It is a bold statement, one that I am not particularly comfortable making, but one that I am going to offer any way. Practice was good! It felt good, it looked good, it was well planned (two hours in the making) and we appeared to get a great deal out of it. I threw a considerable amount of information and direction at the players, lots of instruction, questioning and demonstration in a bid to get across two key concepts. I checked for understanding at every opportunity available and responded to questions with returning probes in a bid to deepen the players understanding of our offensive principles. Had I asked the players what they thought? No! My metric this evening was a very simple one, it just felt good.
I had spent some time over the previous week or so examining questioning and demonstration as valid behaviours within the profile of coaching practice. As such, I felt as though I was revisiting fundamental concepts and teaching myself all over again. I was mindful that in my own opinion of me, my coaching was acceptable in theory, I knew how to establish a climate of learning and challenge the players through questioning and play. Yet, the practice never quite measured up, it never seemed to look the way I had envisioned it would. For example, I couldn’t quite get the players to respond in a way that would demonstrate their understanding, after all, we only had a small number of simple concepts and approaches to the game, yet our presentation did not match the model in my minds eye. In short, I wanted us to run, we did that pretty well, unfortunately, we failed to get wide, to release the ball early enough to gain a true advantage, and to then make a good decision (all of the time). We did however get the ball to one side, a point we had emphasised all year long.
We would often be able to establish our strongside, but, the deciding factor to our success would rest with who caught the ball on the wing. At times our movement of the ball would be effective, we would be able to distribute possession and gain an advantage that we could both recognise and invest in. Other times, the ball would just ‘stick’, this would force players to ‘stand and watch’ and we would grind to a halt, gaining nothing from the possession.
This evenings practice demonstrated that we could be better, that we could be who we wanted us to be. In a short space of time we addressed a number of imbalances, we identified where it was that we were at our best and how we could feed that into our individual style of play. The players worked hard, they shared ideas, moved through the activities with enthusiasm and registered pretty high scores on the perceived levels of effort. Was our success this evening a result of a well-planned practice schedule? Or perhaps it was down to the effort and hard work of the players? If so, how do we repeat that effort and hard work? Was it a behavoural thing? What ever it was I wanted it again.
I drove home pretty happy with what we had managed to get through, I felt as though the content had provided the players with a degree of learning in a fun and non-threatening manner. That we had covertly covered more than we thought and had achieved a number of small successes within our play. The question now was a simple one, could, or rather, would this transfer into our style of play? Would we be able to demonstrate enough game awareness to be able to make in-competition decisions, communicate our intent and execute in the manner demonstrated for the last ninety minutes or so.