You hear it all the time from coaches, it’s a common buzz line…. “Stick to the Game Plan”.
If you’re coaching a decent team regardless of the age or in some respects level, good coaches will at least have a plan on how to win the game, a plan on how to exploit the opposition or get the best from their players. Most of the time this revolves around a strategy, a tactical outline on where battles may be won or lost, key areas of the pitch and how to gain advantages.
Recently I have been following @DanAbrahams77. He is a football psychology consultant and each day tweets little tips for your players, it’s fantastic and I recommend every coach to follow Dan. His insights struck an immediate accord with me, I’m fascinated by the mental side of the game and have tried very hard to become a better coach in this area and how I deal with my players. Not only did Dan’s tweets resonate with me personally, they were also great practical pieces of advice. I signed up for his free E-Book on his website http://www.danabrahams.com/ and read the whole thing front to back in 24hrs. I was glued to the text and everything that was said related to me, I was so in grossed I sent the E-Book to every player in my U17 Women’s National Team and told them it was their task to read the book in 4 weeks before our next training camp and World Cup Qualifiers.
One of the techniques Dan Abrahams talks about in his E-Book is a thing called “The Me, The Now, The Script.” In a nutshell it talks about a player’s ability to focus their attention on themselves in the present moment while playing, by doing this it allows them to control the things they can control and not waste their attention on things they can’t control. This is banded together by an individual script for a player. A simple list of 2-3 things that they must do, must focus on to enable them to perform better.
I really liked this concept and so I got to work on making this work for my team.
I have found in the past that having a “game plan” for your team is essential but it can have one draw back, it’s not specific to the individual, it’s more team focused. Don’t get me wrong, this of course isn’t a bad thing, it’s a team game after all but there is room for error in a team plan if individuals don’t perform their roles accordingly. In my experience I had also found that players frustrated me by not doing the things they were good at, if my best 1v1 attacking winger would just keep taking players on we would have more success, or if my midfielder in the engine room would just play forward more often we could get on the front foot.
So when I read about “The Me, The Now, The Script” and Dan Abrahams ideas, I thought it would work perfectly for me and the team. As a coach preparing the ‘team’ for the game, I could still provide them a blueprint and a strategy to perform during the game. A common belief in what we are trying to achieve but at the same time I could also get players to focus on their individual scripts, their own game plans to get them doing things that I felt they were good at but more importantly what they could do to contribute more to the overall team effort. My theory was simple, if all my players individually have good games, playing at or near their best and doing the things they are picked to do then the team has a much higher chance of success. It makes perfect sense the more players you have performing well, the more confidence the team will gain and this will in turn aid the overall team performance.
So I presented this information to them during our training camp. They had already read the E-Book I’d sent to them so they knew at least the background on what we were discussing but I simplified it even more in a power point presentation, I made it easy to understand for them, told them how it could help us and set their imaginations racing on what amazing things we could achieve with it moving forward. It’s like anything in life, if you have a good product it will sell and so it didn’t take much convincing, the team were into it and ready to give it a go.
So the coaching staff and I set about creating individual scripts for the players and in their personal meetings, I asked them what they would like in their scripts. We collaborated on it and came up with 3 short bullet points for each player leading into the first match in the World Cup Qualifying Tournament. To make it even more stimulating we also decided to have their scripts taped to their wrists so they could visually see what they had to focus their attention on during the game. So walking onto the pitch each player was armed with their personal script, their key focus areas that would bring the best out of them. In turn this would lead to a better team performance, more cohesion and more success.
I was delighted with the outcome after three games. Yes we won the matches and qualified for the World Cup which was obviously important but just as important to me was the fact we had made a significant shift in the player’s performance levels and their focus on the pitch. I had never seen them all so focused on their jobs on the pitch and anytime someone looked like straying away from task, it was very easy to get them back onto it again.
This was our way of trying to use a powerful psychological tool, I’m not suggesting that it would work for everyone or that this is the way forward but I found it worked extremely well for us and if other coaches benefit from reading this and by reading Dan Abrahams book then great.
It’s not really anything ground breaking or perhaps new either, it’s just a new spin on a key part of the game (preparation). Get players sticking to script.