The Dutch and the Belgian’s have influenced games that are now played across the world. Panna is massive with younger players (up to 18/19). They enjoy playing it. We had a group over from Anderlecht and they enjoy playing panna because the coach didn’t know the moves, so he couldn’t interfere with teaching them how to do it. They were coming up with it by themselves. The score doesn’t really matter, it is not written down because there is no league. There are no panna leagues. It’s just a game.
In our sessions we use multiple goals. We do that not to encourage a drill where we encourage turning or to say “dribble there, turn and then pass” but if you have got three goals there, a goal there, a goal there and three goals on the other side and say “score there, you can’t score there”…that’s encouraging turning isn’t it? But people don’t like mess. They don’t like things not looking pretty. That’s where kids learn the most. If I’m dribbling that way and another game comes across me and I have to turn, I have to look over my shoulder to see where my defender is. I’d probably have to beat him again and then go through to another goal. That’s turning, that’s dribbling and it’s also awareness. But then we put people in a drill and it takes ages to do it. Which is more beneficial?
Pitch dimensions. On the Monday just gone with our under 8’s group we had probably 8-10 different sizes of pitches in one hour. We played the same game, just made it smaller, then wider, then longer ,then circular, then triangular and all the outcomes were different. You don’t have to stick with two goals. If you are looking at street football concepts, there is probably going to be something in your way at some point so you might have to play around that. Pitch dimensions, change them! Put obstacles on the pitch. We play a quick free kick game where if you shout “stop” you have to put your hand down and you have 3 seconds to play a quick free kick. That for me is better than a passing drill. It’s still passing. But if I do that [gestures putting his hand down] and I have got to look up within 3 seconds or I lose the ball, it’s a passing session.
Move the goal posts. Literally, change them. I had an argument with someone from the national governing body about using four goals on the pitch rather than two because “it’s not real to the game”. But it is. Because if you are going down one side and can’t go there and go the other side, that is switching play. A four goal or multiple goal game works for different things. We had a young kid the other week and he said “we are all bunching up in the middle” and I said “well spotted, what are you going to do then?”, he responded “no one is allowed into that circle in the middle of the hall”. That is really good. We played it for about half an hour and it was fantastic. Kids are clever! He’s realised in order to get wide we’ll eliminate that little area of the pitch. If you go through there (the circle) then it is the other team’s ball. It was probably one of the best little games I’ve ever seen.
Life in a bottle. Don’t just use fancy equipment. You can have a water fight afterwards if it is nice. Put a bottle of water down and that is your goal. The person who knocks all the water out first, wins! You watch the defending in that game and it will be unbelievable. You don’t have to use normal goals, you don’t have to use fancy equipment. Use what you have got. You’ve got to get them to be creative.
Child led progressions. I’ve just given you one. A child led progression means “guys, where’s all the goals being scored from?” “That kid down there on the left hand side” “ok, so you recognise that. Get together for 2/3 minutes and see if you can come up with a way of stopping him”. That for me is their ownership and creative thinking. I know the answer. I’ll say “double up on him and show him inside on his weaker foot” but we are trying to get them to come up with the answer. That is a street football mentality in a normal game. I think that’s trying to be implemented in football at the moment and is coming in.
Games played outnumbered. We’ve got a game that we play where there will be two goals and then a line. 3 kids against 1. If the 1 scores, he carries on playing on his own. If one of the other 3 score then they become the 1 and they score into two goals. That is relevant to the game. Sometimes you get three players against you. People would say “you wouldn’t beat three players. Why are you trying to encourage them to take three players on?” well if they can beat three then they can beat one. What most people would say is that if there are three there then I better to give it to him over there but then he goes back to not having the ball again. It depends on your philosophy but if we want to produce good creative players that can get out of problems an ‘Iniesta’ for example. That famous picture of Iniesta with 5 players around him. Was he put in a situation when he was younger where he had to pass? Probably not. That’s the Barcelona myth.
Games like ‘foot volley’. Brazilian’s, Uruguayan’s and Argentinian’s play on beaches and the ball is in the air quite a lot. They do a lot of ‘keepy ups’. We call it “freestyle” and they call it related to the game, control. If you look at freestyle there is an element that relates to football. People don’t like it and think that it is a circus. Actually the dedication from it is that they practise 7/8/9 hours a day. A lot of them can play. They’ve got to 16 and been released and gone down the freestyle route, which is fair enough because they don’t want to play in Nottingham on a Tuesday night and earn £10. They’ve gone down the freestyle route and the dedication is what they put into that is amazing.