Position-specific coaching can be a powerful tool in player development. It enables us to add new dimensions to our activities, familiarise players with the distinct challenges posed by different positions, and help them work on individual areas of development within the wider context of a team practice. Below, we examine the fundamentals of position-specific coaching, and how we can successfully embrace it within our sessions.

In This Article

Utilising Position-Specific Coaching

Position-specific coaching can provide great opportunities to work on individual areas of learning with our players — but it’s vital that we place this approach within the wider context of our team’s practice. 

“The key is focusing on one area — for example, midfielders — but ensuring that the others within that session (such as defenders and attackers) are also engaged,” explains James Coutts, Coaching Advisor at PDP. “You can do this by adding layers to your practice. For instance, if you’re working with midfielders on getting the ball out wide, you could talk to them before the session and give them a couple of extra challenges based on that outcome.”

“The defenders and attackers never disappear,” adds PDP Co-Founder Dave Wright. “This is an invasion game based on interactions between players, so we can’t take a reductionist view and decide that, this week, we’ll only work with midfielders.

“When doing position-specific work, it might help to think of primary, secondary, and tertiary players. For example, your number 8 in midfield might be your primary player; the secondary players could be the wingers alongside them; and your tertiary player could be the goalkeeper. They all still have a relationship — we’re just shining a light on particular players at certain times.”

Ensuring Player Engagement

Engaging all of the players within a position-specific practice requires careful planning. “I always attach challenges to players who aren’t involved in the primary element,” says Coutts. “For example, in a practice focussing on wingers and crossing, I might create a competition to score the most goals between the strikers, and challenge the defenders to win the ball back and transition into attack.

“These constant challenges — and letting players know that everyone will have a turn being the main focus in the sessions to come — are key to making individuals feel valued.”

The Individual Component

According to Wright, it’s vital that we consider our players’ developmental needs when adopting a position-specific approach: “Take the example of a winger who’s a great dribbler,” he explains. “Maybe we want them to work on passing forward, so we play them at fullback, where the game is in front of them. There can be great opportunities to combine a positional focus with a player’s individual development plan.”

“Context is also crucial,” adds Coutts. “Accounting for things like a player’s age and where they are in their developmental journey, and understanding why we’re doing something, is vital. If players aren’t ready for position-specific work yet, that’s okay. And if they are, our approach should be tailored to their needs, both collectively and individually.

“As in all aspects of coaching, we must always understand the ‘why’ behind our actions.”

Position-Specific Coaching: The Key Points

  • Position-specific coaching is a great tool for helping individuals develop particular areas of their game.
  • We must ensure that all of our players feel valued — not just those who are the primary focus of our practice.
  • Additional challenges provide an effective way to engage all of our players.
  • It’s vital that we account for the context around our players and understand the purpose behind our practices.

Image Source: Bruno Aguirre on Unsplash

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