How to get better at observing your football team
Inspired by Laura Seth, The FA’s performance analysis education lead, we explore how to improve your observation skills.
Keep your philosophy in mind
Having a coaching philosophy is important. It helps define how you want your team to play on and off the ball. As a result, your coaching philosophy will shape what you look for in games and training.
Define success and failure
Before you observe your team, you need to establish what success looks like – and what failure looks like too.
For example, if a wide player attacks your fullback, do you want your fullback to show inside or outside? Setting clear expectations makes it easier to identify areas for improvement. Especially during the heat of a game.
It’s always easier to remember what happened when you write it down. Paper and pen are obvious choices. But adding a note to your phone or asking a colleague to capture their thoughts are great solutions too.
Work as a team
Just like keeping notes, observing your players can be a shared responsibility. This is something our national teams do really well. Throughout games, different individuals watch different areas of the pitch – and then give feedback to the manager.
This is a great way to gather extra info, so why not give it a go? You could use your assistant coach, substitutes or even a parent as an extra pair of eyes.
Consider your emotions
When observing your team, there are a few things you need to bear in mind.
First: you’re more likely to remember moments filled with emotion. Such as a mistake leading to a goal or a contentious decision by the referee.
Second: your view can become distorted if you’re heavily invested in a game. So, before you feedback to players, take a beat. This will help you provide a more objective review of performance.
Help the players
Make sure your observation and evaluation inform your sessions in a way that helps your team get better. Any feedback you provide should be geared towards supporting your players. Aim to develop their strengths and work on their weaknesses.
Football is an incredibly fluid game. There's loads is going on, and it’s virtually impossible to take it all in. That’s why having a focus is essential. It allows you to concentrate on (and evaluate) your team’s performance without being distracted.
Having a focus is particularly important on matchday. To keep things simple, try linking back to your training sessions. For example, if you’re working on finishing, pick one or two things your team needs to do to succeed – and concentrate on observing them.
Prepare for matchday
In addition to having a focus, observation on matchday requires some prep work. Before the game, think about:
- what you’re looking for (and what you’re not looking for)
- what you want to see
- what you expect to see.
Having a framework makes it easier to understand and evaluate your team – and individual players. This, in turn, makes it easier to deliver effective training.
Don’t forget your opposition
Observing the opposing team can be a great way to gain insight. And it doesn’t need to be complicated. For example, you could think about:
- how they’re scoring goals
- how they’re conceding goals
- how they’re creating chances
- how they’re conceding chances.
Remember: effectively observing your team – and others – will help you be a better coach.
For more info on observation, check out Alex Francis discussing his top tips on our YouTube channel.