How does a coach help a player maximise their return on training? Todd Beane, Founder of TOVO Institute & regular PDP contributor discusses the value in prioritising learning and maximising training time to get the most out of every session.

Wouldn’t you want to maximize the return on the investment of your time and energy?

As a teacher, wouldn’t you want to know that you are using every hour afforded to you to maximize learning? As a coach, wouldn’t you want your training to bring about the maximum results?

I have been both a teacher and a coach and I can tell you that too often we do not maximum the return on our educational time. In business, they call this a return on investment (ROI). In football I call this ROT: Our return on training and too often it is it is far too low.

As a former teacher, I can tell you that have we constructed schools that have very little to do with the natural learning process and much to do with child management. Anyone who has attended a faculty meeting knows exactly about what I speak.

As a coach, I can tell you that too many practices are nothing close to efficient. We have constructed youth football clubs that very little do with player development and much to do with marketing. Ask youth coaches who honestly care about a child’s holistic development and they will attest to this.

So many wasted hours.

Let’s do some math. At a professional club where I consulted recently the teams trained 3 days a week for 36 weeks in a season. Wasting 30 minutes of training per session on activities that are not efficient ultimately wastes 54 hours per year. Overt eh course of a 10-year development program that is 540 hours of time poorly spent.

32,400 minutes wasted.

A child can learn a lot in that amount of time. Not minutes we want to throw away with ineffective programming, no?

Decision Making

Let’s start to solve this together. If you have to select from the following list that which is required most in a given football match what activity would you choose?

  • Shooting
  • Heading
  • Passing
  • Crossing
  • Dribbling
  • Decision Making

Given that most players are in contact with the ball for less than 3 minutes in a 90 match, you might be hard pressed to select anything other than decision-making.

  • 3% of the time players are on the ball.
  • 100% of the time players are making decisions.

During the course of 90 minutes our players are always making decisions as to where to stand, where to pass, how to defend, when to shoot, etc. They are managing space. So if decision-making and the expression of those decisions are of the highest demand, are we developing that skill?

Decision-making can be taught and it must be practiced. Any parent knows that this comes with the territory of raising a child. If we deprive them of the opportunities of make decisions as they mature, we send them into the world ill prepared. So it is as well in world of football.


Next Steps

Go out to practice today and observe. Ask yourself as you watch your child train today if they are making decisions or following the rules.

Example. A child who is told to stand at one cone, run to another, or pass to a certain player is NOT making a decision. They are obeying the rules.

Alternative Example. If a child is required to perceive his environment, conceive of options to solve the scenarios she faces and then choose to execute her decision, she is actually making decisions and developing exponentially more her capacity to play the game.


I have said before that we should throw away the majority of our drills and start anew.

Design a training that actually demands decision-making and be prepared for a lot of poor decisions until our players perfect the skill of selecting the best options. We are not giving them complete freedom, but we are giving them the authority to play the game with intelligence and demonstrate that they are worthy of our trust. If they mess up, we get a bruise on our ego by yielding a goal or conceding possession. I think we can give them that much responsibility to play with, no? I write this article one day after my son’s team played in which the opposing team scored an own goal. In the same game, our center back, attempting to play out of the back, passed to the other team who promptly scored. Remarkably all children, coaches, and parents are alive to tell the tale today. Let’s get rid of our fear. It’s a game.

Coaches: please take out a piece of paper or tablet or whatever indicates your modern tabula rasa and start with the very ideal qualities you would want for your child. Start there and end there. And in between let’s ask ourselves exactly what might we do with our children that would enhance learning.

More of the same old, same old will not yield different results and will not certainly create intelligent players.

We must prioritise learning rather than teaching. We must build schools that honor the learning process as opposed to catering to a convenient bus schedule. We must build clubs that honor learning through competition rather than insisting on drills of little value. Justifying our training with tournament wins and local trophies is no justification at all. We are educators. We are only as good as the skills acquired by our students and our players. Nothing else makes us worthy of the trust of the parents who entrust us with their children.

So, the next time you think about your own school experience, ask yourself how many minutes of the 12 years you spent in the school system were of tremendous value? How many were wasted on low return activities.

When you think about your football club, ask yourself how many training minutes are requiring a child to think, to create and to solve the challenges before them.

At TOVO International, we call this cognitive development and it is the centerpiece of every training activity we conduct. In the end, we want our players to learn to think on their own and to be capable, competent and responsible people.

So, perhaps it is time to check your ROT: Return on Training. If you program is engaging players in a dynamic process that requires them to think on their own then you are on the right road. Safe travels.

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