A good start to this critical analysis piece is a great quote from Mark Upton in a recent blog. “We can’t be our best until you’re your best”- In this case- “I can’t be my best until you are your best”. I wanted to initiate a discussion in relation to something I have thought long and hard about. The use of a constraint in my last blog to set up learning opportunities embracing the principles of co-adaptability within a SSG. I have for a while been split between using the “no forward pass” rule or not. The intention is that it should be a very brief constraint used to “set up” the game as in dribble (identify free space or provoke to create space elsewhere) and get players tuned in to the role of the goalkeeper in the modern game. Within the community of practice and research I am lucky to have some great minds to reach out to with the aim to initiate a discussion. Daniel Newcombe (Senior lecture @Oxford_Brookes and Hockey coach for Wales senior and U21 team, Dan Clements (Head of Performance Hockey Wales) and researcher/coach James Vaughan (AIK Sweden, PDP).
- It can be argued that the rule will change how the defenders defend and therefore make the affordances false. The players won’t be choosing when to carry and when to pass forward around the affordances in the environment(Daniel Newcombe).
- The rule may create conditions that are less representative of the game. By limiting the options for the attackers, we are moving away from the principles of the game. Similarly in this valuable learning time we want them to have the chance to develop all of the aspects of their game that are related to this aspect (attacking play) – if it is on to pass it forward take that option as you would in a game (Dan Clements).
- “We can only constrain what is in front of us”. This was an interesting point by James Vaughan. He was referring to the socio-cultural football environmental constraints that these young players train in. For example, if there is an “isolated drill” culture then the focus of attention may be on the performance of a technique as opposed adapting the best skill in a game situation. I often refer to this as friendly with the ball but a stranger to the game. James like me sees the value of the rule in a certain context as a way of helping adjust the young players focus of attention and create many 1v1’s in game contexts. However, we both feel that the points made by Daniel Newcombe and Dan Clements are important and central to our work in creating affordance driven learning spaces for our young players.
Deliberate design for a deliberate learning intent
We want players to detect information sources that are best suited to performance in that situation. By designing sessions that are affordance-driven young players can educate their attention and learn which sources of information to act upon and when to act, while also learning which sources of information are less useful or irrelevant for that particular task.
Therefore, training must not be based on the repetition of exercises, as the learning process requires an intention in the action to achieve a real educative purpose (Oliveira et al., 2007).
- Practice repetition without repetition
- Keep perception and action coupled
- Training is affordance driven
- Promote an external focus of attention
- Representative Learning Design(see here)
In many national coach education curricula, there is a tendency to give the solution to the problem in the theme of the session. This traditional methodology risks the development of an internal focus of attention among our young learners
In the following practical session, we analyse “In possession”- as ‘identify’, ‘create’, ‘occupy’ and ‘exploit’ space. This is carried out using football interactions. These Football interactions actions are solutions (opportunities for action) and we should design training where young learners seek out and use these solutions (our invitations for action). The learners decide which football interaction should be used and how, where and when it should be executed. In this way training design is ‘affordance-driven’. Football interactions can be composed of several elements – for example, when a player runs, dribbles and ends with a shot on goal. This may also be a single element – such as a header duel with jumping and landing. Football interactions are how players utilise affordances.
Design the task not the solution.
These tasks should promote interactions between the footballers, as intelligence is developed when people collaborate and cooperate with other people to solve problems (Punset, 2007). 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. The relationships with teammates and interaction with opponents develops an interesting dialogue and an astute coach will observe and use this dialogue to create a learning space.
To understand “football interaction” 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.
Football interactions are solutions and we should design training where young learners seek out these solutions. They decide which football interaction should be used and how where and when it should be executed. Training design is affordance driven -“we use constraints to afford” (Danny Newcombe).
Football interaction: Can be composed of several elements – for example, when a player runs, dribbles and ends with a shot on goal. The action may also be a single element – such as a header duel with jumping and landing.
4v4 Game- Developing Attacking Play – Finding Gaps
Score a goal by taking the ball over under control between the yellow or red cones line using football actions
8 players (mixture of 10 and 11 year olds)
2 of the players were regular goalkeepers for their teams. I discussed with the goalkeepers before the session the role of the modern goalkeeper (see here), their role in the build-up of play and what are the relevant football actions.
I want to create learning opportunities where the players can develop the concept of how we identify, create, attack and occupy space in attacking play. The training design should promote an external focus of attention. The players in the attacking team (with and without the ball) search for gaps to exploit (information).
I have observed that many young learners will pass the ball instead of accepting the better affordance of a gap in the opponent’s defensive organisation (inattentional blindness?). This gap often affords the opportunity for dribbling/driving the ball (or perhaps a penetrating pass in depth from the goalkeeper?) in to free space and thus threaten the opponents goal.
- How can we manipulate the task so that the young players are forced to search and identify gaps to drive/dribble (in the case above the solution) the ball into so that they can create a goal scoring chance?
- How can we manipulate the task to encourage young players to identify, occupy, create and attack space by accepting the best affordances (the solution)?
- All this without diluting the affordance available
The defending team is rewarded with 1 point if they intercept a pass.
“This should see the defensive team subtly remove some of the passing options which should encourage the dribble more” (Daniel Newcombe). This will also make players decide to pass less as there is increased risk involved. Having set up this session design many times it can also be argued that this constraint makes the attacking team have a more deliberate intent with their passing. The attacking team takes less risks but may evolve the attacking play by using the pass to move the opponent (disorganise the opponent) to create gaps to dribble/ drive in to.
- Red cones = 2 points
- Yellow cones = 2 points
- Points system can be varied depending on where you think the players need to learn to focus their attacking intentions. If you want players to attack central them maybe 3 points between the yellow cones and 2 points between the red.
Discussions with the goalkeepers:
- Positioning – Open to receive pass (always offer depth)
- Body profile – find position to receive ball with foot furthest away
- Horizontal movement in support play
- Vertical movement in support play
- Identifying space/ gaps
Discussions with all players
- Positioning – open to receive pass or give support in depth
- Width and depth especially when the goalkeeper is in possession
- Timing (ie movement in depth to receive pass from goalkeeper)
- Using football actions to provoke and deceive (to disorganise opponents) to create space for yourself and others
- Identify and attack space (dribble or receive a pass from goalkeeper)
I would like to conclude with a great quote from Mark Upton’s recent blog. “We can’t be our best until you’re your best”- this for me is a great reference point for the type of dynamic our training environment, the learning space should promote. This is what I was referring to earlier when I said that the relationships with teammates and interaction with opponents develops an interesting dialogue and an astute coach will observe and use this dialogue to create a learning space to help each player be their best.
Many thanks to James Vaughan, Daniel Newcombe and Dan Clements for a great discussion.
Footblogball quiz: Which band sampled this track on their early 90’s groundbreaking ablbum?