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Decision Making using Tactical Scenarios

Featuring Colorado Rapids Academy U-17 Head Coach, Erik Bushey

Erik Bushey has been the Head Coach of the Colorado Rapids Academy U17s since 2017. Erik’s coaching career spans over 25 years and all levels of coaching including club, collegiate, professional, ODP, PDL, and the national team. Erik holds his USSF “A” license, NSCAA national diploma, the Academy Director’s License, and at the time of this webinar, is in the process of completing the Elite Formation Coaching License (EFCL). 

“Being mindful of the way you teach can help you better understand how to help students achieve deeper learning.”

Erik introduces us to a pedagogy that can be used to better apply learning objectives in a training environment; Pedagogy of Technical Decision Model (PTDM). This model guides coaches in constructing exercises that facilitate decision making around specific game situations. In theory, PTDM is all about problem solving. It repeats specific situations with familiar reference points like lines, spaces, areas of the field, etc. 

With the use of PTDM “the player is steered towards” possible solutions of a game situation using their own individual abilities. 

Erik’s Example of PTDM:

4v3 to goal with two wide attackers 

Key points:

  • Team Objective: Get open to deliver a pass or a finish (vs. an unbalanced defense)
  • 1 Transition (6 second to score on counter goal)
  • Defense (Center-backs) to man-mark
  • Discovery period plus competition (Allows for trial and error)
  • Learning Objective: Asking players to read the game to gain a time edge
  • Coaching points should generally focus on
      • Runs to create and exploit space in front of goal
      • Angle of support
      • Distance of support
      • When receiving ball should be in the direction of next action (goal)
      • Speed of play/execution

This activity is now on RISE

Training Observation

“In what ways can I [the coach] impact the game to make sure my players are getting better?”

As Erik mentions, it’s important to make sure all the constraints are just right in order to have the exercise be a learning experience. To do so, it’s vital to observe the actions and reflect in the moment. The following are some questions that you can ask yourself to when observing this and any exercise:

  • Is the set up right? 
  • Are the players progressing?
  • Is the difficulty appropriate? 
  • Is it too difficult? (Increase time and/or space)
  • Is it too easy? (Decrease time and/or space)

If/Then Statements 

A powerful tool a coach can use to help guide players towards the desired behavior are ‘If, Then’ statements. They help players identify cues (IF) in certain situations and how to act when presented with those cues (THEN). In this exercise, Erik uses the following ‘If/Then’ statements:

  • IF ball carrier breaks line on dribble THEN forward player spins out and penetrates
  • IF wide player receives in behind THEN weak side forward gets across face of defender while strongside rolls out to far post.
  • IF wide player receives to dribble behind THEN adjust ending position by delaying run to create separation. 

Sidenote: Erik’s ‘If, Then’ statements are specific to his group and his context. Your job as the coach of your team is to identify the behaviors you would like your players to adopt in given situations based on their ability, age, agreed upon team objectives, etc. ‘If, Then’ statements are meant to guide behavior, while giving the protagonist role to the player. 


Lastly, it is necessary to reflect on the session afterwards in order to improve it next time. Erik takes us through his self-reflection (1:07:00 – 1:11:44) where he pinpoints where things went well and what he could improve. Erik places alot of value on the active vs. inactive time during the activity. He mentions that he wants to improve this and he is going to do so by being more efficient in the introduction of the exercise from 1:30 to 1:00, the coaching points made throughout, and the progressions. 

CRYSC Final Thoughts

As with all coaching, this tool allows coaches to create an environment where the players are the protagonists. They are the ones who are ultimately recognizing cues, deciding on the best action, and executing with precision. The game belongs to the players and the training environment should reflect that. As Erik states, “the game is the best teacher but it’s much better if there is someone who could help along the way.”