I was watching a presentation from Marcelo Bielsa this week, and it was particularly interesting to hear him speak about the logic behind his training methods. If you are not familiar with Bielsa, he is one of the world’s top coaches, with many considering him a soccer theorists of sorts. Bielsa has developed his methods by analyzing top level teams and players. He breaks the game down into specific situations or moments, and from those situations, Bielsa devises exercises that fit the way he wants his team to play, this can be referred to as a game model. When you watch a Bielsa training, it is very easy to recognize what is being trained, the exact situation, how the movements are game realistic, position specific and where it all fits into how the team plays (game model). However, the most interesting thing for me was, Bielsa commented that the exercises were not to be memorized by the players, they were just there to provide the players with ideas and concepts. Often times when you see functional types of training, where players have very defined roles and carry out game model types of patterns, you may think the coach is almost providing a playbook type of approach, but this is not the case with Bielsa. That one point is very important, because it speaks to how Bielsa views the game from an teaching perspective, along with how he looks at the fluidity of the game, allowing players the freedom to be creative, while making their own decisions within a game model. From a cognitive perspective or information processing perspective, Bielsa allows his players to make choices, yet he is still providing them with ideas that have specific structure and tactical importance.
Another important aspect to Bielsa’s training is spatial awareness, he performs his exercises in grids that occupy the exact space on the field that fit the situation being trained. By training the situation using the same space on the field as the actual game, players are developing their spatial awareness in those specific areas. The grids operate not just as location spatial references, but they influence tactical decisions as well, based upon the player’s location. I have written extensively about the grid cells, head directional cells and place cells, and the role they play in training exercises. This is another part of Bielsa’s training method that I find beneficial and directly related to building the Soccer IQ.
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