England Head Coach Peter Sturgess brings us the latest from the squad.
The European qualifying games in Dublin, the euphoria of finishing second in the group and winning the last game against Cyprus are now committed to memory and although these memories will never be forgotten, it is time to focus on the future development of the game of Futsal in this country.
It was a very tough decision to reduce the international Futsal programme for the England squad for the remainder of 2009. However, a lot of thought and hard work has gone into The FA’s strategy for Futsal for the next five years so looking at the ‘bigger picture’ I know it is the right thing to do.
This does not mean that the England Futsal team will go into ‘mothballs’. On the contrary, we are just about to embark upon a concentrated development programme that I am convinced will allow us to build upon recent successes.
The squad will now get together four times over the next six months to attend either a three or a four day intensive training camp. The base for this will be the spectacular £21m facility at The Royal National College for the Blind in Hereford. The college has recently opened its new purpose built Futsal court, spa and health club facilities to the England team and the first three day camp was held in April.
We arrived on the evening of 14 April and despite some players having games that evening, or encountering the usual traffic problems, the squad assembled in the meeting room ready to start the camp. The players are asked to feedback on a regular basis about their exercise/activity levels, matches played (Futsal or 11-a-side), diet and general health and following a brief introduction and welcome by myself, this was completed. It must be said at this stage that some players are better than others at sending in the information, but the importance of doing so is accepted by all!
I then outlined what I wanted to achieve from the camp and the players were asked to identify one or two specific things also. This gave me a focus to the event but, more importantly, it gave me an insight into where the players needed help, guidance and support.
As a group of staff we have worked hard to build a really strong team (we use the phrase ‘bullet proof’ meaning that for any given situation, if we know we can rely on each other then we will be successful) and finding out more about the players’ individual needs helps us reinforce this invincibility and togetherness.
A few ‘ground rules’ were agreed, the suggested programme distributed (suggested because it would change because of the players’ input) and then it was off to our rooms to relax and sleep.
I had it in my mind that if the squad could improve its forward rotation and add one or two extra moves to the game plan over the next three days, then our ability to create scoring opportunities and ‘play in the opposition’s half’ would improve and this would help us gain confidence when in possession. This was then the theme for the day and, with slight variations, the theme for the camp. Luckily for me, a few of the players had contributed similar suggestions so I was pleased with that.
If someone was to ask about my coaching style, my response would be that I try to coach for understanding. How successful I am will be evident by the results the Futsal squad gets. To unpick this further, it concentrates around one or two key things, which is why forward rotation was the main focus.
The challenge for me then is to ‘serve up’ forward rotation in as many different guises as possible so that the players begin to understand fully what is required. This involves lots of practice time playing the game of Futsal (mixed up with lots of ‘distraction activities’ and warm-ups to take their mind off things). Drill type activities are reduced to a minimum or eliminated completely and the challenge set from each activity is designed to promote thought, learning and hopefully, understanding around the topic.
Futsal is such a fluid and fast moving game that the players need to be expert decision makers. They need to be able to scan, assess and evaluate each quickly changing situation and I believe this type of ‘game sense’ is facilitated by the playing of modified and conditioned games.
The first two days flew by and the commitment by the players was excellent. For some, it had been the most intensive training they had done for a while. Nevertheless, the training and practice was good and the recovery strategy of jacuzzi and ice baths kept them coming back for more!
The arrival of National Small-Sided Games Manager Simon Walker on the evening of day two caused a bit of a stir as he announced that Setanta Sports were arriving the next day to film the squad training and they had plans to interview each player.
The next few hours before they settled off to sleep were a blur of questions, more questions, hair gel and male grooming. I now know how to motivate the squad.
The last day started with a morning to consolidate some of the key messages for each player and the team. I am wary about the amount of new information given out, instead preferring to illustrate just one or two ideas on court, on the flip chart and on the laptop and tactics board. Trying to coach for understanding is a slightly longer term process and that is why we decided to hold longer camps.
We can now really work with the team to improve their Futsal. When the film crew arrived the banter increased accordingly. As each player was interviewed, the stories of ‘corpsing’, slurring or forgetting lines and players talking ‘garbage’ began to spread but the atmosphere was great and as a team bonding activity, it couldn’t have worked better.
The tempo for the final filming activity was very high as a shooting and counter attacking activity was set up to get some action shots for the piece. Reputations were built up and destroyed in quick time as the players tried to score the one goal that might appear on the show – great fun for the players and from the footage taken, great for Futsal. The show is due to go out in June on Setanta’s Grassroots Show so make sure you tune in.
From the euphoria of the last shooting activity to the downside of clearing rooms, checking out and saying goodbye, the camp was over far too quickly. How much had been achieved? Had all the outcomes been met?
My evaluation has been ongoing since the camp. I was very pleased with most of it but I have also identified ways in which we might improve. It’s an ongoing process – that’s why they call it Long Term Player Development. What is evident is that with such a committed and talented team of players and staff, the future for England Futsal is looking brighter.
The next camp is planned for 26-29 May and Mico Martic, Head Coach of the Croatia national Futsal team, is joining us for the four days. Mico has been a great asset, as he is a former international player and is one of the most respected Futsal coach educators in Europe. Working alongside Mico will be a privilege for us all and I will bring you news of the camp in my next Coach’s Diary.