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02.14.19Steve Freeman Models How To Get Players To Think As A Team So They Play As A Team

Think as a team; play as a team


Been talking a lot to coaches lately about building cultures of mental engagement and collaboration on their teams.  Some recent posts here and here.

If that’s of interest to you, here’s a new clip that will be really useful. It’s of Steve Freeman, Director at Black Watch Premier.  His 2001 boys have been working on principles of defending and are struggling to implement them fully in a 4v4 (+goalie) game.

In conversations before we taped, Steve described how important it was to have players not only mentally engaged, not only doing the analytical work, but learning to do those things by talking to each other as they would during the match.

You can see him emphasizing those ideas in this clip of a short stoppage during the game.

Freeman.Questioning.Draft from TLAC Blog on Vimeo.

Some observations:

  • Steve’s first move is to have players reflect in functional groups about their work. The two teams begin by solving together.  (You can see that players are used to this; the do it simply and effectively because he’s made it a habit)
  • Coming out of the conversation, Steve starts Cold Calling.  You’re accountable to be prepared and do your work. (Again the players are used to this so they are prepared and mentally ready)
  • His second question is especially effective and simple: “Can you tack on the what he’s talking about?” he asks one of the defenders.  This causes players to listen carefully to one another and build off of their ideas.
  • He also presents the group with objective data rather than subjective judgment: “Five possessions, only two shots…” which helps them contextualize and assess their work.
  • At the end, he does two important things.  1) Despite the self-criticism, Steve reminds the boys that they’re doing ok, encouraging them to keep working. 2) He focuses them on the key teaching point…trying to cut the field in half defensively through body position of the first defender and support by second defender.  He’s making sure they know they most important thing to focus on.

All these things combine to allow Steve to build a culture of collaborative work that’s as much about the thinking as the physical work on the field.  There’s a lot to take from that… hope you are able to try a few of these things out at your club, too!


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