Merry Christmas to you too buddy(ha) and to your family. It is great to know there is someone out there who is passionate about the sport and can help teach the beautiful game the right way. Keep up the good work.
Balancing Strategy with Tactics for Player Development and Team Success Posted by Roy Dunshee on Feb 14, 2012 in Education
“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”--Sun Tzu, c.544-496 BCE (traditional); Chinese Military General; Strategist and Philosopher --
Like all good ancient wartime philosopher/strategists, old Sun Tzu gives us plenty to ponder. We can all draw meaning from such artful and provocative words. In the context of soccer coaching, I can draw a clear distinction between tactics and strategy and make an argument that we must teach both in order to develop players individually and give our teams their best chance at success. I can thereby conveniently wedge Sun Tzu squarely into my personal coaching philosophy. Here’s how I connected old Sun with old Roy.
I can comfortably define tactics as the application of the principles of play in a particular system of play. The jobs of the individual positions and their closest teammates in the different parts of the field on each side of the ball would comprise small group tactics and the deployment of those groups in blocks would represent large group tactics.
I can define strategy as how you plan to play.
For example, we could play in a 4-4-2 with a narrow diamond midfield and execute the principles of play efficiently in all areas of the field. Those are our tactics.
We could decide, within that 4-4-2, to keep one forward on the last defender and play for long balls and knockdowns in attack and funnel everything into our defensive central midfield in an attempt to marginalize the opposition’s wide players. When there is a strong wind at our back we will press high up the field since long balls out of the back will be difficult for the opponent. In the second half, with the wind in our face, we will drop off and invite the opponents to play in their end and take away the ball over the top. If we’re down a goal in the second half we will send our outside backs forward on every sustained possession. If we are still trailing with 15 minutes left, we will remove a back and replace her with a forward. That’s our strategy.
Tactics evoke a general understanding of the principles of play and the application of those principles in various sequences in attack and defense. Tactics represent a platform or basis from which all strategy or game planning specifics are built. Strategy is how you plan to win This Particular Game using the tactics your team has practiced.
The tactical coach must teach his team how to: Play numbers up and numbers down in the various parts of field on both sides of ball; Execute combination play and small group defense; Use the flanks; Cut out parts of the field in defense or play low or high pressure; Press, and break pressure; Get behind a defense; Hold a tight line; And on and on….
These are universal truths in soccer. Strategy, on the other hand, contemplates the specifics of the contest at hand. Who are our opponents and what are the variables that can affect the outcome? What impact do the following have: the playing surface; the weather; strengths and weaknesses of our team and our opponents; recent games (and upcoming games); injuries; substitution patterns; crowd; necessary results; game situations (goal up / goal down); perhaps even the referees.
Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory.
The coach who doesn’t know tactics can’t be said to have a good understanding of the game. The coach who has strategy without tactics might say “We have our own style; we are the fittest team around and we frustrate our opponents with stopper/ sweeper. We knock it long and keep them under pressure. We don’t tip-tap the ball around. We bang it down the field and make them defend. If we lose it, we man-mark all over the field and immediately chase to win it back.” And she may win. But she’ll be biting her nails the whole time. This is the difficult way to win because with better tactics the team could dominate more phases of the game. And by teaching small and large group tactics, the coach could systematically improve her team so it can compete against teams with better players by playing harder and smarter. Living on strategy alone doesn’t leave many options if what we’re doing isn’t working. It’s hard to change styles if the players don’t understand tactics.
There are certain fundamental principles, particularly in small group tactics, which must be taught to form a foundation from which all strategy can flow. If all the players know the tactics of small group defending, for example, then the choice of how to deploy our defensive assets will be strategic (four at the back, three at the back….FIVE at the back) based on the demands of the particular game, or the particular phase of a game. But our players will know how to operate because they understand the principles of defense within that group.
Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.
The coach who doesn’t account for strategy can’t be said to have a good feel for the game. The tactical intransigent, who fusses over the dogma of a rigid system of play and badgers his players with constant instructions during the game, without taking into account all the other factors that inevitably affect the flow, will surely find his team suffering from the first whistle. The coach must be able to read the subtleties of the game both tactically and strategically. Some attention must be paid to the opponent, the field, the match-ups, the score and all the other variables that make each game unique.
The coach must provide a cohesive marriage between how the team is trained tactically (for overall season-long deployment) and how strategic situational play emanates from within this basic framework. For example, switching from a 4-3-3 to a 4-5-1 is a as simple as drawing the flank players into a deeper starting position to provide more defensive cover and perhaps concede some possession in the opponents’ defensive midfield. This is a subtle change that is easily implemented but is only useful if the players understand the tactics of their positions and the strategic reason for the change. Why have we switched systems? Perhaps we have just scored a goal and there are two minutes until halftime. We may decide to lock the game up for those two minutes and go into the dressing room up a goal. This subtle change of shape (and strategy) will give us a good chance of success. We cannot expect our players to completely revamp styles within games without regard to the basic team structure/style that is the platform of our training. But incremental changes can easily be instituted to impact the outcome and challenge the players to take responsibility for understanding the team goals within the phases of the game.
Teaching strategy also helps players understand the balance of risk and reward. Surely if a team is down a goal they will be chasing all long balls into corners and putting the opponent’s backs under constant pressure. Midfielders will make more challenges for the ball and are more likely to risk getting beat because the need to have the ball has increased. Backs will play more directly and take more chances going forward. And they will send more players forward on set pieces.
Conversely, the team protecting a lead is more likely to keep the ball in the attacking third if there is no clear path to goal. Patience will be rewarded as the team in possession gives their defenders a chance to rest and the opposition must send more players back to win the ball thereby minimizing the chance of a counter-attack. The team with a lead should not send too many players into the box to get on the end of a cross because the risk of counter attack will outweigh the reward of more targets in the box. They will keep more players behind the ball and pick their moments to go forward cautiously.
If the team has switched systems, then the risk / reward formula may also change. For example, if a team has gone to three central midfielders in an attempt to protect the middle of the field and lock up a lead, there will be more immediate close defensive cover in that space so players can take more risks to win the ball without the threat of conceding penetration. Players will need to know how the changes in tactics (three central mids) will change the strategy (more aggressive challenges for the ball) regardless of the score or other strategic factors.
Player development The complete coach will provide training sessions that teach the nuances of game strategy. If players understand the need to play in different ways given the changing circumstances of a game, and they are trained to play in these different ways, then surely player confidence will benefit. Rather than just playing 7-a-side at the end of practice, a coach might play for ten minutes with one team protecting a lead and the other team chasing the game. Surely the team that is down a goal will need to take more risks. How should each team deploy their assets in this situation?
Training sessions that balance tactics and strategy give players a deeper understanding of the game so they can develop into versatile operators rather than one-trick ponies. This will better prepare the players for the challenges of the game as they develop. And when they move to a higher level with a different team and a different coach, they will be ready to adapt to any playing styles and systems that the new team deploys.
Team success Teams that can deploy several different styles of play will always have the edge on those that can’t. Being able to adjust a system or tactic or change strategy on the fly will always provide an advantage. It is often said that soccer is a players’ game and that once the game begins there are limited options for the coach to impact the game. This is most certainly true. If we have so few weapons at our disposal during the game, why not make the most of them? The strategic coach will have her players ready to play in a variety of ways. She will train her players in a system of communication to indicate when a tactical or strategic change will take place. Rather than screaming from the sideline: “We are switching to a 3-4-3”, the strategic coach will have mentioned at half-time that if we are still down a goal with 20 minutes left we will bring on a striker, remove a defender and play with three forwards. When the substitution is made, there will be no need to gesticulate about a new system or strategy. The players will know. This will allow for the element of surprise and put the opponent on the back foot.
Words of caution But a word of caution: Coaches must be realistic as to their teams’ abilities/limitations/tendencies and these variables will impact just how far they can deviate from the standard "Tactic", both in individual games and in situational strategies. The coach must make the transitions incremental in order not to unbalance the team or eliminate what momentum has been established. At the younger age groups, the situational changes should be implemented in stages (from least drastic to most) throughout the course of several weeks (and games) so as not to overload the players’ ability to absorb the information and be able to reasonably re-enact under game conditions. And coaches must be careful to avoid over-thinking strategies and tactics. If the team is playing well, there may be no need to change course even as the score or other circumstances change.
A further note of caution: Players (particularly high-level players) are generally not keen on constant changes in their roles and responsibilities. Strategic maneuvers should be implemented in a way that gives the players confidence that they will be given an advantage over the opponent. In other words, the team must “buy-in”. The alternative is to confuse the players and sap their confidence. The attitudes of the players must be taken into account. If a team feels they are at their best when they are attacking and they lack the stomach for sitting in and absorbing pressure, then the coach must account for this psychological team posture and plan strategy accordingly. By removing a traditional forward and bringing on a forward with a strong sense of defensive responsibility (if such a player exists) and asking him to take up a slightly deeper role, the team effectively switches from a 4-4-2 to a 4-5-1 without contemplating the notion that they are being asked to lock up a game. Some teams may respond better to this sort of guerilla strategic change. Other teams will be better suited to being fully informed of the team strategy and cohesive in their determination to see it through. Understanding these subtleties is the job of the coach and the ability to interpret these sorts of intangibles will separate the great coaches from the pack.
It should also be noted that all the ideas expressed in this article are of no value whatsoever if the players have grave technical weaknesses. The greatest tactics and strategy in the world cannot compensate for poor technique and the advice contained herein is offered with the assumption that a level of technical competence has been achieved. If not…just teach technique and worry about tactics later.
Final thoughts As in all things philosophical (and most things soccer) the answers to the questions posed by the game’s challenges lie in finding the correct balance between technique, tactics and strategy--all must get their due. The well-coached team is technically sound and tactically schooled in the principles of play and can operate efficiently in a variety of environments. And that team’s players are strategically deployed in a system and style best suited for their strengths and weaknesses in a particular game or a particular phase of a game. They have been given information (strategy) but not too much information (overload). And they will be able to communicate their shifts in strategy and tactics without giving anything away. The complete coach will understand the importance of balancing tactics and strategy or, like old Sun Tzu said, risk a very slow road to victory or a lot of noise before defeat.
The cardinal sin of goalkeepers October 9, 2012 Jordan Willis, Pro Blogger
Every keeper does it. The 8 year olds I coach do it. I did it for my university side here in the UK on Sunday, we drew 4-4 where we would have won if I hadn't. No one pointed the finger at me; not a single player said I was to blame, but I knew I had. Here Is England 2nd Choice Goalkeeper John Ruddy Doing It Against Chelsea At The Weekend (at around 3:30 - for further analysis on those highlights, I covered the game Here.)
Every keeper dives backwards. And it costs every team goals.
And I get it, I truly do. To not dive backwards is to go against your body's natural intuition. As a goalkeeper turns his or her head towards their hand to watch the ball onto it, it naturally turns the rest of your body into a backwards arc. If you think about the amount of goals you see go in and the goalkeeper is looking at the ball in the net, you can begin to understand how universal the problem is.
But why is it a problem? As Fig 1. Shows, in the simplest of senses you cover less distance when diving backwards. In Fig 1, the red dot represents an attacker and the blue dot the goalkeeper. The lines coming from the goalkeeper are exactly the same length, and show one potential dive in a forward trajectory and one in a backwards one. The red lines from the striker show how far into the corner the shot would have to be to still beat the keeper. As can be seen, the goalkeeper, by just changing the angle of his or her dive the goalkeeper can cover roughly a quarter more of the goal than previously. In a full sized goal, that is two yards extra coverage.
To move beyond this rather obvious benefit, we need to go back (the only time we will be doing such a thing in this blog) at the example I provided earlier. There we see Branislav Ivanovic of Chelsea turn and strike the ball past Norwich’s John Ruddy. Good turn, good hit, good goal – but it could have been stopped. As can be seen, John Ruddy gets two hands to the ball but doesn’t manage to keep it out because he is diving backwards. Because of his trajectory, he was only able to push it in the way that he is diving (into the net). When we compare this with the USA’s Tim Howard and His Save Against Canada (the first one), you notice a number of things. Firstly, his body ends up further forward than when his feet were planted – well done Tim. We can also see that his touch is much weaker than John Ruddy’s on the ball, only one hand being able to flick the ball away from goal. But, because of his positive movement forward, the ball was naturally deflected away from the goal rather than into it. If Tim Howard was diving backwards here, he may not have got to the ball at all – and even if he did, he would have likely pushed it into the net.
This entire blog would be pointless without offering some kind of resolution to the obvious issue. Luckily, because diving is such a transferable skill in your training sessions with a goalkeeper, briefly explaining the concept to him or her and then constantly reminding the keeper when they are diving backwards will eventually pay off. The skill really is one that has to be ingrained into the keeper’s brain more than naturally picked up. There are, however, certain drills that can be done to try and change the trajectory of a dive, one such is explained below.
The Drill (see Fig 2. for guidance): place the goalkeeper on a distinguishing line on your field of play and make them get onto their knees, facing you (the server) with the ball. The server should be about five yards away from the keeper with a ball in their hands. Throwing the ball under arm, toss the ball so that the keeper has to dive to one side and catch it and return the ball to the server, who then throws the ball to the other side. Repeat these steps over and over. The trick is when the exercise stops. Instead of making ten saves each time, make the keeper travel a certain distance forward over the exercise. The only way to get from point A to point B is by diving (stop the keeper walking forward on their knees) in a forward directory. This means that the server will gradually be walking backwards to keep serving the ball to the goalkeeper. Because of the vast number of saves the keeper has to make and all of them having to be forward in direction, it quickly reinforces the idea in the goalkeeper’s mind that diving forwards is a positive thing (as theoretically the drill never ends if they don’t dive forwards). Because mastering this skill is about repetition, it helps to have the keeper on their knees as they are then making the most amount of saves they can in the set distance.
For any further questions, or to follow more soccer stories, news and opinions, please follow me on Twitter.
Post by davidmonriel on Aug 9, 2013 20:30:13 GMT 8
Hello, I'm new here and I've read the whole thread and took down notes
I want to start coaching. I'm 22 but thing is, I never played football so you can say I'm trying to pull an Andres Villas Boas here, I would really appreciate beginner tips and advice on how to start at coaching
to davidmonriel a really good way to start is to know the the football principles of play use these as guide lines as they will help you adapt to any situation you have eg.attacking/defending/systems. gain as much technical knowledge as you can great way to start is coerver coaching/ books/ dvds anything really. as part of that try and learn some tactical things explore systems and methodology around them. Coaching clinics also will be extremely helpful even though they cost the cofidence you take away from these far out way the cost and puts you in a environmet with like minded people and with that comes oppotunitys hope that helps
I played football at school about 20 years ago from elementary to 1st year college. I wanted to present myself to coach for my son's school (they don't have soccer team yet). I prefer to get a license in coaching as it would give me more ideas about coaching. Could you provide possible when and where I could get this license?
Successful coaching 4th edition by rainer martens and also the NSCAA the soccer coaching bible both are available for free from Google books. This books will really help anyone with there coaching philosophy and the processes in coaching.
BoyBacolod: I am amused at the current spat of Ceres and Kaya fans, though I say Kaya fans had it coming. It also an example of a trait lacking in government, that thing called "foresight".
Feb 8, 2019 18:00:51 GMT 8
BoyBacolod: The Iloilo Provincial government need to get their act together. Now the Neg. Occ. government is at full support of football, especially the vice-governor, who was mayor of San Carlos, another football hotbed, who might be governor in July.
Feb 8, 2019 21:45:08 GMT 8
BoyBacolod: Sa mga Kaya fans na nagsasabing baka one game lang sa Panaad, basa sa AFC Cup 2019 Regulations, section 16.2.
Feb 9, 2019 12:18:26 GMT 8
BoyBacolod: With the Visayas making a name for itself in football,it really puts a dent on 'Imperial Manila' basketball mentality. Better football facilities, and the Visayan cities can make a name for themselves internationally.
Feb 22, 2019 12:47:40 GMT 8
BoyBacolod: NCR had for so long relied on Palaro players from provinces to boost their lineups. It is high time that VISAYAS should own football. In Negros I think it will a step closer since the vice-governor running for the top post is a football supporter.
Feb 22, 2019 12:58:13 GMT 8
BoyBacolod: what lol 😋
Feb 23, 2019 12:57:25 GMT 8
truman: keep ting on basketball, mate. accept it, we can't cope up with its popularity. Dont hate on the sport. Blame PFF for not marketing the sport well enough.Now that the Philippines is in the FIBA World Cup, it would be a loooot harder for ustogainsupport
Feb 25, 2019 0:44:10 GMT 8
BoyBacolod: If some UAAP or NCAA schools will join the new league in one form or another, it may remove the gap between U22s and seniors. The schools can devise a system akin to sports academies, education is important after all.
Feb 28, 2019 18:16:35 GMT 8
BoyBacolod: Will the PFL be like the San Marino league system, where there are no so-called "home" stadiums.
Mar 2, 2019 12:39:19 GMT 8
leoisiah: Gibraltar also has a single stadium for their league.
Mar 12, 2019 8:27:57 GMT 8
BoyBacolod: Rules are rules are rules. The two clubs should have known better. They are given loads of time to act on it. And to those who say PFF sucks, sometimes they do but one thing they are consistent is sticking to the rules.
Mar 25, 2019 10:42:16 GMT 8
truman: Agree @boybacolod
Mar 25, 2019 14:49:21 GMT 8
truman: lowkey cringe sa conyoness ng PPL FB page.
Apr 8, 2019 10:11:23 GMT 8
truman: sad day for philippine football
Apr 27, 2019 13:22:38 GMT 8
BoyBacolod: Why I like UAAP football, no more extra games for seeding.Makes me think about European efficiency. Wish gayahin din sa basketball (very sketchy tiebreakers), like Euroleague.
May 8, 2019 14:02:35 GMT 8
BoyBacolod: Negros Occidental footy fans, expect more football this 2019, now that a San Carlos native is governor.
May 14, 2019 2:05:22 GMT 8
Jun 9, 2019 18:39:47 GMT 8
@BoyBacolod: Hamak na mungkahi lang. Mabuti siguro kung maipromote ulit ang larong sipa. Daming maling sa sipa na mga bata, mabuting transistion for futsal, kung hindi regular football. Parang sa Thailand, sepak takraw, o chinlone sa Myanmar.
Jul 24, 2019 19:12:53 GMT 8
bluedevil2k8: guys please support the across the line podcast
Sept 16, 2019 19:18:16 GMT 8