Pre-season focus

My Under 17s were back in pre-season training last week and we got off to a good start with a session which had a bit of fitness to begin with (ball included!) but really was a chance for me to start talking about some key topics/concepts for the season ahead.

Last year we started well, with sessions on playing out from the back and the like (i.e. using half pitch areas to work on these type of topics) but as soon as the nights drew in we had a smaller space to work in and focus changed to possession/pressing and a range of other themes. I found it hard at times to work on some of the topics I wanted due to the restricted space of our all-weather pitch but I guess that’s the challenge of being a coach!

I’ve decided that I want to get back to basics during this pre-season so I spoke to the players last week about the attacking principles of creating, maintaining & exploiting space – width/depth and then the defensive principles of being compact, denying/restricting space etc. I had them setup in a half-pitch 7v7 which allowed me to talk to both the defending & attacking teams before the part of the session regarding what I was looking for and then we discussed these principles as we went on.

Tomorrow is the second session and I’m going to split the focus again. I’d often avoid discussing (for example) both attacking and defending topics in a session (and many coaches would tell you not to work with two groups) but I want to get my ideas across and I think this is achievable providing you don’t fire too much information across and just keep to 2-3 points.

We’ll have a warm-up, play a SSG which will focus on movement/finding space (to get them sharpe, get them moving the ball quickly and get them working on their movement) as this is something which I want them to take in to the half-pitch 7v7/8v8 practice within which we’ll look at some of the coaching points.

I’ll be looking for my goalkeeper to be vocal with the defensive unit, I want them to squeeze space by being compact and difficult to play through but then opening up when in possession. I’ll be looking for my attacking team to get the two wingers out wide, to have my holding midfielder supporting behind the ball and for my forwards to being working as a pair (dropping, moving, communicating). I might not coach all these points but I’ll be looking for these during the session and I may make the points to the group, a smaller group or just an individual.

I’m in a bit of a rush to get as many coaching points across as possible before we lose our space so the next 3-4 weeks will be all about these principles and focusing on them out on the pitch.