Coaching the Coaches: Rehan Mirza on Basic principles of a coaching session

By Rehan Mirza, UEFA B licence and Coach, Centre of Excellence, Notts County FC.

The aim for a coach when coaching is to encourage players to blend amongst each other. As the game is progressed, the importance of understanding the game should then be drawn attention to. As coaches, especially in places where coaching knowledge is limited, we sometimes have a tendency to over populate a small coaching area, in which case it may become difficult for the players to understand any outcomes of that particular session. I can only assume that in Pakistan, coaches may be restricted to the amount of practical knowledge. A coach may be tempted to coach the whole unit in a confined space. It can always work more favorable to use small areas only when coaching small groups. As the outcomes are understood, then ultimately the area and players can be increased in size/number accordingly.

Our session depends on situations that happen during a game of football. It may be to work on possession or your opponents having possession.

1)     Possession: This is attacking play and its principles are to maintain ball possession in order to achieve a realistic target (e.g., score a goal)

2)     Regaining possession: This is defensive play with a constructive formula to achieve the target of regaining possession.

Attacking play in small areas (3 v 3, 4 v 4, 5 v 5 or 6 v 6).

  • The aim for the players is to maintain and keep possession of the ball. Things to think about would be to support the player who is in possession of the ball, whether it be behind, in front, or at the side. The emphasis is to always be available, and create space.
  • Attacking play does not always mean playing the ball forward. Sometimes, we have to play the ball sideways or back, in order to for it to go forward with safety. It is important that the players maintain being head steady, good vision, and provide an accurate pass to a team mate/into space.
  • The movement of players on the attacking team is important. This can be either in front of the opposition to pressurize them, or drawing them away from space required by the attacking team to run into.
  • Do not disapprove players of showing individual skills (dribbling, shooting, etc) but specify their good and bad points in different area’s of the pitch. For specific needs, put in conditions and keep them disciplined (one-touch, two touch, no running with the ball, dribbling only in the opponents half etc).

Regaining possession of the ball

  • This occurs when the attacking player is pressurized into making a mistake e.g. bad pass, poor control, etc. The nearest player on the defending team:

i)              restricts the vision and opportunities of the player in possession to pass

ii)             moves close behind, and prevents the player in possession from turning with the ball

iii)            moves to him at such an angle forcing the player to play the ball in a certain direction.

  • Support the player/team mate who is applying pressure to the opponent on the ball by:

i)              covering him to restrict opponents individual skill

ii)             by getting on the goal-side of opponents, restricting space for them to go behind without being observed and

iii)            tackle the opponent whilst they are attempting to control the ball, and when the defender has his own players behind (supporting) him.

Coaches can always promote the theme by restricting players to specific grids within the coaching area. Emphasise, that in order to score goals, they must maintain possession. During this time, all players of the team in possession are attackers. When possession is lost, all the players in the team must work together to regain possession. As a final reminder, do NOT focus too hard on systems. Keep to basic principles that the players are able to digest. This will benefit their understanding and enjoyment of the game.

As a coach, if you see something wrong in the session then always have the confidence to address it to the players. This may even be stopping the session at that moment and having ALL the players standing still. If the player can recognize their error and provide a more suitable outcome, then the session is heading towards the right direction.

Rehan Mirza is a British-Pakistani football coach. He is a UEFA B licence coach at the Centre of Excellence of Notts County FC (Football League One) in England.

He is currently pursuing his UEFA A licence. He is a true Pakistani and has always helped the FPDC to provide help to local coaches.