If you look on the internet at coaching sessions, you will probably notice the vast array of different training exercises. The sessions normally include large amounts of equipment like speed ladders, tons of cones, coaching sticks, hurdles, iPads, colored lights, rings and much more. Its great to see creative sessions with coaches experimenting and improving their craft, but with all these new ideas and ways to train, how do you know what really works? My advice is short and simple: 1) What is the purpose/objective of the session? 2) Does the training involve making meaningful decisions on the ball? The more meaningful decisions on the ball in game-based trainings, the more a player will develop. 3) Is the training unpredictable and unstable? Meaning, are players forced to adapt their technique and thinking in order to find success? Do the players receive the ball from 25 different angles instead of just one? Rote training models should be avoided in my opinion. 4) Are there elements of constraint-based training in the session? Do you take away absolute freedom, so players have to come out of their comfort zones and solve problems in different ways?
I would argue that the $3.5 Million Dollar “Dortmund Fotbonaut Machine” has the ability to work on technique, but only in a limited capacity. The claim of improving reaction time by using the machine does not make sense to me, because their are no real game cues, no pressure of real opponents, no unstable variables and no environmental factors. My point is that even at pro-clubs with large amounts of money, does the training make sense? In this example, it doesn’t make sense to me as a main tool for player development. Think about the slide above with Pirlo, he talks about it is that he see’s and perceives in the game, that makes him a top player. The Dortmund machine does not offer any real game perception or game cues. If the exercises you choose do not involve real game cues, the next question is where is the other value from the exercise? There may be value in receiving balls at high speeds from different angles, and immediately passing the ball into the square that lights-up. If that is the case, then the next question is how much training in this environment is warranted before it loses it’s value? Can it be improved by turning it into an unstable training environment, evening adding another player or two? I don’t claim to have all the answers, but the message I want to get across to coaches is this, “dive deeper into your training methods and keep pushing to make them better, based upon the beliefs you have about development.”