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Planning and delivering an effective session

In most instances coaches will be aware of the facilities, especially the designated playing area, equipment and the allocated amount of time available. However, it’s worth making mention that these simple items are major considerations prior to deciding upon the actual content.


Next, consider the objective of the coaching session to ensure its relevance to your group of players.


The content needs to be age specific, realistic to the players’ needs, and where possible will have a progressive theme throughout its duration to keep the players engaged and challenged.


You'll need to be adaptable, sometimes developing several different coaching styles, to successfully accommodate the differences from one group to another, their needs and desired outcome.


SMILES is a pretty good way to remember six important points.

Safe – safe space, safe equipment, safe from harm.

Maximum participation – active all the time, not waiting in line for a turn.

Inclusive - everyone is involved regardless of their ability or disability.

Learning – purpose, progression and challenge to get better - do something new.

Enjoyment – include an element of fun.

Success – don't forget that each player has their own level of success.


Producing a detailed session plan can be instrumental to success of the session.


The main content of the plan must focus on the aims and learning objectives of the topic. This will prepare you with the necessary key coaching points and the required style of delivery to maximise the learning environment.


A well planned training session is broken into components that make up an entire practice session. For youth players training should be predominantly player centred putting players are at the centre of the training as opposed to a coach centred delivery where the coach makes all the decisions and totally commands the session.


Good coaching methodology is to develop the session from simple through to the more complex activity allowing for ongoing modifications and new challenges to meet the players’ interests – progress is determined by the players performance.


As the session progresses, observation is made to ensure delivery for the desired outcomes e.g. learning, development, application, performance.


Training sessions throughout the season should be progressive - increasing skill levels, intensity and complexity. Using a coaching cycle style, sessions can be planned to revisit specific themes/topics, (which can be the same one as the players did before, or a different practice with similar focus areas) to further develop and reinforce the key learning objectives.


A typical training session is broken into the following components.

The warm up:

To prepare the players physically and mentally with a range of exercises, with or without the ball, and can form an introduction to the main theme.


Technical - Skill component with progression:

This is a technical or skill practice in its simplest format. This activity tends to be unopposed in order to help develop the fundamentals of the topic area and build up the confidence of the players performing the task.


Tactical - Skill component with progression two:

Progress to a more skill-based outcome from the earlier theme. The activity may be in the form of a modified small sided game which has more depth and greater learning opportunities. Through increased complexity, the outcomes are now intended to be more challenging with game centred conditions added into the practice to make it realistic to the actual game.


Using game centred practices helps with long-term learning and problem solving. If players discover problem-solving solutions through their own initiative, then they are more likely to learn from that experience and retain the information longer.


The emphasis within this component, is to build on the players developing an understanding of the tactical aspects (game awareness). As a bi-product there is positive social interaction between coach and the players with practice games engendering being part of the team for all players.


It also gives you the opportunity to introduce new playing behaviours rather than changing old habits.


Small-sided games - game related practice:

A small sided game normally follows consisting of equal teams and goals which can be developed to focus on the learning outcomes of the main theme.


Encourage freedom and expression of all core skills learned, and where possible, have players demonstrate their session learning within this real life game related situation.


Cool down - rehydration:

To prevent injury and decrease heart rate to a resting level. The content is one of low intensity incorporating dynamic movements and may include some static stretches around specific core muscle groups to reduce fatigue and muscle soreness.


Review - reflection:

This is an important aspect to good coaching practice. You should facilitate the chance for the players to reflect on their learning from the session. This is done to check that they have met the session aims and outcomes.


Seek feedback from your group to identify aspects that went well and what could be improved upon. Use the feedback for self-reflection to analyse and identify areas for improvement of session delivery.


Need a session plan? We like this one – session plan.