Conditioned Matches

By putting conditions in our training matches, we can both allow players the chance to find success with a given technique in a match-like scenario and create repeated situations where the focus of our session occurs. We've included some specific examples of conditioned matches in the sections for each individual topic.

Some general ideas for conditioning matches might include:

Safe Zones

Introduce a safe zone where a player in a particular position can't be challenged. If working with forward passes from your defenders, this might be in their own third of the pitch, whereas if working with wingers crossing, you might have a wide channel on each side of the pitch that was "safe". This allows your players the time to execute the thing you're working on (passing) without pressure initially, but still in a match-like scenario

Example: Improving the confidence of your strikers

Neutral Players

By adding one or two neutral players who play for the team in possession, you create an attacking overload and more passing options for the player on the ball. This equates to less pressure and a better chance of having time on the ball to be successful with whatever particular topic it is we want to work on. For the defending team, it makes their job harder as they're having to deal with more players than they have on their team, which may be something you want them to work on as well.

Lock Players Into Zones

You might set up zones on the pitch, where players are locked in, to give certain players an advantage when trying to execute whatever topic it is you're working on. Creating a 3v1 in a certain part of the pitch would give the three more chances of passing success for example, but it would also give the player on their own a real challenge in terms of pressuring their opponents, which may be what you want.

Example: Long Range Shooting

Manipulate the Restart

If we want to consistently work on a certain thing, we can ask the players to restart the game in a certain way every time the ball goes out. Some examples:

  • Goalkeeper restarts play every time with a pass from the back (if we're working on playing out from the back or GK distribution)
  • Coach restarts play with a pass in to our centre forward (if working on centre forward hold up play or defending against long balls into the striker)
  • Restart with a throw in from a defensive area (if working on effectively keeping possession from throw ins in this part of the pitch)
  • Restart with a corner, free kick etc. (if working on attacking or defending set pieces)

Be creative, come up with your own ways of manipulating the restart to allow whatever topic you're working on to be repeated over and over.

Limited Touches

One way to encourage players to think quickly and not dwell on the ball too long is to introduce limited touches. Playing 2 or 3 touch means they have to really think about what they want to do with the ball before it gets to them. Some coaches don't like it because it isn't realistic to a real game, but you can see massive improvements in speed of play and mental awareness with this approach.

Another way to achieve something similar is to have a countdown every time a player gets the ball. So they can take as many touches as they want, but the coach counts out 3, 2, 1 and then they have to release the ball or shoot. Failure to do so and it's a free kick to the opposition.

You might introduce limited touches for some players and not others - the player who consistently holds on to the ball too long for example may benefit from having this limitation in almost every training session until you see a change.

Weight The Scoring System

Telling players they can score goals as normal, but that a goal that comes from a particular scenario is worth 2 goals will encourage them to try and execute that particular skill or phase of play more often. For example, if you're working on long passes from your defenders straight into your forward players, giving 2 points for a goal that comes directly from a long pass from one of your defenders is going to mean you see more of those types of passes in the game. For younger players, you might just give points directly for executing whatever it is you're working on, regardless of whether it leads to a goal. If your players aren't taking enough shots in matches, then giving them one point for a shot, two for a shot on target and five for a goal could work. There are endless possibilities.

Change the Rules

Alterations to the rules that encourage the players to practise whatever it is you're working on can be a good way to ensure focus on that topic. An example might be when working on quick counter attacking, any goal you concede will be chalked off if you can score yourselves within 30 seconds of the restart direct from your goalkeeper. So as soon as the ball's in the back of the net, the goalkeeper is encouraged to distribute quickly and the team to counter with speed. If they score, the same applies. It makes for a thrilling end to end game with both teams focusing on counter attacking and defending against the counter attack.