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Advanced Team Fundamentals II – System 🆚 System

How to Build a Successful Game Model

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Pep Guardiola explaining tactical concepts about offensive transitions to his players.

Twenty or thirty years ago, the game models used in professional football were very basic and rudimentary. There were many coaches who focused in optimizing the physical condition levels or specific aspect of their players’ competitive profile. During the week, their activities as coaches were taking care of those two aspects, practice some set plays and thinking about lineups, game systems and alternatives during matches.

In the last decades, the analysis and modelling of the game have improve significantly. There has been an improvement in coaching curriculums for coaches, the professionalization of additional members of the coaching staff, as well as the usage of video and other technologies. This, has been combined with a new trend of analyzing the structures that teams are using, the spatial advantages generated, the ball circulation possibilities, the positional exchanges and rotations between players, etc.

From Ekkono, through the Ekkono Coaches Academy, and also in our presential courses and discussions with coaches all over the world, we are contributing to this research process around football game models.

Steps to build a successful game model, as described in the Ekkono Method approach.

Game-Model-Steps

Steps to build a successful game model, as described in the Ekkono Method approach

As a consequence of all the above mentioned, nowadays there is a big number of coaches who prepare a specific game model that they would like to play with their teams. They are not anymore spending most of their time using their time to think about their physical condition (although it is not forgotten and the protocols to avoid injuries are even better), intensity in the game, concentration, or determination with which their players will play the match. Although they know that all the points mentioned above are important to optimize performance, coaches are now focusing on teaching their players how to behave during matches. In other words, they are focusing in helping the player find solutions regarding where and when to position in the field or to move the ball. These are their main points in their game plans.

The problem is that, as it has happened in the past in many other sectors, we’ve gone from one extreme to the other one. If thirty years ago the game plan considered an insufficient number of scenarios (and the player was forced to improvise based on their skills, nowadays there is a trend of training too many scenarios.

Frequently, the weekly plans or even coaches training session sheets contain several episodes for each of the game phases. They are proposals generated through accumulation and in which the coach uses all their knowledge about the game. This way, there is an illusion created that throughout the months players will learn to solve several dozens of scenarios, which is in fact impossible. And, we say it is impossible due to two reasons. In the first place, because no team has ever done it in the whole history. And in second place, because behind those programs full of content, there is often hidden the coach’s ignorance.

Example of a micro-cycle plan, where only 2 game model episodes are trained during the week.

game_model_training

Example of a micro-cycle plan, where only 2 game model episodes are trained during the week

What provides effectiveness to top coaches is to train a game model with a reduced group of hierarchized scenarios, as long as in each of them they have defined in-depth individual and collective guidelines. Executing this plan does not mean an accumulation process as described in the previous paragraph, but a selection process. The coach has much more knowledge than the amount used, and prioritizes for each team, in every moment, the most suitable content. As their analysis is much deeper, the coach does not need a long list of content to train but rather can train many very different aspects of a small list of content. This, obviously, is much more difficult and requires much more knowledge from the coach in analysis, planning, methodology, etc.

To understand better our reasoning, let’s think in a schematic image of a tree. Let’s imagine that its picture represents a team game model (the process and the possibilities that offers when it comes to making decisions). Well, thirty years ago we would have enough with drawing the trunk and a couple or three thick branches, to represent the game plan of a team. We were in an extreme and insufficient situation.

Nowadays, we are in a much different situation, where high value is given to game plans represented with a trunk, lots of thick branches, and then some medium branches coming out from the thick ones. In these models, the final representation is very harmonious and the crown is circular, balanced, let’s say spectacular.

“BUILDING A GAME MODEL IS LIKE DRAWING A TREE. IN ORDER TO BE SUCCESSFUL, YOU MUST DRAW A VERY DETAILED TREE FULL OF TINY BRANCHES FIRST AND THEN ONLY KEEP THOSE BRANCHES THAT WILL BE PART OF THE GAME MODEL”

Our vision is that in order to achieve success, we must propose the drawing of a less balanced and symmetric tree. With a certain number of thick branches, from where medium branches come out, but above all, with lots of tiny branches coming out of the medium ones. What happens, though, is that the final picture should be the result of erasing the rest of the thick, medium, and small branches that will not be part of your game model. And of course, in order to erase them, the coach must learn them and draw them first.

From all this, we can extract two conclusions. The first one is that those coaches who want to reach excellence in their work must consider their permanent education as a pillar in their professional careers. The second one is that it is better to train a small amount of concepts very well, than train a bigger number of them but in a bad way. In other words, as in many other occasions, when training football we should prioritize quality over quantity.

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