Using zones in your coaching session

I was coaching the U16s last night and as part of the session I split a 60×40 area in to three zones (so it was 3 x 20 x 40 zones) with the focus of the session on quick passing. There were goals at each end and within each zone I had a 2v2 setup and the only restrictions were that players had to remain within the zone (initially) and I wanted goalies to throw/roll the ball out.

What I noticed as the session moved forward was that when the ball progressed from the defensive third (based on the team in possession) to the middle third, the players in the defensive third switched off as the focus of the play was then happening between the midfield and forward zones; this was also evident in the opposing team.

To address this I worked with the defensive group on both teams regards them supporting behind the ball, being active and ensuring they were always an option for the midfield zone.

However, on seeing this it occurred to me that this isn’t the first time I’ve seen it happen in such a session (albeit with U9s 6-8 weeks back) and therefore, is the fact that this setup isn’t fully match realistic causing the players in the “inactive” zone to switch off or does the setup actually highlight that the players aren’t inactive?

My views, having not used this extensively, is that it does enable you to focus your coaching point on players in a specific zone and that it does seem to highlight inactivity (i.e. they should be supporting behind the ball) but I’m not convinced players enjoy it (although I haven’t seen/heard evidence of this) because of the restrictions.

The game I used last night became a lot more dynamic once I allowed either team to move a third player in to either zone and that opened up further coaching points but moving forward I’m yet to decide if I’ll use a zone setup again or not.

I’d be interested to know your views on them, do you use them regularly or do you steer away from them due to the lack of game realism?

U16s: New challenge

Anyone who’s been following my blog since day 1 will know that I started my coaching journey with what were then U7s and have now coached them through the last 3 years with them becoming U10 from next season. The experience has been valuable and it’s been a great age group to begin with as they’re pretty forgiving if you get a session slightly wrong!

However, despite continuing with them I’m keen to expand my horizons and offered to get involved with our under 16s who are a group of lads that want to start playing again following a year out (they folded when their previous manager moved on). I shall therefore be “head coach” for them this season and ran a first session last Wednesday night which went well.

This provides a completely different coaching challenge on a number of levels because obviously it’s an older group of players and it’s 11-a-side so sessions will be at a different level technically & tactically as well as needing to change communication & coaching style  but fundamentals such as sessions being well organised, appropriate, fun etc still apply.

I’m excited about the challenges it’ll bring and am especially looking forward to being able to try and coach a team to play in a style which I believe in and the obvious effort that’ll take to try and convey the way I’d like us to play in terms of our training sessions. I see this as a chance to develop these players & develop myself further as a coach and if I can look back in 12 months and confidently feel I’ve done both I’ll be very happy.

The current plan is for me to run a few sessions between now and the end of June to see what numbers we have and to keep the boys engaged before taking a small break and then coming back for pre-season to prepare for a season in the Oxfordshire Youth Invitational League.

As always, I’ll aim to log our progress and what I learn on this blog as I head in to a very busy season (playing, U9s, U16s & scouting!).