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A coach talks to two players during training.

First things first. What exactly are interventions?  

Well, it’s the moment a coach intervenes in a session to talk to an individual or a group of players.   
Interventions are used to help players with their learning process. For instance, you might intervene to:  

  • provide feedback  
  • provide some support or praise 
  • set challenges for individuals or the group
  • deliver key messages to the team  
  • introduce a progression to the activity.

So, now you know what they are, how can you use them? Well, once you’ve observed your team and recognised the right time to intervene, here are the three methods you can use.   

Whole group intervention

This is where you stop all the players in a practice and speak to the whole group.

Here, Sarah Lowden and Ben Hardaker discuss when coaches could use this method and what they need to consider before doing so.

Small group intervention

This method is where you stop some players in the practice and speak to them while allowing the rest of the team to continue playing.

Here, Ben and Sarah talk about how they utilise small group interventions.

Individual intervention

The third intervention method is about speaking to an individual player. Rather than disturbing the whole group, you take one player to the side and let the others continue to play.

As Ben and Sarah discuss, this approach allows you to give bespoke support to a player.

Here are some top tips to help you make a successful intervention.

Make it impactful

If you’re going to stop the session for everyone – or talk to a group or an individual – it needs to have an impact. Don’t just intervene for the sake of it. It needs to be a thoughtful action.  

Think about:  

  • Why do I want to make an intervention, and is it needed?  
  • Will the intervention enhance their learning?  
  • What am I going to say, and how should I deliver that message?  
  • What outcome do I want?  

Once you’ve carried out an intervention, it’s important to make sure you check back in. So, take the time to observe and follow it up. It might just be a bit of praise to show players you noticed they’re working on what you talked about. Or it could even be through another intervention later on to ask questions and discuss the topic further.  

Use interventions at the right time

If you intervene regularly, players will likely get frustrated as they’re continually taken out of a practice. It’s got to be done at the right time.   

You don’t have to dive in as soon as you spot a mistake. To help regulate how often you intervene, use the rule of three. The first time they make a mistake, notice it but let it go. If they make the same mistake a second time, it could be a coincidence. Let them keep trying. If the same mistake happens for a third time, that could be a pattern. They may need some support. So, take the time to think about when and how you can best make an impactful intervention.  

Be clear and concise  

Avoid overloading players with information. Interventions need to be clear, simple and memorable. And ideally, quick. We want players to get back into the activity and put into practice what you’ve just discussed with them.  
To make it memorable, try setting targets related to your discussion. It may be as simple as “show me three different ways you can make a pass” if you’re working on passing. They’ll then have this as their focus when they get back into the practice. Follow this up by asking them what passing techniques they tried.

Offer praise

Something that’s important but is often forgotten about is praise. So, put it on top of your list when thinking about interventions.  
Don’t just intervene, then stay silent. Observe. And if you see someone doing something really well or something they’ve been working on for a long time, praise them. It’ll make them feel like they’re on top of the world. And it’ll increase their engagement in your session, too. Especially if you’re working with younger age groups.