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Availability Games - Espanyol Youth Academy

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Barcelona, Spain.

We just completed the 12th week of the MBP Master in High Performance Soccer, and throughout the course of the week, we finished the training methodology, attended live youth academy training sessions, and attended the La Liga match between Espanyol and Malaga.

As I discussed in the previous post, there are multiple components to the MBP training session design, and last week we discussed the activation phase (coordination circuits and perception games). In this edition, I want to discuss the group of exercises that are within the ‘main sub phase’ called “Availability Games” or “Recalling Games”.

Dr. Rude explained to us that the last phase of the basic human learning process is known as the recalling phase, which is where the student (player) ‘retrieves’ information from ‘storage’. With specific regards to soccer, players must ‘recall’ the individual basic and collective fundamentals that they learned during their development as a youth player. For instance, professional players can ‘recall’ the specifics of ‘running with the ball’ that they learned as a youth a player. The MBP methodology uses the ‘main sub phase’ of the training session to utilize Availability Games and Possession Games.

Now, that you know the purpose of Availability Games, let’s examine a few exercises that have been published by professional clubs. The first example I want to show is one that is similar to the video that Dr. Rude showed in class. Below you will you see a video clip from a Bayern Munich training session, and please skip forward to 2:43 and continue until 6:33. When you watch, pay close attention to the exercise layout and specifically the executions that the players must execute.

As you saw, the players began the Availability Game by starting with a physical conditioning component (resistance band accelerations and lateral agility) followed by technical work with the ball, followed by a shot on goal, and finishing with a high-speed running action to the next sequence. Now I am sure most are thinking, “Wait a moment, this exercise design looks like a basic and specific motor skill circuit.” Dr. Rude explained to us that an exercise of that structure could be considered a coordinative circuit for some coaches, however, due to the executions the players are making with the ball (drilling in and out of poles/cones, and combining to shoot on goal), the exercise is classified as an MBP Availability Game. The idea is that the exercise allows the players to ‘recall’ the techniques they previously learned. Under the MBP Methodology, a specific motor skill circuit seeks to include a plethora of repetitions of the specific motor skill in an effort to allow the motor skill to ‘stick’ with the player.

In the next clip, Schalke 04 is utilizing a crossing and finishing exercise as their Availability Game. As you watch, pay close attach to the patterns of the game. Specifically, when the goalkeeper is able to collect the ball, the wide players must overlap before crossing the ball. Availability Games allow the players to have many repetitions in order to maximize the ‘recalling’ process of crossing and finishing.

Although the two training exercise are different from a design perspective, they both appear to be seeking the same goal – to recall individual and collective fundamentals in a structure that allows the players enough time to ‘recall’ the information from their memory storage.

After explaining Availability Games, Dr. Rude made it a point to tell us that the main sub phase is also a portion of training that the physical conditioning coach can implement specific components that the players need. The Bayern Munich exercise was a great example of incorporating specific physical aspects (explosive work with resistance band) to the technical-tactical ‘Availability Game’.

After we completed the theoretical aspects of the training methodology, we traveled to observe live training sessions. We were lucky enough to watch Cornella U19 and RCD Espanyol (many teams trained at the same time). I really enjoyed the training sessions because we were able to analyze the exercises by classifying them based off of the MBP Methodology.

Cornella’s training session was extremely analytical as the coach had the players execute specific patterns of play with no opponents for a solid portion of the training. After the pattern play (evolution exercise), they went straight into 11v11 and within the match the coach utilized natural stoppages to rehearse set plays (corner kicks, free kicks, goal kicks, and throw ins).

At the Espanyol training, many teams trained and there was a wide variety of training exercises. Specifically, one coach followed a similar pattern or structure as the MBP Methodology by progressing from one exercise to the other, steadily increasing the tactical demands for the players. My favorite exercise of the night was the Line Game that appeared to be working on attacking runs by the central midfielders and teaching the forwards how ‘to lose the marker’. The exercise appeared to be simple from a structure standpoint, however, from a tactical standpoint the players were forced to constantly think and make decisions in a real situation.

At the conclusion of the night, we discussed our thoughts regarding the sessions from both clubs and Eric Lira made a comment that really stuck with me. The comment was in reference to the Cornella training session as the session appeared to be ‘coach-centered’ due to analytical exercises used. Eric went on to tell us that although the session did not follow the MBP Methodology, it was clear that the coach had a plan that he believed in. Eric continued by saying at the end of the day, having a plan (good or bad) is better than having no plan at all. I suppose the moral of the story is to 1. Have a plan (training methodology/course of action) and 2. Follow it/believe in it!

To conclude the week, we attended the La Liga match between Espanyol and Malaga. However, before the match, we found a local restaurant to watch El Clasico! Experiencing El Clasico while being in Catalunya was incredible as the excitement surrounding the game was amazing. Traveling on the subway towards Cornella, many people were wearing their scarves and jerseys in support of FCB. Most importantly, FCB put on a clinic at the Bernabeu in a 0-4 victory over Real Madrid! Here are some highlights of the historic night!

Here are some photos from the week!

Next week, we will be attending MBP Academy training sessions, learning about the video analysis software, and much more! Stay tuned!

Thanks for reading.

Twitter: @BrettUttley & @TOGSoccer

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