Game day can be the highlight of the week for players and coaches. It is an opportunity for players to express themselves, test their knowledge and skill, connect with their teammates, have fun and compete.

So what are some of the critical ingredients to a successful game day?

For me, ensuring that the game is an extension of the week is important. It’s a chance to practice what the players have been working on individually or collectively.

Depending on the age, stage and context of your team, things could look very different. It could be U6s having their first football experience (doing cartwheels and picking daisies), or it could be U23s trying to win a title.

To be an effective leader on game day it’s important to account for all the needs of the players beyond the fixture itself.

Here are a few ideas that can help ensure game day is a success.

  • Have a plan to roll players on and off to ensure equal game time.
  • If possible, arrange for a parent or team manager to support you on the sideline.
  • Ensure all the players have access to water, and the team has a first aid kit.
  • Bring equipment to ensure you can set up the pitch safely and deliver an effective warm up.
  • Use a messaging app or group to communicate with players and parents so everyone knows where to be.
  • Set expectations for parents. Have agreed guidelines in place around sideline behaviour.

Two things to consider.

  1. Is your behaviour consistent every week or do you change if it’s a fixture with more ‘importance’ like a final or cup game?
  2. How do you deliver your pre game or half time talk? Is it a lecture focussed on tactics? Or do you let players lead and contribute to the discussion?

One thing for you to try this week.

Do you stand or sit on game day? Body language can have a massive impact on players, often I see teams reflecting the behaviour of their coach. If you are normally quite vocal or tend to yell instructions, challenge yourself to sit down, relax and enjoy the game. This is their time to shine.

One critical resource on the topic.

Check out this article on the impact coaches can have if they get game day wrong. Recognise that you have the power to change the story in young people’s lives by ensuring they all have a great experience.

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