On Friday I blogged about a training session run by Heather Pedersen of Virginia’s ODP soccer program. Today I want to post another couple of clips from her training session that show things I thought were really useful.
Here are some things that are worth noticing about them.
- Heather consistently corrects rather than critiques. That is, she stops the play, pauses or recreates the scene, explains how a certain action could have been done better, and then has the girls execute again, completing the action in an improved way. This is far superior to what often happens instead: a coach stops the play and proceeds to tell players what they did wrong or how it could have been better but does not “roll back the clock” and have players start over from before the mistake. My Practice Perfect co-authors and I call that ‘critique’- It publicly describes how a decision was wrong but doesn’t actually ask participants to fix it. We call what Heather does ‘correction’- she has players build muscle memory of correct execution by re-executing. She often adds a very quick bit of questioning of the players to help them understand what went wrong or why the change is important, but if you watch her, time and again she recreates the scene and has players practice what it feels like to get it right.
- If you read my post on Friday you know that Heather’s whole session was about increasing speed of play. That meant starting with a series of pattern passing exercises where the girls focused on passing to and receiving with their back foot (i.e. across their body) and timing sharp runs off the ball. This is relevant because the corrections she makes later in the practice—when these scenes occurred–focus on those exact ideas. The setting is more complex now but Heather remains focused on the same objective: increasing speed of play by receiving with and passing to the correct foot and making sharp runs at the right time. This keeps her players’ minds on the key ideas all session long and, because she is teaching them to execute in a more complex and game-like setting, ensures that the ideas they’ve worked on are more likely to show up in the game.
- You’ll notice that even though she is, correcting she’s positive. She points out things that girls did well before the mistake so they can be sure to keep the good and fix the must-be-better. (e.g. “Good movement here from Brianna as she’s opening up…”) In fact, her feedback during play is just as focused on helping girls identify when they do something right “Yes, good movement there!” as on fixing it when it’s wrong.
- When she asks open ended questions, she’s careful to situate them in a very concrete and focused context. (“As she’s opening up, Sophie, what do I want from you?”) This allows the girls to problem solve efficiently so practice doesn’t slow down and to focus their problem solving on the correct cues.
- She frequently stresses the ‘why’ so players understand why small things matter: “It’s one of those little details that’s going to slow us down if we don’t do it correctly”
- She models her feedback as much as she can.
- She makes her point and then gets players back to playing quickly.
Speaking of small details that increase the speed of play, this second clip is a small detail that increases the speed of coaching. It’s a Cold Call.
Heather stops her session and wants the girls to take ideas from the first passing pattern they did and apply them in the second. But rather than waiting for someone to answer she directs the question to Alaina. Interestingly Alaina has not volunteered. Heather has called on her even though she hasn’t. I call this Cold Calling (calling on students regardless of whether they volunteer) and it has several benefits. It allows Heather to direct her question to anyone she wishes: Here it’s Alaina, but maybe next time it will be a topic her outside backs need to be especially aware of. Or that Brianna in particular struggles with. No longer reliant on volunteers she can direct questions to the most appropriate player. Also she eliminates awkward silences or the randomness of the one kid who talks a lot always answering. Everyone participates. And of course most of all it builds a culture that says we are mentally engaged and on-the-ball at all time when we are playing. Our minds are always on. This is a critical culture to build in a problem solving game like soccer.
Interestingly, though, when Heather calls on Alaina, the player hesitates. She’s not sure. But Heather’s next move is brilliant. She tells Alaina that the thing she has in mind is something she complemented her on previously. Now Alaina gets it– timing runs off the ball. Heather models quickly and then praises Alaina. This has the effect of emphasizing for Alaina how sincere Heather’s complements were–she still remembers telling Alaina her runs were effective–but also that they matter- her coach expects her to remember when she tells her something-even—or especially—when it’s something she got right. This reinforces—in the most positive way—a culture of constant mental engagement.
The final clip is another tiny moment—but another one of great value. As one group of girls is playing, another group is watching. This happens all the time in practices. We have three teams of six rotating through a small sided game, say- winner stays on after every goal and losers go off. But while they are off are kids watching and learning? At most practices probably not, even though watching carefully is a great opportunity. Heather overcomes that by asking her girls to watch intentionally and then asking them to critique afterwards. It’s just a great idea to make sure that players build a culture of watching and being locked in as much as possible.
<iframe src=”https://player.vimeo.com/video/245053196″ width=”640″ height=”360″ frameborder=”0″ webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe>
<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/245053196″>Heather Pederson.Cold Call.Follow On ish</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user65279993″>TLAC Blog</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
In fact after Heather’s session she and I brainstormed other ideas for things to ask players to do to help them learn by watching when they are out. We came up with things like:
- Have them watch an individual player (perhaps their position) and be ready to critique.
- Have them count the number of times something happens—ball received on back foot, say, and be ready to report back.
- Maybe even count or call out (“Yes!” or “No!”) if a skill or decision is executed correctly to give real time feedback to their teammates
- Be ready to say what should happen next when I shout “pause.”
You could probably think of a lot of other great ideas. The core idea here is powerful though- with a bit of intentionality you can turn downtime into productive time building game understanding and watching skills.