I’ve recently been able to attend a UEFA A Licence coaching course. This has given me the chance to talk to several coaches and managers, from both premiership and non league teams. Many current players are improving their knowledge of football coaching by aiming for this prestigious award in the off season break.
The course included sessions where players got coaching on games they were playing in, and the quality of the players on the pitch was variable. I watch quite a lot of live and televised football, but the experience of watching Premiership players side by side with players who were about 25 years past their best was interesting.
One key thing that made it different was being able to see what distinguishes the current professionals from the rest. With players just ten yards away, the variations in the level of play were quite apparent.
Here’s an example. Most players were just looking at where the ball was and who had possession. In contrast, there was a Premiership captain and his approach was different. He kept looking in all directions to see what was happening around him and near the ball. This meant he had much more information to use when he approached the ball or gained possession.
We always tell players to look up and focus on what’s around them, but many of the younger players only do this when it looks like they might get the ball. When you saw the Premiership player, he was always creating mental pictures of the pitch and the overall situation regardless of where the ball was.