Work on different ways to receive the ball
Justin Cochrane: There are lots of things coaches can help players with, in terms of pre-receiving, but also turning both ways is important, being able to open out on your right foot and open out on your left foot. Not necessarily being two-footed but being two-sided so you can receive and open up on both sides.
I think receiving on different surfaces is key, can you take it on your chest? On your thigh? On your head? Also, dealing with the bouncing ball. A lot of the time the ball doesn’t come smooth, sometimes it comes out of the air, or it comes off a second ball – what are we like with our receiving skills and our recognition of space, and ultimately putting the ball where you want it, to do your next action?
Don’t create a fear factor
Paul McGuinness: They can’t play with fear; they have to be able to experiment and to feel free. If you’re forever saying, ‘get it’, ‘give it’, ‘move it, move it on again’ well you’re directing the player all the time.
You might be saying ‘don’t lose it there’. Then they're playing under fear or a certain focus to move the ball quickly all the time, which might not be the right thing to do.
If the coaches, the people on the side and the whole environment create a fear factor, then the players can’t have the awareness or freedom, they can’t be absorbed in just looking and reading the cues of the game that then help them to develop.
Sir Alex Ferguson would always say, make sure the players have no fear when going on the pitch. Make sure they have got no fear of getting the ball anywhere. So, in that sense, you have to give them the tools to have a look over the shoulder – to do all the things that Eric did – but certainly the no fear part and not putting too much pressure on them and telling them what to do all the time. You have to leave them free to play the game.
Reinforce their understanding Gemma Grainger: Sometimes I'm watching players, and you see their head moving, left, right, left, right, constantly scanning. But, just take the time to confirm, what are they looking for, do they have a picture, is that helping them, are they trying to recognise the space and going back to that simplicity that space will give them time.
If it's just that simple concept and them understanding that if they can recognise the space and that's going to give them more time, then that's just a fundamental part for any player, whether you're a six-year-old or a full international.
Just really reinforcing it, not just getting players in the habit of moving their head because they think that’s what the coach wants to see.
Justin Cochrane: That’s the gold dust for me - what are they seeing? It's very hard to measure, but once the kids get good at it, you notice that they’re seeing things. You notice in their actions they know what’s around them, whether it be a pass, a dribble or whether they let the ball run across their body, they start being more aware of it and I think that’s so important for us as coaches to notice what they’re seeing.
Maybe sometimes stop the practice and say 'what did you see there? What made you make that decision?' And when they start to get that, and you notice it as a coach, then they notice it, it makes the game a lot easier to them.