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A coach holds a tactics board and talks to their team before a match.

What is a matchday game plan?

A matchday game plan is simply a plan to play the game. 

It’s about setting outcomes and how you intend to achieve what you’re going after in a match. 

Here, The FA’s Suey Smith and Pav Singh provide insight into game plans. 

Now, this depends on what level you’re coaching at. A game plan for an U7s grassroots team won’t be the same as one for a side in the senior game. It won’t be anywhere near as detailed when it comes to formations, how units should work together or strategies for facing game scenarios, for instance. 

These aren’t the only factors that can make up a game plan, though. There are loads of things that can form the basis of one. 

To help you create one for your next match, here are some ideas to get you thinking. Just keep in mind the level of detail you put in your plan needs to be appropriate for the age and stage of your players. 


Remember your coaching philosophy

Knowing what you stand for is important. So, underpin your game plan with your values. 

If you’re someone who prioritises development over results, for instance, then show it. Set out in your plan that you’re going to try to provide your players with equal playing time. Then, think about the individual targets you can give them for the upcoming match. 

Of course, everyone still wants to win. But come the end of the game, if you’ve given everyone a chance and helped them develop during the match – that’s success. 

Link training to matchday

Matchday provides players with the opportunity to put what they’ve learnt in training to the test. So, devise a game plan that focuses on what you’ve been working on. 

If you’ve been practising passing at training, base some of your outcomes and individual challenges on it. It might simply be, can you link up with a teammate to score? Or can we be brave and start building out from the back today? Then, observe how they do and reflect on it. 

If you work more in the talent and professional space, you might train with your opponent in mind. Altering your practice design based on the challenges they’ll present. You can change your training sessions and game plan based on the opposition insight and analysis available to you. 

It’s handy to have a game plan that reflects the way you want to play. So, think about what you want your team to do when they’re attacking, defending and in transition. 

And, depending on your coaching context, it doesn’t have to stop there. You can go into real detail. Covering tactics, roles and responsibilities, set plays and even ‘what if’ scenarios. For example, what if we score or concede an early goal? What if a player gets sent off? Thinking ahead like this will help you and your team adapt in the moment. 

Matchday will provide all sorts of scenarios. So, while these plans may be impacted by who’s available, any cards, injuries and scorelines, it can be useful to think about your squad for the game. 

Keeping your players’ strengths and development needs in mind, start to formulate a team for the weekend. And think about when you’d ideally like to bring on your game-changers.

Here, Suey and Pav discuss how they think about substitutions