Coaching Automatisms – Rehearsed Patterns of Play

In the past few years, I have adopted an almost entirely games-based approach to coaching. Everything is based within scenarios and situations players encounter in the game, and related to rehearsed actions on where to be in different situations players encounter on a football pitch. These are what the footballing world call “patterns of play”, and what some top managers in the game (see Ralph Hasenhuttl) have dubbed “automatisms”. The success of relying on this games-based automatizations approach recently helped take a team I coach to an unbeaten season over the summer, and it’s a mystery to me why players are still stuck behind cones and waiting in lines at other teams and other clubs. Here is how to coach with automatisms.

what are automatISMS?

Automatisms are an increasingly popular training method in the world of coaching. Essentially, these are rehearsed patterns of play based on the four key moments of the game: in possession, out of possession, defensive transitions, and attacking transitions. Within each of those, automatisms are also based on the principle that every decision a player makes in a game should be based around four things: the opposition, the space, the ball, and their teammates. So if you can rehearse actions on a training pitch that can directly replicate what players will see in relation to these four things, in each of the four “moments” of the game, you can essentially allow players to know exactly where to be in any single situation they encounter in the game. While this may seem like controlling behaviour of a joystick coach who does not want to give players freedom to make decisions, it is not about that at all. Within this approach, players are still free to make decisions on their own accord, but they are able to more quickly recognize what correct actions to take, without neglecting the fact that a number of different actions can be correct in any one given moment in the game. For example, we are training players to recognize that when they have space, carrying the ball forward is a correct action to take. But if a teammate is in a wide open position further up the field, that is also a correct action, and perhaps a more advantageous one. It all comes back to the ball, teammates, opposition and space, and it’s up to the player to scan the field and see what they see. Not what the coach sees. It’s a perfect happy medium to instilling a playing philosophy, a game model, a systematic way of playing, while also giving players freedom to make choices based on what they perceive in the moment. And how do they know what choices to make based on what they see? Through these rehearsed patterns of play, in which they can directly see the positive or negative consequences of the actions they take on the pitch.

how to coach it

The beauty of coaching within this philosophy is that it is incredibly simple. My teams usually begin with a possession based warm-up, focused on our two key principles of play – keeping the ball through quick combinations, and winning it back through quick, collective efforts. After that, we will move into what is essentially a small-sided game, where players play to the halfway line of their playing size. One team will be attempting to score on the large goal at the end of the field, and the other will be defending the goal and attacking toward the halfway line by trying to score on pugg nets, squares, knocking down balls on cones, crossing the halfway line, finding a target player, etc. The variety of this is actually more key than it might sound, as different targets can have different outcomes for players based on your coaching topic (what it is you specifically want to work on that day). But no matter what our coaching topic is (e.g. pressing, playing out from the back, quick transitions), we always relate it to this design. From coaching a technique or skill like how to properly take a first touch, to team tactics like switching play, we make it directional, with methods of scoring at both ends of the pitch, and have players set-up in their positions so they continuously encounter situations that will come up over and over again in games.

the benefits

While some of these concepts may seem radical, the benefits are clear. First, players practice in the positions that they will be playing in the game. So that means automatically, they are already going to have a greater knowledge base as to how to specifically play their favourite positions. And when I say their favourite positions, I mean it. Players play in their 2-3 favourite positions, rotating around throughout the session into different slots, or even to different teams. For example, if the topic is pressing, the vast majority of players on the team will rotate in and out of the pressing team (attacking the large goal), to make sure everyone gets a chance to learn the same concepts, techniques and skills.

Second, using half of the field means that players are needing to now make quicker decisions, and think faster than they would in a full field game. The game moves at such a pace that players need to be able to recognize correct actions quickly. It’s one more reason why everything I do with my teams focuses on the concept of quickness – both in transition and longer spells with or without the ball. But having this smaller sized area will train players to make quick decisions under pressure, and begin to outthink their opposition.

The other awesome benefit with this is that you can start to get your players to buy into a way of playing. Your team can start to develop an identity for how you play, very easily, as players will be able to recognize moments that directly apply to your playing philosophy and utilize their learning right away when it comes to the game. Having an identity with your team is absolutely instrumental to success. But it is one thing to have that written down on paper and claim you want to play “possession-based attacking football.” It’s another thing to actually ingrain that in your training methods. Using automatisms allows you to do exactly that, and get players to understand their role within the team – helping every single player feel valued and a part of things.

When you’re coaching through having players waiting in lines, standing at cones, or going through passing sequences of one player to the next, not only is it boring for players, it doesn’t actually help them apply what they’ve learned to the game. Automatisms directly apply to the game, and teach players exactly where to be, when to be there and why to be there for virtually any moment of the game you want to teach.

COnclusion

Using automatisms in your training could be a revolutionary method to take your coaching to the next level. If you want to hear more about my playing philosophy, be sure to check out more from our Coach Education. If you want to learn more about how to coach a team at the 9v9 level, be sure to see our Coaching 9v9 Soccer – Ebook. If you want to develop your own playing philosophy, see Creating a Game Model – with Sam Holmshaw, and the top tactics of professional teams from our Premier League Tactics 2020-21 – Ebook. Thanks for reading and see you soon!


more coach education

Stephen Eustáquio – Player Analysis

On March 27, 2022, Canada qualified for the World Cup, for the first time since 1986. The likes of Jonathan David and Alphonso Davies evidently played their part, but perhaps no man was more key to Canada’s success in the lead-up to World Cup Qualification than the beating heart in Herdman’s midfield – Stephen Eustáquio. Now an FC Porto regular playing week in and week out in the Champions League, the 25-year-old will be integral to Canada’s success at the upcoming tournament. Here is our analysis of Stephen Eustáquio, and why he’s prepared to play a pivotal role for Canada at the 2022 World Cup.

Alessandro Hojabrpour – Player Analysis

Alessandro Hojabrpour has been one of the standout performers of the past two seasons in the Canadian Premier League. Playing in an understated defensive midfield role where he’s required to proactively participate in all phases of the game, Hojabpour has also been a name that has gone relatively unnoticed when compared to some of his CPL peers. At 22 years of age, with the maturity of someone in their mid-twenties, Hojabrpour should be on the radar of every single MLS club, and soon enough on the radar of our national team. Here is my analysis of the remarkabilities to Alessandro Hojabrpour in 2022, and why he’s one of the best midfielders that Canada has to offer.

Coaching Philosophies Guide

Struggling to know how to communicate your ideas about the game in a succinct format? Our ‘Coaching Philosophies Guide’ will help you to know what you need to consider when building the perfect team environment, and will allow you to nail down your thoughts about how and who you want to be as a coach.

Our guide comes with my own Coaching Philosophies as an example for how you can structure your own. This can be purchased for just $2.99, as part of our continued attempt to make our content as accessible as possible.

Manuel Akanji at Man City – Tactical Analysis

Even at the cut-price of £15 million, many unaware football fans were skeptical of Manchester City’s move for Manuel Akanji. The thought was that he was an unreliable defender, who frequently made critical defensive errors leading to goals. This happened a few times in Akanji’s early days at BVB, and painfully for us as fans, most crucially in the lead-up to Dortmund losing the title in Favre’s first year. But what many failed to recognize despite my constant banging of the drum last year – Akanji had grown into one of the best defenders on the planet in his final two seasons at the club. Here is our analysis of Manuel Akanji’s start to life at Manchester City.

The case for short corners

Among a host of changes to the game and innovations popping up at every turn, short corners remain an understudied facet of the game. While they often frustrate fans in stadiums when they ultimately come to nothing, the right short corner kick routine can bear fruit for any team, creating an overload before whipping the ball into the box.

CPL Playoffs – Cavalry 1-1 Forge – Match Analysis

While it wasn’t the most explosive semi-final match inside the CPL Playoffs, Forge and Cavalry met for an intriguing tactical battle of wits inside the semi-final first leg, settling for a 1-1 draw. Here is our match analysis of the first-leg encounter between Cavalry and Forge, and what both teams may look to do ahead of the second-leg.

The multiple layers of Trent Alexander-Arnold

Trent Alexander-Arnold is one of the best right-backs in the world of football, and possibly one of the greatest the Premier League has ever witnessed. So for all the extremities that he accomplishes in attack, it becomes very normal for fan-bases across the globe to try and poke holes in his game and conjure up reasons that go against his greatness.

PURCHASE OUR 4-3-3 GAME MODEL EXAMPLE –

They are not to be taken literal, although ideas can certainly be taken from this resource and implemented within your own team’s system and style of play. This game model example showcases what Rhyspect FC looks to do in each third of the pitch in all three defensive phases, and all three attacking phases. The game model also provides a brief look into set-pieces and player characteristics. 

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

12 thoughts on “Coaching Automatisms – Rehearsed Patterns of Play

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s