Solve your subs dilemmas

Who is going to be substitute? It is a problem that affects every single coach or manager in the game at every level. How often do we see on our TV screens close ups of a Premier League player looking unhappy sitting on the bench with a whole studio of experts dumbfounded as to why he is on it.

When you have a squad of players not everyone of them makes the starting line up – but let’s all make sure that the same players are not on the bench at the start of the game. I find that even though I give players equal time on the pitch they feel hard done by if they are the first sub.

It also works the same with the players who are the last subs of the game. They all want to be on the pitch at the end of the game and feel a lot better if they are subbed then go back on again.

I spoke to a coach last week who was worried about next season because his team’s games go from quarters to halves. He used the break in each half to change his subs but now realises he will have to make decisions that the watching parents are more likely to have a comment about.

Parents are often not watching the team but watching their son or daughter and when they are taken off then they want to know why.

So you basically need to have a rota with each player taking a turn to be first sub and last sub. This way it is easier to talk to the players and their parents about everyone having the same amount of time on the pitch.

To help you with your substitutes here is some of the advice I give to coaches who are having trouble with subs.

Winning combinations and the need to develop individuals means that you cannot play matches with the same players on the subs bench. They will fall behind and the team will find it hard to be at their best when injuries or holidays mean players are absent from the team. How to handle the subs helps you to sort out who should be on the bench.

I had a letter sent to me that asked “I rotate my players each week but one dad is not happy his son is going to sit out a match – how should I deal with this?”. Read the email and my answer if you have had similar problems with parents not liking who gets subbed and who doesn’t.

Another assistant coach is having problems because the head coach is only giving some players 10 or 15 minutes on the pitch before subbing them. “Is this acceptable,” he asks? Read my reply and see if you agree.

Finally, Young players are often easily discouraged when they are a substitute or get subbed off and, once they’re feeling demoralised, it can get in the way of their performance on the pitch, so it’s in your interest to keep them in the loop and happy with their role. How to keep your subs involved gives them tasks to do to keep their focus during a game.

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