My Football Philosophy — Part 2

This week I revisit my Football Philosophy which is ever-evolving, continues to grow and remains a work in progress.

Learning is a never-ending process after all.

So, here are some more ideas I lean on when it comes to football and coaching.

Competition should underpin everything

Competition should always underpin everything you do in training and in preparation for games.

At the end of the day, players are competitors and competition is what drives them. What I have noticed coaching young players (13 years and under) is they can be very passive, especially at the beginning of games.

This, however, is actually quite normal with footballers in general because, at the end of the day, they are normal people — they don’t necessarily want conflict and, at times, they would prefer the easier and less arduous route.

So, except for the rare breeds — such as Michael Jordan or Cristiano Ronaldo — it is not always the case that a player will be up for a war or prepared to destroy their direct opponent from the first whistle which is what you ultimately have to do on the field and which really has to be your mentality.

Players, therefore, need to have highly competitive training sessions so that a competitive attitude and aggression, rather than passiveness, becomes more of their default tendency or mentality.

One-on-one exercises, I have learned, are perfect for fostering this competitive nature. One-on-one games and challenges are a direct combat format of training and they encourage players to cherish individual battles.

These exercises cultivate a mentality in the players of always wanting to beat their direct opponent.

1 v 1 games and drills raise the level of aggression and combat skills in a footballer which are crucial and will stand them in good stead when things get tough, either in a match, in their football careers or life in general.

Teamwork

Teamwork is at the core of every great team because teamwork makes everybody’s job easier.

In order for a team to succeed, everyone involved needs to combine their efforts and, if everyone does their job well, it increases what the team can accomplish as a whole.

This teamwork also has to be recognised by everyone in the team.

Everyone has to know that great things can happen if the individuals master their respective fundamentals and work together as one unit. Everyone has their own unique role but working together elevates the team to incredible levels of strength, love and togetherness.

Teamwork, therefore, is something that must be a high priority and given constant attention.

Every player needs to understand how important it is for them to work smoothly together if they want to be successful. Each player must be dedicated to the team unit and be willing to act unselfishly.

When challenges arise (as they always do), the team needs to have the resources, accountability and commitment to deal with them in a constructive and positive manner. A sense of teamwork will play an integral part in this.

Teamwork is the fall-back when things get tough; it gives confidence and belief that the team will make it through the storm.

Structure

My teams are compact. We build the team from the back in defence with a solid foundation. We don’t want to concede goals. I hate conceding goals. We want to be difficult to break down.

This is where everything starts.

Tactically, this will, more often than not, lead to one-striker formations and three-man central midfields. The concept I think of is a bomb. Without the ball we are closely-knit, as soon we get the ball we explode into offence.

Teaching defensive solidity is something I am still learning in terms of specific drills to improve individual, group and team defending. But the structure of the team is built from the back. A good and solid defence is where everything starts. In the simplest sense, the fewer goals you concede the easier it is for you to win.

Malleability of tactics and players

Our tactics and players have to be flexible. We aim to be like water, like Bruce Lee said.

We want to take any shape, have fluidity and be able to overwhelm the opponent at any moment. The game of football itself is fluid. It changes many times during the 90 minutes. We should shift and adapt to these changes fluidly like water does.

It is important, therefore, not to be rigid in your tactics and instructions. You also have to have players that are flexible and can play multiple positions on the field.

Again, this begins at training; identifying the individual strengths and weaknesses of each player.

Weapons

Weapons are the pieces that take a good team and make it a great team. Weapons are Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Eden Hazard, Neymar; transcendent talents that can win a game with a moment of magic.

These players are special and I believe they can be created or nurtured.

Thierry Henry was one such weapon at the peak of his powers for Arsenal. However, he wasn’t always that way. Henry was nurtured and guided by Arsene Wenger when he arrived at Arsenal in 1999 and he developed into the world-class striker he became a few years later.

When Henry arrived at Arsenal, he was a talented, quick but inconsistent winger.

With time and with the coaching and confidence imparted in him by Arsene Wenger, Henry evolved and became one of the most feared strikers in the history of the English Premier League. Henry could win games with one piece of magic and that is what weapons do for a team.

You will not always have players of the calibre of Henry, however, my belief is that because football is so natural and universal, you will always find players of wonderful attacking talent.

Football is a game of flair and expression. When we grow up we practice skills and the moves of our favourite players and from that basis you get quite a large pool of talented, skilful and exciting players.

I have encountered this in my coaching. Every single year I have had a player on my teams that wows me. And so this only backs my theory that wonderful players are abundant and they only need to be given the confidence and care that Arsene Wenger gave to Thierry Henry.

I believe, therefore, that any and every team can always have or cultivate two or three players, at least, that are weapons.

You identify a player with a special talent, and that is the beauty of football. Football is so diverse that the spectrum of talents its players can possess is the widest possible of any sport.

A player can be quick and able to outrun defenders with ease; they can be tall and strong and be un-guardable in the air; they may possess a powerful shot and score from anywhere; they may be an incredible dribbler and are able to eliminate defenders in tight spaces or they may have incredible vision and poise which allows them to create and take chances others would not.

You have to be on the lookout for this because these players are the icing on the cake.

Nurture them, give them confidence — they end up doing amazing things for the team.

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Teboho Molapo

Teboho Molapo

Part-time athlete, part-time coach, part-time writer; fulltime believer in life. | #MolapoKTM