Wayne Harrison is a former professional player and has been a highly qualified professional coach for many years.
Youth Soccer Player Development with Wayne Harrison - Continuum of Thought and Action
REPUBLISHED November 8, 2012 - Originally published 11.2011
Wayne Harrison is a former professional player and has been a highly qualified professional coach for many years. He has held the position of Academy Director at Blackpool Professional FootballClub in England and at Al Ain Professional Football Club in the UAE. Harrison will be joining San Diego Surf Soccer Club as of December 1, 2012 as Director of Coaching for Boys.
Wayne Harrison spent 9 years in Minnesota developing Eden Prairie Soccer Club with his specialized training. Harrison has held the UEFA “A” License since 1996 and holds the NSCAA Premier Diploma. He has also earned a degree in Sports Psychology and Applied Physiology. Coupled with this, he has published eleven books on Soccer Coaching and Player Development. In this article, Harrison explains his ideas for developing awareness in soccer players.
What is Awareness / Vision in players? How to develop awareness in a Soccer Player.
How do you teach awareness? Increasing awareness on the soccer field is designed to make soccer players think more quickly and be able to make better and faster decisions. It is important that players know what options they can have before they receive the soccer ball.
Only the soccer player can make this happen. We as coaches, can show you, we can encourage you, and we can guide you, but you need to do it for yourself and make it happen. You must practice it “seriously” at every training session you have with your coach, otherwise those who do work hard could leave you behind!
The main point is the quicker the players see the options presented, the more options they can see and the better chance they have of choosing the one that will bring success to the play.
LOOK: SIMPLY: Assessing all options BEFORE receiving the BALL. (Where are the opponents, where are my teammates, where is the space to play into; therefore what is the right decision to make BEFORE I receive the ball?)
COMMUNICATE: Both the player receiving and players supporting the receiver can communicate verbally or non-verbally. (The LOOK will help you because you will not always get help from teammates with a shout, so you need to help yourself.)
POSITIONING: Foot preparation and body angle; and perhaps moving into space to receive for the next move before the ball arrives. (Too many players are flat footed and not ready to receive the ball, and hence give up possession.)
All three need to happen before you get the ball.
U.S. Women's National Team forward Alex Morgan on the Perfect Strike - an example of thinking through action on the field
TECHNIQUE: The word technique refers to the Action itself: the one touch pass, the dribble, the turn, the cross, the shot, the two-touch control and pass, etc.
SKILL: The term skill refers to the success (or not) of each of the techniques: the when, the where, the how and why of the technique and the decision made. Was it a success? This is the SKILL FACTOR. The term skill refers to an ability to select and implement an appropriate and effective response from a range of possibilities.
MOBILITY: Movement OFF the ball once it has left you. The term mobility can be applied to the player with the ball or teammates
TRANSITION: Transition refers to when the possession changes to the other team. Are we mentally and physically together on this?
How to make this work as a team:
To make all this work, the other players “off the ball”must be in tune with what the player “on the ball”is trying to do and must move to help them. This must be done in terms of both communication and field positioning.
If this does not happen then all the good work of the player on the ball may be wasted because there is no one open to play to in the next phase of play. The player on the ball may be forced into making a less creative or penetrating individual move, or be forced to play until a support opportunity from a teammate opens up.
This is the first book on this system of play; the 4-2-3-1 which is the most popular system now.
AVERAGE: in a 90 minute game, each player will be ON the ball a maximum of 4 to 6 minutes and OFF the ball for 86 minutes, so learning through the “Early LOOK” is just as important off the ball as it is on it.
Technique and Skill:You may give the ball away with a poor technique (a mis-timed pass, for example), but the decision you made (the Skill Factor) was the right one. I can see that, so I know you understand what to do, you just need work on how to make it successful by working on your technique.
You may have great technique, be an impressive dribbler who looks exciting to everyone, but you give the ball away too much. If so, then you need to improve your skill - your decision making on when and where to dribble.
To keep it simple, here is a tip: The order of what you do matters and it all starts with being aware and the 'LOOK'!
The breakdown is:
a) Take a look around for all options to increase a player’s peripheral vision before receiving the ball
b) Good footwork is important to receiving the ball. Make sure the feet are well prepared to receive the ball, the player is lively and on their toes and not flat footed. This way the player is able to execute several options if necessary, as allowed by their foot preparation
c) An open body stance / angle to be able to change the direction of play if needed
d) Moving into space to receive if need be, opening the angle up
e) Communication from the passing player and also from the player about to receive the ball; and from teammates to that same player to help him or her recognize the options available (verbal and visual)
(This is one touch play, technique being the first and only touch)
2. Look / Communicate / Position / Control / Technique / Skill / Mobility
(This is a minimum of two touch play, CONTROL is the first touch now)
3. Position / Control / Technique / Look / Communicate / Skill / Mobility
(The LOOK part is too far down the sequence of events; so you may give possession away by being closed down by a defender you did not see, for example).
4. Position / Control / Technique / Look / No Communication / Lose Possession / Transition
Look / Communicate / Positioning; all happen BEFORE you get the ball.
Many players are at number three; and need to develop the ability to get to the first and second continuums consistently.
This can be the difference between a good player and a great player, just the LOOK and when / where it is used along the continuum.
WORK HARD PSYCHOLOGICALLY TO DO THIS EVERY TIME YOU ARE RECEIVING THE BALL OR MOVING OFF THE BALL.
Then, as it becomes a natural part of the players makeup, he or she will be LOOKING around whether they get the ball or not on the chance they just might get it at some stage as a phase of play is building.
Also by LOOKING away from the ball, even when it is clear the player is not going to get it, he or she will learn to move OFF THE BALL far better.
Finally, when I played professionally this was an area of my game that wasn’t the best. The game was so fast at that level and while I was good at dribbling, my one-touch play was not as good as it should have been..
It wasn’t natural in me, as it is for some players without it being taught, but it CAN be taught. Unfortunately it wasn’t then (well that’s my excuse anyway... remember, if you can't do - teach!).
Remember, this takes time to develop. All player development takes time. It takes a lot of training to be good at developing awareness on the field; this is one of the reasons I wrote this article.
To be successful it helps if the players:
1. Are good at thinking ahead of the ball; looking and observing options (hence have a sharp soccer mind),
2. Have good communication skills,
3. Have good technique to use the ball once they get it in order to be able to maintain possession of it,
4. Have a tactical understanding (skill set) in order to make the right decisions among the various options they have at any one time (where the technique becomes a skill), including an understanding of where to move to “off the ball” to provide support.
“Off the ball” players need to be tuned in to what the “on the ball” player is trying to achieve. Even the most positive continuum may be unsuccessful if the player on the ball has no options due to poor support by his or her teammates.
5. Have the physical and mental capacity to bring it all together by knowing where and when to move to “off the ball.”