EXPERT SESSIONS AND ADVICE FROM QUALIFIED AND EXPERIENCED GRASSROOTS SOCCER COACHES

How to handle the 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 deal with subs

Use your substitutes wisely during matches

There will always be some players who are more advanced than others and at the start of the season this will be quite obvious but by the end of the season it should have leveled out. So this means match time is vital to all your players – so the same ones shouldn’t be sitting on the bench.

It often seems to me that professional coaches have it easy – it doesn’t matter how many players they have on the bench, they’re under no obligation to bring any of them on if they don’t want to.

The situation isn’t quite the same for my kids. Nor yours. It is very difficult to appreciate and accept the fact that all players must play. At the weekend, my Under-10s side had a match some distance away. I decided to take only two subs so everyone would think the trip was worth it.

Let them play

However, with the team winning 3-2 and the lads looking like a good solid unit, I knew I had to bring a new man on. The situation was made all the more taxing given that a substitute’s Mum was standing there waiting for me to make her little lad’s day by letting him play. And of course I did.

But we let in two late goals, and even though I knew the collapse wasn’t because of the substitution, some of the parents were not happy with the fact that I had changed the shape of the team by bringing the player on.

Losing 4-3 but ensuring that everyone plays this great game of ours must be better than winning with kids stood on the sidelines feeling isolated. These players need to be given the chance to get up to speed with the rest of the team and sometimes results may suffer because of it.

Game time for all

The players soon get over it, much quicker than you or I. And let’s not forget that the same principle about blooding players, giving supposedly weaker talent a chance, is something that is done up and down the country.

By the end of the season you may not have won the league but you will have advanced every one of your players to a better standard than when they kicked off the campaign. And if that’s not the sign of a good coach, I don’t know what is!

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