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The Purpose of WOLI Methodology

As mentioned in my previous post, US Soccer structures their training sessions under the acronym WOLI. WOLI is Warm Up, Orientation, Learning, and Implementation. Let’s start with the W, warm up.

The warm up is always the beginning of your training session. The purpose of a warm up is to get players  physically and mentally prepared for the rest of the session. A warm up without the use of the ball is a physical warm up, but a warm up with the ball is a technical warm up. As a coach you decide how you want to combine or separate between the two. Once your players are mentally and physically prepared, we then move to the orientation stage (stage 2).

The purpose of the Orientation Stage is to introduce the situation that you would like to improve upon. Players will now become familiar with what the problems in the situation are and start to think about how they can solve that problem. All aspects such as the area of the field, the space used, and the number of players used will also be key to this section. Some examples of numbers used for the Orientation Stage include: 4v2, 5v3, 4v4, 5v5, 6v6, etc.

Next is the Learning Stage. The Learning Stage is done to teach the solution to the situation. Players in this stage and the latter stage will experience successful and unsuccessful decision-making, allowing them to learn from their experiences. This sort of experiential/cause-and-effect learning is the reason why your session should be player-centered and not coaching/command-centered. Some examples of numbers used for the Learning Stage are: 8v6, 8v7, 9v7, 9v8, etc.

The last and final stage is the Implementation Stage. Here is the application of the solution with no restrictions or constraints. Just play the game! Examples of numbers used include 7v7, 8v8, 9v9, 10v10, 11v11. Getting an 11v11 is difficult, perhaps even impossible for most of us, but the purpose for this stage is to see if your players can use what they have learned and implement it into the game.

Throughout your session, there will be some Key aspects which US Soccer will be looking for when evaluation your session. Be sure to check out my next post to find out what they are!

“People never learn anything by being told, they have to find out for themselves.”

By - Amine El Hachimi - Director Of Coaching

OLI Method - Coaching Points: When and Why?

As a coach, you have a coach’s toolkit which includes: stop-freeze, guided discovery/questions, coaching in the flow, natural stoppage and individual reference. These 4 tools can be used in several different ways and each one has it’s own time and place of usage.

The Warm Up

Here you can use any of the tools, so long as they do not continuously interrupt the flow of this stage. Consistently stopping the practice to teach a minute detail can hurt development.

Orientation Stage

The orientation stage is focused on introducing the problem and the overall goal of the situation (i.e.: to score, to build out of our defensive third, etc.). How they get to the solution should not be taught in this stage, but you can help by using certain components of your toolkit.

  • In the Flow: Talk to players and ask questions of players as the exercise is going on.
  • Individual Reference: Remove a player from the exercise briefly and ask him/her some questions. Use guided discovery/questions to ask them about their role on the field.
  • Guided Discovery/Questions: Ask questions of your players that provoke thought and for them to begin to take initiative. Use  the 5W's to ask why a certain situation keeps occurring and what cues/actions lead to that occurring.
  • Natural Stoppage: The ball being played out of bounds is a perfect time for natural stoppage and the use of guided questions for the team. Perhaps we are too compact when in possession so asking “how can we make the field as wide as possible?” can influence players to begin to spread out when in possession.

By you simply using these tools, players put words into their actions. It is often the case that we do things out of habit and do not realize it until it is addressed. So by you asking a simple question, the player could solve his own problem without you having to stop the flow of the practice.

Learning Stage 

In the learning stage, you are here to teach the solution if players have not yet discovered it. Each tool used from the previous stage carries over this stage as well. Some new ones to use in this stage include:

  • Freeze: This is only allowed in this stage and your implementation stage. The freeze is where you completely stop the play as it’s going on. Think Adam Sandler in the movie Click. Everyone goes back to where they were when the play broke down. It is important to know when to use a freeze situation. If one player made a mistake, don’t use a freeze situation. IF several players made mistakes, causing the play to break down, then you can use a freeze. Here, you use guided questions to the team and individual players as well in order to figure out a reason as to why the play broke down. Concluding your freeze, you must demonstrate how you fix the problem, and then allow players to repeat the demonstration. If the demonstration does not work, do not be afraid to bring it back, and try it again until it works.

Implementation Stage

Think of this as you being at the game this weekend. Will you have the chance to just stop the game and give your coaching points? If you give the ref a large sum of money perhaps, but even so I don’t think the parents, opposing coach, and most importantly your players will be too pleased. That being said, if it is absolutely necessary, you may use a freeze. Besides that, all other components of your coaches toolkit are fair game.

As mentioned earlier, the 5W's are an important part of the planning of your training session and also the coaching within your training session. Without the use of them, your session may not be as organized or as strong as you think!

“Most people get excited about games, but I’ve got to be excited about practice, because that’s my classroom.

By - Amine El Hachimi - Director Of Coaching

The 5 W’s

As mentioned in my previous post on coaching point, the 5 W’s are both guided questions that we could ask our player when coaching, but also are a part of the foundation of your training session. The 5 W’s include:

  1. What do you want to develop? What is the goal of this training session/exercise? Do we want to improve our ability to build out of the back using the #2/3?
  2. Who are the players involved? During every training session, there are relevant players which the session or exercise is focused on. Besides key players, there are functional groups who include but are not limited to our back 4, midfield 3, attacking 3 (if you are playing in a 4-3-3).
  3. Where are the specific actions that we want to develop taking place? Are we in the midfield third? Final third? Are we in central areas of our defensive third?
  4. When are the specific actions we want to look for taking place? Is it when we lose the ball in the final third that we want to high press?
  5. Why are these actions taking place? We must look for cues which are visual signs that a specific action is going to take place.

The 5 W’s are all about specificity and attention to detail during your session. Everything that happens on the field has a reason to it. The better we can begin to identify trends and patterns on the field, the more we can work towards improving those patterns of play.

“The deeper we dig into our field the more we know about its details”

By - Amine El Hachimi - Director of coaching

The 5 Element's

As mentioned in my  previous post, US Soccer looks for some key-aspects of your training session when evaluating your session. In particular, there are five features they want to see in each stage of your training session which are:

  1. Organization: Does your activity look like an actual training session? Are the cones, players, goals, and other equipment organized in a way that is not only going to help your players, but also keep a safe environment for your players to participate in?
  2. Game-Like: Is this stage replicating the situation that you will find in a game? In particular, are your Orientation Stages and Learning Stages using the right dimensions on the pitch? What part of the pitch are you on? Do the numbers used replicate the situation used during a game?
  3. Repetition: Is the situation you are looking to bring out being consistently practiced throughout this session? Here’s a quick story. During my “C” Course, we were put into groups in order to analyze a match and develop a training session to help improve some aspect of that team’s game. My group and I decided to focus on transitioning from attacking to defending in the final third. We set up the dimensions of the field, the players, and the positions of those players all correctly (or at least we thought) and began to run our session. Again, our topic was transitioning from attacking to defending. The session began and we decided to start the ball with the team we were not focusing on every single time so that our players would go out and begin defending immediately. See something missing? So we continued to coach how they defended when not in possession and thought we hit every single component of the transition from attacking to defending. And we felt great about ourselves after the session! Upon reflecting with our instructors and fellow coaches, we realized we missed one key aspect of our session – repetition of the transition element. At no point did our team of focus transition from having to ball (attacking) to reacting (transitioning) to losing the ball (defending). Moral of the story: make sure your topic of focus is consistently being repeated or you will have to deal with the consequences (luckily this was only a practice session).
  4.  Challenging: Notice how many times your players are or are not successful in the training session and think about how that would translate to this weekend. Will your players be successful every single time during the weekend? I think not! The point of seeing if your training session is challenging or not is to decide whether players are truly learning or not. Therefore, you can manipulate how challenging (or not) by changing the numbers used for each exercise.
  5. Coaching: Are you guiding your players to learn to their maximum potential? US Soccer is not looking for the loudest person on the field, but they are not looking for someone to not say a word either. They are looking for you to be effective. Can you get your point across in one sentence as opposed to a full five minute lecture?

By - Amine El Hachimi - Director Of Coaching

Intro to Training Sessions

Training sessions will have a training topic which is the subject being focused on within a session. Training exercises are the components of a training session.

US Soccer’s structure for training sessions include: Warm-Up, Orientation Phase, Learning Phase, and Implementation Phase (WOLI). In my next post, I will break down WOLI.

The first step in setting up a training session is to determine the age and playing level of the players. For pre-academy ( U4-U11) players, their practices are generally 60 minutes long compared to academy (U12-senior) players, which is usually about 90 minutes in length. Playing level is another important aspect to consider when putting together your training session.

The four main playing levels are: recreational, travel, development, and academy. Players within each level may have a certain amount of game intelligence which generally will increase as you go from recreational to academy. With that in mind, the amount of information given should be adjusted to the level of the players.

“He who is best prepared can best serve his moment of inspiration.”


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Phone: 540-370-6656
Email: [email protected]

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