6 games to tap into the psychological corner

The FA’s Four Corner Model will not be a new concept to coaches who have been on any of the English governing body’s coach education courses in recent years.

Looking at developing players technically, physically, psychologically and socially, the model underpins values and ideas surrounding player development at all ages and ability levels, and encourages coaches to consider the relationship between all four corners.

While it should be fairly straight forward to achieve pre-determined technical and physical outcomes during training, it is not as simple when it comes to consciously tapping into the psychological corner.

Incorporating technical, physical and social elements too, here are a few ideas for those struggling with the psychological corner.



Games can be incorporated into the warm-up which get players’ brains functioning and challenge their decision-making skills in a fun environment. Game to play: Relay games add an element of competition. Separate players into small teams – each has three sets of three coloured cones (e.g. three white, three red, three yellow) jumbled a set distance ahead (say 10m). Teams send one player at a time to swap two of their cones over – aiming to be the first to arrange their cones into three solid lines of the same colour, like a Rubik’s cube.



Whether it’s with language you use (“Can you try something new?”) or placing specific conditions on games (e.g. three points if you beat a player 1v1), there are a few tactics to improve confidence. For anxious players, it can even be as simple as showing the players before practice what they will be doing, so they have a structure in mind. Game to play: Separate players into two teams. The defending team always starts behind the goal, with the attacking team starting on halfway. The defending team plays with two players, the attacking team chooses how many players to use. One player will get five points if they score against two defenders, two players will get three points, three players get two points and four players get one point. This game encourages players to be confident but also enables those with less confidence to play in a way they are comfortable.



Players’ control can be worked on in game-realistic environments, through conditioned small-sided games. Game to play: One team is 2-0 up with 10 minutes to go. Can they handle the pressure and manage the game successfully? You could up the ante by saying a first-time finish is worth three goals – can they problem solve in this situation? Coaches can also challenge players’ control and mentality by deliberately refereeing a game in a biased way to challenge their reactions.




Players’ concentration levels can be challenged and developed through fun warm-up games, such as ‘Simon Says’. Game to play: Try playing two games simultaneously on the same pitch. Two teams could play north to south and the other two east to west, challenging players’ awareness and focus. You could also layer a game with a new rule, condition or challenge every five minutes.



Some will argue a player’s own intrinsic motivation will determine their commitment levels, but it can be useful to challenge players to understand their individual desire and motivations. Games to play: Play a small-sided game where the odds are stacked against one team. They could have fewer players than the other team, or face a dilemma where if they score, that player joins the opposition. Another game is to have two teams, one starting with just one player on the pitch (defending), while the other has all their players active (attacking). Each time the attacking team score, the defending team can send another player on. The aim is to score against the entire quota of defenders as quickly as possible. If the defending team score, five seconds are added to the attackers’ total.



There are several ways to develop an individual’s or team’s communication skills. For a quiet team, try playing with a ‘no talking’ rule. Players will soon realise the value of verbal communication when they are not allowed to do it. Alternatively, just one player per team could be permitted to speak. Game to play: Try blind relay races (using bibs to cover eyes), where a sighted player guides a nonsighted player, to help increase good quality communication skills.

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