Giving players problems to solve during training is a great way to get them to do it in matches. I ran one of my sessions from Soccer Coach Weekly recently, to give my players a real situation that I wanted them to exploit. In the session, the players are split into pairs and have three chances to score in a situation where they have a 3v1 overload.
When I first ran the session it was with a team I don’t coach very often and I was surprised at their response to being given the freedom to score goals. When I told them they had three goes to use their overload and score, their first reaction was: “How do we do that?”
I told them they could do whatever they wanted within the laws of the game but they had to exploit the situation. At first they were very pensive about being given this much freedom and shrugged their shoulders at each other, as if to say: “This coach is crazy! What should we do?”
In the first round of attacks the most any of them scored was one goal from the three goes, but they were beginning to get more excited by the challenge as they realized they could be as creative or as direct as they wanted.
This is an excellent challenge for the final third of the pitch where creativity and direct play are both correct ways to attack the goal. As the session wore on they finally began to hit the net more consistently but still none of them could get the full quota of three from three. This meant we ended the session with the players demanding I let them play it again the following week, so they could show me they were more than capable of scoring three from three.
I like to give challenges of this type to my players because not only does it give them ownership of the session but it also helps them to make the kind of decisions they would be faced with in a match.
My players will encounter lots of decisions during their training, like the ones that came out of the sessions in this issue. You should always try to ask questions of your players and set them challenges, even if the tasks are something as simple as “try to play forward whenever you get the ball”.
Challenges stretch players, and by stretching them you are developing their soccer brains and giving them the answers to the questions they get asked every time they play in a match.
Check the issue’s other content: