What to do when football training doesn’t go to plan
If your coaching session plan is thrown off by something unexpected, do you know how to handle it? Here are ten top tips to deal with any surprise scenario and put your players back on track.
Whether it’s unpredictable player behaviour or activities not going as you’d hoped, the best-laid coaching session plan can quickly go to waste.
All is not lost, though. Follow these tips to pull any training session back from the brink...
1. Work out what’s happening early on
An arrival activity is a perfect chance to stand back, observe and assess. But this only works if your players are managing it themselves. A series of small-sided games can work well.
Start to get an idea of player numbers, the group’s attitude, equipment and the space available. Then make any necessary changes to your coaching session plan now, before the session starts.
2. Embrace imbalance
Even numbers aren’t essential in a session. Resist the temptation to create teams of the same size by joining in yourself. Instead, experiment with how you group or pair your players.
Got 7 players? Set up a 4v3 and challenge your three strongest players to play on the smaller team. Think about whether there’s any other way to group players to provide different challenges, too.
3. Be resourceful
No access to goals, cones or other equipment? Don't panic. Be innovative and look at what your facility does offer.
Most facilities have pitch markings or lines that can be used creatively. If there's no goal, find something else to act as a target. A bench, chair, fence, or even a line on the floor can work.
4. Use storytelling
Stories are fantastic for capturing the imagination of young players. And they’re a great tool when something unexpected happens.
Say a player leaves early. Why not talk about a scenario where a player’s been sent off in a game? Ask your team what their strategy would be.
Got uneven teams? Create a story about a player getting injured with no substitutes left.
5. Think outside the pitch
Bad weather or delayed access to the pitch doesn’t mean the learning has to stop, just because the action has.
Talk through the session or team tactics, using whatever space and equipment you've got to hand. For instance, get your players to walk through a pattern of play in the car park (if it’s safe). Or ask them to arrange bibs in a 4-3-3 shape in reception.
6. Ask for players’ opinions
Coaching doesn’t have to be a one-way street. If you’re struggling to solve an unexpected problem with your coaching session plan, why not ask your players for help?
Children often have great ideas, and the quality of their suggestions might surprise you.
7. Try new things
Imagine you’ve planned an attacking session for your centre-forward, but they don’t show up. Embrace it. This is a great opportunity to try somebody else in a different position.
Rotating positions and asking your players to try different roles can tell you a lot. Next time your goalkeeper is a no-show, why not give everyone a turn in goal?
8. Up the stakes
Is your perfectly planned passing practice failing to hit the mark? Inject some competition and challenge to mix things up.
For young players, individual and team challenges work well when they involve points, scores, a winner and loser, or trying to complete a challenge against the clock.
9. Go with the flow
A plane flies overhead and all your players look to the sky. Sound familiar? Some days, you simply can’t stop your group from being distracted. Rather than fighting it, try acknowledging the distraction before returning to the activity.
If possible, plan for your coaching sessions to take place somewhere where distractions are less likely.
10. Play games
If all else fails, play a game.