Thursday, November 10, 2011

Developing a more refined tactical vision

As a Graduate of Physical Education, Paulo Cesar do Nascimento had dreamed of becoming a professional footballer, but ended up capacitating his passion for the sport in the academic world. His main foci within his academic career linked to the assessment and prescription of physical activity, along with fitness, exercise physiology in both football and Futsal.
“We look for the technically gifted kids of course; combining size, strength and intelligence. Specifically, our focus for the U13’s is on basic concepts, tactical principles of play, fine motor coordination, agility and balance.”
He goes on to add, “we do not want the U15 coach to inherit players with technical skills deficiencies, or for that coach to have to worry about that.”

Integrated fitness
“The Portuguese have a different perspective on team sports compared to Brazilians.
In Portugal, the starting point is always the 11V11, as the universal training methodology. A frequent question about this centres around ‘tactical periodisation,’ as a notion of Professor Victor Frade. In Portugal, this is a very common methodology, which was evidenced by Jose Mourinho, who adapted it with much success. I worked in both football and Futsal in Portugal, and this vision of integrated fitness works well football in Portugal, but in Brazil we still predominantly work on fitness separately. “

Is there a lack of integration at the youth academies in Brazil?
“I believe that the work in Brazilian football is still very fragmented. Many professionals still work this way, more technical, or ‘partial.’ I know some clubs in Brazil, in Curitiba, Parana and Northern Rio Grande do Sul, who think and act systemically and apply their coaching strategies accordingly. Corinthians in Sao Paulo, is an example of this approach. So there is a shift to integrate the work and to combine the ideas, but in the main, progress has been slow. At Avai, I try to work within a methodology, with the application of tactical principles of play which is similar to the Portuguese ideal. In very recent times there has been more research to promote and validate these notions and methodologies (Juan Pablo Greco (Universal Games) and Israel Teoldo), but still there are barriers to be broken. “

Applying tactical concepts to children
“We are currently looking to add an U9’s team to the Avaí academy, but there have been difficulties in attracting players because f a number of social and domestic issues.
At the U11’s, we already work with very basic principles of play. In my approach (with this team) I work in a way to help them understand more about the game itself. Nine and ten year old children have difficulty capturing the depth of tactical concepts. At this developmental age, a child has difficulty grasping abstract things, and their ability to concentrate is still quite limited. So we work on the basic concepts of the game, such as defensive concentration, coverage, etc., by means of activities which are performed in so-called ‘series.’ This allows them to gradually get a broader view of what they are doing.”
“At the U13’s, even though some concepts are still basic, we make them understand the concepts more. It is necessary to develop a more refined tactical vision at this age. It is interesting to begin with instructions on tactical concepts, game concepts, principles of the game, as well as structure of space and communication of their actions on, and off the ball. “

Regional differences in the country
“Since Brazil is a country of continental proportions, we also have the issue of regionalisation.
In the South, they play stronger, ‘harder’ football. In Rio de Janeiro and Bahia, for example, they play with more freedom, marking is not as tight, and the game is more technical and more enjoyable to watch. In São Paulo and Minas Gerais, I have been able to identify a few things through observations; a running game, fast, technical and more organised, and also games with physical consistency. For development, everything that happens in the workplace is seen as a reflection, and then they see the game in accordance with what the local culture provides.”

Can we produce a ‘new Neymar’?
“The identity of Brazilian soccer has been lost in recent years, and it will be difficult to produce another player like Neymar, who has very impressive ball control and an amazing flair with technical and tactical ability.
Here in Florianópolis (where Avai FC is located), the middle and upper class kids play in rented fields and inhabit nice apartments, are different from those who play in the streets and neglected and rough fields.
Whoever comes from an the lower class (as we deem the latter), tends to play with a ball all the time. It is a matter of adapting to the environment and these players are therefore more skilled than the kids who only play an hour a day on synthetic turf (of the middle/upper class). We have also noticed that these players do not play freely, with expression. Talent is something more innate, and cannot be created.”

Benefits of Futsal for soccer
“Playing Futsal helps in the development of agility, speed of thought, information processing, technical ability and tactical intelligence.
At Avai FC, we have many players who have a Futsal background and through participation have developed these skills.
But there is also the other side of Futsal, which hinders the football development. Often, quality players, that have experience of four or five years on the pitch, have difficulty adapting to the aspects of space and time, both technically and tactically. When you have to pace the game and the rhythm for example, a young player will more likely accelerate the transition and this will increase the likelihood of mistakes. Futsal should be seen as enjoyable and an auxiliary to mainstream football development.”

Role of the games to develop team concepts
“You should create a game with certain conditions and rules that force the players to do what you planned. With the U11’s, I still try to make the younger players think about the activity, despite any limitations I may impose. I believe in the small-sided games as it is ideal to create this type of environment, and I would talk to my players about the application of the principles (such as offensive support, defensive cover and delay).
I think for the potential yield to be realised through the activity, the conceptualisation of; ‘how much space and why that space?’ or ‘why that space and how....? These are just a couple of the possible conundrums that could or should be taken into account.”

“The difference between 2-1 and 1-0.....?”

When I ask you; “would you rather have a 2-1 or a 1-0 lead, what would be your answer? With the advantage in your favour it might not seem to matter that much, it is a one goal advantage either way.......but there is a difference!
The difference lies mainly in when the goals are scored or maybe even in what circumstances?
Let us say that Real Madrid and Barcelona are playing a match at Santiago Barnabeu and Cristiano Ronaldo scores in the 12th minute to put Real Madrid in a 1-0 lead. If they keep that lead to half-time, they would go to the dressing-room feeling good. But, if in the 35th minute, Higuain doubles the lead for Real Madrid to lead 2-0, they would feel even happier and quite comfortable. However, let’s say, in the 40th minute Barcelona get a goal back from Messi, and five minutes later the referee blows for half-time. Then it would be the Barcelona team going in the happier, feeling that the momentum is with them and they are only one goal behind, away from home and that they are in the ascendency. Real Madrid will feel disappointed they conceded and are a little vulnerable, letting a clear two goal lead slip, and giving Barcelona a real chance of getting a spoil of the points.
These circumstances will undoubtedly affect the mind-set (psychological state) of the players on both sides entering the dressing-room. Some will feel elated, positive, motivated and encouraged, whilst the others may be disappointed, negative, but possibly motivated in a different way.
These perspectives will also be present as the teams return to the pitch for the second half.
A strange and interesting phenomenon, and it is totally understandable that coaches’ feelings and perspectives will parallel those of the players. Yet as a coach it is important to make sure the players are not negative or disappointed when they leave the dressing-room for the second half. In the given example, it is important to ensure that the players of Real Madrid see it as a (positive) 2-1 lead, but to deal with the effects of conceding a goal to reduce the lead in the correct way, possibly to seek to extend or reinstate the two goal advantage as a positive strategy. Dealing with situations like this is one of the great things about the football coaching profession, and possibly one that can easily be over-looked.