I recently had the pleasure of watching Jürgen Klopp train Liverpool and it was definitely a learning experience! Klopp became the manager to catch after taking the perennial darkhorse team of Dortmund to bigger and better heights. Liverpool was the team that snapped Klopp up in 2015, and he’s definitely had a positive effect on Liverpool.
I realized I had a lot left to learn after watching Klopp, so I put together this list of what I learned when watching Jürgen Klopp train Liverpool.
Put Together a Plan
Jürgen wasn’t afraid to keep his training plan on a piece of paper with him. Some coaches see this as a sign of weakness, and it’s unfair given that everyone needs the occasional reminder of critical information. It helps to be concise and insightful, even if you have to keep a physical record of your training plan on you.
Keep it Fun
The players at Liverpool enjoyed having a quick fun game as part of their warm-ups, joking around with one another. This creates the kind of light-hearted atmosphere that’s been missing from the top level of football for some time now. Many big players find themselves putting in an effort relating to their ego and wage.
Trust Your Colleagues
There were times during the session when Jürgen would bring in a colleague to offer instruction. He would always let them finish what they were saying and never undermine them before offering up his own instructions and wisdom. Large egos can also affect the managers in high-end football, but not for Klopp. Don’t forget the value of having some additional perspectives or opinions.
Talk to Players Individually
Jürgen would take the chance to talk to players individually during breaks in the training. By the time the session was over he’d talked to most of the players. Taking time to personally talk to players built trust and understanding between him and his players. If your players aren’t very fond of you or your coaching style – then you’ll never even have a chance to succeed.
As Klopp worked on a shadow play to goal, he saw that other players would hang back when it came down to a one-on-one situation; choosing to watch how things unfolded before acting. Klopp explained this was an unacceptable practice as there’s no guarantee a goal will come from one-on-one situations. Every player must stay in the game, no matter what.
Stimulate Players Minds
Klopp put his players into a ¾ field passing pattern exercise, occasionally throwing a new ball into the exercise. The team would forget the old one and respond quickly to the new one to get back in shape and get back into attack. This is a great way to test how players will respond to a turnover of the ball.
Pay Attention to Details
The Liverpool team retreated back to their own half after an attempt on goal, with some of them not watching the ball during this retreat. Jürgen was passionate about telling players how important it was to keep their eyes on the ball.
One thing Klopp said that distinctly stood out to me was saying that there is no formation in the first moment of defending. Klopp explained that the fastest player needs to delay their attack so that their teammates can move into position. It’s easier to forgive a small mistake in tactics than it is to claw your way back from being scored against. It’s essential your team is realistic and is able to improvise their next move at a moment’s notice.
When the training session ended, Jürgen went to the end of the line of fans looking to snap a picture or grab an autograph and slowly worked to the front of the queue. Players also spent their time meeting and greeting the fans, showing they didn’t have too much of an ego to do this and were willing to show some humility.
Remember; it doesn’t matter how much money you get or the stakes involved, football is a game at the end of the day. Reflect, refocus, and make sure you have fun to get the best long-term results.
Just watching Klopp for a few hours made all the difference in the world for my coaching; hopefully reading about it can change yours too.
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