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A small group of players gather around a coach who's holding a tactics board.

Why is it important to plan for matchday? 

Matchday can be stressful if you're not prepared. Imagine players confused about where to go or the disappointment of realising they’re not starting. Things can quickly get chaotic if you haven’t thought ahead. 

Plan carefully, and you’ll lay the groundwork for a calm day where everyone’s on the same page.  

Plus, a plan lets you carry through the things you’ve been working on in training. It tells players why they’re doing what they’re doing on matchday, which puts their focus in the right place. The result? A game that delivers for everyone, regardless of the final score.  

Interactive video

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

In grassroots football, start with the basics. How is everyone getting to the game? What kit are they bringing? Who needs to be there? What jobs could others do? Share this information with players and parents. Make sure everyone knows what they're doing. 

Tell players what the last 30 minutes before kick-off looks like, from organising their drinks to which area of the pitch to warm up on first. Once you’ve found a pre-match routine that works, there’s no need to change it. In fact, sticking to the same schedule frees up players to focus on what matters. 

When it comes to the specifics of each game, decide the purpose of the match. What are your players going on the pitch to do? Is the aim purely to win? To have fun? Or do you want to focus on a certain area of development?   

Work backwards from there to build out your plan. Think about your team and decide the roles and responsibilities for each player. If development is your aim, think about how you can use pre-match training sessions to prepare.  

But don’t get too precious about things going exactly the way you want them to. Be ready for the unexpected. A player might get injured, or a tough opposing team could scupper your plans. So, a backup strategy to deal with ‘what ifs’ can help. 


There’s no one right way to create a game plan, but some coaches like to start at the beginning of the week. This lets them plan training sessions that link to their focus for the match. The important thing is to know the purpose of the game and go from there. 

If you work with a wider support team, don’t forget to include them in your planning. They might have something extra to add. You’ll need to plan out their roles on matchday, too.  

It’s up to you when to share the details of your plan. You might want to communicate it the day before, or you might want to share the plans for three games at once. It’s all about knowing your team and what works best for them.  


Selecting your team starts with knowing your players. What do they need for their development? How are they feeling? Are they available?  

You might then think about other factors. From what happened in training to the conditions they’ll face in the game – like the size of the pitch to the weather forecast. If you have the insight, you may even think about how to respond to the strengths and weaknesses of your opposition. 

At grassroots level, equal playing time might enter the picture, too. Here, matches aren’t just about winning. They’re about creating a love of the game. If this applies to you, here are some strategies that can help: 

  • Divide games into quarters or other small sections for more opportunities to play. 
  • Create equal playing time over weeks, rather than in each match. This has the potential to support both short and long-term player development needs and be understanding of individual personal circumstances. 
  • Keep in mind that goalkeeper playing time isn’t necessarily development time.  

Football can be an emotional game. But wearing your feelings on your sleeve won’t always send the right message. So, plan how you’ll manage your own behaviour on matchday.  

Think about how you should react to game scenarios to set a good example. And think about your communication. How will you talk to the referee and the opposition? What will your body language be like during the match? What messages do you want to get across? 

And, of course, consider how you’ll talk to different players during the game. It’s easy to fall into the trap of talking more to those physically closer to you. So, think about what works best for each individual player and plan how you’ll speak to the whole team.  

Doing all this not only helps your players – this planning and reflection process also helps you to develop as a coach, too. 

The purpose of a match can look very different depending on the age group you coach. For the youngest, the focus might be on fun, whereas adult teams might be more about winning. 

But whatever level of the game you’re at, the same questions apply: 

  • What’s the purpose of matchday? 
  • What outcome do you want to see from the game?
  • What motivates your team? 

No matter the age of your players, the answers will help you create a plan that gives them exactly what they need. 

Things to remember when planning for matchday  

Things to remember when planning for matchday

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