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COMPUTER TRAINING DRILL SIMULATIONS IN SOCCER
 
INTRODUCTION
 
Coaches often look for ways to improve performance and one way is through a better understanding by players of the tasks they have to undertake. This article attempts to introduce and discuss the the use and advantages of using computerised simulation software for creating and presenting soccer training drills. It also offers a guide on what to look for when buying software and advice on creating your own animated drills.
 
COMPUTERISED SIMULATION OF DRILLS
 

For many years, soccer coaches have used similar methods to design and present their training drills to players. The chalk and blackboard is a popular method as are tactic boards where the players are represented by draughts on a pitch and finally simple basic pen and paper drawings. However, these methods are known to have various disadvantages:

  • Drawings are often untidy and difficult to understand
  • No efficient way of archiving and re-using each drill
  • Static presentations do not represent the true nature of soccer play and players can find it difficult to understand the timing of the movements and actions to be carried out.

One of the reasons for coaches continuing to using these older style methods is their unfamiliarity and dislike of modern computer equipment.

However, over the last 5 or so years, various companies have designed and created software to actually animate or bring to life these static training drills. The main advantages of using this type of software are:

  • Players can actually visualise the required positions, movements and actions
  • The drills can be repeatedly played back at different speeds and paused during discussions
  • Each individual session can be stored on a computer and re-used whenever desired
  • Depending on the software, these drills can be printed off for a hard copy and used in overhead presentations or even exchanged between coaches
  • Laptops or handheld devices with stored drills can be brought onto the training area for use by the coach.

Evidence has shown that players can learn quicker through using this type of software. The two diagrams below demonstrate the difference between static and animated drills. On the left, even in colour, the diagram may be difficult to understand. However, the same situation is immediately transformed when it is brought to life as shown on the right. We can clearly see the aim of the drill through the timing of the movements and actions.

 
BUYING & USING A SOFTWARE PACKAGE
 

Computerised simulation software has become widely available but does vary in quality and price. CD-ROM's containing already created drills are also available. However, there are several important factors to look out for before parting with your money !

  • Is the software user-friendly meaning are drills quick and easy to create ?
  • Are examples of already created drills supplied (plus are these what is desired) as well as a decent user guide or in software help/tutorials/quick tips or drill wizard (where the software helps to create a drill) ?
  • Is there a range of drawing tools or symbols such as arrows, cones, pitch sizes, choice of player, can their size and colour be modified and can you add comments to your animations ?
  • Are advanced options available like player rotations (useful for demonstrating turning actions) or for curving player running movements/the ball pathway and are the drills fluid ?
  • Can situations be modified once created ?
  • Can plays be printed (in black and white or colour and step by step) or exported under different formats (e.g. GIFS or AVI movies for use in multimedia presentations) ?
  • Are the drill computer files small in size (up to 40k is acceptable), so are easy to transfer over the Internet or on to floppy disks ? Is a browser available to quickly sift through your tactics ?
  • Has the user full control over playback (controls should work like a video recorder) ?
  • Are updates available, is the system stable and is there technical support in case of problems ?

Generally it is a good idea to thoroughly try all aspects of the software out before purchasing.

Once you have made your choice, like when purchasing there are several important points to respect before creating your drills.

  • Make sure you know the software from top to bottom and all it's possibilities and limitations
  • Know exactly what you want to achieve and if required, do a simple drawing of your tactic
  • Complete each player movement in one go, beginning to the end. It is often advantageous to construct one movement such as the ball and build the others around this.
  • Always decide the exact number of players and actions before beginning. It is often more difficult to add or remove players once the situation has been started or finished.
  • Keep it simple, do not overload the information with too many arrows and comments, let the player movements and actions speak for themselves.
  • Restrict the maximum number of players in the drill to around 10. If not, too many players makes it confusing and difficult to know where to look for the important information.
  • If you regularly use a similar situation (where players start in similar positions), think about creating a model which can be used over and over again to save time.

Through respecting the above points, you should find when creating tactical drills that less mistakes will be made and the whole process will be easier.

 
CONCLUSION
 

The above article has described the advantages of using computerised simulation software for creating tactical drills. With software becoming increasingly powerful and easier to use, these particular systems are gradually becoming part of many coaches' training preparation methods. Computerised simulations of drills are often better understood by players than traditional methods. There are however, various points to be aware of when purchasing and using this type of software.

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