"When Johan started as Ajax coach
he had a vision in which he
continued to believe, even when things didn't go so well."
for a coach to coach he needs to recognize when things are going wrong. To
do that he needs some idea of when things are going right. He needs to
have in mind a picture, a plan of the team playing well. Any deviation
from the plan is what will concern him.
is the collective understanding and agreement as to how the team will
approach the game. It involves the distribution of tasks and
responsibilities so that the team stands the best chance of winning. It
involves key moments when certain players will have to work together to
achieve their tasks. This, in turn, involves the analysis of the expected
demands and resources available to meet them. It is what we must do, how
we will do it, who is responsible, and when it will be done. The why is to
provide a degree of predictability, a standard, to the game. It is the
image of the team playing well in the two main moments. Without this the
players and coach can have no clear idea by which to evaluate their
The plan has limits and is affected by a
number of factors. The abilities and limitations of the players and the
opponents. The meaning of the game, is it a cup final or a casual kick
around with a football. The score and time remaining. Being 1-0 up at the start is
different then being 1-0 up with two minutes left. Substitutions can wreck
a plan; the new player may not be able to fill the task as well as the one
he replaced. Weather and field conditions can play a part in making a
plan. Parents, spectators and the referee can have an influence on the
match. The coach and players must keep in mind which of these factors they
can influence, and which ones they can't. Control the controllable.
While there are a number of factors that
both soccer coaches and soccer players must consider, the steps in how they do it
are the same.
1) They make assumptions. Everyone does
it, it's what you start from. Coaches guess which opponent will be
dangerous. Player's size up their immediate opponent and build
expectations. If the assumptions are accurate, good, if not they need to
be changed quickly.
2) The predictions. Assumptions just sit
there. They need to be analyzed as to what they mean. Simply assuming that
your immediate opponent is faster then you, what does that mean about the
game? This step involves taking the assumptions and calculating the
probabilities. What is likely to happen?
3) The decisions. When the coach and
players have arrived at their predictions about the game they can decide
what they want to do about it. Which ones deserve consideration and which
don't? The decisions will be coloured by the coaches soccer experience and
Plans precede the game. Some coaches
mistake a line up, a system of play as a plan. It is not. Nor is the plan
something like "a flat back four." This deals with one line in one moment.
It is not general comments like "pass the ball wide" or "apply pressure in
their half." These are elements of the plan, they are contained within it
but fall short of being it.
Plans primarily go wrong when any one or
more of the above factors are incorrect. When the assumptions are wrong a
correct prediction won't follow. If the assumptions are correct but the
predictions are wrong then the decisions will have to be changed. If both
the assumptions and predictions are correct a coach can still make a poor
selection for solving the problem. When a coach is correct in what he
assumes about the game, and he correctly predicts events, and has enough
insight and understanding about the game, it's problems and solutions he
is in the best position to make a good plan. Things may still go wrong,
but it will be something either unforeseen or uncontrollable.