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Coaching and the Clock
by Jimmy Graham
NSCAA Regional Technical Director
One of the most valuable tools in coaching soccer, and probably the most underused, is the clock. The game of soccer is a timed event, and, depending on the time expired in that event, a team's philosophy and tactics may change.
As I watched my team concede a late goal for the second successive week, a goal that either lost us a game that we should have tied, or caused us to tie a game that we were wining, I realized that it was my fault. We had not practiced how and when to change our "game," nor had I made it clear to the team how we would change our philosophy depending on the score and time left in the game. We were still playing our usual high velocity, high testosterone;
go-for-goal type of game, when we had the game won with minutes left on the clock.
I had, as I suspect most of us have, focused so much on the development of the players' personal skills and tactics, that I had neglected to rehearse the way we should change how we play at different times in the game, as different circumstances presented themselves.
I also came to the conclusion that I could still help develop the skills and tactics of the players - in a more realistic environment - by introducing the clock into our training sessions. We find this useful for experimenting with how we would change, but also if we would change. For instance we could be winning by a comfortable margin. Would this be a good time to give some "fringe players" more playing time and keep playing the same way?
Anyway, the bottom line is I now use the clock in all my training sessions. I use it to condition drills, practices, game-like activities, and I introduce the clock at some point in all activities during a practice.
Over time the players have become very aware of how and when to change within the game depending on the circumstances.
Here are some factors to consider:
Practice and the clock as a tool
- Pressure Training - Limited time to perform a task
- Tactical training - Small sided games, e.g., play "best of 5" short, timed games (call out the time remaining as games progress)
- Playing philosophy: does it change, if so how and when?
- Recognition of the changing situation
The game and the clock
- Have we prepared for each challenge a particular game may pose?
- Home or Away, etc.
Use of the clock in practice for younger player
- Timed games - Players get accustomed to working with the clock.
- Practice using the clock as a Condition: X amount of time to score so many goals, or team keeping possession for X amount of time.
In conclusion, have fun, be inventive, but be aware of failing to use time as a factor in training soccer players.
Editor's Note: from the April 14, 2004 issue of NSCAA's The Technical Area by Jimmy Graham