Coaching Day 12: Theory v Practical

I’d prepared for last week’s coaching session by looking to run a series of games which linked through and would culminate in applying to the final match we played, i.e. a gradual increment.

So how did it go?


My session plan looked like this:

  • Warm up: Either sharks v minnows or team-tag as shown by Dan Wright in his blog
  • First game: 1v1, or “On Guard” as is demonstrated on the Level 1 course
  • Second game: Waves, as taken from the Level 1 course
  • Third game: 3-game-SSG, as also shown by Dan Wright in his blog
  • Match

The theory being as follows:

  • Following the warm-up, get the players working on their dribbling skills via 1v1 games…
  • …then use Waves to get the players working in small teams, focussing on passing as a team and shooting…
  • …which they would need to combine with dribbling to help with the 3-game-SSG…
  • …which in turn would prepare them for a match situation

All of which, in my mind, looked pretty good.

What actually happened:

  • The group of 9 players I had to work with varied hugely in ability, so I decided to pull the 1v1 from my plan as I felt some of the players either wouldn’t grasp the concept or would lose interest.
  • Instead I set them up to play Waves, using competition between two teams (i.e. who could score more goals) as a way of making it fun. One team grasped the idea and did well, another had two players who were more interested in who was starting the game, or would hog the ball and this led to. Unfortunately, because the one team struggled with the game it lost its impetus and the other boys started to lose interest.
  • So I changed to one-team-SSG which started well but the teams were unbalanced which meant one set of players dominated  and this caused frustrations and one or two of the boys also began to lose interest.

So, despite my theory seeming ok in practice it was a very difficult 40 minutes of coaching and dealing with some of the kids was quite frustrating. I’d tried to run a session which flowed and which would be fun but perhaps in hindsight it was too much to ask for a (very) mixed ability group of U7s. Next week I think I’ll use some of the games which have worked well in the past and I guess if nothing else, this was an experiment which perhaps hasn’t worked but that I’ve learnt from.


About Simon
Grassroots Football Coach

2 Responses to Coaching Day 12: Theory v Practical

  1. My U7s are well mixed as well – but I’m guessing about 1/2 have a total experience of kicking around (literally) a ball in their backyard, with some dribbling skills present but without any game decision making.

    At our first practice, I tried to introduce 1v1 – and I realized it wasn’t instinctive for them to switch from offense to defense after scoring or when they lost the ball. (I had done well enough last fall explaining it to my U5 kids – so I figured by age 7 it was something that could be grasped at any age above that. Now all my returning U5’s can be told play “One on One” and they pair off and go to work.) I’ll handpick the pairings to try and keep even skill playing each other and occasionally I’ll jump in and play against them.

    We’ve done it again since – and their was improvement in understanding the concept and progression of a 1v1 match.

    One element that we hit every week in our practice is 1v0 – every player with a ball, since it gives a lot of touches and lets players work at whatever their skill level is. New players work at maintaining the ball, more advanced players work on changing directions and using more parts of the foot.

    I’ve come to the realization that I have very mixed group – and I want to make sure I give the upper half a chance to advance as much as the lower half (not holding them back while waiting for the lower half to come up to the median). If that means breaking up further within the team for certain activities – then that’s what we will do.

    • Simon says:

      Hi Dennis,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, you make some really useful points.

      You’re absolutely right about the transition from attack to defence not being instinctive to players at this age and that’s certainly something I’ve seen regularly. What’s fascinating is that I hadn’t even considered what’s “instinctive” to a 7 year old footballer although I guess that comes with experience and deeper thought.

      I will try again, maybe in a months time or so, and see if I can start to build in their understanding of switching between the two phases so that they can benefit from a 1v1 game. In the mean time, my focus is back to fun.


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