Is this what we do at training?

Is this what we do at training? You don’t make us do stuff.”

This was an U11 player who has just joined the club I work at. He has had two sessions with me and in that time I think we have improved his 1st Touch.

Both sessions he has attended were about maintaining possession with his 1st Touch so I am glad there has been some change in that behaviour. He isn’t an elite player by any stretch and it looks very much like he was the big kid who played at the back and was cheered when he kicked the ball a long way at his previous club.

The point of this blog is to explain why he made this comment.

Over the last 18 months I have been experimenting with making sessions totally game based. Often everything including the warm up is done in the form of a small sided game (SSG). I think at this point it would be good to point out that I work primarily with players U8 – U12 and I wouldn’t really recommend having a SSG as a warm up for older youth or senior players. I have had no muscle injuries no matter how I do the warm up.

As explained in a previous blog ( I have my session topic and then I come up with the four things I want to see the players do in the session. The warm up is a SSG that simply introduces the topic and the things I want to see in a low intensity way. For instance in the 2nd session this player played in the warm up SSG was Passing Points (refer to previous blog ) were a goal is worth as many points as passes involved in the build-up. I did the Darts Style scoring system which was recommended to me in that blog. It makes the game more fun plus provides more decision making.

This game tends to promote lots of extra passing so players tend to get lots of repetition on their 1st Touch often not under strong pressure so it qualifies for me as a both a warm up and a way to introduce the topic to the players.

I don’t want to go through the whole session in detail but to give you a brief summary all the SSGs we did until the end of the session promoted passing so there were lots of 1st Touches. To encourage players to close down the player on the ball and force them to take a 1st touch to maintain possession no matter what SSG we played I added the condition that every player must take a minimum two touches and if an opponent touched the ball before your 2nd touch they got a goal.

I follow the principles of planning a session that I have been instructed to do on many coaching courses (I have not included names for the stages as they have changed so many times)

Stage 1 – Prepare the players for the session and introduce the topic for the session under minimal if any opposition.

Stage 2 – Plan for as many repetitions of topic as possible. Increase the opposition.

Stage 3 – Bring the technique they have practiced into a game setting with as many elements of the real game involved as possible.

Stage 4 – Free Play

The only difference being is that I use SSGs throughout.

My first observation is that the players like it. As you can imagine I have never had anyone ask for a drill at the end of the session. Strangely though I was once asked are we going to have a game at the end? I said ‘What are you playing now’ to which he replied ‘No I mean a game when we don’t have to do anything’. I think the session may have been too taxing for him that day.

Secondly I think the players transfer the technique practiced to match day easily because it is learnt in a game setting. The only difference being that there are more players.

Thirdly I enjoy it as well.

I could list many positives for using this method but I must admit I have some doubts. I am concerned that as the training is based around SSGs you cannot regulate how many repetitions each player gets. If 1 or 2 players dominate then they may get 100 x 1st Touches but the other players may only get 50 each. It is likely the players getting the lower numbers are the ones who require the most practice. I have videoed a number of sessions specifically to count technique repetitions and not found a significant discrepancy but it is a concern that it could be happening regularly and is maybe too difficult to spot unless the discrepancy is huge in a single session.

The other concern is that a player can avoid practicing a technique in a SSG. If a player doesn’t like going 1 v 1 for example then they can simply take the passing option in a SSG every time. I have to take lots of care to plan the SSGs so that players are forced into situations where they have to perform the technique. By the way normally with 1 v 1s I find reducing the number of players per side reduces the number of passing options and so encourages more 1 v 1s from all the players.

Back to the comment at the start of the blog I think the player was delighted he was just getting to play football which is why he joined the club and wasn’t being made to do stuff at training that he didn’t enjoy.

As always I need to hear other Coach’s’ opinions especially those who can see other concerns with using this method. Thank you to everyone who contacts me and leaves messages on the blog it is really appreciated.

Look forward to hearing from you

Please leave a comment or email me

Follow me on Twitter @SeanDArcy66

Till next time


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