The #10 and Leadership

IMG_2177

Hello again, and welcome back to Barcelona, Spain!

In this edition, I will discuss the #10 position in addition to sharing our second sport psychology session with Xavi Garcia.

Let’s get started.

In order to best describe the #10 position (offensive midfielder), I want to start with this video.

When we began the lesson on the #10, Dr. Rude explained to us that depending on the coach’s system of play, there could be 1, 2, or 3 #10s. Normally, the #10(s) look to exploit the space between the midfield and defensive lines.

The #10 IFP

Offensive Blocks

  • Offering Support
  • Side balls/Crossing

Defensive Blocks

  • Defending the Space

As you can see, compared to the other positions that we discussed, the #10 role seems simple and basic. However, I can assure you that it is not. Allow me to further explain.

Within the block of ‘offering support’, one fundamental states “offering support between the opposing midfield and defensive lines”. By occupying the space between those two lines, the #10(s) have the ability to create space for the other midfielders in addition to creating space for the striker(s). Dr. Rude explained to us that occupying such position causes difficulties for the opponent because the midfield line has to defend the space that is behind them while the defenders do not want to step to mark the player as defensive imbalances can/will occur.

For a visual explanation, take a look at the video below. It is a highlight video of the FC Barcelona – Real Madrid game from 2009. When you press play, pause the video at exactly the 6-second mark. With the video paused, pay particular attention to the shape of Real Madrid (team in white), as you will notice their defensive line is a ‘zigzag’ shape. Now ask yourself, why is their defensive ‘line’ in a zigzag form? Notice the positioning of FCB’s center-forward (left corner of the screen) and the positioning of Lionel Messi (the FCB player near the midfield center circle – the closest attacker supporting the on-ball player). Due to Messi’s positioning, the Real Madrid center-back is forced to leave his defensive position to mark Messi (who is occupying the space between Madrid’s midfield and defensive lines), leaving a massive gap for the FCB striker to potentially exploit. Strategic offensive positioning causes defensive imbalances!

To transition, on Friday, MBP went on a field trip to visit with Xavi Garcia for our second sport psychology lesson. The lesson was not only theoretical in terms learning the specifics of communication, listening, and leadership, but we were also able to experiment with different leadership styles in a real setting.

Before I go further, I think it is important to better describe Xavi’s garden. Imagine an environment that is complete ‘Zen’. When you enter the garden, you immediately become curious and relaxed simultaneously. Prior to departing to Xavi’s house in Manresa (center of Catalonia – about a 1 hour train ride from Barcelona), Dr. Rude told us that in order for Xavi’s lesson to operate, it must take place in his garden. Not long after arriving to Xavi’s, we all realized what Dr. Rude was telling us. The garden was filled with a swimming pool, a hammock, a meditation area, a fish tank, and a heated central patio area with comfortable chairs and coffee!

One objective of Xavi’s lesson was for us to experiment with different leadership styles in order to better understand ourselves as coaches. One exercise included us having to order around another coach like a puppet. Very simply, the ‘puppet master’ commanded the puppet to do anything that came to mind. The goal for the puppet master was to get the puppet to say “no I cannot do that”. For instance, when I was the puppet, I was commanded to count rocks, do a cartwheel, and try to touch the fish in the fish tank.

The second exercise pertained to the idea of ‘leading by example’. Essentially, each one of us took turns leading the group through anything we wanted, but the leader had to initiate the actions. For instance, when Jesus was leading the group, he began climbing a tree, and immediately the rest of us found a tree to climb. However, if one of us did not feel comfortable completing the action, we simply could say, “I cannot do it”. For the most part, all of us were able to complete the actions. However, things slightly changed when a coach decided to lead us until the pool. Slowly but surely, we began to enter the frigid pool. The first 2 coaches to follow leader entered slowly, and when it was my turn, I let my presence be felt by doing a cannon ball. However, due to an ethical agreement, I cannot say who did not join us for a swim!

Throughout the entire session, we shared many laughs and learned a great deal of information from Xavi and ourselves. In particular, I realized that I cannot operate as a ‘puppet master’. Ordering Rik around Xavi’s garden was more of a challenge for me than it was for Rik. However, when it was my turn to lead the group by example, I felt at peace knowing that I was going to have the same experiences as the ‘players’.

Week 6 was an integral segment of our learning because we were able to discover which leadership/communication techniques work best for us as individuals. A coach can have all the insight and knowledge in the world, but if they cannot effectively communicate to their players, their expertise goes to waste.

On a side note, we did not attend any games this weekend due to the international break, and I was lucky enough to go explore/tour the famous Sagrada Familia. I have attached some pictures to check out. The history and design of the cathedral is truly remarkable!

IMG_2478

IMG_2483

Thanks for reading and I look forward to sharing my experiences from Week 7!

Also, I am in the midst of launching a new TOG Soccer website. There is a good chance the next post will be embedded in the new design. As usual, the link to the post will be posted on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Brett Uttley

Twitter: @BrettUttley & @TOGSoccer

Wingers – Tactical Periodization – UEFA Champions League

image1

Welcome back to Barcelona, Spain!

Week 5 was packed with more learning and memories that will last a lifetime. To get started, let me first discuss the IFP’s of the winger position.

When Dr. Rude first began teaching us the IFP’s of the wingers, he first began with a clear definition of the position by stating; the winger position is the one in front of the fullbacks. Due to the different formations and systems, the classification of a ‘winger’ can sometimes get confusing, so with the definition provided by Dr. Rude, we can begin.

As you can see by now, the organization of the IFP’s remain constant. For the wingers, the organization is as follows:

Offense

  • Providing width to the attack
  • Seeking information
  • Mobilizing the attack
  • Using advantages
  • Seeking crosses

Defense

  • Maintaining the balance
  • Identifying the player to mark
  • Defending the space
  • Defense of crosses

433 Defensive Fundamental

  • Identifying the player to mark

After Dr. Rude taught us the tactical fundamentals for the wingers, I quickly realized why clubs spend an exorbitant amount of money on wingers. Players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Neymar, Eden Hazard, Pedro, Alexis Sanchez, and Douglas Costa have all been sold for large sums of money of the past few seasons, and now I can see why.

To paint a better picture of the complexity of the winger position, I will further explain a sub-stage of ‘Using Advantages’ called, ‘creating an advantage through controlling by attacking the ball.’ Dr. Rude explained to us that based on certain situations, the wingers must utilize different controlling techniques (tactical). Specifically, one of the tactical-technical executions is ‘controlling towards the free space’. Now, in order to attack the free space, the winger must first recognize where the free space is, in addition to positioning the body in a way that can efficiently control the ball and run into the space in succession.

One of the best wingers in the world right now is Douglas Costa, who plays for Bayern Munich. Recently, Douglas Costa executed the perfect ‘creating an advantage through controlling by attacking the ball’ in a game vs Bayer Leverkusen. See the first goal in the video below. While watching, notice Douglas Costa’s positioning, body shape, and his tactical-technical execution that leads to a tremendous team goal for Bayern Munich. Notice his incredible first touch to get the ‘back’ of the defender.

You can see why Bayern Munich paid 30 Million Euros for his services!

Once we finished the IFP’s for the wingers, we began working with our physical conditioning professor, Dr. Albert Altarriba, PhD. To say we are lucky to learn from Albert is an understatement as over the past 10 years, he has worked at FC Barcelona (7 years) and New York Red Bulls (3 years). During our first 2 sessions with Albert (we have 8 sessions total), we discussed theoretical training principles in addition to focusing on two models of training (application of the theories).

One of the training methods is Structured Training, which revolves around the player, which I discussed in detail in a previous blog. If you need a refresh, here is the link to the article, https://togsoccer.wordpress.com/2015/09/15/player-structures-and-ifps/. The second training method that Dr. Altarriba taught us was ‘Tactical Periodization’. In essence, Tactical Periodization is based on the idea that the soccer game (game model of the coach), must be taught in a logical structure that revolves around the four moments of the game (attack, defense, transition from attack to defense, and transition from defense to attack. For a more tangible explanation, Pep Guardiola utilizes ‘Structured Traning’, while Jose Mourinho is a ‘Tactical Periodization’ follower. For an article that further explains Tactical Periodization, read https://mart1buch.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/delgado-bordonau_tactical-periodization-mourinho-best-kept-secret_soccerjournal2012.pdf.

One of the most important ideas that Dr. Altarriba conveyed to us was that the specific training sessions must be planned one week at a time (microcycle). The idea is that every game is of the same importance, and each training week must allow the player to perform at an optimal level 1-2x per week. If the training sessions are too easy, the player will not be fit enough for the match, and conversely, if the sessions are too demanding, the player will be too tired to perform. The coaching staff must find the correct balance between training volume and intensity throughout the week, month, and season.

Week 5 is a perfect example of the experiences that are possible while studying in Barcelona. After we finished our classroom session with Dr. Rude on Tuesday, we were lucky enough to attend 2 games, the first being the U19 UEFA Champions League match between FC Barcelona and Bayer Leverkusen at the Mini Estadi, followed by the UEFA Champions League match between FC Barcelona and Bayer Levekerkusen at the Camp Nou. Before Tuesday, I had never experienced a ‘European Night’, and putting my experience into words is quite difficult. Hearing the Champions League Anthem inside the Camp Nou was an experience I will never forget.

The buzz around the city increased and the stars came out! As we were walking in the parking lot of the Mini Estadi, a FC Barcelona legend drove past us. Once we saw the car park, we began to walk quicker to try and meet the player. The player that exited the car was none other than Carles Puyol! As we approached the legendary captain, I asked for a photo (clearly stuttering), and without hesitation, the iconic player began taking photos with all of us.

image2

To be fair, the day could have ended after the photo with Puyol, but the magic continued later at the Camp Nou when FC Barcelona came back in dramatic fashion to collect all 3 points against Bayer Leverkusen!

The rumors are true – There is nothing quite like a European Night!

Thanks for reading.

Brett Uttley

Twitter: @BrettUttley & @TOGSoccer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Midfielders – Manchester United – Espanyol

IMG_2333

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Barcelona, Spain!

When you last heard from me, we were finishing up the Individual Fundamentals per Position (IFP) of the full-backs and I was talking about our experience at the Camp Nou!

This past week included everything from the IFP’s of the midfielders, attending the Espanyol vs. Valencia match, and hearing from a coach that worked at Manchester United.

Let’s first begin with the IFP’s of the midfielders. Once Dr. Rude began explaining the IFP’s of the midfielders, one thing became clear, coordinating the movements (offensively, defensively, and in transition) of the three midfielders (in 1-4-3-3) is a complex process. Due to the continuity of the midfield position, each player must constantly link and merge tactical fundamentals in order to execute the optimal response for each situation.

Just as we discussed with the full-backs, the midfielder IFP’s are organized into two categories, offense and defense, and then further categorized by blocks. The organization is as follows:

Offensive Fundamentals

            IFP Blocks

  • Maintaining the Balance
  • Offering Support
  • Guaranteeing the Start of the Game
  • Seeking Information

Defensive Fundamentals

            IFP Blocks

  • Maintaining the Balance
  • Identifying the Player to Mark
  • Defending the Space
  • Defense of Crosses

After explaining the IFP’s to us, Dr. Rude reiterated the idea that the coach must clearly define the responsibilities of the midfielders (the IFPs), in accordance with game model (the team’s playing principles). To better explain myself, let’s examine the midfielder block, “Guaranteeing the Start of the Game.” To understand this fundamental, one can go ahead and research the Mexican coach, Ricardo La Volpe.

The idea of ‘Guaranteeing the Start of the Game’ or building the game from the back includes the strategy to create numerical superiority against the opposition’s forward line (1 or 2 forwards). The structure includes 2 center-backs (one at each side of the penalty area), one holding midfielder on top of the penalty area, and the goalkeeper. By the center-backs splitting to the edges of the penalty area, space is created for the holding midfielder to aid the build-up, and allows the full-backs to push higher and wider, forcing the opponent to pick their poison in terms of deciding who/how to press.

Take a look at the video below of a FC Barcelona build up. At the 18 second mark, notice the position of the center backs and the holding midfielder who is able to create numerical superiority against the opposing 2 strikers, in addition to the full-backs pushing higher, allowing the team to build from the back.

At FC Barcelona, utilizing the midfielder IFP of ‘Guaranteeing the Start of the Game’ is essential to their game model, however, if a coach does not want their team to build from the back, the midfielders (and team) would not implement the IFP into their playing responsibilities. In order to ensure an organized playing style, the coach must transmit clear instructions for each position, line, and for the team as a whole.

During the course, Dr. Rude arranges a guest speaker once per month, and on Wednesday, we were lucky enough to have Xuxu Batlle come speak to us. The structure of Xuxu’s presentation was excellent as he shared many of his experiences with us (coaching at Manchester United), and more specifically, he shared important lessons that he has learned throughout his current coaching journey.

During Xuxu’s presentation, many points made lasting impressions, but in particular, I would like to share two things. For starters, I am sure some are wondering how Xuxu joined the coaching ranks at Manchester United. Well, let me explain. As coaches, we are constantly telling our players, “You never know who is watching!”, well, Xuxu’s road to Manchester proved that the us coaches should be mindful of that as well!

At the time, Xuxu was coaching the Under-12 team at his club in Catalonia, and his young team was set to play in a tournament. During the tournament, Xuxu’s young team played against Manchester United U-12. Xuxu went on to explain that during the game, his team played extremely well, as it was 0-0 at halftime. The game went on to end with Xuxu’s team losing 3-0. However, the Manchester United coach approached him after the game, and congratulated him on a great performance, and before the conversation was over, the United coach invited Xuxu to meet at the hotel for a pint. Xuxu explained that the two spoke about football for hours. In fact, the two would get together multiple times during the tournament.

When the tournament came to a close, the Manchester United coach asked Xuxu if he would like to be his assistant coach at Manchester United for the following season! The United coach was incredible impressed with the performance of Xuxu’s team, but more importantly, he was captivated by Xuxu’s footballing knowledge and demeanor with the young players. Needless to say, Xuxu’s journey to Manchester was eye opening and inspiring.

The second aspect I would like to share pertains to a lesson that Xuxu expressed to us. Very simply, he said, “If there is a ‘why’, no decision can be a mistake.” The reason why that statement struck me was because when the opportunity to take part in the MBP Master in High Performance Coaching in Barcelona was presented to me, I had excellent reasons to attend, but I also had reasons to stay home and continue along the coaching journey I started two years ago. There is no question that I took a risk by leaving college soccer for one season, but in the end, living a dream by studying soccer in Barcelona was something I had to live. We all have perfect vision in hindsight, but after just completing our fourth week, I know now more than ever that following my dream of studying soccer in Barcelona was the best decision I could have made.

To conclude, here are some photos from when the MBP crew went to the Espanyol vs. Valencia match on Tuesday! The atmosphere was incredible and we saw a terrific game between Espanyol’s 4-4-2 and Valencia’s 4-1-4-1!

IMG_2337

FullSizeRender-2

Thanks for reading and I look forward to sharing my experiences next week!

Brett Uttley

Twitter: @BrettUttley & @TOGSoccer

Full-backs and the Camp Nou

FCB vs Levante

FCB vs Levante

Welcome back to Barcelona, Spain!

When I last posted, we were studying the Individual Fundamentals per Position (IFP) of the center-backs. To begin the week, our focus was still on the center-backs. We had our first tactical workshop (tactical workshops consist of analyzing the IFP’s in video clips that Dr. Rude has organized) and it was a way a great way to apply our knowledge. How it works: Dr. Rude will play a short (~9 second) video clip of a game, and then it is our job to identify the specific IFP. They key take away from the tactical workshops is the idea that we must apply the conceptual information learned in class to the real life situation of analyzing live games.

After we completed the tactical workshop on the center-backs, we continued on to learn about the full-backs. To say I have a new appreciation for the full-back position is an understatement. More importantly, I have developed an even greater appreciation for the complexity of soccer, and more specifically, the complexity of coaching soccer.

To better express myself, let’s dive into one of the tactical fundamentals for the full-back positions. In all, the IFP’s for the full-backs are organized into 5 defensive blocks and 2 offensive blocks. Dr. Rude and Eric explained to us that the blocks include:

     5 defensive blocks:

Maintaining the Balance

Identifying the Player to Mark

Defending the Space

Defending the On-Ball Player

Defending Crosses

     The 2 offensive blocks:

Offering Support

Incorporation to the Attack

Within each block, there are sub-stages that describe the tactical situations more specifically. Remember, an IFP is an “optimal response to a specific situation”. So, within each block, there are many situations that the player must be able to recognize and then execute the ‘optimal’ action.

For instance, within the ‘Identifying the Player to Mark’ block, a sub-stage exists that states the full-back is responsible for the most dangerous attacker (the attacker who runs through the space between the full-back and center-back). For a clearer picture, take a quick look at this play in the FC Barcelona x Real Madrid match from 2010. When watching, pay particular attention to the run of Xavi and the action of Marcelo (left full-back).

One of the most difficult runs to defend in soccer is the one by the attacker who attacks the space between two defenders. However, as Dr. Rude explained to us, the coach must decide which IFP’s are important to their game model, and then train the IFP’s so each player is aware of all the situations pertaining to their position. In Marcelo’s case, it appears as though he was caught ball watching and tried to recover the ground Xavi gained by attempting to cut the pass out in front of the attacker. When he recognized the run from Xavi, instead of walking, he must sprint to follow the run of the attacker.

The main point to take away from the previous example is that IFP’s are trainable and must be trained. In order for the team to operate in a synchronized manner, each player must know their responsibilities, otherwise, the line fundamentals and universal (team) fundamentals will not be synchronized either, and that is a recipe for disaster.

During the weekend, we had a full plate of games to attend. On Saturday, we traveled to RCD Espanyol to analyze the full-backs of the U15 Espanyol game. All of us arrived early so we could watch the other youth games that were being played. We were able to watch Espanyol U-10 and U-12 games. Let me tell you, those young boys can play!

On Sunday night, we went to the Camp Nou to watch FC Barcelona vs Levante. Being in the Camp Nou is an experience that will never get old. Being able to sit there and watch soccer being played at the highest of levels, in an atmosphere that appreciates every aspect of the sport is truly refreshing. I was lucky enough to sit next to a ‘socio’ who has been a club member for 40 years!

One of the greatest aspects of the Camp Nou is that there is no live feed of the game on the jumbotron’s or any replays of exciting plays or goals. The reason I say that is because everyone in the stadium is there to watch the game! Every action is seen by the entire stadium and either applauded or whistled. Here, the game on the field is appreciated and loved in a way that I have not experienced before, and to be in that environment in truly special.

At Espanyol's training ground

At Espanyol’s training ground

Thanks for reading and I look forward to sharing my experiences from this coming week!

Brett Uttley

Twitter: @BrettUttley & @TOGSoccer

Player Structures and IFPs

At the Mini Estadi for FCB B

At the Mini Estadi for FCB B

Welcome back to Barcelona, Spain.

In the final two sessions of the week, we started to dive into the structures of the player in terms of how to develop training sessions in addition to the Individual Fundamentals per Position or IFP from a tactical perspective.

Let’s first begin with the structures of the player in relation how to train the player. Dr. Rude explained to us that when designing a training session, the coach must first analyze the player and adapt the session to the specific structures of the player. When speaking about ‘structures of the player’, I am referring to six structures that exist (or should exist) when developing a ‘structured training’. In essence, there are three main structures and three sub-structures that are constantly activated in soccer (and the player).

Main Structures

  1. Cognitive (Tactical) – Is the integration of (Perception ßàExecution ßàDecision making)
  2. Coordination – Functions to perform desire movement.
  3. Conditional – (Physiological) Strength, endurance, speed, and range of movement.

Sub-Structures

  1. Socio-Affective – The interaction with the rest of the players.
  2. Emotional – Allows the player to build the self and recognize what they are capable of doing.
  3. Creative-Expressive – Allows players to express themselves.

The structures of the player are important to comprehend in order to develop players (and subsequently teams) in team sports. Dr. Rude explained to us that soccer is an integrated sport with regards to the body & mind, training process & teaching process, and body & environment to name a few. The idea is that in order to optimize performance in the game, the training process must activate all the structures of the player in a synergistic manner (because that is what the game demands).

At first, comprehending the training process in relation to the structures of the player was challenging because my previous knowledge was that training sessions should simply integrate the technical, tactical, psychological, and physical elements. While that is certainly necessary, we learned that our training sessions will improve by also adhering to the structures of the player.

In the following session, Eric Lira (UEFA A License), taught us the Individual Fundamentals per Position (IFP). In essence, an IFP is the optimal response in a given situation within the game. The idea is that every situation on the pitch has a correlating optimal response, and in order for a team to operate in a synchronized manner, every player must have a clear understanding of their IFP’s.

To take it one step further, Eric explained to us that players must also understand the IFP’s for multiple positions due to the unpredictability of the sport. For instance, within the FC Barcelona game model, when Dani Alves makes an overlapping run into the final third, he no longer executes the IFP for the full-back position, but instead, acquires the IFP of the right winger (in this given situation).

Eric went on to teach us that there are three types of IFPs. An IFP can be isolated, chained, or merged.

Isolated – 1 action alone.

Chained – 2 actions linked together (i.e. Center midfielder receiving a       diagonal pass from the center-back, and then switching the point of attack.)

Merged – 2 actions at the same time (i.e. Individual defense in risk areas with correct body position to see ball and player.)

In that particular session with Eric, we discussed the IFP’s for the center-backs, which was extremely enlightening. After discussing all of the tactical fundamentals for the center-backs, I realized that I was in the learning stage of not knowing that I knew some of the fundamentals. The reason I say that is because after learning the 12 individual fundamentals of the position, I realized that I knew about 4 of them, but I could not define them as fundamentals. To be honest, what is so remarkable about the MBP Master in High Performance Soccer Coaching is the fact that through analyzing more games than humanly possible in addition to conducting years and years of research, Dr. Rude and his colleagues have been able to put concrete definitions to tactical moves that happen in all games, lines, constellations, and positions.

For instance, one fundamental of the center-backs in the block of “defending the space” states that the center-back must follow the attacker when they run through the space between center-backs. Within this fundamental, the center-back furthest from the ball must follow the runner for at least two steps until they are offsides, at which point the CB tracking the run must immediately sprint back to regain their shape within the defensive line. Surely I have seen many center-backs track runners, but to define 1. Who tracks the runner – 2. When to track the runner – 3. What to do once the attacker is offsides – is a great example of the detailed information being taught and learned/

One of the key takeaways from the lesson on IFP’s is the idea that each fundamental is trainable, and must be trained in order properly execute the coach’s game model. Eric explained that the Individual Fundamentals per Position are based on the game model of the coach. For instance, with reference to my previous example, if the coach’s game model does not call for an offsides trap, the fundamental of following the attacker until they are offsides might not apply.

The last two classroom sessions of the week were packed with information, and in order to apply the theoretical knowledge, we attended the FCB U-19 and FCB B matches to analyze the IFP’s of the center-backs. The FCB U-19 match was at the training complex, and as you will see in pictures (below), the complex is truly incredible. The style of play for the U-19’s and the B team was and is identical to the first team.

On a side note, one really cool anecdote is that during the U-19 match, I walked into the coffee shop that is located in the complex during half-time of the game. As I walked in, a gentleman held for the door for me and said hello. At the time I did not realize that the gentleman that held the door for me was one of the directors at the club. When I returned to watch the game, I saw that a group of men were standing off in the distance, attentively watching the U-19 match. Dr. Rude explained that the men watching the game were all of the head directors at the club, keeping tabs on all the youth players. It was a cool experience because we all read that FCB is always keeping on eye out for rising youth players, and to see the directors watching the youth was exciting. In fact, a center-midfielder (17 years old) who dominated the game on Saturday, earned his first call up to training with the first team during yesterdays training session.

Analyzing FCB B

Analyzing FCB B

FCB U-19 Field

FCB U-19 Field

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed the post.

Until next time,

Brett Uttley

Twitter: @BrettUttley & @TOGSoccer