This is the second part of a post I started yesterday called, Analyzing the Game – Part 1.
As promised we will delve into some of the how-to’s of reading and analyzing a game. Again, lets look at this quote from the book, “Soccer: Guide to Training and Coaching,” by Allen Wade.
Reading the game is the ability to understand what is happening and as a consequence, to anticipate immediate or future developments. Some players appear to have a natural capacity for it while sometimes, even experienced players have only a shallow grasp of it, probably because, in their formative years, they were merely told what to do and not why is should be done. Until a player can read a game he cannot play an authoritative part, in the widest sense, in directing its course. All players should, therefore, strive to develop their ability to read the game. An analysis of a game must be methodical to be accurate.
So how can we start this methodical checklist to see the game differently and start making more astute observations? In coaching license classes you are given a checklist and you watch games both live and on video to start practicing. In a sense, it’s the only way to really start putting into practice what you are learning. Keeping the concentration for a duration of time is not easy. The more you do it the better you get at sustaining a watchful eye on the whole match and not just the play. As a soccer trainer you have 90 minute practices for the same reason: trying to teach players to keep focus on the task at hand for the same duration they will play in the game. It’s not always easy nor is it easy as a coach. Most good coaches will tell you that time seems to fly during a game because they are so hyperfocused on the game.
For instance, when I’m in an analyzing mode, the play may be a counter flank attack but instead of getting caught up in the moment and watching the right fullback making an exciting run up the outside of the field, I will also be watching the shape of the rest of the team. I may be asking myself: how is the outside midfielder on the same side supporting the surging player from the rear? Did he also make a run to support? How organized were the back line if that outside defender did make a run up the field and the outside midfielder supported? Did the midfielder who was responsible for cover drop back – if he needed to? If he wasn’t able, did the other central midfielder (or anyone else for that matter), drop back to cover? These are questions that might be running through my head on just one quick play up the field. So you can imagine everything you must be taking in over the course of the whole game.
Many times I used to take about 2 or 3 minutes just before the half, look at my game notes and ask, (if I hadn’t already figured it out), what sort of adjustments we needed to make at half and who I needed to talk to to make those adjustments. I also needed to decide what to talk to the team about. You have to be mindful that while I might have a lot to say, you can’t feed players too much information or it just goes in one ear and out the other. As a coach you needed to be concise and prioritize your top 3 or 4 points.
So to start you off with a beginning checklist I again refer back to the aforementioned book. From that book I made my own shortened version of a checklist and laid it out in a manner that was easy to refer to. I’ve included this checklist below. Of course there are many more questions you can be asking yourself, but this is a good start. I’ve also made a PDF of the same chart that I created in case you are interested in printing a few out and trying it out. Just right click on this link to download. Analyzing The Game.pdf
I’ll have one more followup to this article where I will discuss some other sources and ideas for understanding the game a bit more clearly. Good luck and let me know if you get the chance to try this out.