It is often in the first few weeks of a season that coaches realise they have put their team into the right level of competition. MORE
Anticipation: a key player skill
When I was first starting out in coaching I remember reading an article about Ron Greenwood, who had played for Chelsea and Fulham and who went on to famously manage West Ham and the England national team. When asked what the most essential trait was for a soccer player, he said: “Anticipation”.
Put simply, it’s the knack of knowing where to be, when to move and sensing what is going to happen before it actually does. It is a trait that all the great players have and it is something I work on with my players, because it’s a trait you can coach.
A good way of creating players who have anticipation is to build the foundations of their technique – and that requires practice. Improving a player’s skill doesn’t just happen and players will not learn skills just by playing games. Focus practice on basic skills in the early years and then let them advance with more technical skills.
One of the Under 10 teams I coach are of a very mixed level of technical ability but the one thing they all have is enthusiasm and dedication for learning new skills. Once we have perfected the first set of skills we move on and develop the basic skills into harder ones.. “Look Coach Dave, I can do what Ronaldo and Messi do!” one of them said to me last week as he spun on the ball and flicked it into the air.
Playing in a match before Christmas the team was losing 2-0 but their heads didn’t drop. Early in the second half a wonderful step over took one of my strikers past a defender and his team-mate anticipated this, moving quickly for a pass – and before the keeper had even moved, the ball was dispatched into the net.
It was an afternoon of watching great technique and some fabulous passing moves as the opposition were put to the sword. But we didn’t get an equaliser and it was a frustrating moment when the whistle blew.
Back at training I hadn’t expected to see the same players going 1v1 against each other on the muddy practice pitch but all they were bothered about was showing each other how much better their skills were than last week. I was thrilled to see it.
It won’t be long before they turn their potential into winning games and I bet even then they’ll still be going 1v1 against each other just to make themselves that little bit better.