Coach Development

Could positional coaching work in soccer as well as it does in American Football?

Looking at the coaching process through a philosophy aspect, coaches often base their own process on experiences, past events or either their own, or surrounding individuals’ feelings (Cross, 1995; Saury & Durand, 1998; Gilbert & Trudel, 2001; Cushion et al., 2003; Jones et al., 2004), which can allow them to stray away from their own beliefs.

This can be detrimental to them and their team as it can lead to a reactive approach to coaching as well as making rash decisions due to the emotional state they are in.  This can also be a reason for coaches deviating away from their philosophies due to the fear of failure and anticipation of regret, providing a reason to avoid excessive risk-taking (Loomes & Sugden 1982).

A question that I have wondered, and would like to open out to the readers of this is ‘can position specific coaching that links to a philosophy work in football coaching?’ – an example being if a coach wants their team to play a long ball approach with full backs switching play, could the full backs and opposing wide players spend a period of time in training working on the specific passes and runs being repeated continuously, almost as a pattern practice? I am fully aware that football (soccer) isn’t as “drawn up tactically” as American football, but could these small patterns between specific pairings and units work in the game format?  Are there any other position specific examples that you could think of that could be worked in a similar way to connect to a philosophy?

Chelladurai (1993) suggested that coaching “is the art and science of decision making” so if the decisions are set out with a wide range of back up scenarios and plans, could this improve the amount of success a player, and their team, has in possession?

This approach could maybe have a psychological affect on the players in a positive or a negative way. Positive – players know what is expected and how to execute the plan; Negative – boredom could occur. However, if I was to try this approach, I would only do it for small periods of time – 20 minute blocks in a training session before the group reunited to work on team based activity.

This approach may be different, it may not work, but it would certainly be different than a coach using observational behaviour coaching based on previous experience and it would certainly be a risk taking opportunity for the coach, opposing existing elements of the coaching process which can be criticised for being too simplistic (Lyle, 1996; Cross & Ellice, 1997; Mathers, 1997).

Could this work in soccer to aid positional understanding and act as another coaching tool?


Chelladurai, P. (1993) Leadership, in: R. N. Singer, M. Murphy & L. K. Tennant (Eds) Handbook of research on sport psychology (New York, Macmillan), 647 –671

Cross, N. (1995) Coaching effectiveness in hockey: a Scottish perspective, Scottish Journal of Physical Education, 23(1), 27–39.

Cross, N. & Ellice, C. (1997) Coaching effectiveness and the coaching process: field hockey revisited, Scottish Journal of Physical Education, 25(3), 19 – 33

Cushion, C. J., Armour, K. M. & Jones, R. L. (2003) Coach education and continuing professional development: experience and learning to coach, Quest, 55, 215 – 230

Gilbert, W. & Trudel, P. (2001) Learning to coach through experience: reflection in model youth sport coaches, Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 21, 16– 34

Jones, R. L., Armour, K. M. & Potrac, P. (2004) The cultures of coaching (London, Longman).

Loomes G, Sugden R. 1982. Regret theory: An alternative theory of rational choice under uncertainty. The Economic Journal 92: 805-24

Lyle, J. W. B. (1996) A conceptual appreciation of the coaching process, Scottish Centre Research Papers in Sport, Leisure and Society, 1(1), 15– 37

Mathers, J. (1997) Professional coaching in golf: is there an appreciation of the coaching process? Scottish Journal of Physical Education, 25(1), 23 – 35

Saury, J. & Durand, M. (1998) Practical knowledge in expert coaches: on site study of coaching in sailing, Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 69(3), 254 – 266

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