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What is Your Style of Play?

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Barcelona, Spain.

We just completed the 15th week of the MBP Master in High Performance Soccer, which means we have one week left.

During the week, Eric Lira was our teacher for all of the lessons as the MBP methodology took a major jump over the past 10 days or so, but I will explain that further at another time.

The main focus of the week dealt with the ‘coach’ structure, which is the final structure that the coach must manage. Eric introduced the structure to us by discussing the ‘Strength Pentagon’, which is the interrelation between the coach and team. The ‘Strength Pentagon’ consists of five different aspects: direct supervision, optimization of abilities, innovation, optimization of results, and optimization processes. I will explain each further.

Direct Supervision: The coach has the ability to make decisions that impact the team as a whole. Primarily, this concept pertains to the starting lineups and substitutions.

Optimizations of Abilities: The coach must surround themselves with a coaching staff that has a wide range of abilities. Once the staff is in place, the coach must ‘optimize’ each coach and allow them to positively influence the team with their specialties. After FC Barcelona won the treble, a great article was written about Barca’s coaching staff. Take a look and you will see how Luis Enrique strategically ‘optimizes’ his staff.

Innovation: The coach must be creative and innovative, both in relation to training session design and game tactics/systems. Often times the training process can become monotonous for players and the coach can bring new life to training by utilizing creative drills at the appropriate time. For instance, Guardiola created a game of “Bucket Ball” to begin a training session with Bayern Munich. As you will see, the players had fun together (socio-affective) while improving technically and physically.

Optimization of Results: As we see on a daily basis, professional soccer is based on results (winning), and the coach must know how to reward their players in a way that keeps results coming. Often times players will have clauses in their contracts that states “For every goal scored, X amount of money will be rewarded” or, “For every win, each player will receive X”. Interestingly, I just finished a Drive by Daniel Pink, and he offers a different type of system to ‘optimize results’ in an effort to maintain intrinsically motivated players (people). **Soon I will be writing an article on connecting Pink’s book to a soccer setting. **

Optimization Processes: Due to the complexity of soccer, the coach must always be conscious of “what, how, and why do I train what I train. ” In soccer, the training process is everything as that is where the coach must teach the players and team how to activate their game model. By no means is the training process a random sequence of events. Jose Mourinho said, “For me training means to train in specificity. That is, to create exercises that allow me to exacerbate my principles of play.”

By managing the ‘Strength Pentagon’, the coach is able to work in a logical manner that seeks to maximize the capabilities of the eco-system (team).

On Thursday and Friday, we had the luxury of being able to work on our game model’s during class time, which was great because Eric was there to answer any questions we had. Along those lines, with the MBP Master in High Performance Soccer coming a close very shortly, I have received a few notes from interested coaches asking if there is a final test, session, or project to conclude the course. To answer, yes we have to complete a final project, which is to construct and present our own game model or style of play. For those that do not know, a coach’s game model is their essence or identity. More so, the coach’s game model could be viewed as their vision for how they feel the game of soccer is best expressed.

Previously in this post I mentioned the notion that the coach must always be aware of “what, how and why do I train what I train,” and that question is directly related to the coach’s game model. When building a game model many factors must be taken into consideration. Specifically, when designing a game model one must be conscious of players’ capabilities, club’s structure and aims, club and country football culture, moments of the game, structural organization, coach’s ideas, and principles/sub-principles of play. By taking all of those factors into consideration, a coach can design an ideal or logical game model given their current situation.

I am sure some are thinking: For who is the game model for? What players do you have at your disposal? Which club is it designed for? There is no question that those are all valid questions, but in my opinion, the questions are irrelevant because my game model is my identity as a coach. Before you can help a team improve you must first clearly define your vision for the game of soccer. The idea is that once your ‘ideal style of play’ is defined then you can begin to mold your game model to the players at your disposal and the vision of the club.

For instance, the two coaches who are the main reference points in professional soccer are Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola. Each coach has experienced incredible success albeit with two completely different game models. For Jose, his teams are widely known for their defensive strength and explosive counterattacks while Guardiola is known for his possession based offense and rapid transitions from offense to defense. The idea is that before accepting a managerial role, each coach had their vision (game model) clearly defined, and then adapted it to fit within the makeup of their given club.

One of the key points that Eric told us was that a coach’s game model is constantly evolving and growing. The beauty is that perfection in soccer does not exist, but one must try to attain it!!

If you are interested in learning more about the construction of a game model or tactical periodization, this article is a great starting point.

In addition to our lessons in the classroom, we always attended Espanyol vs Levante and FC Barcelona vs Espanyol U13! In fact, those were the final games that we will attend as an MBP group.

Here are some photos from the week!

Thanks for reading.

Twitter: @BrettUttley & @TOGSoccer

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