Using insight to inform realistic practice design

Using insight to inform realistic practice design

Collecting objective insight is a great way to measure what is happening within games.  Si Houston, Claire McDougall-Robinson and Mark Neville discuss how we can create game realistic practices to ensure players have the opportunity to perform the same skills in training as they do on matchday?

When designing practices for our players there can be lots of important things to consider…

  • How can I make the session fun?
  • How can I make the most of the time that we have?
  • How can I ensure the practice isn’t too easy or difficult for my players?

There may be one simple solution to all of these questions – design a practice which is realistic to the games they are playing in. In other words, give the players a chance to perform the same skills in training as they do on matchday.

When using the term ‘pitch to practice’ we essentially mean letting the game inform what we do within our coaching practice, and one of the key questions we need to consider is what do our players actually need?  Being able to answer this question will provide a basis for what type of insight you might need and how you might collect it, either through the use of data or by simply having conversations with your players or support team. 

From pitch to practice…

Let’s take the core skill of ‘finishing’ for example. This can be the most fun, most difficult, and most important skill for players to practice. Developing a range of finishing solutions to the wide variety of game-scenarios presented to players is vitally important for ‘success’ at any level of the game.

Typical repetitive finishing ‘drills’ are no longer the top solution for our top goal scorers. They need to be placed in situations where they can make split-second decisions in front of goal. Where are my teammates? How many defenders are around me? How many touches should I take? How can we achieve both repetition and realism with our practices?

Let’s consider the importance of knowing exactly what our own environments look and feel like for our players. The video below discusses how many goals are scored with ‘one-touch finishes’ within certain case studies and tournaments we’ve analysed…

We see that 59% of goals scored at senior level are with one touch.   And whilst this gives us a great insight into the top level of the of the game, it is even more important to consider what this might look like for the age and stage of the players you currently coach  For example, our case study shows that at Under nine’s where more focus is on developing individual motor skills and their relationship with the ball, this figure was 31%.  We also see an upward trend that as players are progressing through the age groups one touch finishing becomes more common.  So, although our players will try and emulate their idols, it is important to notice what they are doing within their own unique footballing environment.

Top tips for using insights for practice design…

  • Recognise what your players might need.  This can help inform what data or information you might collect.
  • Don’t just take data from the top level.  Measure what game scenarios your players often face within their games.
  • You don't always have to collect data yourself.  Think about how you might use parents or substitutes to help.

The content featured in this blog orginates form the webinar titled 'How might we use game insight to develop realistic practices for our players?'.  If you missed the webinar or would like to learn more, you can find it here.