Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


Mind elsewhere not on coaching?… Focus is vital to successful sessions

By David Clarke

David ClarkeI turned up for a coaching session last night and my mind wasn’t on the job. The club coaches had scheduled a meeting for the next day, in which I had to prepare my report on the season so far… what had gone well, what could be improved.

My mind was full of this as I arrived at the training ground. The minute I got there one of the other coaches came over and started talking to me about next season and the players he hoped to keep. He also spoke about how he was going to bed new players in and whether he should include this in his report at the meeting.

My helper had set up a warm-up exercise and the players were doing it at about 50 per cent performance, talking to each other and jogging along. The conversation I was having totally took my mind away from the purpose of the evening so when I turned back to the players I was totally out of the coaching zone.

We usually have very focused hour-long sessions but time was already ticking by and all my players had done was warm-up. And they were getting bored with the session. It was beginning to affect me as well – I felt cold, I was looking at my watch, and I was doing nothing to coach the players. My mind began flicking through my library of exercises and drills but nothing would come into my head that would drive the session.

Then I realised that I hadn’t thought of a focus, there was no core to wrap the exercises around. I was doing the ‘let’s just get through the session by filling the players’ time with drills’ cop out. I couldn’t let them down like this. So I took my mind back to our last match and thought up a title for the session – ‘running without the ball’.

I quickly set up a pitch with zones at either end – no goals or goalkeepers. I told the players the way to score was to pass to a player who had run into the end zone – they weren’t allowed to stand in the end zone, they had to be running onto a pass. In this way I built up the movement of players both with and without the ball. I instructed runs both towards and away from play, then worked on the timing of the run and the first touch upon receiving the ball.

The session began to take shape – and I had rescued something out of it. The final 30 minutes went really quickly, unlike the first half-hour when we were standing around feeling cold and not thinking about the here and now.

Trust me, your session will be much more successful – and the time will go much quicker – if you have a focus and exercises to build around that focus. But you have to be in the right mindset from the start.

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