Saturday, 25 January 2014

Coaching styles - pros and cons

The development of young people in sport is directly related with the behaviours of their significant others - namely teachers, coaches, parents and peers.
   But what behaviour aids the best development? Is it simply enough to ‘be a good role model’ or just be knowledgeable of the sport in which they coach?
   I have witnessed lots of training sessions in football with many different coaches, and I have found that there are generally two different types of coaches – the Facilitator, and the Teacher.    
   The Facilitator merely sets up the drill, and lets the game be the teacher – whereby the participants learn from their own mistakes with minimal coach intervention. The common phrase thrown about to support this style, is that you learn from your mistakes. That may be true, but if you don’t know you are making a mistake, then how can you learn from it?
   The Teacher on the other hand sets up the drill and then starts the coaching. They step in regularly with correct coaching points, offering demonstrations and asking questions to help their players understand. In my own experience, this method is far more successful than the Facilitator as the players are being corrected by somebody who knows best, rather than letting an inexperienced performer try to correct the mistakes themselves.
   Using myself as an example, when I first started coaching in 2010 I was very much a Facilitator, a session leader, if you will. I called myself a coach, as many of you do, however the amount of actual coaching I undertook in my sessions was actually very little. I am strong enough to look back at myself and admit that what I did then wasn’t what was best for my players, but under the persona we all adopt when coaching, I made it look like I was correct. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and I know that the experience I have gained through a number of things I have done since I started coaching, has made me a much better coach. I have become more immersed in the game, and in sport development as a whole, and being able to put my knowledge back into my coaching will have a positive effect on the players I work with.
   The most popular style in sports coaching is the Facilitator. Because of this, players are being expected to improve by making mistakes themselves, and thus correcting them. But how can they correct them, if they don’t know what the right way to perform the task is? This is when a good coach will step in and demonstrate the correct technique and offer coaching points, sometimes using question and answer, to aid understanding. However, this can be time consuming – stopping each group to deliver the coaching points, and a lot of coaches get bored of saying the same thing again and again to players, so don’t do it. But surely that is what coaching is – getting your knowledge over to somebody else in a way that they understand it, and can use it, in order to improve their performance?
   It is a well known fact that some coaches are better than others. However, the better coaches aren’t always the ones with the best teams. I had a brilliant team when I first started coaching, however most of them were part of a soccer school and had been coached by somebody else before joining my team, so in a way, I hid behind the success of my team and basked in their glory, although my input was largely ineffective. That is something I have figured out myself, nobody has come up and said this to me. I feel that if I had adopted the Teacher coaching style, then my team could have improved even further and the players developed at a much faster rate. In a way, I feel like I let them down.
   The Teacher method of coaching (the method you will use when doing your FA coaching badges) demands a lot of time and effort by the coach, which is why many coaches don’t use it. This style requires the coach to set up the drill, and then start to coach. The coaching style is as follows.
·         Observe
·         See fault
·         Coach and correct
·         Recreate
·         Play
What this means is, the coach will observe one group at a time doing the drill, and when he sees a fault, such as a poor shot, or a bad pass, he will step in and coach the player. He will offer coaching points, and even a demonstration if needed, so that the player can see what he did wrong. The coach will then recreate the scenario, for example by playing the ball back to the player who made the bad pass, so that he can play a different pass or make a run. Once it has been recreated, the coach will let them play until another mistake is made, or he goes and observes another group.
   This is best practice, because the coach is maximising playing time for the players as well as stepping in there and offering coaching points – which are the basis for which improvement is made. If a builder builds a house but lays the bricks wrong, the house may collapse. If nobody tells him what he did wrong and the correct way to lay the bricks, he will repeat the mistake and the next house will collapse.
   Sport needs more coaches, fact. But not any old coach. It needs somebody who is willing to put the time and effort in outside of the training session to become educated in the sport in which the work, by learning what the key factors for each skill is, learning the correct coaching points and knowing when to use them, figuring out what type of coach you are and which style is best suited to you etc. Without that time and effort, the future of sport is on a downwards facing slope.

   How can a coach expect their players to put in the effort, if they don’t put in the effort themselves?

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Manchester United v Spurs

Howard Webb has been criticised heavily over the past few days, what with his decision not to award Liverpool a penalty against Chelsea on Boxing Day, and now because of his refusal to point to the spot when Hugo Lloris apparently fouled Ashley Young.

I have got nothing to gain by my stance here - I am not a Liverpool or Manchester United supporter, so what I am about to say is from a referees point of view - without any blinkers or bias.
I think that Webb could have awarded a penalty for the foul on Ashley Young, however I think he set a precedent that other referees can follow - that whenever a United play goes down, it's not always a foul. Lloris was high with his foot, and did catch Young, however I feel that Young may well have been looking for it. In fact, Young WAS looking for the contact to go down.

The decision to book Adnan Januzaj was one of the bravest decisions of the weekend, and I think he got it right.

Januzaj has a history of diving, as does Ashley Young, and Webb done the right thing by taking the decisions with a pinch of salt. The key fact here is that just because there's contact, doesn't mean it's a foul. Januzaj could have made an effort to get out of the way of the tackle, but he didn't.

This is similar to the Oscar booking against Southampton, he CLEARLY dangles his leg to get the contact. THIS IS CHEATING. Well done Martin Atkinson for spotting this, I wish more referees would do the same.
I hope that Webb is backed by the FA and PGMOL, and that David Moyes receives a touchline ban for his comments made about him after the match. Replays will show that because Young was looking for the penalty, Webb was correct.

It is a sorry state of affairs now that when United aren't given a penalty because one of their players jumps in the area, the manager will attack the ref and not the player for cheating. This is something that the FA needs to take action about, however I don't think that they will..

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Tan lines the way for future Cardiff failure

Cardiff City owner Vincent Tan has been in the spotlight over the past couple of years, what with his decision to change their shirt colour to red and the badge from a Bluebird to a Dragon. This caused a lot of distrust and anger amongst supporters, with some boycotting matches while those who still went to the Cardiff City Stadium made their feelings known to the Malaysian owner.

He has had running battles with manager Malky Mackay since taking over in 2010. He has been trying to force Mackay out of the club by sacking his Head of Recruitment Ian Moody in October, and has even sent Mackay messages about which players he should be buying. A bit rich from a man who, by his own admission, knows nothing about football. This statement is backed up by the fact that, in a telephone call made by Tan to Mackay, demanded Cardiff would score more goals if they took more shots from inside their own half of the pitch. That's the way to score, he said.

I honestly would not be surprised if, when Mackay leaves (I feel this is unfortunately inevitable) that Tan himself would take over as manager.

I am a strong believer of making the most of your strengths, so am disgusted that the owner (who has put most of his money into the club in the form of loans, meaning that he would actually get it back) is getting involved in the actual footballing matters, rather than sticking to the financial side that he took over.

Malky Mackay has been a professional footballer for 23 years, signing for Celtic in 1993 after coming through the ranks of Queens Park where he made 70 appearances. He was sent for a one-game loan to Norwich City in September 1998, and eventually signed for the Canaries for a £350,000 fee. He played 212 games for the Carrow Road outfit, and scored 15 goals.

He is an experienced manager,  and made his managerial debut after replacing Brendan Rodgers at Watford in 2009. He then signed a 3 year deal with Cardiff City in July 2011, where he has arguably been the clubs most successful manager. After joining the Welsh club, he went 2 months unbeaten and won the November Manager of the Month award. The following season, he oversaw them win their first 10 games of the season, a run which would go far to securing promotion to the Premier League. 

I am fairly certain that the sacking of Mackay is imminent, unfortunately. How Vincent Tan passed the FA's Fit for Purpose test, I will never know. The man is a lunatic - he tried to get Mackay to go out before home matches and watch dancer dressed as dragons sprinkle rice over the playing area. A man driven on superstition, he has been successful in other walks of life, and has a net value f over £800 million.

He wanted to play in red at Anfield - he wanted Liverpool to wear their away kit for the match at Anfield today. I'll let that sink in for a minute. This man is in charge of a Premier League football club. 

Something went wrong somewhere.

Hello, FA?

Tim Sherwood: A review of new Spurs Boss

I am more qualified to coach Spurs than Tim Sherwood. I am not blowing my own trumpet, but it's a fact. He doesn't have any formal coaching qualifications, and no coaching experience in the lower leagues.

The former Setanta Sport pundit was openly critical of Tottenham when he provided opinions on them, but now describes them as 'his team.'  Yes, he may have played for them between 1999 and 2003, scoring 12 goals in 93 appearances, and was the First Team coach at White Hart Lane since 2008, but the claim by an anonymous source that he could 'be our Guardiola' does not stand up.

According to the Mirror, he HAS completed his coaching badges, but evidence of when he did is not easy to find. They criticised Harry Redknapp's decision to hire him and Les Ferdinand back in 2008, claiming they wouldn't add anything to the team.

While he will have to be as charismatic as possible, what with Spurs suffering a footballing lesson at the hands of Liverpool last week and Manchester City last month, if he is to have any chance to boosting morale and getting Spurs back on track.

Since the root of AVB's demise was ultimately the decision to sell Gareth Bale, Sherwood will have to show some talent in the January transfer window, since the £100 million AVB spent in summer on replacements haven't returned the outlay - as Luis Suarez has single-handedly scored more goals this season than the whole of the Tottenham team.  This seams to the underlying problem. Goals win football matches, and with a goal difference of -6, they have the worst goal difference in the top half of the table.
While they have won 1 more match than Manchester United and are 2 points clear of them, United have a GD of +6, which is something David Moyes can take heart from.

A team in crisis? It's typical Spurs if you ask me.

Always a team competing for a top 4 finish, they have only achieved this twice since the formation of the Premier League - in 2009/10 and 2011/12.

You would think that Daniel Levy would have gone with a more experienced manager than Sherwood.

Will he be able to steer Spurs to success? Only time will tell...

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Expecting the unexpected

Football is an unpredictable game, as nobody is ever sure what will happen. That is what makes football so great, right? If we knew what was going to happen, it would soon get boring and we'd all be millionaires thanks to betting.

But because we don't know what is going to happen, referees have to keep focussed for 100% of the match. One little slip in concentration could mean they miss a little touch on the ball by the attacker and give a corner instead of a goal kick, it could mean they miss a handball claim, or even if the ball crossed the line or not.

I know I've lost concentration during some of my matches, as an Assistant Referee I gave a goal kick instead of a throw in! I knew the ball had gone out off the attacker, but instead of flagging for a throw I just pointed for a goal kick. In my defence, the playing conditions were atrocious and the match should never have been played, so it was a relief when the referee abandoned play a couple of minutes later.

An incident in the Turkish Super Lig inspired me to write this.

During a match between Kasimpasa and Besiktas, a second ball entered the pitch from the crowd. Play continued as normal, so the referee didn't stop play, but the Kasimpasa defender Ryan Donk picked the ball up and ran back as Besiktas came forward. What happened next would be worthy of a slot on a Question of Sport. He threw the second ball at the match ball in the penalty area, causing the attacker to stop play. The referee cautioned Donk, and should have restarted play with a penalty to Besiktas. (I'm not 100% certain that he did though.)

If I had my way, I probably would have sent him off (although this wouldn't have been the right decision in Law) as it is down right cheating, and as with diving (simulation) should be punished accordingly.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Law 18 - Common Sense

Football refereeing is all about ensuring safety, and applying the Laws of the Game as fairly as possible. In order to achieve this, referees must use an aspect alien to a lot of people nowadays - common sense. This allows the referee to use his/her discretion when making decisions (as long as they can answer to their bosses post-match) but also means that consistency among referees is very hard to find, what with different tolerance levels and poor positioning etc.

The reason for this article is to highlight the difficulties referees face when making a decision during a match, and how when managers call for consistency they are asking for Utopia.

Referees come from many different backgrounds, such as David Elleray (back in the day) being a House Master at Harrow School, and Chris Foy coming from the predominantly Rugby League town of St Helens. They both have different refereeing styles, with David Elleray famous for speaking to the players as naughty school kids and having a no-nonsense attitude towards back chat. It is possible to say that Chris Foy has a more laissez-faire style, he likes to let the game flow and (similar to Mark Halsey) gives the players the benefit of the doubt.

The vaired population of referees is also evident in grassroots football (perhaps even more so) as referees are appointed to matches locally and do not have to travel the length of the country just for one 90 minute game.

I was an Assistant Referee for a Welsh match on Saturday 14th December, and the referee had visited the pitch prior to kick off for a pitch inspection before picking myself and the other Assistant up from our regular meeting place. He declared that the pitch was fine and that conditions were not dangerous, therefore gave the all clear for the away team to travel up. Now, the away team were based an hour and a half away, so you can imagine their anger when after just 15 minutes of play, the referee decided to abandon the match because the conditions had deteriorated considerably.

But they hadn't! The wind had been so bad that EVERY other match in the league had been called off - this match was the only match in North Wales to have kicked off. The referee had not used his common sense, in checking the forecast beforehand and making a decision based upon the distance the away team had to travel and the fact that no other match was being played due to the weather.

There was always a strong possibility that the conditions could deteriorate, and I would not have sanctioned the match to be played as the away team had to travel so far.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Educating football 'fans'

I was fortunate enough to go to the FA Cup 1st Round Replay between Wolves and Oldham at Molineux on Tuesday, and I am glad I did since we won 2-1! Being a referee in the stands, I got to hear the opinions of those around me, and I have to say, a lot of them have no idea what they’re talking about! Their opinions, are factually incorrect.
I’ll give you an example. Referee played an advantage for a bad tackle of James Tarkowski by George Elokobi, it was well played and Oldham won a corner. The referee then stopped play to caution Elokobi for a bad tackle, and then went back to see if Takky was alright.
When Tarkowski stood up, the referee ordered him off the pitch, so that when the corner was taken, Latics had 10 players on the pitch. Some fan behind me yells, ‘Where’s the advantage there ref?’ Well, kind Sir, I shall explain.

After the tackle, Oldham retained possession and worked the ball up the pitch where we had a shot blocked and out for a corner. We are in a much more attacking position than we were when the foul took place. ‘
We get fouled against, and we’re at a disadvantage with having 10 players on the pitch!’ You are vaguely  correct with this one, except you are not – we are at an advantage because we have a corner, yet the referee HAS to send Tarkowski off the pitch to receive treatment.

This is in accordance with Law 5, The Referee – ‘stops the match if, in his opinion, a player is seriously injured and ensures that he is removed from the field of play. An injured player may only return to the field of play after the match has restarted.’ And that is why, Mr Football Fan, the referee asked James Tarkowski to leave the field when we had the corner.
Another incident that stuck in the mind, was when Sidney Schmeltz was booked after Wolves had a free kick, and then they kicked the ball at him. Numpty fan, in total disgust, can’t understand why he has been booked – and says, ‘He kicked the ball at him, and we get booked for it?’ Well, Mr Fan, here is why – he was not 10 yards away when the free kick was taken.

Schmeltz was booked in that instance, for an infringement of Law 12 – Fouls and Misconduct – Failure to respect the required distance when play is restarted with a corner kick, free kick or throw-in.
And there we go, I have explained some of the most confusing and baffling calls made by referee Keith Stroud during Oldham’s total domination of Wolves on Tuesday.