Coaching the Run-with Midfielder

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

By Cameron Ling

Position Ė Midfielder Ė Run-with player providing an attacking option.  

Role of the position in team structure
To limit the influence of the opposition's key midfielder while providing attacking options when your team has the ball. Not a hard tag; there is a balance between stopping your opponent and helping other team mates defensively and playing a role in stoppage structures.

Key relationships to other positions in team
This is an important role in the midfield group by limiting the oppositionís best midfielder, it provides the opportunity for your teamís midfielders to attack more confidently. Need to have communication with running forwards and backs to either change or cover you if your opponent goes back or forward to rest or to try to lose you.

Main player responsibilities for the role 
The primary job is to limit the influence of your opponent, therefore a 70/30 defensive to offensive mindset is the way to go. However it is important to provide attacking options for your team. Look for opportunities to run and attack and win the ball for the team. When the ball is in a contested situation, play with instinct to win the ball and help kick start team offence. Good quick decisions are essential in congested situations i.e. win the ball, tackle, outnumber to help your team win the ball, spread to attack, spread on opponent defensively. All these decisions are made while continually being aware of your opponent and their decisions.

Expectation/Role of the position in the team structure
Stoppages- play on your direct opponent, limit your opponentís ability to win the ball and start their teamís play. Spread away from stoppages with your direct opponent to prevent them from getting the ball in dangerous space, see opportunities to win ball in contested situations and to spread offensively to get into a dangerous position for the opposition.

Centre Bounce/Kick in/Zones- play the role for your team and trust team mates to cover for you if needed. Don't be selfish and go outside the team structure to just cover your man.

Player characteristics to play position successfully:

  • High level of fitness
  • Ability to read play, very good decision maker
  • High concentration
  • Adequate speed
  • Ability to win the ball in contests and in space
  • Ability to pressure opposition
  • Ruthless attitude

Coaching the position
Key points to set get across to players.

  • Have a defensive mindset but look for opportunities to attack and make your opponent chase you (spend their energy chasing you)
  • Win the contested ball when the opportunity is there; train to win the ball in a contest.
  • Donít focus too much on your opponent so you forget about reading the play and helping your team (back your instincts when the time is right).

Specific training for position
Coaches should incorporate these elements in practice.

  • Contested ball and decision making drills - what decisions do players need to make 1m, 2m, 3m, 5m, 10m, etc away from the ball.
  • Game simulation - have the player run with the best ball winning players in the team to learn their running patterns.
  • Players need to learn to recognise opportunities to get off their direct opponent to find the ball and hurt the opposition in attack. Practice at training, in games and through watching vision.
  • Best training is experience in games. Give them game time against quality opposition and donít panic if their opponent gets a few touches.
  • Provide plenty of vision (edited) - looking at both their decision making and the decisions good players they play on make. Also look at how other players play against the same good players and what works and what doesn't.

Specific pre match preparation

  • Watch opponents live if you can - clearer way to see their running patterns off the ball (TV doesn't capture this).
  • Watch edits of other players who have limited their influence and identify how they achieved it.
  • Be aware of strengths and weaknesses so you can put them in situations they would prefer to not be in.
  • Exploit their weakness with opportunities to find the ball yourself and create attack for the team.
  • Look for habits they continually rely on to find the ball. When tired or under pressure they are more likely to go back to what they know best and what has worked in the past. If you can identify the scenario about to unfold you can pre-empt it and be proactive to take advantage of it.

This article was written in 2011 as part of the requirements for the AFL Level 2 coaching course

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