Football Queensland caught up with Moreton Bay United Senior Women’s Head Coach and Football Australia A Licence Coach David Da Silva this week to get an insight into a coaching methodology rarely seen in the country.
Da Silva was introduced to ‘thinking games’ while Director of Coaching at UQFC following the arrival of Jose Barcala, the former Head of Academy Coaching at Spanish side Real Club Deportivo de la Coruna S.A.D.
He says the concept Barcala brought to the club resonated with all coaches.
“In my time at UQFC I worked with Jose as well as Remo Buess, Adam Pengelly, Ben Galloway and a number of other coaches, so that’s where we shared ideas. It was a really inclusive environment, so we got to try heaps of things,” Da Silva said.
“Jose introduced us to the thinking/chasing games, and I saw its value straight away; I think it’s helping to create runners with the ball and thinking players.
“In Australia we don’t develop enough of those players, so we need those smart technical players who can run with the ball and a lot of these thinking/chasing games really develop those.”
Thinking games are exercises designed to improve a player’s spacial awareness by replicating match situations, requiring the individual to develop problem solving skills that can be used in games.
In the above thinking game example, one player is trying to get through an open gate, while their opposition is trying to tag them. The aim is for the players on the outside to anticipate the direction in which the ball carrier is going and block they gate that they’re able to get through.
Da Silva praised the thinking game concept for developing all the attributes a player needs to perform at a high level, while also benefitting the coach in their development.
“The beauty of it is a lot of the time the players have to figure it out, so the coaches actually get better at the guided discovery or the questioning rather than the telling, and it really encourages young players to solve things on their own,” he said.
“Within the thinking games, a player is dependent on another player to a solve a problem together and to gain an advantage to beat an opponent, and as a coach this ability to interact with others is what you want to develop in individuals.
“These thinking games really facilitate that without the coach having to tell them, so the players have to solve these challenges themselves and figure out ways to dominate their opponent.”
A practice that can be introduced in sessions at all levels of the game, Da Silva praises the thinking game concept for being as enjoyable as it is valuable to a player’s development.
“It’s engaging. I’ve delivered it with five year olds and I’ve delivered it with W-League players,” he said.
“Most of them are based around simple invasion games and simple kicking games, and I think the key is finding games that are fun and engaging for all but also can challenge the individual.”
In his own career, Da Silva has been able to get an insight into coaching at national team level, working alongside Junior Matildas Head Coach Rae Dower who welcomed him into the last Junior Matildas cycle for multiple camps.
“In the Junior Matildas camp I did the chasing games, and the players really enjoyed it; they’re learning key principles of the game whilst improving their technical and tactical capabilities.”
Da Silva led the QAS/NTC program for three years and is currently a QAS Coach Mentor.