Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

David Clarke interviews… ALF GALUSTIAN

David ClarkeAlf Galustian is a modern-day football coaching legend. He has worked with the likes of Jurgen Klinsmann, Vincente del Bosque, Gerard Houllier and Ossie Ardiles and is now the skills coach to the Premier League.

When he co-founded the Coerver Coaching programme in 1984 alongside former Chelsea and Scotland star Charlie Cooke, the principle was quite simply in focusing on and developing an individual player’s core skills.

The success of the philosophy led to a clamour for his expertise, and to this day, he has worked at AC Milan, Bayern Munich, Stoke City, Newcastle United and Arsenal, amongst others.

DC: A lot of coaches just starting out might not understand what core skills are. Can you define the term please?
AG: For us in Coerver Coaching, we define core skills as:
• Running with the ball
• 1v1
• First touch
• Passing/shooting
The foundation for all these core skills is Coerver Ball Mastery.

DC: How should grassroots coaches begin their season – what should they be focusing on for the first three months of the campaign?
AG: Players return to pre-season having not played for months and we recommend that coaches focus most of the early sessions on drills, helping their lads regain a feel for ball.
And we would suggest that at least 20% of the session is devoted to repetition exercises with the ball. Repetition can be boring so disguise it by incorporating the principles into competition scenarios between players and/or groups. The rest of the session should be a mix of passing and receiving drills, and small-sided games.

DC: How should this move on as the season advances, to ensure grassroots players are developing?
The goal of each session is fun and progress, not only as a team but as individuals. The Coerver method of improving players is what we call ‘step-by-step teaching’. We break down the core skills and then teach through repetition, before increasing difficulty. Finally, we look for the use of those skills in game situations.

DC: Most coaches at grassroots level will have players of wildly differing abilities – how would you cope with that?
This is a really good question and one that we have been asked a lot over Coerver Coaching’s 30-year history. Firstly, all players should do the same drills. A good tip is to split the group into threes and fours, putting players of similar abilities together. The only difference is that for the more skilled players, you make the conditions different (e.g. altering the number of touches, the distance or the speed). The players feel equal since the drill is exactly the same. Once you get to the small-sided games, pool your squad, making sure that no one team has all the best players.

DC: Should coaches continually use one-touch exercises or is that not as relevant as two touches?
One-touch is quite difficult for most grassroots players. We want our young players to experience success, which then builds up their confidence, interest and concentration. For those reasons we prefer two touch. Once the players improve then we suggest mixing one and two- touch drills.

DC: Most grassroots players might only train and play once a week. Is this enough?
Simply, no. However, it’s a difficult situation to change. I don’t think we can expect to increase practice times significantly, so we need to be smarter in what and how we teach.

DC: You’re a skills specialist coach and I’ve seen your ability to demonstrate the skill you are coaching. How do grassroots coaches who are not as skilled as you demonstrate difficult techniques to youth players?
The coach has two options. The first is to practise the skills every day, not as a player but as a teacher, slowly and deliberately. Charlie and I still do this after 30 years. The second option is to pick a player in your group to demonstrate. Just make sure any demonstration is done slowly.

DC: Why is it that players from Spain, Brazil and Argentina are so respected at the moment for the way they play the game?
I think this explanation would need to be a whole new article! Generally the football culture of these countries has a long tradition of focusing and admiring skills above all else. That culture has pushed coaches and teachers towards allowing young players to express themselves without fear of failure. I suppose Coerver Coaching, in many countries, is a replacement of what players learnt in the old days through street soccer. Times have changed and in relatively affluent societies, street soccer has disappeared.

DC: How much influence do you think the English Premier League has had on grassroots players?
The Premier League is the most exciting and certainly the most televised league in the world. In that regard, there is no doubt that grassroots players and coaches are influenced. I think the players and teams can be extremely positive influences when it comes to learning the game, fair play, and behavioural role models.

2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Hey Dave, thanks for sharing this interview. Some really great insights here that will be useful for coaches.

You folks have a great resource here for the soccer community, keep it up!

Comment by Wilson

I use a lot of Coerver drills in my practices and I have found them to be great for building a good foundation of basic skills. You can get a number of them on the Four Four Two website in the Performance section of the site.

Comment by Tony

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