Thoughts on Outcome vs Process and Small Sided Games

I had a coupe of interesting tweets regarding SSG and the notion of "what our ultimate goal is" come across my phone in the last 24hrs and it got me thinking about a few things.

The first tweet thread that got me going involved the statement that our "ultimate aim is not to run better than the opposition, it is to win".  While I got the thrust of the initial tweet, the follow up from someone of far less experience pushed the idea harder that winning is what we should be focused on.  I'm all for winning but it is critical not to get derailed from our core functions by focusing on the outcome of winning and not the process of the job.

As team based S&C coaches we can't improve sport skill or team work of athletes.  That's for the skills coaches.

We support our coach's philosophy through training planning and load management etc but we need to be very careful that supporting skill practice does not replace physical development and maintenance.

David Joyce of the Western Force tweeted Nov 8 "expert panel @ ASCA conference indicated Australian soccer 100% reliance on SSG not enough".  Makes sense.  We're not as technically good as other international teams and that is hard to change, but there is no reason we can't be the most physically dominant.

I've seen S&C coaches who have allowed low intensity non specific training in the form of SSG to become the majority of a teams workload and it has burnt them badly.  Quite often this type of training is based on the team coach's "expert" opinion that the drill is specific.  Let me tell you from experience (one that was in an all too public a forum) football coaches no matter how good they are not capable of assessing training load on an entire group.  See my thoughts on data here

Team sport athletes (as any athletes) must be prepared for worst case scenario and as team S&C coaches we should never lose sight of that.

Yes, the ultimate aim is to win, and I support technical and tactical development of the athlete toward that aim, but the greatest contribution I can make to the team is ensuring that they are as bulletproof as possible in preparation for the "double overtime, come from behind, two men down, length of the field, into the wind victory".

I always approach athletic preparation from this perspective... if my team is equal the skill of the opposition and it comes down to trench warfare late in the game I want my guys to be the ones standing when the dust settles.

Vern Gambetta tweeted on 7 Nov "for practice to be most effective don't try to replicate the game or skill, distort it!"  My take on that is not that you design a ludicrous derivative of your sport, but more that the drill seeks to overload the athlete in order to challenge them beyond their current capacities e.g. outnumbered defenders, faster rate of work etc.  When implemented with an advanced or elite group, yes this may include taking them beyond the game.  Ultimately it is at this "sharp end of the stick" that any given sport evolves e.g. moves faster, has more players involved at contests, increases defensive pressure etc.

So for the team S&C coach the trick is to ensure the drill design of SSG and execution by the coaching staff not only addresses the technical and tactical demands of the game but most importantly (from our perspective) it addresses the players required physical demands (by that I mean specific load…correct intensity, volume, density, duration and movement pattern).  If it doesn't it either needs to be adapted (which is always a challenge on the fly) or the session must be accounted for as a physical load and intern an appropriate stimulus must be applied where possible (always a nightmare after the fact).

My strongest advice would be work very closely with your head coach when SSG (small sided games) are involved...and don't get me wrong I think SSG can be a valuable tool but ensure you are clinical about the required metrics for each player and to the best of your technical capacities account for each player individually.  The bell curve of load application has a nasty habit of flattening during the use of SSG, and you can very quickly end up with a mess if loads are not well managed.  To that end avoid getting into situations where there is nothing in the session but SSG unless you are gunned up with live data that you back implicitly to allow you to "bend" the bell curve back in your favour by moving players in and out at your direction.

Jeremy Shepard (who owns my dream job) tweeted 10/12/12 some cool "punk" stuff but concluded with the aim of training to be "physically superior to you opposition".  I couldn't agree more!

Yes, our desired outcome is to win, but never confuse that with our designated process which is to ensure that our charges are sent to battle in a physically superior state to that of the opposition!  I've been around for a while now, and have been privileged enough to work with a lot of different coaches, and they all want the same thing…the biggest, fastest and fittest!!  Never changes.  So whatever you do, don't lose sight of exactly what it is you do as an S&C coach that contributes to the team winning.

As always, this is just one guys opinion.  Use it to help formulate your own ideas.

Yours in S&C


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