Be A More Effective Soccer Coach: The Echo Method

Science and Schedule – All Made Incredibly Easy

As our season has just ended it is time to reveal the outcome of a fascinating year-long experiment with a methodology called ‘Echo Coaching’ – and the results are so positive that I’m sure you will want to apply this system to your own sessions next year.

I’ve just finished a run of twenty weeks in which my players have practiced the application of more coaching points than in the preceding twenty weeks, and in which their ability to recall these coaching points has tripled.

Soccer Coaching Echo Method Results

The Staggered Repetition Principle

The Problem

The brain is bombarded with information. As a result we are programmed to focus, filter or forget, 99% of everything we ever experience is ignored by our senses or dismissed as insignificant by our brains – allowing to focus on the 1% that might be important.

And it is a good job too! Can you imagine being able to remember every word in every conversation you’d ever had, no matter how banal it might be? Instead we remember only the topic of conversation and (only if they are, literally, ‘memorable’) the person we had it with. To function effectively our minds must make generalisations and group similar information together so that it can access it quickly in the future.

Unfortunately for us, many soccer coaching sessions are held in the same environment at the same time and with the same participants every week. This encourages our players’ brains to get lazy and group all of their training experiences together, remembering only the similar aspects.

Also unfortunately, the text book method for coaching soccer is to coach one topic per session and then move on to a different topic the following week. Those lazy brains can find it pretty easy to dismiss the details when the topic is only ‘important’ enough for one session in a season.

To add even more flies to the ointment, the brain has a ‘recency bias’. It gives greater importance to information that it pertained last and gradually less and less significance to information as time passes. This is haughty psychological babble for what we all instinctively know; after a while, we forget things!

Soccer Coaching Echo Method Graph 1

The Solution

As we can see in the chart above, players will forget 20% of a topic’s coaching points after just two weeks, and recall will tail off to 28% after a ten week period.

If we expect our players to apply the coached principles in a game, it can be safely assumed that they need to be able to recall the key points – if not then why do we teach them? As their ability to recall falls over time, it stands that we will have to ‘top up’ their understanding at regular intervals.

Of course we could return to the topic and coach it again, but the danger is that we will be caught coaching the same points in perpetuity and our players will not develop as well-rounded footballers. So the challenge for coaches is to find the balance between introducing new topics and revising old ones.
Fortunately there are two aspects which help to solve this problem:

  1. Firstly, reactivation is much faster than new learning.
  2. Secondly, repeating information gives it more significance, so it is retained for much longer.

The Echo Method

Soccer Coaching Echo Method - Staggered Repetition Principle

The Echo Method is a system whereby the topics are planned over a long-time to maximise the amount of information provided and the long-term recall of this information.

Part one of this planning method utilises ‘Staggered Repetition’, which means the topic is repeated just as recall would be expected to fall below 80% – topping up to 90%-100% and then waiting until the next time it drops. Over time the gaps between repetitions get longer and longer because the information is considered more important as the repetitions increase and as a result recall dramatically improves.

Part two of the planning accounts for the fact that the coaching points can be reactivated relatively quickly and this allows multiple topics to be covered within a single session.

Making The Echo Method Soccer Specific

The main difficulty in developing a test for this method was in defining and testing “recall”. To do so we developed a series of homework tasks for our players, a short 10-mark test of their understanding taken 2, 4 and 10 weeks after a topic was last coached to them.

Based on data from the first 20 weeks (single topic progressions) we were able to establish the ideal spacing for our repeated topics.

Our schedule for the second 20 weeks of our experiment (practicing ‘Echo Coaching’) looked like this:
Echo Method Soccer Session Plans Schedule

One week after coaching a topic for the first time recall was below 90% (this is because not all of the information will have been taken in during the session) – therefore we immediately refreshed a topic the following session.

After the second session recall was only above 80% for around 2 weeks so we refreshed the coaching points a second time at this stage. We then held the fourth session on a given topic a further 4 weeks on (7 weeks after originally coaching it). After this series of sessions we found that recall was still above 80% a further 10 weeks along (18 weeks after the original coaching session)!

The Results

Soccer Coaching Echo Method Graph 3

With the same total coaching time:

  • Recall of the key coaching points was 288% higher after ten weeks using the ‘Echo Coaching’ method.
  • The number of coaching topics covered was slightly higher using the ‘Echo Coaching Method’ (14 topics in 20 sessions vs. 10 topics in 20 sessions).
  • Total time spent planning sessions was lower with ‘Echo Coaching Method’ as we used same small-sided games to develop our coaching points in each refresher session.
  • Player enthusiasm was notably higher when we switched to the ‘Echo Coaching Method’, because they knew they were getting at least two different games in every session.

To try this really handy method out for yourself check out our Echo Coaching Session Planner (Excell Spreadsheet File).

  • djjassen
    I would be very keen to have a look at this method further and to also have a look at some of your small sided games that correlate to the Session Planner.

    Is there any chance of following this article up with some of these extra details?
  • Sure thing, I will be posting some of the small-sided games used in this series in a couple of weeks so I'll make sure I link them back to the session planner.

    You might also be interested in the coaching plans from SoccerSessionPlans.com, I'm working with the guys there to integrate drills and games from top clubs around the world into an Echo Coaching framework.

    If you're interested consider
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