Do your players know what they`re doing?

By Roger Wilkinson

Do your players know what they are doing??

“We have not taught till they have learnt” –  John wooden

I see coaches at all levels from professional to grassroots, yelling, shouting and going ballistic on the sideline both advising and berating players and generally adding to the chaos and carnage of the competitive game.

Of course there are a special few who have trained their players in a sophisticated and complete manner and in such a way that their players play and demonstrate the skills and decision making that allows them to govern the game without constant shouting from the sideline .

So the question must be asked if players do not understand what they are trying to do in the match situation what must the coach be doing or more importantly not doing in practice sessions.

Even at the basic grass roots level we should be honestly asking ourselves as coaches the following questions

1. Do I as the coach have a clear picture of how my team should be playing the game – simply put: What is good football and how is it achieved?

2. Have I as the coach managed to break my game style down into easy to learn stages? And do those stages take the player easily through the skills, micro tactics and game tactics that allow them to fully understand what they are trying to do and allow them to succeed?

3. Do I programme my work so that each session follows on from a previous session and is a preparation for the next session?

4. Do I work backwards when planning a session?

In other words do I look at what I want to achieve in the game aspect at the end of the session and then put in place the lead up skill and tactical practices to produce this?

5. Do my players talk the game as they are playing it “start again”, “play round” ,”running in”? Because that re-enforces to you as the coach that they are playing ahead of themselves and are making early and clever decisions and more importantly understand what they are trying to achieve.

6. Do my personal coaching techniques, manner and vocabulary facilitate the players understanding and confidence in the style and manner they are playing? Do I make the practices challenging and stimulating for my players to create a learning atmosphere?

7.Do I realise that my players (as Aaron Danks  mentioned in a previous article) will  rely on the quality of the “pictures” they see when playing  and so will also rely on me as the coach to re-enforce those pictures with  the vocabulary I use.

8. Are my practices based on the ultimate realism of the game so that the pictures and decisions we are establishing in the players are successful in the cauldron of the competitive game.

9. Am I clever enough to programme my work so that at the end of each session I give the players “football homework” as their warm down to prepare them for the next session by making them practice  the advanced skills needed in the next session.

If you can tick yes to all of those points then you are already one of the chosen few -well done!

If not then you have to use that self analysis to work harder to achieve the standard required.

However by giving an honest self appraisal it shows you are already on the road coaching at a higher level.

6 thoughts on “Do your players know what they`re doing?

  1. Roger,

    Great post. Totally agree with all your points.

    Have you got some examples of specific ways you get players to “talk the game” during training?

    • Thanks Mark
      At Premier Skills we have a whole vocabulary of shouts that relate to the way we play as well as purely functional words that describe what the player is doing.In small group development work The young players are encouraged to shout what they intends to do BEFORE they do it to encourage them to “play ahead of themselves” We will be holding a number of seminars throughout the UK over the next few months keep in touch and see it in action as its hard to put it in context when writing about it.

  2. Great points made Roger, interested to see how you achieve that, especially with grassroot kids who present different issues to those I see at academies.
    Interested to know how you go about coaching young children with big differences in ability?

  3. Fantastic stuff Roger, you are a true visionary. I wish we had more great coaches like you.

    Regards – Liz

    ps. Can you pick some milk up on the way home, and don’t forget to put the rubbish out.

  4. Liz

    surely the question to ask is; does Roger have a vision of the WAY in which the rubbish needs to be put out and does he have a clear picture of the milk he needs to be picking up!!!!LOL

  5. PS


    it was great to spend the week with JC two weeks ago. The boys played their first two friendlies this week and it really confirms the pointas you make in this peice. We already have two or three players who are switched into what we are looking for them to do in the next two years. Would be great to see you come down some time next year to observe the progress


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