Coaches at every level of the game will experience unexpected changes to player numbers, area size or weather conditions at their coaching sessions. Other challenges include unpredictable player motivation or your well prepared activities not going to plan.
So, what can you do? Here are our 10 top-tips to help you deal with the unexpected scenarios that may occur at your training session.
1) Use arrival activities to assess the scene
An arrival activity used at the start of the session is the perfect opportunity to stand back, observe and assess. To do this, it is crucial that the players can manage the arrival activity themselves – playing a series of small-sided games works well. During the arrival activity you can start to get an idea of player numbers, the attitude of the group (do they need a lift?), the equipment you have and the space available. Make any adjustments to your plan before you get the players to come in to start the session.
2) Coaching sessions don’t have to be balanced or symmetrical
Don’t worry if you don’t have even numbers for your session. If you had planned to play 4v4, resist the temptation to join in yourself and instead try 4v3. Uneven numbers gives you the perfect opportunity to experiment with how you group or pair the players. For example you may challenge your three ‘strongest’ players to play on the team with fewer players. How else could you group the players to provide different challenges?
3) Be resourceful – what does your facility offer?
If you don’t have access to goals, cones or other equipment, be creative and look at what your facility already offers you. Most facilities will have some kind of pitch markings or lines that can be used in creative ways. Similarly, if you don’t have a goal, have a look for something that could act as a target. You might use a bench, a chair, the fence or even one of the lines on the floor.
4) Learn how to be a storyteller
If a player has to leave your session early use it as an opportunity to talk about the scenario of having a player sent-off in a game – what would the team’s strategy be? Similarly, if you have uneven teams you might create a story about using all your substitutes and having a player injured. Telling stories can capture the imagination of young players and help them engage with lots of challenging coaching situations.
5) Not all ‘coaching’ has to happen on the pitch
If the weather forces you to wait in the changing room or your access to the pitch is delayed, you can still provide a learning opportunity for the players. Talk through the session or your team tactics with the players and use whatever space and equipment is available to help you communicate. For example, you might get the players to walk through a pattern of play on the car park (if it’s safe) or get them to put bibs out in a 4-3-3 shape in the leisure centre reception. The learning can continue, when the action has stopped.
6) Ask the kids for help
Children are a rich source of ideas. If you are struggling to think of a way of solving an unexpected coaching session problem ask them for their opinion. You might be surprised at the quality of their suggestions.
7) An opportunity to try new things
If you had planned an attacking session for your centre forward and he/she doesn’t turn up, it’s a great opportunity to try somebody else in a different position. Rotating positions and asking your players to try different roles can be enlightening. For example, if your goalkeeper doesn’t turn up for a session give everybody the opportunity to have a go in goal.
8) Challenges, points and a timer
If your perfectly planned passing practice is failing, think about how you can inject some competition and challenge. Young players will respond positively to individual and team challenges that involve points, scores, a winner/loser or trying to complete a challenge against the clock.
9) Some things just happen…
Sometimes you can’t stop the kids from being distracted. On these occasions it is worth acknowledging the distraction (like a plane overhead) with the players, rather than fighting it, before letting them get back to the activity. If you have the choice, think carefully about where your practice session (or team talks) take place, so you can minimise the potential distractions.
10) Play games
Don’t be frightened to play a game, guaranteed your players will love it!
Article courtesy of the FA Bootroom.
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