John Cartwright Session Report

Click HERE to download the session plan for John Cartwright’s session on the 23rd February 2015.

“The New Street Football Game” – John Cartwright

All regular members of the Association will be aware that John Cartwright has campaigned for many years for a coaching methodology to replace the game as played in the street and waste land by previous generations. Because this earliest form of the game has now all but completely disappeared due to the advancements of modern living and social change, it is John’s belief that the FA has totally failed to address the problem through its National Coaching Scheme. In an attempt to correct this extremely critical situation, John has devised a coaching methodology under the name, Premier Skills, which substantially differs from what the FA offers. His session, as presented to the London Football Coaches Association, provided a taste of the work which he has formulated.
The session was conducted in an area measuring approximately 40 yards by 25 yards. So the area size would be suitable for even the most limited facilities which are available in grassroots/youth/junior football.

The session was split into 3 sessions of 20 minutes each. It was a progressive situation with each session following on from the last with the work clearly linking with the work done in the previous session.
John worked with 16 players, provided by Leyton Orient FC, aged about 16 years. Each session was aimed at a particular age group and before he started working, John explained to the players that they had to pretend to be the age at which he was aiming the work.

Session 1. – Players 6 – 7 years.
The players played 2 games of 4 v 4. John split the area into 2 halves to accommodate 2 games. There was a ‘gate goal’ at each end and to score, a player had to run with the ball through the other team’s gate. Around the edges of the playing area were zones in which only the player in possession could enter. This comprised safety zones down the sides and a home base behind each team’s gate which they were defending. To begin with, the players could only use their hands. This was to embed the work and the points which were being coached in the minds of the players. Once John was happy that this had been achieved then John allowed the players to use their feet.

The defending players had to try to touch the ball when in the possession of an opponent. When this was achieved then the the ball switched sides. From the start, John made it clear that there were no goalkeepers. Everyone had to think and act like an outfield player. He feels that we positionalise players far too early in this country. He restricted the ball to no more than head height, thereby forcing players off the ball to make angles to receive a pass. John worked hard at getting the players to screen the ball as they received it, never showing the ball to an opponent.
Even though all the work was being done with the hands, all the points which John made were relevant to football. He told the players not to pass the ball all the time and he told them to look for gaps to run through. He told the players not to run directly at opponents with the ball but to run across him. The spare hand could be used to protect space and if the path forward was barred then they could come out , go back to a team mate (such as one in the home base), and start again.

John used the home bases to coach play rounds. This is turning the ball round from side of the pitch to the other. The home bases were for safety when you were really under pressure
When the the ball was played with the feet all this technical work was equally valuable. The aim was that the movements and aims of the work had become embedded in the players’ minds because of the time spent using their hands and so the technical skill became paramount. John told the players to move the ball to move opponents. He did not want fancy tricks done in a static situation because that does not move anybody. To move an opponent you create space, which is one of the main objectives. John paid particular attention to the passing quality of the boys. He found that the ball was often played too hard to a team mate, when it should have been rolled to him, enabling him to look up before receiving the ball in order to decide on his next course of action before taking possession. “Run fast, pass soft” John said a number of times.

Session 2. – 8 – 9 years.
Similar area but now score by hitting a single traffic cone.
Again started work by using hands. Emphasis on space awarenss and also that individual and team possession are vital. John introduced a line of flat markers running down the length of the pitch from one traffic cone to the other with a brightly painted cross on each one. When a player received a pass from a team mate on the opposite side of this line of markers then they had to ensure that they could also see the cross of the marker as they received the ball. This ensured that they had got themselves into a half turned body position to receive.

The head height rule applied to continue work on making angles to receive a pass. John coached the players to perform take overs to create problems for opponents and to create space. When the work was proceeding well then the ball was put on the floor and the feet were used. John encouraged the use of the outside of the foot because it produces quicker play and is more economical. There were still many points which required attention that had been worked on in Session 1 but the link up and progression from one session to the next one were clearly evident. John had to make particular reference again to passing speeds.

Session 3. 10 – 11 years.
Both groups ofplayers were now brought together to play an 8 v 8 game with goals and goalkeepers.
The safe areas and home bases were still there but now the progression was to see everything that had been worked on coming out in a more orthadox game. Aspects of team play were coached, such as a wall pass when John showed a player how to take an opponent out of his area, creating space for a wall pass.

In the debrief John took questions and emphasised some of the numerous points which had been made. He made it clear that we face an enormous challenge in this country if we are to have any chance of catching up with the world’s best. We have so many young players who do not understand the game because their development has not been good enough. Every player in the team must be comfortable in possession but we have so many who are not. Individualism is a vital part of the game but even at the youngest ages there is too much emphasis on the team. At 16 years a player should be able to to run with the ball on their screening foot but we had seen that there are many who can’t. As long as we call ordinary players great we won’t produce really good players. In coaching we must come up with practices which are relevant to a game, otherwise the coach is wasting his time and that of his players.
It had been a memorable session, relevant to everyone present, regardless of the level of football at which they work.

Report by Steve Haslam

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