1. “Geo” refers to two words: Geometric and Geographic. 2. Cognitive refers to a process of perception, conception, decision, execution, and assessment.
The “Technical-Centric” Paradigm is focused on execution. But as you see here, it is merely one fraction of what constitutes talent. To play the game is to execute in an environment full of variables and potential solutions to any given challenge presented. Technique is not enough. Not even close.
“Mastery requires both the possession of ready knowledge and the conceptual understanding of how to use it.”
Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel
Geometric: We like to teach football in geometric forms: lines, triangles, diamonds, heptagons and so on. I might even throw a rhombus in there from time to time. Not that I know what a rhombus is. I just think rhombus is a really cool name for just about anything. If you have children yourself you will know that even young children are excellent at recognizing shapes, which only embeds the learning achieved.
Geographic: We like to look at football as a process of managing space. In fact, I like to look at life that way as well. As children, we naturally begin with our egocentric selves and if we are lucky (and not too inclined to obsess about taking “selfies” all day) we mature into beings capable of extending our circle to include a ball, our teammates, the opponents, and perhaps even the entire Earth on which we play. The process is one of geographic exploration – something we are inclined to do as natural adventurers of our ever-expanding environment. We must teach players to be capable of managing space on the pitch.
Cognitive: At FC we actually teach a 6-step cognitive process to our players. And we do not wait for them to be teenagers to do it. If we want to create intelligent players we must train intelligence. Sounds simple and yet it is so often ignored in traditional training. Even this process is not linear as this list suggests. It is a remarkably powerful, simultaneous, interactive, and proactive process.
1.Perceive (scanning our environment for relevant cues)
2. Conceive (divergent thinking in order to create options)
3. Decide (convergent thinking in order to select the best option)
4. Deceive (disguising our intentions)
5. Execute (the technical execution of the option selected)
6. Assess (an evaluation of the choice and the execution
The FC Why: to create a nurturing environment that players experience of learning and joy. FC players have intelligence, execution, and character.
Therefore, I believe FC coaches are Educators not just coaches. The root word of Educator is educare which means to bring out or to bring forth. With that in mind, we as football educators to be effective should bring out the football in the players we teach.
The learning pedagogy I want you to consider is people learn by building Prototypes and then refine them. We jump in the pool before we know how to swim. Then we get feedback on how to swim better. Think of your first bicycle ride. We build from training wheels to mom or dad holding the seat then hopefully doing it on our own. In my case lots of crashes!
So to relate to our game kids play (prototypes) and then refine.
Yes, even young players can understand and train these cognitive fundamentals. The language we’ll choose is simple. . The actions are meaningful. By following these tips, even the youngest children begin to play with vision and precision.
Play Far Leg
Choosing: (in order of importance but occur simultaneously)
Assess result (move?, anticipate next play)
You are a product of rhythms and patterns. You see something once and the image is fleeting and forgotten. You see a situation emerge repeatedly and your mind takes notice and puts into place a remarkable process we call learning.
Tying a shoe? Initially daunting. Now, a fluid process.
Playing football against opponents? Initially daunting. But players who are trained well will see the patterns (Triangles, Diamonds) and act fluidly.
UNLESS, we as coaches never allow players to embed those patterns they will encounter in a match. This, among many other well-researched reasons, is why training must develop pattern recognition. We must help players build mental representations.
Build Intelligence and connect football patterns in players’ minds
Listed below are the FC Principals of play that should be in all your sessions. Let me remind you of the paradigm shift from a topical/technical type of methodology to a Geo-Cognitive philosophy. Use triangles and diamond shapes in passing/attacking and defending (Defend 1,2,3). Cognitive is thought/action coupling our players make during play.
“The complex doesn’t have to complicated” The game gets complex in terms of concepts but let’s teach it simply with clarity in a logical organized manner that flows like the game. All pillars (Technical, Tactical, Physical and Phycological) happening simultaneously under pressure.
Training without pressure should be limited and used for players really struggling technically.
FC Principles of Play:
1. Perceive & Conceive
2. Decide & Deceive
3. Execute & Assess
4. Create & Close Space
5. Attack 1,2,3
6. Pressure Quickly on Transition
7. Organize Defense on Offense
8. Defend 1,2,3
Manage the Ball
9. Keep It Simple
10. Play What You See
11. Receive With Intent
12. Pass With Purpose
13. Keep & Move The Ball
14. Advance The Ball
We should work with these principles every single day of training. We are constantly and coherently working through the ideas so that the player understands the purpose of each concept and its application to football.
On any given day, we may highlight certain principles in the following manner.
1. We may, as coaches, choose the Principle of Play in the “Pre-flection” (Bring players into huddle and provide or ask players focus of training that day) moment before training.
2. We may ask a player to select a Principle of Play they need to improve.
3. We may pick one to bring to the forefront of our players’ attention. This should based on needs of the team or units withing the team.
This may seem radically bizarre to those who work with “micro-cycles” and “macro-cycles” in your training curriculum. We will not.
The reality is that all 14 Principles of Play are part of every session and applicable to any match. So bringing the players attention to them and challenging the player to execute them can happen with less rigidity.
Many clubs break sessions into technical elements. We do not. We think it quite artificial to work on “receiving” for a 3 week micro-cycle as if passing was not connected. In this way, we also find it more fruitful to work on concepts instead of technically centric training themes. Our players pass, receive, dribble, shoot, and head the ball when the moment calls for such execution. But they do so with a thought associated with that skill, not in isolation.
With this in mind, let me share with you our 14 Principles of Play as it will make more sense as you delve deeper into each one.
Semantics & Science
As we detail the cognitive process, we want to note that it is not a linear process. Of course, we need to explain in an organized manner so we will do so. However, in our brains there is a synchronous and spontaneous combustion of activity. That is, we perceive while we are executing and execute while we are perceiving, etc. Think of a grand finale of the fireworks. It is all firing at once and it is impressive.
Also, note the perception-action coupling may be the best way to describe the process. The word “problem-solving” is best used for challenges with a more deliberate and slower approach to finding solutions. Players are not afforded that time. And for the PHD researchers of this world, “decision-making” as scientific term is inadequate as well. We do not want to get lost in semantics.
The idea in layman’s terms is that players find and exploit space which is a perception-action coupling process.
Perception without action falls short. Action alone is inadequate. Taking a bit of liberty, we will detail the process in terms that are useful to us as coaches, but may not pass the test at the neuro-science convention!
Definition: To recognize and understand
Players must scan or “read” the situation before them, processing many variables regarding their teammates and opponents.
Definition: To form an idea, imagine
Players must immediately process the information and pose solutions. This is a process of divergent thinking – the creation of possibilities.
Definition: To determine a preference or come to a conclusion
Players must choose from the options they have conceived. This is a process of convergent thinking – a selection of the one best choice given the circumstances.
Definition: To mislead, delude
Our opponents are reading our intentions, so we like to throw a bit of deception in along the way to gain a competitive advantage.
Definition: To perform or carry out
Player must make decisions quickly and carry out the decision with the skills they possess.
Definition: to evaluate or judge
Players immediately experience the result of their decision – good or bad. Thus, they are instantly thrown back into perception mode where they must with or without the ball beginning the process again.
Open & Close
Expand space in attack. Limit space in defense.
Attack One, Two, Three
The 1st player must focus on passing the ball.
The 2nd player must focus on receiving the ball.
The 3rd player must move into a position of support, dictating the sequence of play.
Force the opponent to play the first ball quickly and desperately.
Organize Defensive Shape while in possession
Close gaps when a teammate advances into attack. Provide depth behind the ball for drop pass to change the point. Possess ball in attacking third.
Work In Collaboration
The 1st defender pressures the ball.
The 2nd defender provides cover.
The 3rd defender provides balance.
Control/close space and cut off the middle of the field.
Play the simple option with precision.
Simplicity at speed
Play What You See!
Search & Execute
Adjust body position to enhance vision.
Receive With Intent
Make 1st touch a premeditated action by scanning before you get the ball.
Pass with intent:
A Thought Behind Every Pass
Send a message with each pass by adjusting the pace and location.
Keep & Move the Ball
When we have the ball, they do not. Circulate it swiftly and efficiently.
Advance the Ball: