Anyone who’s coached any group of players will know the following scenario. As a diligent coach, you’re preparing your session plan. You sit and watch a video or read a book or even attend a lecture; you scribble some notes and you come up with a plan for your next training session – you know the drill, literally, and you know how to add complexity to keep your players challenged and interested.
Then the day (or night) of the training session comes. It’s windy and rainy. You pull out your scrawled notes – after briefly mistaking it for a shopping list – and you can’t make head nor tail of it. You’re surrounded by expectant faces which very quickly turn indignant and, if you’re not careful, scornful. The respectful trust of your players is hard won and easily lost.
It doesn’t have to be this way, though. There’s none of that with Coerver’s online diplomas, which grant you access to a downloadable course handbook packed brimful with session plans, featuring clear instructions and diagrams. (You’ll be wanting a printout of those, and here’s a tip: if you’ve got access to a laminator, make merry use of it and get those session notes stashed in your kitbag.) Not only that, but there’s a clickable link to a video of the drills, so once you’ve got your players on the run you can click and check that it’s all tickety-boo.
Coerver’s Online Youth Diploma 1 is all about Coerver’s core aspect: encouraging and developing individual ball mastery to make each player as good as they can be. But football is a team game, and those individual skills and techniques need to be applied in a match situation. This is where Coerver’s Online Youth Diploma 2 comes in: it’s all about extending Coerver’s approach into developing a team style.
As with the first diploma, there are two main, alternating components to the diploma. First, there are engaging lectures from Alfred Galustian and Charlie Cooke, the two guys who founded Coerver Coaching back in 1984 and are still there, enthusiastically explaining their ethos to successive generations of coaches. And then there are the practical sessions, when you pop down the pencil and pick up the footballs, because even the finest boot-room theories in football need to be proven out there on the public side of the white line.
Unsurprisingly, Diploma 2 picks up where Diploma 1 left off, with a recap of the methods and mindset behind individual ball mastery. Then it explains how to apply this in a team frame. Having shifted the focus out from the individual to the team, the course starts generally by examining global approaches to teaching team style, then explaining Coerver’s specific approach to teaching a team style, before laying out the curriculum that teaches this – specifically, the Box/Trap.
One of the attractions of football is that there are many ways to win a game. (Which is good for us: if it were just about assembling the best players, there’d be little need for managers or coaches compared to scouts and agents.) During the course, Alfred Galustian asks a simple but vital two-fold question: what’s the best way to win a game, and what’s the best way to develop young players?
In terms of the first part of the question, essentially there are two main ways. The first is to take charge of possession – as Johan Cruyff noted in typically epigrammatic fashion, there’s only one ball, so let’s dominate it –and fashion as many attacking chances as possible. In modern football, the exemplar of this mindset is Pep Guardiola.
The other way, conversely, is exemplified by Diego Simeone, whose coaching has taken Atletico Madrid to much more success than the financial bean-counters could ever expect. The Simeone model – previously espoused by other hugely successful managers from Helenio Herrera through to Jose Mourinho – is to defend, soak up pressure and counter-attack when the opponents are vulnerable.
As far as developing youngsters is concerned, Coerver’s belief is that although there are lessons to be learned from Simeone’s side, specifically their tireless self-belief and rapid counter-attacks, Guardiola is closer to the ideal. A possession-based attacking team style is best because if the team plays that style, players will constantly have to use and improve their core skills, the foundation of which is the ball mastery so crucial to Coerver beliefs.
Note that this isn’t possession for its own sake, even though that has physical and mental advantages in tiring out the opposition, but *effective* possession. Roughly, one in every five passes should be forward, because you have to shoot to score…
After laying out the theoretical groundwork, the course get deep into the Coerver way of playing. The instruction starts with Box/Trap defending – a lecture followed by a practical. Then it moves on to that attacking side, which itself is split into two: creating chances and then converting them.
If you like, it’s a classic “build from the back” ethos, moving through what might broadly be defined as defence, then midfield, then attack – but as any good manager will know, defending isn’t limited to your doughty stalwarts in the back three/four/five, any more than attacking should only be left to the flighty attention-grabbers up front. It’s a team game for a reason.
The Box/Trap splits the game from a vast pitch into an ever-evolving series of fast-flowing confrontations between small numbers of players. The Box/Trap asks you to consider a space around 25 yards by 25 yards which always follows the ball around, constantly reforming – and as one team usually has possession, it’s essentially attack v defence. In that zone there may be a 1v1, 2v2 or 3v3, or there may be an overload of some kind; however, they are all situations that can be prepared for with sessions and drills.
And that’s the whole point of Coerver coaching: equipping players not just with the technical skills to take on any opponent, but the tactical awareness of when to combine with their team-mates. In with that is a whole heap of positive thinking, eye-opening statistics and enjoyable drills, because the game should be about joy – and if your players are enjoying it, chances are you will be too.