Long Term vs Short Term

Whether you work with your players with a long term viewpoint or a short term viewpoint encapsulates a number of things and links heavily to your overall philosophy. In fact, it's part of your philosophy. Most coaches will understand the need to sometimes do both, with the group and with different players at different times.

Here are some things some of our coaches have found useful to consider over the years...

Number of Activities

The temptation as a coach is to constantly be changing what you're doing with your players at training, in an attempt to keep things interesting. The flipside to that is that the players never actually "master" anything as they never get time to repeat anything often enough to improve at it. Working on shooting once and expecting your players to take on board all the coaching points and execute in a match consistently is not going to happen.

Having a fairly small set of core activities that you return to for each topic can be hugely beneficial. You can adapt these and add progressions and alternative rules so they don't get boring, but a repetition of the key aspects is crucial. For example, we run some form of rondo at the start of almost every session. It fits with our philosophy of developing players who are comfortable on the ball and working on 3 or 4 key aspects of keeping possession (first touch, movement off the ball, communication and speed of play). Are they now "experts" at this? Absolutely not, but they're constantly improving and know what type of football we want them to play.

"How We Play"

Do you and the players have a clear idea of the sort of football you want to play? Certainly at the older age groups, the types of training exercises you're putting together week after week will link heavily to your team identity. Are there certain exercises you can use as warm ups that allow how you want to play to be reinforced at almost every session?

"Reactive" vs "Proactive" Coaching

The temptation is often to look at what the team struggled with in the previous match and plan a training session based around that. There's nothing wrong with that sometimes - perhaps you need a quick fix to something that the team are clearly struggling with the basics of - but if that's your default approach to every single training session then you're going to struggle to develop players who fit with a particular (your) philosophy in the long term.

You wouldn't expect your child's maths teacher to randomly work on different things each week based on what the class struggled with in their last test, never giving the class time to really understand and progress with each topic would you? It's the same with football.

Another problem with basing every training session on what went wrong in the last match, is that the next week's match may not be a fair test as to whether the team has improved in the area you worked on. Conceding goals against the best team in your league, working on a defensive topic once in training and then assuming the issue is solved because the following week you keep a clean sheet against the weakest team in the league is clearly a false logic.

Nobody is saying working on something you've been struggling with in matches is wrong (and sometimes it's absolutely the right thing to do), but it needs balancing with a longer term idea of where you're headed and will often need more than one quick session on it and then assuming everything is sorted.

Some coaches will decide on what they want to work on over a longer time frame (perhaps 4-6 weeks' worth of "curriculum" at a time) and will try to stick roughly to that, whilst being adaptable in terms of things that desperately need addressing on occasion. It may be that's not practical in terms of the time required to plan, but if you think in the present with your training all the time, you may struggle long term to develop a team and players who are heading in the same direction.

Keep It Fun!!!!

Having said all the above, it's important to keep it fun. Saying "work on it consistently" doesn't mean 2 hours a week of exactly the same thing. A large part of coaching is balancing the learning with the fun. Sometimes, you just need to run a session or part of a session that's purely about fun, even for older players.