Doug Lemov's field notes

Reflections on teaching, literacy, coaching, and practice.

02.06.15Annals of Coaching: On Watching Bayern

If you’re a soccer geek, or just a practice geek, you should check out the Bayern Munich full training sessions that are available on YouTube.  With only light narration they run the camera straight through their training sessions in real time, which is a great thing for coaches to get to watch.

I had an hour or so today and was able to watch a couple of them.  Here are a few observation from the teaching and design perspective.

First I watched this session

looks like it was a bit anomalous because it was the first session after the winter break, but here are some thoughts:

Do fewer things better, part 1: The 80/20 rule. After warm-ups the players do about 30 minutes of rondos.  In the next video (see below) they also do rondos in exactly the same manner.  In fact, the commentator notes that they do them constantly. This is a great example of the 80/20 rule in practice. You choose the most important 20% of things and spend 80% of your time on them.  Guardiola’s approach is built on the foundation of short fluid passing combinations.  That’s the major muscle group and they work it and work it and work it, even at the expense of other things.  Bayern spends half of this session on rondos (and a big chunk of the next one).


The 80/20 Rule in action.


Do fewer things better, part 2: novelty is overrated They do two exercises in the course of each of the training sessions: rondos and fitness in the first; rondos and the agility/shooting.footwork drill in the second.  Many coaches think that players need lots of change to be engaged. But deep, sustained focus at a familiar task can be just as engaging. They do it for a while and this lets the players “lose themselves” in the activities (presuming they’re well designed).  It’s also interesting that the commentator notes how much rondos, which they do everyday, are part of the team’s culture.  Look at the guys laughing and competing as they play.  This reminds us that in many cases, the more you do a (good) drill the more you get out of it, developmentally, and the more it matters to you.

Culture is everywhere:The commentator talks about how the players love them and how the coach counts touches by the outside group- anything as high as 20 is informally considered a humiliation for the inside players. Find that really interesting. I drill that you do everyday become part of the culture.  They don’t need to say, for example, that giving up 20 passes is bad. or that you “lose” if you give up 20. Just counting the number of passes builds implicit accountability.   A culture that says: “We are always paying attention to how hard we play and judging ourselves against an internalized standard of excellence” is a powerful culture. The counting subtly enables that without forcing it.


Nobody has to tell you what giving up 20 touches means


Efficiency (always) Matters. Even at the top.  As the players do their rondos a coach stands at the ready with a pile of soccer balls to put into play immediately if a ball rolls away. “It’s the little details that are vital,” John Wooden said. “They make big things happen.”  Even at this level–especially at this level–the cost of time wasted chasing a ball rolling away is too high to bear… making everything your players do 10-20% more efficient in terms of quality touches per minute is one of the primary jobs of the coach.

Wooden: “It’s the little details that are vital. They make big things happen.” Note that the coach has the soccer balls ready to put back into play instantly.

Last note: Rondos are worth the time because they are a problem solving activity as well.  Soccer is a problem solving game.

Fun video aside: Watch Ribery bickering like a 12 year old about whether he got the ball or not at around 11:50.

Then I watched this session Hard not to see the consistency.  Rondos again. Coach tapping the ball into play again. Tacit accountability building a culture of excellence. Efficiency again- is it even necessary to note that Bayern would never dream of running a session without the cones and obstacles for the next drill set up in advance?  That the players know “how we do” things (like rondos) so the power of routines makes everything run smoothly?

The second drill is an interesting example of “isolate and integrate” by the way.  Lots of focus on breaking a footballers life down into discrete motions to build agility on, but the motions are being reassembled here in a complex sequence.  With youth players I might wait til i knew they knew how to do each part right before moving on.

Finally, please note that Bayern has a Biergarten attached to their training ground. Clubs take note!


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