I often have the conversation of what exactly a game representative training is, and it tends to go something like this, “Rondo’s don’t have a direction or goals to score on, so they can’t be game representative, if your exercises do not have direction and scoring they are not game representative”. Even the USSF came out with that same argument concerning rondos, discouraging coaches from using them. For those of you that know me, you know what’s coming, I think the USSF is not just wrong, but laughably wrong. I will go even further, I think certain aspects of the most popular training methodology in soccer, “Tactical Periodization”, are very flawed as well. Many people think tactical periodization is the holy grail of soccer training, but I disagree completely. However, I disagree with a lot of respect for the creator of it, because its brilliant work.
Let me explain my thought process here. Soccer is not some pre-planned predictable game, it is often random and chaotic. At any time in the game, players can face a 2v1,3v2,5v3,1v2,4v2,2v3 and many more situations. Players must be able to find solutions to keep the ball in all situations, numbers up, even, or numbers down, and there is no one solution. The objective of the game is to score a goal, but 99.9% of the time the action taken by the player is to set-up further actions, that can possibly create a scoring opportunity. That last sentence is very important, for most of the game there are no affordance to score a goal, so player actions are simply to keep the ball in-order to set-up future actions, where there may become an affordance to score a goal. Let’s now think about a simple rondo, players are keeping the ball, exploring solutions, under high pressure, all done in a small space. You could never convince me that gaining the skill of keeping the ball under-pressure in a small-area is not important in player development. I didn’t even mention building transition, pressing, and scoring into the exercises.
Now let’s briefly discuss Tactical periodization, and where I see some issues. The first issue is that the entire methodology is ultimately based on the coaches game-model, and that can be very constraining and rigid. The second issue, I do not believe players need to train positionally in all exercises, I place great value on self-organizing exercises, where players need to figure out positioning and responsibilities on their own, in the moment. In soccer, formations change massively, as transition occurs, things get chaotic in the real game, this is why self-organizing is required by players, they can’t just be some positional robot. There is no coach in the world who can train all the possible situations in the game, so players need to be problem solvers and self-organizers. Do I really need to do a 4v2 rondo on top of the box with my GK, CB’s and DCM, just because the idea is to be positionally specific? I say no, the real idea is for players to understand how to exploit and manipulate time and space, so why do I care where I do that and who is involved?
So what is game representative training? It is involves real decision-making, real game cues, it does not have to be directional, it does not need to have goals or scoring, but it can. The majority of my trainings are game-based, and game representative, it involves defenders and attackers and possession, some positional, some self-organized, some with scoring and some not.
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