Q&A with Sean
Can you give us your thought on when it is appropriate to go to a flat back
four and what is the requirement?
6/11/07—It really all depends on the players you have at your disposal but I
would teach it as early as possible. I would say teach the players the flat
back four at U-11 once you get to the full field so they can begin to
understand it and have a different formation to play when needed.
The diamond formation with a sweeper really narrows the field in my opinion
and is easy to play against as there is acres of space in the wide areas to
get in behind teams. My girls team have had great success with the flat back
four as we possess the ball out of the back instead of just launching it up
front, our defenders are good players and we like to start our attacks through
our full backs and play the game the way it should be, lots of passing,
movement off the ball, combination play to penetrate defenses. As a coach it
is not only great to teach but to watch. We also did not concede many goals
with the flat back four as we closed the gaps for teams to play through and
always had a ball winner and a player to read the game well at the heart of
Personally I hate playing/watching teams who just launch it forward and hope
for the best, not because it's difficult to play against but due to the fact
it makes the game look sloppy and makes players look like they have no
composure or creativity when in possession. I'd rather get beat playing great
soccer than win by just launching it forward. It takes time to learn the flat
back four as everyone has to understand their roles as individuals and as a
unit. It takes a lot of communication, awareness, bravery and of course
ability to be a defender especially when defending as a cohesive unit rather
than as individuals. Players must buy into the system and If they do and
execute well it can be an exiting way to attack from the back and become a
team who does not concede many goals.
Since you coach both boys and girls team, do you train the girls same way
as the boys? What is your philosophy in general?
6/1/07—To answer your question I train them the same regarding the sessions that we
do, but sometimes I have to get my point across in different ways. The girls
deserve to be taught and treated in the same way as the boys. Because of this
we got more out of them and each player played to their potential on a
consistent basis. It was demanded of them not only from the coaches, but from
themselves. They are great players and have responded to the attacking style
of play that Jon Pierce and I have asked of them. Players in general react
negatively to criticism, especially girls so I've tried to eliminate that when
coaching girls and try to get my points across in a positive manner.
In my opinion the players listen better and take on board what's been
said in a positive manner rather than a negative manner. I learned this after
a few months with the Gaels. It's helped me with my boys teams as well as I
was probably being too negative with them at times, now I try and be positive
as much as possible although there has and will be times when they need a
stern word or two! Boys can react well to this when the criticism is on rare
occasions. To be fair to my boys teams they don't need telling when they have
not played to their potential, they are the first to stand up and demand more
from themselves and each other. Lee Martin, Erik Dasbach and I have watched
the boys grow and it's been enjoyable for us to see them mature in this way.
This desire to improve and fulfill their undoubted potential will hold them in
good stead for the future.
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