SENSE is a game centred approach based on problem solving that encourages independent thinking in the developing player. In GAME SENSE players develop their technique as they develop an understanding of the game and the role of skills within the context of the game.
In the “traditional “ approach ,technique is practiced until the execution of the technique is of sufficient standard for the game to be played ( ie the analysis of technique as been essential for successful play). The coaching of specific techniques must lead to the improvement in the players ability to play the game yet the traditional approach to technique is often about doing and not necessarily thinking . The focus on the technique form of motorskill execution fails to account for the contextual nature of the game and comes at the expense of the other essential parts of the game such as tactical understanding and decision making.
In the GAME SENSE approach there is a big overlap between the tactical approach and the “traditional “ technique based model . GAME SENSE is context based where the player learns within the game or from game like situations and the coaching takes into account that both motor skill execution and game knowledge lead to good game performance.
Technique : The movement itself.
Skill : The movement placed within the context of the game. Both technical and tactical , choosing the correct responses to different situations within the game.
Knowledge : Developing game knowledge is developing the understanding , application , analysis and evaluation of what happens in a game situation. The player has an understanding of the basic rules and techniques (Declarative Knowledge ) and can apply this knowledge of rules , techniques ,tactics to many different situations during the game . (Contextual Knowledge )
STREGTHS OF GAME SENSE
- WORKING OFF THE BALL : A player gets an average of between 2 -3 mins on the ball in a 90 min game. The GAME SENSE approach teaches the player to be actively engaged in the game when they are not in possession of the ball developing perception , decision making and an understanding of the importance of player movement off the ball , especially as the team attacks .
- THE PLAYER LEARNS TO BE CREATIVE BOTH ON AND OFF THE BALL. : GAME SENSE empowers players in training through the development of their knowledge of the game to be independent decision makers in game situations.
- FROM TRAINING TO THE GAME : If a player is not training within contexts that are close to the game there is a very big risk that the player will not see the link between practicing the technique and the transfer of that technique into the game situation.
- MOTIVATION : ENJOYMENT IS A MUST !!!!! Especially if the player wants to develop to his maximum ability. The GAME SENSE approach stimulates, encourages creativity and keeps the player motivated.
It is very important to take into consideration that the GAME SENSE model is no quick fix /short term soloution . Therefore it can present problems for players and parents who want immediate results. We are products of our society and we want everything done quickly. There is constant pressure on coaches at grassroots level to be result orientated and this more than often tempts the coach to find a quick fix soloution. The traditional technique based approach looks good and ordered to the observer ( ie parent / club Chairman ) but it is more than often a “ one size fits all “ approach forgetting that every kid is unique while the GAME SENSE approach in comparisson may look a bit more chaotic, but then the game itself is often chaotic and it is up to the coach to assist the players and develop them to make sense of the chaos.
Coaching is a complex social process where the coach should arrange the environment to maximise the learning potential of the players but he/she doesn’t always determine exactly what is learnt. The coach should possess the ability to manipulate this environment when needed but not necessarily manipulate the players.