French v USSF Coaching Model


This article is contributed by John Pascarella, Sporting Kansas City Assistant Coach. Pascarella played professionally for nine seasons before beginning his coaching career in 1998 at the University of Maryland. The complete article includes training sessions and can be found in the October 2013 issue of the WORLD CLASS COACHING Magazine.

Beginning in February of 2013, MLS and The French Football Federation entered into a cooperative agreement based on a study conducted by US Soccer that showed that the FFF are one of the leading federations in player development. Based on this relationship each of the MLS Academies sent a coach to participate in the Elite Formation Coaching License in Clairfontaine. Speaking with Jon Parry, our Sporting Kansas City Academy Director and delving into the FFF methodology and pedagogy, I found some interesting differences in how US Soccer teaches coaches to organize their sessions and the FFF’s model.

I want to strongly emphasize that in my opinion, neither is right or wrong………neither one is better than the other. That’s not the objective of this article. The objective is to show the differences and to stress that coaches need to have the ability to teach in more than one way to be effective.

Both methods can be used to get your ideas across to players at any level given the right circumstances. Coaches must have various ways of getting their point across to players or suffer the consequences of not having them understand all that they are trying to convey!

You haven’t taught until they've learned!
The late, great, master coach, John Wooden had a saying: You haven’t taught until they've learned.” That simple saying (and reflecting on my conversations with Jon Parry regarding the FFF course) has caused me to think about my own coaching pedagogy and ask the questions:

“How many times have I had players who don’tunderstand game situations or can’t come up with soccer solutions to problems repeatedly posed by the games and how many times have I tried to lead those players to solutions every week in the exact same way……..using the exact same sessions/drills etc?

Which brought me to my final question: If I continue to do the things as I’ve always done them in the past, how should I expect to get any different results in the future?

Coaching Pedagogy
Pedagogy is simply the “ART” of coaching or teaching. Neither coaching nor teaching is a true science. If it were then any soccer coach could follow the specific formula and develop skill and tactical sense in players. The fact is, coaches have to be able to feel and sense what players need and know how to get this information across to them. They must adjust to the setting and personalities of their players.

Players all have different learning styles. They don’t always understand things as we are trying to explain them. It’s our job as coaches to “meet them where they’re at.” In both coaching (and teaching) there are various methods or teaching tools that coaches can use as a progression to get players to understand and learn both skills and tactics. You should pick and choose from your coaching pedagogy tool box as the situation dictates.

Simple to complex
This method is preferred by US Soccer, taking an idea or skill from its simplest form and slowly adding in more difficult aspects until you are teaching the entire skill or tactic as it appears in the real game.

Teaching the “Whole”
Can be used for simple skills. For example, bouncing a basketball could be taught using the whole method. In soccer, a simple inside the foot pass could be taught this way.

Teaching “Parts”
When a skill is complex or has numerous parts such as the triple jump, in track and field, it is easier to break it down into its more simplified parts instead of teaching it all at once.

When you have a complex skill (like the triple jump example used above) you can take each part and teach them separately but in sequential order so as to link the separate parts of the skill into the whole. Using the triple jump example you could initially teach the hop. Then progress to the hop and step and finally linking it all together with the hop, step and jump. Using a soccer example, let’s discuss the skill of teaching a player to receive the ball from one side of the field, open up and switch play with a long diagonal ball to the other side of the field. You could first teach a player how to move so he can receive a pass on his back foot. Then progress to taking it on the back foot to open up and move in the opposite direction. Finally, you could add driving a diagonal ball to the opposite wing after first receiving and opening up to the opposite side.

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This model is taught by the French Football Federation in their Elite Formation License. Initially the athlete (or team) attempts the whole skill and the coach monitors to identify those parts of the skill that the athlete is not executing correctly. Part instruction can then be used to address the limitations and then the athlete can repeat the whole skill with the coach monitoring for any further limitations. In soccer, I believe, this is a great way to teach tactical ideas and principles of the game.

It’s this last piece, the coaching of tactical ideas and principles of the game, I would like to discuss further, using US Soccer’s simple to complex methodology and comparing it to the FFF’s model of Whole/Part/Whole.

Different strokes for different folks
Differing processes with the same ultimate goal is the way I would describe differing coaching methodologies. US Soccer believes that taking the concept from smaller, simpler steps and progressing to more game realistic activities is the most efficient way to teach the game. The FFF believes you should start with the whole game (although this may be a modified version of the real game) then break it down into its smaller parts before finally progressing to the whole game again - often a different game than you began with but still focusing on the same basic theme.

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