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A coach talks to a group of players

Matchday. For many, it's the high point of the footballing week. To encourage a love of the game, try these top tips:

  • At grassroots level, try talking to the opposition coach about using small formats to run multiple games on matchday. For instance, you might try a 7v7 alongside a 4v4. This could get everyone involved straight away – rather than having players waiting to be subbed on for their chance to play.
  • Give your substitutes specific tasks to do to keep them involved. They could check if the team is implementing the game plan.
  • Make it clear that you’re enjoying yourself. Your players will reflect that right back.
  • Don’t get too caught up in the result. A game can be enjoyable even if you lose.
  • Give players informal praise one-on-one after the game, if you can.

Interactive video

Want to dive deeper into this topic? Then, work your way through this video.

You’re a role model for your players, so act like it. Behave in line with your values and those of your club. This could mean lending a hand to a player who’s fallen or staying neutral to the referee’s every decision. Everything you do matters.

Don’t forget to think about your body language and tone of voice. From gestures to volume, this is probably more important than the words you say.

And adapt your approach to suit the situation. If you’re enthusiastic, it can lift your team’s energy. But some situations call for calm. Say the focus is patient possession, hold back from turning up the tempo.

Sometimes, you simply need to take a step back. If you're guilty of constantly instructing players while they’re on the ball, try giving them space. After all, they need the freedom to make independent decisions in a match.

Pressure. Nerves. On matchday, energy can run too high – or too low. Let players simmer down with a quick five- to ten-minute catch-up before the game. There's no need to talk football straight away.

Try giving out tasks to refocus their energy, like setting out an area for a warm up. This helps them feel more in control as well.

And that’s key. The more your players feel like they’re calling the shots, the more they’ll care about getting things right. So, get your team’s perspectives on how they want to behave in the game, and make this the aim.


Emotions can run high on matchday.

Try these techniques to keep your cool, whatever is happening on the pitch:

  • Plan how you’ll respond to different situations. This could stop you from losing your head in the heat of the moment.
  • Pause before you speak. Is what you’re about to say helpful? If you find it hard to wait, force yourself to stand and step forward before speaking.
  • If a player makes an error, give them a chance to self-correct. Don't jump in until the same thing has happened three times.
  • Are your words saying something different to your body? Keep your gestures, posture and tone of voice positive too.

Player development starts with a solid plan and a clear focus for the game.

As the action unfolds, it's easy to forget your priorities. But your support needs to be channelled on the focus of the match. All while being ready to adapt if the situation calls for it.

Spot any side issues? Make a mental note to handle them later.

Keep your language consistent. You want players to understand exactly what you’re talking about. And avoid sharing too much information. In fact, team talks shouldn’t be one-way. Involve players actively. Let them take control of their own development.

Coaching a grassroots team? Try this at half-time:

  • Split players into smaller groups.
  • Get them to discuss what’s been working well and where they could improve.
  • Come back together. Ask each group to share their ideas. Fill in any gaps yourself.
  • When they return to the pitch, ask them to think about how their choices have influenced the game. Include the players resting on the bench in this review.

The thing is, when everyone is involved with their own growth, they care about it more. They become better at leadership and teamwork too.

Players can have very different needs on matchday, depending on their age.

You need to know what’s important to your team at their stage of learning. What do they want to get out of the day?

Check out these tips for working with different age groups:

  • The youngest players might be having their first experiences of matchday. Put enjoyment first and foremost.
  • Try creating cues for younger players. ‘Be like an eagle’ means spread out, for instance. Use these cues to trigger specific actions in the match.
  • Adjust how much information you give your team based on their age and stage. Start with a single message for the youngest and add extra detail for older, more experienced players.
  • Don’t scrutinise younger players too much. It could impact their love of the game. Get to know your players to find out what feedback they want from you.
  • If your team or club have consent to record matches, older players might find it useful to review video footage.
  • An adult team might focus on results over development, but enjoyment of the game is still crucial, whatever the score.

Top tips for how coaches can manage matchday. Follow your matchday plan to keep your focus in the right place. Less is more, so don’t overload players with information. Let players take the lead whenever you can. Model the behaviours that you want to see in your team. Make sure everyone enjoys the day, whatever their age and stage.

Further learning  

If you’re interested in this topic, check out these resources to learn more:  

You can also take the key information from this article away with you by downloading this PDF.