“If you’re a smart coach, you would have known by now that a collection of star players doesn’t ensure victory, only a team with complementary and collective effort can win in most match situations.” Well, that’s not mine, I heard it from Josep Guardiola the coach of FC Barcelona and I think it’s true. If the players that make up a club don’t fit together as a team, the club won’t win.
You see, a club is like a jig-saw puzzle – a collection of players with different skills, attitude and disposition to the game – the job of the coach is to select the team players and make them fit together. Now, there are different approaches in transforming a club to become a winning team. It also depends on the time the coach has to do that.
To prepare a team for a football championship may allow you one week to about one month time frame before the championship begins; while you may have all season to prepare and adjust a league team. Here, we’re discussing how to prepare a team for a football championship. If you’re lucky, you may have up to one month to prepare earnestly.
A football team is not built overnight; the winning method is to start months or years back before the championship begins. As a coach or team manager, you must first have a clear vision – where the club is now, where you want them to be after the championship. Then, you set a goal, which is off course, to win the championship.
You start by drawing a program how you can get your team to win the championship. It entails drawing up strategic timing for each stage of the task. Then, you start to negotiate with the stakeholders how to raise the fund required to execute the task. Ensure you include all build up matches and the cost in your program schedule document. By now, you would have sent out invitations to all potential players you require or perhaps, advertise for an open selection exercise.
Seven Steps to Prepare a Winning Team for a Championship
1. Screen Invited Players:
If you have enough time to execute the screening exercise, do it in batches, it yields better result. It ensures you don’t send away a good player in a hurry. If you don’t have the time, call for a week or two weeks screening exercise. Make sure all your coaching crew is present to participate in the selection exercise.
You know already the skills that you’re looking out for. You can assemble up to 50players for the exercise. Carefully choose alternative skills for each position. The things you are looking out for are those players that can display flashes of complimentary skills. For instance, you can select players that could play fast pace and quick reactive game or players that could hold the ball, that has more control over the ball, but build up attack slowly.
At the first exercise, you can cut down the number of players from 50 to about 30.
2. Start Camping:
Take your selected players to a camping site where they’ll not be distracted by daily life activates. Shut them down and get them to focus on the task ahead – no television, no mobile phones, no media, and no visitors.
Set clear camp rules. Be strict with the execution of the camp rules, but make the camping exciting. Let it be a free interactive place. Remember that you’re building a team. Let your players become an army. Now an army is a typical team. It lives, eats, sleeps, fights as a team. The individuality stuff is a bunch of craps and that is what you’re out to destroy.
However, individuality usually rear its head while building a football team; especially from some star players who thinks they’re head and shoulders above other players in the team. Coach Luis Van Gaal said, “You’ll need your team’s collective input, so don’t build your team around one player.” He went on to say, “…A star player may hold the magic wand, but learn how to play and win, even without him.”
When conflict arise in camp, which usually do, be quick at conflict resolutions. If they’re minor issues, you may use the cooperative and compromising approach to resolve the issue. But if its unpopular issues that could destroy the enspirit d’corp (team Spirit), use the assertive approach. Tell off the player(s) involved, “We’ll do this task my way and we’ll do it without you.” Sometimes, it’s better to allow some star players to leave so you can settle down to build an effectively “one Spirit” team.
3. Start Fitness Training:
Ensure all your players pass medical test before you put them through fitness training. You should understand that typical championship games are more combatant and you need players that have quick reaction time.
Therefore, raise the standard! Turn your training session into high pace and close combatant sessions. Increase the duration for each session from 100 to 150 minutes.
Get your team to train 3 times per day – morning, afternoon, evening or night. Take them through different weather and pitch conditioning. Take them to sandy beach; take them to high altitude; freezing weather etc.
Most importantly, let the players’ train more in areas with the same weather condition as the venues of the championship. Only players that measures up to the set standard may be considered for the next stage, except the player have some other exceptional abilities.
4. Play Build up Matches:
Sometimes, training session performances may be very deceitful, you may never know a player’s true potentials except you take your team through build up matches. Then, you can discover the players that can perform when the chips are down.
Play more build up matches to discover the strength as well as the weakness of your team. Then, begin to build team cohesiveness. Make your players learn how to complement each other’s effort. Let them learn to enhance the team strength and cover its weakness.
At this point, start building “Winning Mentality.” Make your players believe that winning is their birthright, that is, they are condemned to win every match no matter the condition of the game.
5. Get Serious With Tactical Training Sessions:
At this stage, you would have known your team makes up. Then, get serious with developing suitable team formation such as 4-4-2, 3-5-2, 4-2-4 etc. Also develop a unique pattern or approach to the formation you created. It all depends on the unique strengths and weaknesses of your team players.
Start developing alternative tactical approaches the team can adopt in different match situations. Approaches such as “Counter attacking” or “Breakthrough Defense line.”
Look for additional strength some individual players could bring into the team. Practice spot kicks such as set pieces, corner kicks, penalty, long thrown-in etc. Discover the players that have the potentials to convert such kicks into a goal.
Play more build up matches with stronger teams to test out your different tactics and how your team players can fare with it. You should now invite few alternate players to cover team obvious loopholes as well as take the place of injured players.
6. Select Players for the First Game:
In a week or few days before the first game, select your likely first team. Let the players know that these ones will be executing the first match.
Select players that can play better with the formation you plan to play at your first game. It’s important that the team does well in the first match. It helps to boost the players’ morale. So concentrate on getting the selected players ready both physically, tactically, psychologically and spiritually. Become a great motivator and let the players know you believe in them to deliver.
Make dying minute changes and replace players where necessary, especially if the player is not measuring up with your execution plan.
7. Don’t Change a Winning Team
A winning team is not easy to come by, but if your team wins the first match, don’t be in a hurry to change the players in the team.
The winning team may not be playing at their optimal best, but they seem to be the fit in the puzzle for the moment. As far as they continue to win, let them be. Only make very few changes were necessary – perhaps, due to injury, Card suspensions, sudden drop of form by any of the players.
Get them to watch videos of the club next in the fixture and let them discuss the best way they plan to win the match. Keep motivating your winning team in different ways.