Develop your players

It is often in the first few weeks of a season that coaches realise they have put their team into the right level of competition. The problem is if you’ve been given a division that is too hard you will have a very depressing season – but so too will the coaches who think they have done well getting in a league where they win easily every week.

I have experienced both scenarios and there’s a big difference between the two, and it’s not what you might think.
One season my team started off with a match they lost 7-0… it was a game in which they just could not compete. This went on for a few weeks and the results didn’t get any easier. We lost 12-0 in one game where the opposition lined up on the halfway line after each goal, desperate to score again. We saw this as a huge learning curve and the next time we played that team, we only lost 2-1. By then we had won a number of games so we had managed to turn things around.

Steep learning curve

The learning curve had been high for our player development and at the end of the season the team had changed for the better, even though those early matches had been awful.

For the teams who are winning 15-0 every week, there is little satisfaction. My own players told me after they had won twice by 7-0 that a tense 1-0 victory was much more fun to play in.

Youth academy

Recently I was on a course called Play Like Spain run by Coerver Coaching. One of the Spanish coaches on the course was Manuel Ojalvo, who had come through the youth academy at Atlético Madrid. He told me about the way they trained, how they ate and they lifestyle they led every day, but the one thing he did not like was that the league he played in was always settled by whoever won the game between Atlético and Real Madrid.

In his league the players prepared for just the Madrid derby each season. They won the other games easily by 10-0 or 15-0 he told me. And they were all bored by those games, as they didn’t have to try to win them. But the games against Real were much more fun. When they won those games they were on a high because they had beaten their rivals.

Winning easily takes a lot of fun out of the game – it is much more important for the development of players that they play in close games, so losing 2-1 or 3-2 is not a problem. It shows your players they are competing and they will enjoy this more than running up a big score!

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