Game Management

The term "game management" refers to how your team will play, depending on the situation in the game. At younger ages, the majority of the players won't have any concept of changing how they play for different scenarios - they just want to play! As they get older however, their capacity for understanding the bigger picture and adapting accordingly increases.

In terms of how to "coach" these things, one thing I've found helpful is putting the players in different scenarios in training matches. For example, one team is 1-0 up with 5 minutes to go and needs to hold out for the win. How is each team going to adapt their style of play to address what they need to do? Scenarios are a great way of forcing the players to think about this stuff.

Some of the things your players might want to consider, depending on the situation in the game...

Committing Players Forwards

Having the players understand that how many players we commit forwards (and who those players are) will change depending on the situation in the game is hugely helpful. If we're 1-0 up and have 5 minutes left, is having nearly every player bombing forward looking for a second goal going to be sensible? If the reverse is true and we're 1-0 down, we're going to want more players forwards in all likelihood.

Who those players are might change too - if the opposition are sitting deep with everyone behind the ball in an attempt to hold out, having our pacy but small striker up front won't have the same danger it would if the opposition are defending on the half way line.

Again, you can use scenarios in training to illustrate these points.

Style of Play

Encourage the players to think about how they might play, depending on the situation in the game. If we need a goal, are we going to start hitting high balls into the box to our 2 tallest players and look for knock downs? Or are we sticking with our style of play and philosophy regardless? The opposition will probably be defending deep and may be a bit panicky in this scenario, so how do we take advantage of that? Likewise, if it's us trying to hold out, how to we want to play? Attack as the best form of defence? Just wellying the ball as far away from our goal as possible? There are no right or wrong answers - it will depend on your philosophy to how you want to play, the players you have available and the opposition, but getting your players thinking on this level is great for their development and your long term team progress.

Individual Decision Making

Does your central midfielder need to hit the ambitious 30 yard pass that almost certainly gifts the opposition possession? Again, this depends on the situation in the game. If you need a goal and an ambitious pass is the only way the team is likely to unlock the opposition defence, then maybe it's worth the risk. If you're holding out for a result and want to keep hold of the ball then no. Having the players individually think about this sort of stuff is, again, going to be very helpful. They won't always get it right, but if you don't bring it up, it won't occur to a lot of them. Again, scenarios in training and individual challenges within that is a good way to get this stuff out there to start with.


I remember in a cup game, a lad I had in my U12 team running half way across the field to collect a ball that had gone out for a throw. Now generally I would applaud his effort levels, except that we were winning the game by one goal, there were five minutes to go and it was the opposition's throw in. He was trying to be a good, helpful person and that actually said a lot about him (he was a great lad), but he really didn't need to be using up his own energy and making himself more tired for those final few minutes, to get the game restarted when we were minutes away from going through to the quarter final of the cup!

Similarly, I've seen players ambling over at a snail's pace to get the ball for our throw in when we're losing with a couple of minutes left. I want them sprinting to get that ball!!

Encouraging your players to think about this sort of stuff will be enormously helpful as they get older in terms of giving you an edge. Some things to consider:

  • How quickly do we rush to get the ball for a throw in / corner / restart / goal kick?
  • How quickly do we get off / on the pitch during substitutions? (never time waste, but if we're losing I want the change to happen quickly)
  • How quickly does our goalkeeper distribute the ball when he / she has caught it?
  • As the coach, do you have a couple of spare footballs with you to ping in for those occasions when your opposition are hoofing the ball half way across the field in a blatant display of time wasting? I remember going a goal down early in a 10 minute tournament game, only to find we probably played a total of 2 minutes of football for the rest of the game, with our opposition just launching the ball off the pitch at every opportunity. Having a few spare footballs would have made all the difference.

I want to add that I am absolutely not advocating time wasting here. I don't believe there is any place for that in kids football, but there's a difference between just doing things at a normal pace and rushing to do them extra quickly when you either do or don't need to!