To win a social five-a-side football match, you need to play as a – prepare to yawn with joy at the stupendousness of this insight – team. OK, self-evident, but I still see plenty of teams, especially those newly formed, relying individually on their tricks, their pace, their previous experience and even their sense of nominal positioning. They walk off the pitch surprised they lost.
‘But we scored those amazing goals? What about that snooker shot through ball! And such unlucky goals to concede. We had rushed forward interchanging passes and were so close to scoring, then the ball comes out to some bumbling beach ball who jogs into the acre we’d left behind us. Or when we miscontrolled one pass in front of our D and they leapt on it.’
Luck is a great leveller, and horrible misfortunes will indubitably befall you on and off the pitches. But in five-a-side, you make and eat your own luck like half-time oranges. Both ‘unlucky’ goals described above are clearly avoidable. If I have to divide ‘playing as a team’ into two categories, they would be strategy and, what the strategy is based on, playing to your team’s strengths. Strategy is about knowing your individual responsibilities, knowing when these rotate during play, and making sure that everyone else knows too. I’ll not get into that here. Varied strengths and their influence on your gameplan, however, are underplayed. When I read about five-a-side tactics, there always seems to be a presumption that all are equal. All can pass accurately, all can receive the ball well, all have the vision to mark the player and the pass, and all can shoot without spooning the ball into a tree. While many teams are peopled with excellent, skillful, athletic players, no team is a clone army of identikit Stormtroopers. Accordingly, there is no one style of play that suits every set of players. It’s important to say I’m talking about social games. If this was at a professional academy, while everyone would agree players have different strengths, professional players are expected to acquire certain proficiencies or be hurled out onto their ear. The pros can bend to whatever the current thinking is on the most effective strategy. We can all perhaps learn and improve. But you and your 38-year-old mate Yevgeny from the pie shop are what they call in biology ‘frozen accidents’. Your motor skills and muscle memory for football, your habits, the way you kick the ball or always go for the dragback have become largely ingrained, however flawed, and your brain is less pliant or just plain unwilling to relearn how to play. It is not defeatist of me to say: accept this. To understand your team’s strengths, you need to understand your team. You will generally have one of these exaggerated archetypes in your ranks:
- The lazy front player. Walking back across the halfway line fills them with nausea. They only want to attack, which they’re good at, but having lost possession they’re not in a hurry to track back or recover, preferring to offer an outlet for a counter-attack. But what goals they score. (In a professional 11-a-side context, imagine BERBATOV.)
- The ‘technical’ midfielder. Strangely calm, they’re always in a position to receive the ball, and will not release it until a clear pass is on. They have a great first touch and have the vision in defence to mark out the danger in the centre. Perhaps not the fastest between two points. (ARTETA.)
- The gung-ho runner. No lost cause is officially lost until it gets a certificate to prove it. This player will chase down any ball, and they’ll beat their marker to a pass or die trying. Their touch may be loose, but they respond to clear communication. (While a few PL players could fit this brief, it’s really a five-a-side thing.)
- The psychic defender. They will never be nutmegged and the only way around them is to pass back. They are generally solid individuals who will back their physical strength in a one-on-one. Best of all they know exactly when to bullet forward and somehow be first to the loose ball. (KOMPANY.)
- The running commentary. This guy is always talking, telling you what to do, where the opposition are, to mark the runner, to get in space, to get up off the ground and stop crying. (CARRAGHER.)
- The goalie. Often seen wearing gloves … I don’t think you need any help with this one. Goalies of course come in a variety of forms, but that’s an article in itself.
All, and particularly the latter, are useful to have in their own way. I would suggest though a little mental audit of attributes. How many of your team have a good first touch, a good shot, a good pass, how many have pace, how many love to beat a player with silky skills, how many have defensive vision? The reverse audit is just as crucial: how many have an erratic first touch, a dreadful shot, a tendency to pass blindly under pressure, how many will only accept a pass to their feet, how many will never jink, feign or jelly-leg a stepover, how many will be slow to track back? For teams with the psychic defender (or with two of them) and some pace and touch elsewhere in the team, your strategy is likely to revolve around the one reliable player sitting back, while the other three outfield players run high with impunity but switch as necessary between attack and defence. If someone on the team has a finisher’s eye for goal, this is probably the ideal set-up. You’ll be able to hold a lot of possession in the attacking third and have options when it comes to the final ball. For teams with little pace, no one obvious defender, but a technical midfielder (or two), a counter-attacking model will work better. Everyone becomes a defender marking hard within their own half, soaking up the opposition’s passing until a loose ball is seized upon or the goalie picks up an easy shot from distance. No one from the opposition is allowed near the centre of your D, and they are instead shown to the flanks or back where they came from. Positions rotate as necessary for marking. Once in possession the counter-attack is assessed. If it’s not on, the ball is passed to the feet of the player in space, always selecting the safe option, probing, waiting.
For teams with the lazy front player: fire them. Well, no. In fact this player can be very useful, but only when recognised as such. There is no point getting apoplectic about them being left behind by the player they were supposedly marking for the hundredth time. Obviously it’s not ideal, and everyone needs to defend. But while they’re on the pitch, station them as high as possible, moving in looped runs from left to right to lose any marker. Then simply get the ball to them. Everyone else needs to be primarily defence minded, and it will help to have one runner who dashes from attack to defence and back again, being the link between the zones. These three strategies: ‘carefree attackers’, ‘bus-parkers’ and ‘long-ball merchants’ fit different groups of players. Your group is different again, but it will always pay to have a sense of how you do things as a team, and for this to suit the players you have. Why were the goals described at the top so strategically poor? The first was a result of playing a carefree attack without a reliable defender stationed at the back. Possession transitions quickly in five-a-side and even in the heat and flash of a sublime attack, you need to consider your team’s defence. The second was the result of undervaluing the danger of the central zone in front of the goal area. No pass should be risked to a defender in this position if they are marked at all, and especially if you know them to have a random first touch.
The London Marathon is just around the corner, you’ve been training for months, you’ve ironed your best and tightest running bottoms, and you’re determined not to embarrass yourself in front of friends, family and live TV. So what can stop you now you ask?!
Did you know that 28% of runners never make it to the starting line due to injury? And that on the day, a further 2% (about 500 runners) don’t finish the race due to injuries? We know that at this point it’s far too late to change anything drastic, but we’ve been dipping into John Shepherd’s fantastic Strength Training for Runners to find a few handy tips to stop those last-minute niggles.
‘Prevention in the case of running injuries, is very much better than cure’. Wiser words were never spoken, and in aid of preventing running injures John Shepherd recommends this great selection of resistance exercises for pre-conditioning training:
A running-specific warm-up will raise your body temperature, improve your range of movement and get you mentally ready for the task ahead! These are all fairly vital, so we thought we’d chuck in some of John Shepherd’s very own advised warm-ups to help you on your way:
Stretching, obviously, but concentrate on sites of previous injury:
Stretching everything properly is vital, but if you’ve had an injury before in a specific area, like the hamstring, it is vital to make sure that area is fully prepared. As John Shepherd points out:
‘In terms of learning from previous injuries, a team of researchers investigated hamstring injuries in elite athletes, hypothesising that those with a prior history of hamstring muscle strain were at increased risk of sustaining similar injuries in the future.’
So, if you have any previous niggles in important areas, make sure those areas are properly stretched out and warmed up before you head for the starting line.
Meet Michael Hutchinson and Discover the Obsession, Science and Luck Behind the World’s Fastest Cyclists
Discover the Obsession, Science and Luck Behind the World’s Fastest Cyclists
Michael Hutchinson is obsessed with speed. He will be here at the Bloomsbury Institute on 6th May to tell us about his new book, Faster, and explain why cyclists do what they do, what the riders, their coaches and the boffins get up to behind the scenes, and why the idea of going faster is such an appealing, universal instinct for all of us.
‘Fantastic. An intelligent and personal insight in to the world of elite cycling’ Sir Dave Brailsford
Happy April, everyone. Hope you’ve all survived April Fools day. Who knew the Bloomsbury Sport’s ski trip to Holland was just a ruse?!
Starting this month, Bloomsbury Sport will be aiming to keep you up to date with the month’s upcoming sports events, with maybe the cheeky odd plug for some of our great sports titles. And it’s a bumper month to start with; April literally showers us with sports…
5th Grand National, Aintree
6th The Boat Race, Putney to Mortlake
6th Paris Marathon
13th London Marathon
10th-13th The Masters, Augusta
Ever wondered what golf would have been like back in the day? Written in 1914, Batchelor’s Golf Stories pre-dates the Masters, evoking the inherent wit, intemperance and pratfalls of golf.
6th Bahrain Grand Prix
20th Chinese Grand Prix
6th World Twenty20 Final, Mirpur, Bangladesh
We don’t like cricket … We love it. Wisden Cricketer’s Almanack 2014 has just published, so make sure you get yourself a copy of this yellow bundle of cricketing joy.
12-13th FA Cup Semi Finals, Wembley
19th -5th May World Championship, The Crucible
And now for something completely different…
PHILOSOPHY AND SPORT might not appear immediately to be obvious bedfellows, but sport has often captured both the intellectual and personal imagination of innumerable philosophers throughout the ages. From Albert Camus’ love of football, and time playing as goalkeeper for Racing Universitaire d’Alger (spawning the famous declaration that: “after many years during which I saw many things, what I know most surely about morality and the duty of man I owe to sport and learned it in the RUA”) to Jacques Derrida’s notoriously perplexing and gnomic formulation “there is nothing beyond the touchline” (neither certainty nor truth, just le terrain and le foot)—philosophy and sport have often been entangled in an intersectional and productive relationship.
The Bloomsbury Companion to the Philosophy of Sport features specially commissioned essays from a team of leading international scholars. The book, by providing an overview of the advances in the philosophical understanding of sport (and related practices), serves as a measure of the development of the philosophy of sport, but it also constitutes an expression of the discipline’s state of the art status. The book includes a critical analysis of the historical development of philosophic ideas about sport, three essays on the research methods typically used by sport philosophers, twelve essays that address vital issues at the forefront of key research areas, as well as four essays on topics of future disciplinary concern. The book also includes a glossary of key terms and concepts, an essay on resources available to researchers and practitioners, an essay on careers opportunities in the discipline, and an extensive annotated bibliography of key literature.
‘Drawing on the very best scholars, this volume provides the intellectual foundations for a philosophy of sport from four major intellectual philosophical traditions – the Analytic, the Continental, the Eastern and Pragmatism. This volume is essential reading for anyone desiring a comprehensive philosophical understanding of the phenomenon that plays such a major part of our lives.’
Norman E. Bowie, Professor Emeritus, University of Minnesota, USA.
‘This excellent collection of specially written articles is organized in a n innovative way, combining a comprehensive account of the history and the research methodology of the philosophy of sport with the critical reflections on current theoretical issues and future developments in the area.’
Claudio M. Tamburrini, Senior Researcher, Stockholm University, Sweden.
The Outspoken Cyclists‘s Diane Lees interviews Ian Cleverly and Robert Wyatt from Rouleur to discuss the Rouleur Centenary Tour de France.
Click on the radio to have a listen…
Been to the gym for a workout or for a session with a personal trainer and wondered what muscles you’ve actually worked out? Heard the name and then wondered where exactly those muscles are? Want to know how to improve your workouts to target those muscles?
Well, your prayers have been answered. The ‘Anatomy of …‘ series is a great range of books providing anatomical illustrations of various exercises tailored to give you the best workout depending on your needs. Each book contains:
- annotations identifying the active and stabilising muscles
- concise how-to instructions for each exercise
- identification of the specific muscles that benefit the most from each exercise
- a glossary of anatomical terms.
Bloomsbury Sport are pleased to announce the publication of three new titles in the series:
Others titles in the series:
Anatomy of Exercise
Anatomy of Cycling
Anatomy of Running
Anatomy of Core Stability
Anatomy of Stretching
Encyclopedia of Exercise Anatomy (coming soon)
To celebrate the launch of The Fat Burn Revolution Bloomsbury Sport and Health and Fitness Magazine are giving away the ultimate fitness prize.
Win a signed copy of the book along with fitness clothing from Moving Comfort www.movingcomfort.com and fitness equipment from York Fitness www.yorkfitness.com.
Everything you need to start this fantastic twelve week programme! Enter here: http://bit.ly/1dZcIE9
Bloomsbuy Sport: Signed copy of The Fat Burn Revolution
Moving Comfort – Rebound Racer Sports Bra (£24.50), Urban Gym Capri (£40) and Metro Tee (£30).
York Fitness: Gym Ball (£22), 20Kg cast Set (£55) and Deluxe Mat (£26.99)
Competition ends 31st January 2014.