In my new newsletter format, I would like to delight you every Monday with a new article that should make you think. I will present three of my own thoughts about tactics or training. These points can often still be immature, badly explained or simply wrong. For me it’s more about writing down my own thoughts and maybe to exchange them with some of you.
I hope you enjoy the article! 😊
Basketball and football – the concept of dynamic space occupation
Besides soccer, I am also enthusiastic about many other sports such as tennis, handball, table tennis or even basketball. In particular I am passionate about the NBA, which is due to inspiring personalities like Gregg Popovich or Steve Kerr.
Due to the fact that I am more and more involved with basketball, I have been thinking about the parallels between basketball and football for quite some time. Are there perhaps concepts from basketball that can be applied to football?
The rules, number of players and the fact that basketball is a high-scoring game and football is not, make it difficult to find connections. But after I took a closer look at Steve Kerr and the Golden State Warriors, I came across one point – the dynamic space occupation.
By dynamic occupancy I mean that a particular space is not occupied by a player, but rather remains unoccupied, so that different players can always dynamically fill this space according to the situation. This makes it extremely difficult for the opponent to defend this space, because the opponent as orientation point is missing and dynamics is more difficult to defend than statics. If the opponent comes with speed while the defender is still standing still, the attacker has a decisive advantage. Interestingly, I have recently dealt with this in my analysis of the Kiel U19.
The Golden State Warriors used this concept regularly during their successful time. The paint was regularly unoccupied. Normally at least one classic Big Man is under the basket or near the zone. The Warriors, on the other hand, ordered their big players to the High Post. There they benefited from the passing strength of Draymond Green or David West. In a classic Warriors move, after a little ball movement, the ball was passed relatively early in the post to one of the big men.
The guards around the two outstanding shooters Klay Thompson and Steph Curry now began to move quickly, setting blocks for each other and thus presenting the opponent with challenges. The goal was for one of the players to move to the basket while the others positioned themselves behind the three-point line. Now the player in the high post could either pass the ball to the cutter or the ball moved to a three-point shooter.
Due to the high position of the big man, the opponent had to open the zone into which a player of the Warriors could then move. Either he received the ball or the defense was pushed back, which gave more room for the three-point shooters. In addition, the player who cut to the basket could move back towards the three-point line after not receiving the ball, while another player moved to the basket. As a result, it happened often that the first cutter escaped the defensive field of vision and could be found open at the three-point line. The constant movement of the ball and the players regularly caused problems and forced the opponent to make mistakes, which the Warriors mercilessly exploited.
„The main goal, is to just make the defense make as many decisions as you can so that they’re going to mess up at some point with all that ball movement and body movement and whatnot“Steph Curry
What does this have to do with football?
A lot, because this principle resembles the idea behind the false nine. The hole created by the movement of the false nine could be occupied by other players at all time. I think that this strategy should be used much more often. Especially against man-oriented defences, certain spaces can be left open so that they can be filled by an advancing or falling player depending on the situation.
For example, a striker can drop deeper and at the same moment a midfielder can advance vertically to occupy the hole. Together with various runs of other offensive players behind the last defensive line, these situations are truly unpleasant to defend.
Even diagonal movements into the open space could pose immense challenges for a defender, as the diagonally advancing player would stay out of the defenders‘ field of vision for a very long time. The decisive factor here is that the situations of dynamic space occupation force the opponent to make a decision. Do we occupy the space or follow the player dropping deeper?
The offensive structure of our team should then be so good that there is an alternative and the person with the ball ultimately only has to pay attention to the decision of the defenders to make the right decision.
As far as dynamic space occupation is concerned, basketball certainly still offers many exciting principles and lessons for football. One principle could be that for every vertical movement forward, a matching dropping movement of another player must occur.
Deliberate Practice – it depends on how you use your time
Recently I read the book of Kobe Bryant – Mamba Mentality, as I have always been fascinated by Kobe’s work ethic and professionalism. Although the book was unfortunately rather a disappointment, I came across the term Deliberate Practice through him once again.
I found a very interesting article by James Clear about the meaning of Deliberate Practice. An anecdote about Kobe Bryant explains very nicely why we should set ourselves goals instead of measuring our work enthusiasm by the hours invested.
Kobe Bryant started his conditioning work around 4:30am, continued to run and sprint until 6am, lifted weights from 6am to 7am, and finally proceeded to make 800 jump shots between 7am and 11am.
Kobe Bryant not only put a lot of time into his training, but also set himself goals. He trained to hit 800 jumpshots, completely irrelevant how long it takes.
Why am I telling you this? Because it’s relevant to all situations in life. Many of us define diligence by the hours of work packed into one thing. However, an hour of training, analyzing a game, or learning more does not automatically mean that you have really made progress or accomplished something – it depends on how the time was used.
„Consider the activity of two basketball players practicing free throws for one hour. Player A shoots 200 practice shots, Player B shoots 50, The Player B retrieves his own shots, dribbles leisurely and takes several breaks to talk to friends. Player A has a colleague who retrieves the ball after each attempt. The colleague keeps a record of shots made. If the shot is missed the colleague records whether the miss was short, long, left or right and the shooter reviews the results after every 10 minutes of practice. To characterize their hour of practice as equal would hardly be accurate. Assuming this is typical of their practice routine and they are equally skilled at the start, which would you predict would be the better shooter after only 100 hours of practice?Aubrey Daniels
What can we as coaches take away from this?
A lot, especially for our own training. Before we go through 2-hour training sessions in preparation, which do not follow any real goal, we should think about what we want to achieve in this training. Which goals should be achieved, which contents should be learned, and which problems should be solved?
On this basis we can design our training unit, but always keep in mind that the length of the unit does not say anything about the quality. Sometimes it is better to use shorter, more intensive drills with more breaks instead of playing the small-sided game longer at medium intensity.
Of course, it can also make sense to train longer, I don’t want to exclude that. I just want to point out that every training should have a goal.
„Train with a purpose in mind“
How many principles do you need?
Only recently I had a very exciting conversation with Niklas Bühler about developing my own game idea. We exchanged views on his playing principles and came up against the question of how many principles a coach should teach his players and how universal they should be.
This question is not so easy to answer. Since I see principles as guidelines for solving certain situations, one could assume that more principles help the player to find a solution in more situations. However, too many principles not only confuse players, but also restrict their freedom and creativity. Ultimately, we coaches should create a framework in which the players can express their full strength.
It is probably worth keeping principles more general, so that players can apply them in whatever system they play in. Furthermore, more general principles cover several situations. This gives the players guidelines that can help them in many situations.
However, I have to admit that I have been thinking about this issue only recently. Therefore, I would be glad about your input and hope for an exciting discussion 😊