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A coach talks to a group of young players standing in a circle

Many football coaches face this problem, especially when training involves complicated tasks or instructions. If things aren't going to plan, it's essential to ask yourself, 'why are my players here?'. The answer is always: to play a game.   

So, when things don't work out, try switching to a match and link it to your learning objective. For example, if you're working on dribbling, challenge your team to dribble past at least one player before sharing or shooting.  


Sometimes, your team just won't 'get' what they need to do. When this happens, remember that learning a new skill or technique is hard – and you need to be patient. Instead of stopping the practice as soon as your team struggles, give players time to work things out for themselves.   


This is a widespread problem. Some players find training too easy, and some find it too hard. When coaching, consider using the STEP framework (Youth Sports Trust, 2002) to adapt your session. This approach encourages you to mix up your space, task, equipment and players to create a session that works for all.  


This is actually a great opportunity. In football, one side is often outnumbered by the other (during a counter-attack, for example). Having uneven teams allows your players to experience this – and learn how to deal with it in different situations. 


This problem can arise during a session – or on matchday too. If someone needs to leave, try using it as a chance to practice how you'd deal with a player being sent off. As a coach, you rarely have control over everything. The more you practice dealing with the unexpected, the easier it gets.  


Ideally, you need two goals to make your practice feel like a real game. But this isn't always an option. If you only have one goal, try using a phase-of-play activity. In these games, one team attacks the goal, and the other attacks a mini-goal, end-line or another target. The sides then switch and shoot in the opposite direction.


You don't always need an official keeper at training. Instead, let different players have a go in goal. Taking turns in this way exposes your team to different experiences. Plus, if your goalie misses matchday, you're already prepared.  


8. You struggle to provide equal playing time on matchdays 

It can be hard to substitute your 'best' team to ensure everyone gets equal playing time. But matchday is the acid test of your coaching philosophy. If you believe in learning and development, your behaviour needs to reflect this. Make sure everyone has the chance to get involved. 


9. Your players won't stop messing around 

If your team are acting up, you'll probably feel frustrated. You might even want to stop your session. However, it's important to understand that you can't always control the behaviour of others. But you can control your own. If you manage your emotions well, you'll be in a better place to tweak the activity and motivate your players.  


10. You get too caught up in matchday action 

Competitive sport is a rollercoaster. Here are some simple ways to enjoy the ride.  

  • Try not to worry about the result. Instead, focus on the game itself and note down your observations.  
  • Spend time setting challenges for your substitutes. For example, can they spot how many passes are made in the lead-up to a goal?  
  • At your next match, try staying silent for two minutes. Then, evaluate how it affected your players' decision-making.  
  • Instead of venting from the sidelines, write down your feelings. 

Still looking for an answer? Submit your coaching questions to our England Football Learning Community.