This past outdoor season (March-June & Sept.-Oct.) in BC’s Interior, we employed a two-fold approach to metrics, specifically collective (team) metrics and individual ones. To keep this post within a certain length, I’ll deal with the individual ones in a separate post later. The collective metrics consisted of several items: team passing, Move of the Day, ‘Around the Horn’ & several other small but important team details.
Metric #1: team passing
We started first with just passing to see whether we could develop a passing identity. At the Division B level in the Central Okanagan, our first target of 100 passes was a stiff test, but we ended up with 107 passes after the first game. Encouraged by this result, we then consistently raised that by 10 passes each game until we hit a snag. If we didn’t reach our passing target, we kept it the same for the next game. That happened a couple of times along the way but that was not really an issue. After all, it’s all about long-term development. Ultimately, our best performance was 151 passes in a single game & our best half was 90 passes in another! In short, this was massive improvement & we often sliced through teams, making them run ragged by the three-quarter mark of a lot of games.
Metric #2: Move of the Day
Once our passing identity was established, we introduced a second collective metric: our Move of the Day (MotD). During warm-ups each week we taught the boys one of 10 different moves: ‘Shield’ (pull-back); Rivelino (step-over); Xavi 360; ‘Pretty Boy’ (1st half of the Rabona); Ronaldinho Elastico (flip-flap); Scissors (butterfly); Ronaldo Chop; Prosinecki; Zidane; & Cruyff Turn. Most of them got the gist of it & a couple even became rather good at some of the MotDs! In addition, we reinforced three rules: (i) never do a MotD in our defensive third; (ii) consider doing one in the middle third; & (iii) always try one in a 1-on-1 situation in the attacking third. Then we would occasionally scrimmage, whereby the boys were given extra points for trying one or more MotDs in a game situation before the weekend. By the end of the season, we had several boys doing Rivelinos in actual games, one who did a Shield three times in a row to escape three defenders (!), another who used two different MotDs to leave a defender on the floor (!), another who used the Xavi 360 to get out of trouble twice *in our defensive third* (opened my eyes to this option!) & finally the same player in another game used a wicked V move along the sidelines that we hadn’t even taught! All of us – coaches, players & parents – rejoiced on the sidelines at these moments, for the boys earned additional rewards for our charity by getting over their fear of failing & ultimately being creative.
Metric #3: Around the Horn
Once the passing identity & MotDs were well established, a third metric was introduced called ‘Around the Horn’. For those who aren’t familiar with this term, it is nothing more than a sweeping, arcing movement from one side of the pitch to the other through the backline. This permitted us to expand our game into more than just North-South movements & helped the boys’ game mature immensely. It enabled them to keep possession and switch the point of attack until we could find space to exploit moving out of our defensive third or into the opposition’s. Once again, the boys were rewarded with micro-donations for implementing what they were taught. And once they started to gain success in doing so, they looked to employ it more of their own accord.
Other key metrics
Finally, we slowly ratcheted up the demands by instilling some basic rules for the entire team that made us even tougher to play against. Specifically, we taught them to employ touch-tight defending, not to let the ball bounce, to not dive in & to beat one player before shooting, passing or crossing. Once again, we asked the parents to reward their sons if they saw them doing this in a game in an increasing measure. If they didn’t, they were asked to chat with their son about his performance that day. Over the course of the fall season, we saw a distinct improvement almost across the board.
All in all, by the end of the season the boys were playing very eye-pleasing football that even my dad, a knowledgeable fan of the Beautiful Game as performed by Spain at its peak or Germany now, couldn’t help but be astonished by the massive change in maturity of the boys as they stroked the ball around the field, often with authority. Every once in a while, an über-aggressive team knocked us off our game, but by & large we were dominant and thanks to Play Better everyone had discovered or rediscovered the joy of the Beautiful Game… and all this for a team that on paper had no business even being competitive! J
HTH you consider how to realize healthy progress within the Play Better framework!
What to read part [2 of2] ? Please click link here!