Not very realistic though is it Mate!

What I like about writing this blog is that the responses I get from Coaches can set me off on a train of thought that I don’t think I would have considered otherwise. Many discussions I have had with Coaches have included a comment about whether the exercise or game we are discussing is ‘realistic’ or not hence the title.

It is clear from these discussions that I don’t have a clear definition so I thought I need to define for myself what elements need to go into a game or exercise to make it realistic. This is something that I have not had the chance to test so I would appreciate Coaches who disagree or agree with what follows to get in touch. This is my 1st attempt to define it.

These are in no particular order just as they came to mind.


I think all of us if asked to describe football would say it was a game between two teams somewhere in the description. Therefore if you remove one team you are changing a basic requirement for it to be called football.

Opposition players dictate what is a good passing option, what is good positioning plus they also reduce the amount of time you have to complete any action. As a new Coach when talking to more senior Coaches about the best way to develop players for senior football I would hear the same phrase almost every time. They would say they needed a player who could still play under pressure. Opposition players provide the pressure they were talking about.

Without opposition players most of the variables of football and so decision making are removed therefore I would say that opposition is essential to make the exercise realistic.


This sounds very obvious but if there is direction then the ball can move backwards, sideways or forwards. This simple distinction has huge ramifications though for player’s decision making.

In the two diagrams below with direction a pass forwards between two defenders to a player in space is the best option without direction the pass to the player with the least risk in space becomes the best option.

Passing OptionPassing Option 2

Another point is that players positioning is completely changed if there is no direction. If your team is out of possession and there is no goal/area/target player to defend you will position yourself entirely differently from when there is.

Clearly if something as fundamental as the value of a passing option or positioning is affected then I would have to consider what benefits I got from a game without direction as the realism has been compromised. This is not to say that an exercise without direction isn’t beneficial simply saying it isn’t realistic.

Way to Score

Again if most of us were to describe football than I think somewhere we would say a team wins by scoring more goals than the opposition. Therefore scoring is important for both sides.

I prefer both teams to have a way to score. I am not fond of simply winning the ball being a way for the defending team to score. If the defending team has to say at a minimum complete 3 passes, play to a target or run the ball into an area if they win the ball then this means we have the 4 main moments a game so the players have to react to what moment the game is in. Therefore increasing the realism.

Four Main Moments

BP = Your team has Ball Possession.

BP>BPO  = Your team has just lost the ball.

BPO = The other team has Ball Possession.

BPO>BP = Your team has just won the ball.

Another point is that winning the ball then giving it back to the opposition to start again is demoralising and not something you want your defenders to get into the habit of doing.

I would say there has to be a way to score for an exercise to be realistic.


I am debating with myself still if an element of offside or offside needs to be in a game to make it realistic. I am leaning towards yes because again it affects what is a good passing option plus positioning of all players but I would like to hear from other Coaches on that one.

Like I said at the start this is my 1st attempt to define what makes an exercise or game at training realistic so I need to debate it, hear other views, see what needs to added or taken away and think longer on it before I can have faith in my definition.

Look forward to hearing from you

Please leave a comment or email me

Follow me on Twitter @SeanDArcy66

Thank you to all the Coaches who retweet my blog it is very much appreciated.

Till next time


2 thoughts on “Not very realistic though is it Mate!

  1. Good read! Very much agree with every word.

    As John Alpress once told me ‘offside is a defining law of the game. To practice without it is like learning to play tennis without a net. It defines the game.’


    • Thanks for the feedback. I am fairly sure I saw a presentation from John Allpress on YouTube that made me think more about using offside at training and he made a comment about playing 4 goal that really made me think too.


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