Tactical periodisation is a concept in football that breaks the game into 'logical structures'. Developed over 30 years ago, it is still one of the most contemporary training approaches in soccer. It was popularized by Jose Mourinho when he led an underdog Porto team to a Champions league win in 2004. In this series we try to understand the system and apply it to field hockey. All aspects of tactical periodisation mentioned in this article can be applied to hockey. Try and think of the way your team plays and trains, see what your team is doing well and what your team can do better.
This part of tactical periodisation talks about how important it is for a club to have a set game model in order to succeed.
What is a 'Game Model'?
A 'Game Model' in the simplest of words is the teams style of play.
“To me, the most important aspect in my teams is to have a defined game model, a set of principles that provides organization. Therefore, since the first day our attention is directed to achieve that.” (Mourinho, J. in Gaiteiro, 2006)
The decisions a player makes on the field, with and without the ball, should not be co-incidental, but based on certain principles that follow internal logic. With that being said, the goal is also not to make the players 'robots' following a decided plan. The goal of creating a game model is to reduce uncertainty, which should give player more time to use their creativity.
When creating The Game Model, you as the coach should consider the following factors:
- Coach's Ideas
- Structural Organisation
- Moments of the Game
- Club & Country Culture
- Club's Structure and Aim
- Player's Capabilities
- Principles and Sub-Principles of Play
Club's Structure and Aim
If you are part of the club executive team and you are the person who decides what coach to hire, there are a few things you need to consider before hiring like if the coach is committed, blah blah blah. In this article we will just concentrate on the tactical part. One of the things you need to take into consideration is the history of the club. Does the club has a style the players are familiar with. Is there a style the players have struggled to play with. Sometimes all the past details are not available but you can make sure that you don't keep changing coaches too often and give then time to settle in. Sometime that would mean a small dip in results while the players understand what the coach wants but you need to be patient. Another thing you need to make sure is to not hire coaches with opposing philosophies. You can't hire a attacking coach with high pressing style in one season and a coach that parks the bus in the next season. The manager could be the best in the world but it would just cause more confusion on the pitch.
Another thing (probably goes without saying but) you need to make sure is that you, the coach and the players are on the same page as to what the goals are for the season.
Coach's Ideas are probably the best place to start. Going to a club you obviously are going to have a style of play in mind. A coach that knows what he wants from the team is great but the big bullet to dodge here would be to not try and copy and paste a style from a higher graded team you like or a style you had your team play your previous club which worked really well. No two players and no two teams are going to be exactly the same so a style that has been tried and tested with another team would nor necessarily work with this team.
A better way to approach this would be to have a set philosophy you want to play with. That would be something like high possession hockey. You can try and get the team to adapt to the philosophy you have in your mind and just tweak it a little bit to suit this team a bit more. This would help the team especially when you have to make a tactical change during a game, like changing the formation or making a small tweak of any other kind.
Structurally Organizing the team would be finding the formations that would best suit the set philosophy. It would be easier to have a basic formation throughout the season instead of trying to do something new every game. It is completely understandable if you want to set your team up according to the opponent to try and hurt them in their weakest area but changing the formations constantly could potentially confuse players and therefore there are more cons then pros to doing that.
Moments of the Game & Principles and Sub-Principles of Play
This is something we have discussed in the first part. Go read that if you haven't already. If you have then you know there are 4 moments the game can be divided in and the Principles and Sub-Principles would be the tactics you use during the moments like the press, counter-pressing etc.
Club & Country Culture
Every country has their own kind of hockey, for example, if we talk about India, Indian hockey at junior levels is skill orientated more than fitness orientated etc. Therefore the Indian players are good with skills and ball control. Now, if you are coach in India, you can chose to either play on the team's strengths or you may choose to focus on other aspects of the game and improve the team's fitness and tactical capability. There are clubs that have benefited by sticking to their culture and style of play and there are clubs the have benefited by letting coaches from other countries come in and teach a different style. A good choice would be to find a healthy balance - like using the skills to slow the game down against a high pressing team. The choice is up to the coach but it is something that should be considered nonetheless.
Once again, no two players are going to be the exact same. Therefore trying to copy and paste a game model would be the worst thing you can do for a team. It is great to learn from other teams and take something from everyone but in the you should adapt the style according to your team in a way that brings out the best in the players at your disposal.
So, that would be a good way to decide a team's game model. Feel free to ask me any questions you have in the comments. The next part will cover the training plans you could follow to make sure the players understand what you want from them.