Structure your training

The simple and most obvious aim of training is to oversee IMPROVEMENT.

Therefore, having a plan and structure to your training programme is vitally important.

“Having a structured plan will avoid you planning on a daily basis and putting yourself under pressure to find something new and creative for your players”.

Below are some tips for how you might structure your training programme. This is done by asking yourself a number of questions about your team and combining them with your “vision” on the game.


Firstly – comes your vision. I would advise that it is shouldn’t be a fixed vision. I would recommend that as you grow and learn in the game, that certain players or moments in your life will influence and add to your thinking. So you should be prepared to amend as you travel forwards.

But…. having a clear understanding of your preferences for playing the game is very important before you can lead a group of players.

“Once you have a clear understanding of your preferences. You are now ready to plan how you will develop this from your mind to the pitch on a daily basis”

Three Main Development Areas

  1. Improve Player Qualities
  2. Improve Team Qualities
  3. Prepare for the “What if” situations

Now we can begin to break these down into more details…………

Improve Player Qualities

  • This is an evaluation of your current players and their levels.
  • What type of players do you have?
  • What qualities do they need to possess to play in your “vision” of football?
  • How are you going to improve them in training?
  • Will this be in individual sessions, small group sessions or full team practices?
  • Which staff do you need to help or delegate too?
  • How are you going to communicate this vision with the players?
  • What key “buzz” words or sayings will you use to influence behaviours on a daily basis?

“A vision on football is not a formation. It is your preferences for style of play in attack, defence and the moments of transition in between. It also includes the behaviours, standards and culture you would like to create inside the club”

Improve Team Qualities 

In-line with your vision. you can now begin to list the TEAM QUALITIES that are needed to carry out your playing style in games.

Number 1 is to evaluate if the team already displays some of the qualities that are required. This will help you focus on what is important right now! and also save you some time in the process of development

Some ideas

  • How are we going to attack?
  • Are we possession based, Counter attack based or a mix of the two?
  • How we will structure our defence?
  • How do we react to losing possession?
  • Does this change in different areas of the field?
  • What type of aggression do i want my team to play with?

There is a hundred questions you can ask yourself in this situation. It is all based on how you want the game to be played.

But, having a list, helps you to structure your training and what to introduce and when to introduce certain aspects of it.

“This process is also good when evaluating the development of your team and giving them feedback. For example, you know what areas you have worked on and you also know what areas you wish to develop next. Therefore, you understand that during this process you will see more develop in some areas to others”

Preparing for the “what if” situations

This is a very important area that most coaches overlook. Basically, its coaching within game situations and positively effecting your players decision making in key moments of the game.

Without developing this type of knowledge and awareness in your players, then in the crucial moments, you are relying solely on players “initiative”.

(Initiative is a huge word in player development and something that is key to the development of individuals. Giving time to develop this in players is crucial)

However, for this piece, we are talking about the “WHAT IF” situations that occur in the game when you require your team to be thinking collective and moving in harmony as a group (working together and intelligiently).

There is a great saying for these moments – from my friend Pepijn Lijnders (see below)

“11 players, one heart beat”

So – what are the common “what if” situations in a game

  • Reduced to 10 players
  • Playing against 10 players
  • 1-0 or 0-1 with ten minutes remaining
  • The team is under high pressure
  • Bad referee decision leads to suffering a goal
  • Witnessing a bad injury to a team mate in the game
  • The moments after scoring a goal
  • The moment after conceding a goal
  • Various weather conditions
  • Hostile playing environment

Again – the list is long and endless for your personal circumstances. However, what is clear is that discussing/coaching/experiencing each situation will give your players some coping strategies to use in each scenario that you face. This is a big part of a player and teams development.

Once you have this programme in place, you are then relieved of the pressure to come up with ideas, as you have the master template to work from.

When coaching a team, you should be taking them on a journey of improvement based on some simple concepts/ideas that allow each player to express their personal talents within the team.

In most cases, clarifying the style/game idea and each players role within it, is more important than the practices used.

Basically, giving each person and the team a vision will give freedom to the group and the players will natural take up these roles within the training sessions.

“Own the pitch, Own the ball” 

Above is one of my favourite sayings

“Owning the pitch is the energy, body language and work rate that you will display in the game in order to control the pitch. One pitch and we are going to control it”

“Owning the ball is being the dominant team with the most talented players, the better playing style etc. One ball and we are going to control it”

Another favourite saying which is very similar is

“Attack the game, before you Attack the goal”

“This carries on from the same themes as above and encourages your players to do all the processes well (working hard, working together, playing smart) in order to link all this together and win”

Below is an example of a template – I have put this together for the process of this blog. It will give you some ideas on how to analyse your vision, players and club in the planning process.


I will end with a famous quote from Jose Mourinho

“Are we playing together? or just at the same time?”

Thanks for reading

Catch up soon


1 Comment

  1. Great blog post! I’ve just had my first meet-up with the local team I’ll be volunteering with, and one of the activities we had to do was create a plan for the U-13 team. (Over a 2 year period). Having never done that before, it was a bit of a struggle, so I’ve taken a few notes from this post on the basic’s of a vision – super helpful! Cheers!


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