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A group of young kids stand in a line and wait for their turn to take a shot at goal.

What to look for

When your players are having a great time, it’s usually clear to see. However, a lack of interest can be harder to spot. It often appears as a range of behaviours – some of them challenging. In the video below, Bex Garlick, FA national coach development lead, and Lee Brown, FA coach developer, explain what to look out for. 

So, you've recognised that one (or more) of your players is disengaged. What now?  

The first step is to work out why they’re feeling that way. Is the challenge you’ve set too easy – or too hard? Are you talking too much? Have you grouped players in the wrong way? Does your activity need to feel more like a real game? 

To find the answer, you’ll probably need to step back and observe your team. Then, once you’ve discovered why things aren’t working, you can start to think about how to re-energise your session.  

Here are three simple (and effective) ways to promote engagement:

1. Provide individual challenges

If a player seems disinterested, they may need additional stimulation. Setting an individual challenge can help. For example, within your session, you could ask a player to see how many different teammates they can combine with. Alternatively, task them with leading a discussion on the group’s tactics for the next activity.


2. Evolve your practice

If your whole team has lost focus, it’s probably time to move on. Try switching to something new – or mixing up your current practice. For example, imagine you've been playing a simple 3v3 for the last five minutes. A great way to progress this activity is to adapt the scoring system to highlight your session objective. Take counter-attacking. If this is your focus, try increasing the value of any goals scored within five seconds of regaining possession.


3. Have a plan

Players get bored – but it doesn’t need to disrupt your whole session. To keep things on track, plan ahead. For example, can you organise activities to avoid dips in energy? Are certain players more likely to disengage? Could you pre-prepare individual tasks to keep them motivated? 


Players don’t always behave how we expect them to behave. Instead of shrugging this off or blaming your team, it’s important to think about why they may be acting up.  

Once you’ve identified the problem, take responsibility and take action. As a coach, your role is to create an environment that promotes engagement, fun and a love of the game.