Coaching tactics and techniques - some ideas from Charles Hughes

In April 2015 I received a message on my inquiring if in addition to the work of Alan Wade and Eric Worthington (see here for a previous blog Wade and Worthington's ideas on coaching football/soccer and coaching to develop game understanding), I had looked at the work of Charles Hughes, Walter Winterbottom, Ron Greenwood, Eric Batty, Trevor Brooking and Harry Redknapp. Since I started publishing on the Game Sense coaching approach, I have received many emails like this one asking "have I looked at...", from coaches who suggest books and readings to find similar ideas to the game-based 'from concepts to skills' coaching, or teaching for understanding and developing thinking players, of the Game Sense approach (if unfamilar with the Game Sense coaching approach, an introduction can be found here and here): including from coaches in Europe - often though the European texts haven't been translated into English, which makes it hard for an Australian who is only pollyglottism in so far as being able to read variations of the English language. However, as an academic, I believe it is important to look back at the published literature to be able to understand what is truly new, what is a contemporary 're-badging' or re-telling, and what is a 'sales pitch' trying to 'do a Nespresso' on the reader (convince the reader/listener of their need for something for which there isn't really a need). Over the years, I have therfore been 'tracking down' some of the texts recommended to me which I don't have access to in my university library.

Recently, I acquired a copy of Charles Hughes The Football Association Coaching Book of Soccer Tactics and Skills to add to my collection of 'primary sources'. The book had been recommended to me over the years by several coaches. The premise of the book I believe is best summed up by this quote from the book, "Practice makes permanent and that fact applies with equal certainity to both good and bad practice. Incorrect practice, therefore, will produce permanent bad habits". Hughes equates the role of the coach to that of educator, noting that it s a fallacy that "soccer players are born with flair and do not require coaching". Hughes 'is big' on the need to develop skilled players. He defines skill as a measure that only has relevance when considered within the context of the game: "Skill, in soccer terms, is the ability to be in the right place at the right time and to select the correct technique on demand. Skill is therefore concerned with making judgements and selections [...] Soccer is predominantly a game of judgement".

Like the work of Alan Wade and Eric Worthington, Hughes suggests that the 'principles of the game' are the starting point for developing player game understanding and the judgement that defines the best players.

To be an effective coach of the principles of the game, Hughes suggests the coach requires a purpose from which to develop coaching objectives for play 'with the ball' and 'play without the ball'. As all objectives cannot be taught at once, Hughes emphasises a coach must develop a priority order and logical sequence for the player learning.

Hughes emphasises the importance of game based coaching using this analogy, however, he passes the judgement that in his experience few coaches have developed themselves as teachers to be able to effectively coach through the game:

"Some people take the view that coaching in the game is not necessary. They are mistaken. Coaching techniques and small practices is like making the pieces of a jigsaw. Coaching in the game is putting those pieces together. To expect the pieces to fall into place by themselves is the height of optimism [...] Coaching in the game, like any other form of coaching, has to be systematic [...] Priority order and logical sequence are of the utmost importance" 

There might be some similarities between what Hughes is urging and the more recent idea of tactical periodisation.

Looking over the extensive list of practice ideas that are in the chapters on Creating Space, Passing and Support, Attacking, Shooting, Goalkeeping, Defending and Set Plays, I got the sense that there 'isn't much new' in more recent compendiums of practice activities that isn't already in this coaching text.

The main idea of the book seems to be that coaching can accelerate the process of game learning, and ensure learning goes in productive directions. Equally, coaches who do not understand what Hughes called 'principles of learning' can take players down 'dead-end' or unproductive learning, especially if players are simply left to play without purpose at practice, or the coaching focuses too much on developing the 'pieces of the puzzle' rather than on 'building the jigsaw'.

Hughes suggests players can perform in games only that which they have practiced at training. Training therefore needs to develop 'better' techniques and encourage the development of a wide range of techniques at the players disposal. "Techniques in soccer are the tools of the trade".


  1. Nice Article...NICE GAME Thanks for the sharing..
    Bigo live is a Wonderfull APK. it helps users to relax, connect friends.
    Download and install the application here

    Bigo Live Mac PC

    Wonderful Platform


Post a Comment

Popular Posts