Kit Symons – Session Report

IMPROVING DECISION MAKING IN TRANSITIONS – KIT SYMONS

This is the report of the LFCA Masterclass  on 27/4/16.

Kit Symons introduced his session by saying that it is crucial that players must enjoy the work that they are doing. He said that the work he was going to do was aimed at getting players to keep their focus at all times. So many players will do an action, get beaten and then give up. It is vitally important for a coach to remember that he/she is doing a session for the players and so don’t stop the session too often to talk because that indicates that you are doing it for yourself. Everything he planned for the session was game-related – no line drills without opposition. He wanted the coaching to replicate the game because the game won’t wait if you lose the ball or make a mistake. That is the game and it is vital that the coaching mirrors that.  Transition is mainly mind-set and the unexpected success of Leicester this season shows how important counter attacking is.

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In the first practice Kit immediately got into the mind-set of the players. He marked out an area of about 30 metres in length by 15 metres in width with a goal at each end. A box was marked out in the middle of the pitch. The players were divided into two groups with each group standing behind the byline of each goal. One player came forward dribbling a ball at pace towards the opposite goal. The first player at the opposite end came out to defend and the attacking player had to get past the box before shooting at goal. If the defending player was successful at winning the ball and preventing a goal he immediately counter attacked the opposite goal. The attacking player from the previous attack was now the defender and had to recover as quickly as possible in an attempt to prevent a goal. Again, the dribbling player had to get to the other side of the box before shooting. So a lightening fast transition was required by both players. Kit remarked that so often an attacking player is overcome with disappointment when he loses the ball or misses a good opportunity and the benefits of good transition are lost. As the players improved in the practice and their mind-set became much more determined and less influenced by disappointment by losing possession, they began to prevent successful counter attacks  by their opponent. Similarly, the counter attacking player switched focus more quickly having gained possession and pressed their attacks more quickly towards the opponent’s goal.

Kit then progressed the practice so that the player in possession must shoot when arriving in the marked outbox, thus putting the defending player under even greater pressure to recover quickly after losing possession.  Kit now also made some important technical points. He told the player recovering  back into a defensive position not to take his eye off the ball because some of the players were turning their backs on the ball. He told them to get into a sideways position after they had recovered behind the ball, where they could check their shoulder. He pointed out that it is human  nature for a player to momentarily switch off when he/she hits a shot which misses the goal, the shot is blocked or the keeper saves. But this moment when possession changes hands is vital in recovering possession and preventing the counter attack. Similarly, that moment is just as vital for the team regaining possession in immediately launching a successful counter attack.

In the second practice, Kit developed the theme and he had a 1 v 2 situation and then into 2 v 2. A wide player checked back from an advanced position and ran round a cone placed on the touchline. He came inside and as he spun away to run through the middle of the pitch towards the opposition goal his keeper played a ball through the middle for him to run on to. He attempted to score in the opposite goal as two defenders came out to challenge him. Whether he scored or lost possession to the defenders, the forward, on losing possession, had to recover quickly because the two defenders were now attacking. It was now 2 v 2 because the keeper was an active defender but the attacker had to recover immediately to foil the attack.

There were a number of considerations   which Kit now pointed out:-
1. The offside law applied.
2. The attacker from the 1 v 2 situation  had to make a decision on whether to press high as the two defenders advanced with the ball, but was he leaving too much space in behind which could be exploited by a counter attack? Or should he drop to fill that space with his keeper? Kit told the keeper that he had to become a good communicator in this exercise.
3. Transition quickly from 1 v 2 to 2 v 2, i.e. from attacking to defending  and vice versa. It’s going from one action straight into another.

In the third practice Kit developed into a 3 v 2 situation. On the attacking side there was a striker standing just a little way ahead of two opposition defenders. Two defenders on the attacker’s team started the practice by working an overlap  and then playing the ball into the feet of the forward. Once the ball was passed into the forward’s feet the opposition defenders were ‘live’ and the attacking team had to try and score. If the defending team won the ball, or conceded, then they immediately counter attacked and all the coaching points worked on in the previous practices came into play. The gradual increase in numbers meant that more and more decision making was required and the decision especially of whether to press high and leave space in behind became critical. So distances in defending now became of critical importance. The vital moment of when the ball changed sides improved all the time and clearly even in this one session Kit had succeeded in changing the mind-set of the players.

It had been an excellent session, invaluable to all members present and applicable to all levels of football. In conclusion, Kit pointed out that it was everything you get in a game.  His philosophy of coaching – “it must be for the players.”

Report by Steve Haslam; photos by David Cumberbatch