Arrival activities are an effective way to start any session. They enable us to engage our players from the moment they get to training, provide valuable opportunities for building connections, and can give us time to set up our upcoming practice(s). But what constitutes an arrival activity? And how can we successfully implement them? Below, we discuss the fundamentals of arrival activities, and how to use them in our sessions.

In This Article

What Is an Arrival Activity?

One of the challenges coaches face is kids arriving at practice at different times, via different modes of transport, and in different frames of mind. Arrival activities are exercises to help players transition from the outside world to our practice, and prepare them to make the most of their session.

“We don’t want kids to be standing around and wasting what could be a useful time for their football experience,” says Dave Wright, Co-Founder at PDP. “So setting up something to get them engaged, playing, and thinking about the session is a great way to begin practice.”

The Benefits of Arrival Activities — And How to Implement Them

Maximising Play

Arrival activities are an excellent way to maximise the playing opportunities we afford our players. “Free play is really important for developing the creativity of our players, as it gives them opportunities to explore and solve different problems of the game,” explains PDP Coaching Advisor Dan Cooke. “And arrival activities can help us maximise those opportunities. For me, this makes them an essential part of effective session design.”

“Letting the kids lead can be really valuable,” adds Wright. “Whether we set up a small-sided game, an overload game, or something else entirely, just allowing kids to have more opportunities for free play, where adults aren’t involved, will be a healthy addition to any environment.”

Encouraging Social Connection

In an age of screens, and where informal play — whether in parks, on the streets, or elsewhere — is increasingly uncommon, the unregulated, play-centric setting of an arrival activity can be an invaluable space for kids to socialise and connect.

This time is also a great opportunity for us to connect with our players. “We often talk about that coach-player connection — about understanding the individuals on our team and getting to know them,” says Wright. “That ten-minute block before the session can be so valuable. If you’re there and being a little bit playful yourself, that can really help to build connections and trust.”

Facilitating the Set-Up Process

“Another benefit of arrival activities is the logistical aspect for coaches,” says Wright. “We need to get to practice early and organise the session. We might be using a shared facility, and have to wait to begin setting up. So an arrival activity can be really useful; we can quickly arrange a rondo or a small-sided game and get the kids playing while we prepare the session.”

Providing Extra Learning Opportunities

We can also use arrival activities to provide extra learning opportunities for our players and consolidate things we’ve worked on in the past. “We can give players an extended opportunity to practise an activity from a previous session by setting it up and letting them try it again without supervision,” suggests Cooke. “So it’s free play, but within an activity that we’ve previously done together.

“Doing something in a session, having a break (by going home, sleeping, taking some time away), and then coming back and practising it again can be really powerful from a learning and development standpoint.”

Giving Players Autonomy

Autonomy and a sense of ownership are vital components of an effective learning environment. “It’s so important for long-term learning and development, and also from a motivational perspective, that a player feels actively involved in what they’re doing,” says Cooke. “Arrival activities give us a chance to experiment with this.

“For example, we could just leave a pile of cones, a few balls, and some bibs, and let the players create their own arrival activity. This is a fantastic opportunity to give players some autonomy, and we’ll often be surprised by what they come up with.”

The Key Points

  • Arrival activities enable us to engage players from the moment they arrive at training, and help them to make the most of their footballing experience.
  • The array of exercises we use for arrival activities is huge; some will be centred around play; others might focus on providing extended learning opportunities.
  • Arrival activities can be player-led — providing kids with a sense of autonomy, and giving us time to set up our session.
  • We can use arrival activities to afford our players chances to socialise and connect, both with themselves and with their coaches.

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