The Game Training Phase
ABOUT THE GAME TRAINING PHASE
The Game Training Phase has two main objectives:
- Prepare players for senior football by teaching them to apply functional game skills in a team setting using 1-4-3-3 as the preferred formation
- Develop tactical awareness, perception and decision-making through a game-related approach to training.
WHAT ARE THE CHARACTERISTICS OF YOUTH IN THIS AGE BRACKET?
The most important aspect of this age bracket is the fact that these players are in (or entering into) the puberty phase which is a phase of radical mental and physical changes. It goes without saying that it’s of the ultimate importance that coaches working with players this age have knowledge and understanding of these aspects to be able to guide youngsters through this critical development phase in a well-considered way.
Game Training Phase sessions consist of 4 components: Warm up, Positioning Game, Game Training, Training Game.
Starting points for the Warm Up are:
- Preferably with ball (e.g. passing practices);
- If possible ‘theme related’ including a level of decision-making; avoid warm-ups that are more like conditioning sessions!
The main conditions for quality positioning play are:
- Maximal use of space in order to create more time on the ball (stretching the opponent)
- Triangles (no players in straight lines)
- Support play to create options for the player on the ball
- Anticipation and communication (verbal and non-verbal).
These basic principles form the foundation for proactive possession
based football and this explains the importance of the positioning games
in training practices. Through positioning games young players:
- Learn to always create at least 3 options for the player on the ball (through proper positioning)
- Improve their decision-making (by learning to choose the right option)
- Increase their handling speed (less space and time forces quicker thinking and acting)
- Improve their technique (passing and first touch are essential technical skills)
- Learn to communicate both verbally (e.g. calling for the ball) and non-verbally (e.g. through ball speed and ball direction).
This is the reason why positioning games are on the menu of every Game Training Phase and Performance Phase session.
THE GAME TRAINING COMPONENT:
This is the part of the session where conscious teaching and learning of the designated Team Task takes place. For a proper Game Training practice the coach must therefore:
- Create the proper scenario (organize the practice in such a way that the focus is on the designated Team Task);
- Organize the practice in the right area of the field (where this particular situation takes place during the real game) and with the appropriate dimensions
- Create the proper level of resistance (too easy = no development; too difficult = no success)
- Make effective interventions and provide quality (specific) feedback
- Ask smart questions to develop player understanding and enhance learning
This is the traditional game at the end of a session. In our approach however it should not just be a ‘free’ game. The definition of a Training Game in the context of a Game Training Phase session is:
- A game at the end of the session that contains all the elements of the real game but with rules and restraints that see to it that the designated Team Task is emphasised.
- During a Training Game the players are playing and the coach is observing if learning has taken place (little or no stop-start coaching but preferably coaching ‘on the run’).
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR TRAINING SESSIONS WITH YOUTH THIS AGE?
The Game Training Phase sessions should strive for game realistic scenarios, the practices must include game specific resistances such as opponents, team-mates, direction, rules and appropriate dimensions. As a consequence, in Game Training Phase sessions often all three Main Moments take place continuously, but the focus is on one of them.
We consider 3 sessions of 75-90 minutes and one game a maximum safe weekly work load, with the following session planning guidelines:
- Welcome/explanation: 5 minutes
- Warm Up: 15-20 minutes
- Positioning Games: 20 minutes
- Game Training component: 25-30 minutes
- Training Game: 20-25 minutes
- Warm Down/wrap up 5-10 minutes
Similar to the sessions of the Skill Acquisition Phase, the sessions of the Game Training Phase are also ‘themes based’. In the Game Training Phase the ‘theme’ of a session focuses on one of the ‘Main Moments’ and the Team Tasks (as well as the individual player tasks) within that ‘Main Moment’.
To be able to properly develop the team tasks and the individual player tasks we need the context of a playing formation. After all, team tasks and player tasks may differ depending on the playing formation.
The Game Training Phase is about learning how to apply the core skills in a functional way. The focus shifts towards learning to play as a team and developing an understanding of the team tasks during the main moments (attacking; defending; transitioning), as well as the specific tasks that go with the individual team positions.
To assist you with this, we highly recommend that you undertake a Football Australia Coach Education Course. Coaches at all levels play a crucial role in ensuring that football is an enjoyable experience for everyone, as well as laying the foundation for the development of better players. As such, our Coach Education courses have been designed to support you in whatever role you have whether it be in youth or senior football.
In the Game Training Phase, we highly recommend that coaches undertake the Game Training Certificate (Community Pathway) and/or the Football Australia 'C' Youth Licence (Advanced Pathway) which will assist you in planning/preparing sessions and how you conduct and evaluate training. Click HERE for more information on our Football Australia Coach Education Courses and to find which course will be right for you, your own coaching journey and the players you are working with.