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Evaluating training sessions important

This is an excerpt from Offensive Soccer Tactics by Jens Bangsbo, Birger Peitersen

While the session is taking place, it is important for the coach to constantly ask himself, “Are the players doing what I want them to?” Or, put another way, “Is the practice fulfilling the requirements I have made of it?” If the answer to these questions is no, the coach should intervene. This intervention can consist of simply additional guidance, whereby the players achieve a better understanding of how to apply the principles of the drill. Sometimes the coach is forced to change the drill, for example, to introduce new or remove existing rules. Occasionally, drills are carried out that look good on paper but do not work when put into action. If the coach sees no immediate possibility of improvement, the drill should be stopped. Subsequently the coach can revert to the drawing board to decide whether the drill can be made useful; if not, it must be rejected. Players often go through a period of adjustment before a drill produces the desired effect. If the coach uses a drill repeatedly over longer periods, it is appropriate to evaluate and fine-tune it as an ongoing process. This is because, among other things, part of the drill’s effectiveness relies on the players’ tactical and technical levels. A drill that works well for one group of players will not necessarily be satisfactory for another. The choice of instruction method and form of training depend on the goals for the training session, the age of the players, and the stage they are at in terms of soccer development. The following section provides some general principles as well as advice on instruction and guidance.


The coach should

• Be thoroughly familiar with all the drills and know the exact order in which she wishes to run them, so that she does not need to stand with papers in hand during the instruction. She can leave her schedule in a pocket and consult it while the players are carrying out the drills.

• Be clear in her mind as to how much instruction and guidance she wants to give in a drill.

Starting Off the Training Session

The coach should

• Summarize at the start of a training day the aims of the session and outline what is to happen during the course of the session. The coach should avoid going into too much depth, because the players will have difficulty remembering all the details.

• Avoid long explanations before the drills; he should preferably demonstrate the practices in the playing area after the players have taken their positions. It can sometimes be advantageous to have players start the drills without special comments and save the in-depth explanations until the players have become accustomed to the playing area.

Execution of the Drill

The coach should

• Focus the instruction and corrections on what she wants to train (i.e., the aim of the session), making additional comments only to facilitate the flow of play.

• Avoid interrupting the drill too often to gather the players together for further instruction; frequently the guidance can be given during a brief pause in the playing area.

• Get the players accustomed to stopping short at a given signal. After a brief pause for thought, guide the players using the chosen principle as a basis. Following the instruction the players can carry out the corrected moves and passes in such a way that they can see and understand the benefit of correct action. Play should also be stopped when a player performs the desired action successfully, especially if it is a player the coach has recently corrected.

• If playing with rules and points or goals, ensure that the rules are upheld and that score is kept for the points or goals. Points and goals can often be used for motivation, especially toward the end of a practice. It is, however, a good idea to get the players themselves used to judging and keeping score within their positions.

• Limit the use of a whistle, which can otherwise be perceived exclusively as a function of a referee.

Positioning the Players

The coach should

• When the players are gathered in for instruction, stand facing them at a suitable distance. The balls should be together in such a way that the players don’t lose concentration by playing with them. Likewise, the players should not, where possible, be able to look at anything nearby that could distract their attention, such as a soccer match. During longer explanations it is sometimes better to sit the players down, weather conditions allowing.

• When demonstrating a practice with some of the players, make sure that the rest are positioned at a distance where all can see what is going on. The coach should also avoid talking into the wind and should make sure the players do not have the sun in their eyes.

• During the drills, avoid turning his back to the players as much as possible while observing them. The coach should remain at a good distance from the players, but not so far away that he cannot intervene quickly where necessary.

Behavior and Voice

The coach should

• Avoid chatting and talking constantly, so that the players really listen when she speaks.

• Speak with a loud, clear voice when she instructs and guides.

• Show involvement. The players should have the impression that the coach is very much engaged in high quality training.

Finishing the Session

The coach should:

• After a drill or training session, outline the main ideas that were introduced, possibly by reconstructing one of the situations that occurred during the session.

• In closing, inform players of the coming session’s key points.

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