Happy New Year and welcome back to our first On The Grass newsletter of 2024!

Many of you might be on a winter break, halfway through a season, or for those in the southern hemisphere, perhaps you’re preparing for a new season altogether. Planning is a critical part of coaching, whether you are leading a team, or leading a programme, having a clear season plan can ensure the environment is organised and the players get a quality experience.

If you’re heading into pre-season, you may need to consider physical conditioning, periodisation and the tactics or strategies you aim to utilise as a team. Formations may also be worth thinking about. Do you set up your team shape based on the individual strengths of the players? Or in a youth development context, do you work on a variety of shapes throughout the season?

The programme I am leading will focus on the latter with our U13-U15 squads in 2024 and the teams in our ‘senior phase’ (U17/U23) will try to align with our first team to create continuity for players who may be exposed to a higher challenge point. This means the youth players should be exposed to a variety of formations during the course of the season, developing their game understanding and challenging the coaches.

The youth teams will also work on a programme which allows them to learn about various moments of the game, but it won’t constrain the coaches to stick to exactly the same plan, or not address team issues. I believe a flexible framework is key if you are designing programmes across multiple teams.

Three things to consider.

  1. Adapt your team shape based on the individual strengths of players to ensure they get to utilise their strengths in their best position.
  2. If working with young players, it can be beneficial to expose them to different positions that might help with their technical development. Be mindful not to expose them to too many positions in one game, but consider a variety of roles over the length of the season.
  3. Ensure that you prepare players adequately for the physical demands of football through football so their bodies are ready for the season ahead.

One thing for you to try this week.

Consider planning a block of sessions. Whether this is based on tactical, technical or physical outcomes, it can be a good test to put together a coherent plan over a block of time as opposed to working reactively based on team performance – especially when working with youth players.

One critical resource on the topic.

To better understand how to physically prepare footballers for the demands of the game, check out our online course, Physical Performance Through Football.

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