When our son's were young and learning to think critically and write extended response answers my wife and I came up with a little call and response game to help them remember the questions that need answering when solving problems. It goes like this,

Call: Who?
Response: What?
Call: Where?
Response: When?
Call: How?
Response: Why?
Call: Because.
Response: I
Call: Love
Response: You

Okay, the last parts are obviously an expression of our family's love for one another, but the first parts are the key to problem solving. I share this with you today because a coach of a team I conducted camp for this summer asked me for help in identifying why his team struggled to possess the ball and build an attack.


In analyzing play most coaches can identify areas of the game their team struggles with.  However, many coaches end up addressing symptoms of the problem they identify instead of focusing on the root cause of the problem. 

For example, this particular team struggled mightily with their first touch. As we watched the film together their coach described to me how they worked on first touch constantly.  One of the activities was to pair up facing one another with one person serving to the other. In this manner, they worked on every conceivable form of receiving or trapping the ball. Even though their technique was improving it didn't seem to be translating into better possession play in games.

I didn't have to wait :15 until I paused the film. What we saw was a perfect in-game example of the drill work he had just described to me. The technical execution of the first touch wasn't bad, but still possession was lost.


Anyone who has ever parented a toddler knows they typically go through a period of development that sees them ask "why?" constantly. It can drive the best of parents to the point of covering their ears and sing "la, la, la, la, la" to avoid having to hear the question repeated yet again.

We should all pay closer attention.  Kids are way smarter than we give them credit for.  In my opinion, "Why?"  is the most important question we can ask in problem solving and a primary consideration when analyzing game film. From the mouths of children ...

The film showed one teammate passing the ball to another teammate at a distance of approximately 15 yards. The receiver was lightly guarded, the pass was to feet, weighted properly and accurate. So, why did this sequence of play result in a turnover?  It was a text book example of the drill work they did in practice.

That was the problem.

The teammates, passer and receiver, were facing one another. This meant the options for play the receiver had, without turning into pressure on the reception, were in the general direction the ball had just come from.  Why was the ball being passed to him in the first place?  Because the passer was being pressured.

We discussed how the now identified problem could be solved. On the most basic level, what needed to be addressed was the receiver's preparation to play. There were other facets of play that would need to be addressed as well, but proper positioning to receive the ball was the first priority.  How could the receiver have been better positioned to receive the pass? 

By being sideways on and receiving the ball across his body to the back foot. This would position the receiver's hips open to the field of play and provide him with many more options for play while avoiding the one option for play most dangerous to his team - playing the ball back into the pressure it was just passed from. Receiving sideways on was the technical issue to address.

So, once we identified the problem and then identified why the problem existed, we were able to design a camp experience that would help equip the players to solve the problem. By the end of camp, the players were much improved in their possession play. Receiving sideways on was not the only correction we made in their play that week, but it was the starting point that we built all else upon.

Coaches, when analyzing play to identify problems remember to ask all the pertinent questions,

And most especially, Why?

Knowing what to correct is not enough. You must identify why it must be corrected and then design a proper activity for how to correct it. Falling short in any of these areas might result in exasperating the problem more so then helping with it.

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