The Coaching Dilemma – System vs Talent – Part 2

Hybrid approach combining Talent and System

In our previous post on this coaching dilemma we talked about the benefits of both approaches.  Talent based approach gives your star’s a chance to shine, but is very dependent on their individual effort.  System approach keeps everyone on the same page, but it can become too predictable.  Maybe these ideas aren’t great on their own, but when combined could just be your secret recipe.  I’m all for the hybrid approach and tried my best to incorporate both into our teams.  However, there becomes the challenge of how far do you lean one way or the other.  I know I’m more system than talent based, but that’s a decision that each coach has to make.  For me I like the repetitive nature of our system because it allows for players to keep refining their skills in the system for years.  This should mean by the time they are seniors it is second nature.

Executing Hybrid approach with Offense

I continuously harped on the concept of a 6 man offense.  “We” has a greater chance for success than “me”.  The one big advantage that offense has is that it is proactive.  Most times the offense should be able to dictate what is going to happen next.  If all 6 players know at the same time what is going to happen next it gives us a competitive advantage.  When a dodge begins, 1) every player knows where to rotate/move, 2) every player knows where every other player is going to be, and 3) every player knows where the ideal look or goal of the dodge is going to be.  That to me is the beauty of the system.

But how do you infuse that with talent. Some years we had stronger midfield dodgers and some better attackmen.  The system you create should be flexible enough to accommodate for an initiator all over the field.  Some seasons that initiator may be the midfield each time, and some seasons its the attack.  Typically you want the initiator of the system to be one of your better players.  I’d often communicate this to players by giving them the “green light”.  Meaning, you are our dodgers.  These players would know this before the game, and all players knew who had the “green light”.  

The other option is ensuring your better players are involved is making sure they are on the receiving end of the dodge.  Find your best finishers, and put them in positions to take shots.  Since we know the rotations and the looks, we know how to arrange ourselves in the system to put the best talent in spots where they will succeed.

Executing Hybrid approach with Defense

Defensively we focus on the same thing, 7 man defense.  Here you don’t have the benefit of knowing exactly what is going to happen when.  But if you build your system correctly, you should know “where” its going to break down.  What I mean is, we don’t have a problem with our players getting beat, as long as they get beat to the right spot.  This was a critical element of our defense and a strength if done correctly.  Most goals that came against our teams were unsettled or when we got beat to the wrong spot.  Kudos to our Defensive Coordinator that really hammered home these points every year which lead to a stout defense.  A defense that always seem to be fighting the beat the mark set the previous year.

But how do you infuse talent on the defensive side that really is team focused.  Just like you have better dodgers, you have some players better against the dodge.  In these scenarios the help defense does not have to come as quickly, and conversely you know some players we’re going to need the slide to come early.  Some games you know your player vs the other teams player was a favorable matchup.  Maybe in those scenarios similar to a “play”, you can have a call that indicates adjacent defenders pushing out on their man ensuring a one v one with your takeaway defender in hopes they can get the ball back for you.  Depending on your goalies abilities you can modify where the spots to get beat to are on the field.  Ensuring that shots come from certain areas to play to your goalies strengths. 

Importance of Plays in your Hybrid Approach

Some times you just have a special talent that doesn’t work in the core of your system, but it can’t be overlooked.  One season I had a 4th attackman that had incredible change of direction that could beat almost anyone, and at the same time he was a natural setup man with incredible vision.  He didn’t have the knack of getting to the goal enough to crack the starting lineup, but I knew we had something special.  I ran him on a second midfield line. This gave him a favorable short stick matchup, and the team knew when he was in we were most likely going to run his favorite play.  Here was an instance that I’d depart from the “normal” system and we’d run a “play” that would favor his strengths with an invert behind the cage because it was good for 2-3 great looks each game.  When running a system, I use “plays” as a way to still incorporate talent, even if it was outside the “normal” system. 

Based on my experiences a Hybrid approach is possible and recommended.  Good luck with your planning and blending of your talent with your system.  Any additional ideas for blending System and Talent leave a comment below!

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