So, we’ve outlined FFA’s specific philosophy on how football should be played, but FFA also has a specific philosophy on how football should be coached.
Traditionally, it has been accepted that football has four main components (Technical, Tactical, Physical and Mental). Based on this, coaches and coach educators have tended to distinguish these four elements and develop them separately. We call this the ‘isolated approach’.
However in doing this, the holistic process of perceiving (a football situation), deciding (how to act) and executing (the acting itself) is being separated. Football is a game of constantly quick-changing situations. Not one situation is the same as the one before or after. The complexity of football situations is determined by what we call the ‘football-specific resistances’.
This means that I have to do ‘something’ with the ball (which requires ‘technique’) but that ‘something’ depends on football-specific resistances such as: how much time do I have; how much space do I have; in what direction must I go; where are my team-mates; where are the opponents and what do they do; etc. The football-specific resistances activate the holistic PERCEPTION-DECISION-EXECUTION chain. In the traditional isolated approach, the focus is often only on the EXECUTION link of the chain.
Here is a visual to explain this point:
In this example dribbling/running with the ball is being practised but there is no real football context since most of the game specific resistances (space; time; direction; team-mates; opponents) are missing. From the chain PERCEPTION-DECISION-EXECUTION only the execution part is being practised.
This player will probably get very skilful at ‘dribbling through cones’ but the question we have to ask ourselves is:
“How much does this drill help the player to get better at running with the ball in a real game, or are there better ways to achieve that goal?”
Scientific research shows that the most educationally effective way to develop football players is to leave the PERCEPTION-DECISION-EXECUTION chain as much as possible intact. This is FFA’s philosophy on coaching football and we call this the holistic approach.
Another important aspect of the holistic approach is that we believe it’s not only the most educationally effective way, but also the most time effective way.
This fact is very important since we play football only 6 months of the year in Australia! In most of the world football is played year round. In many cases also the quality and frequency of practice is higher. This means that we have to be very conscious in deciding what we do with our precious practice time. We cannot afford to waste one minute of valuable training time on non-football-specific practice.
‘Wasted Time’ is time spent on non-football-specific activities, such as isolated technique training or isolated fitness training. Because of this, the season of 6 months may only be 4 months of actual football!
In Australia there is an especially strong tendency to regard fitness training as something exclusive and therefore separate (‘isolate’) it from football training. But by doing that we again lose valuable time of which we are short as it is!
Of course you need to be fit to be able to perform optimally but it is perfectly possible to get fit for football by playing football. Football-specific fitness and conditioning are therefore also a part of FFA’s holistic coaching philosophy.
All the generally accepted physiological training principles are being applied through the Football Conditioning Methodology that is part of this Curriculum: the players acquire high football-specific fitness levels without wasting valuable football training time!
So, we have now outlined and explained FFA’s football and coaching philosophies. The next question is: “how can we bring the theory to life?” In the vision of FFA, Coach Education and Youth Development are the primary strategic spearheads to realise the Curriculum’s objectives.
Well, youth development in Australia is presently inconsistent in both quality and approach due to factors such as the diversity and self interest of clubs; coaches; agents; private academies; schools; etc. The quality of youth coaching is generally still very poor and the competition structures are of insufficient duration and quality. If we are serious about one day challenging the best of the world, we have to make considerable changes and improvements in our approach to youth development.
The reason why Coach Education is the other strategic spearhead in bringing the Curriculum to life is obvious. The only way to really bring about change and improvement is to better educate coaches, especially the ones that work with youth players. Better coaching will inevitably lead to better football.
That’s why we have developed the FFA Coaching Expertise Model and re-structured all of the FFA coaching courses. However, it is important to understand that this is a long term process and will take a couple of generations of coaches going through the new coach education pathways before the effect will become visible.