Design Football Training Session

I'd like to help you design and organize your training sessions. Show you the way I do it, give you tips and suggestions that you can easily and effectively use. When designing a training session these are the questions I usually answer:

How much time do I have? How many players? What level? What do I want to achieve with get my intervention? What content will I apply? What methodology? What material resources do I need? How do I know if they are achieving the objectives? What changes could be introduced to improve the activities? What could be the problem? How can I avoid possible issues? How do I organize activities? How much time should I apply for each of them? What do I do if the activity does not work or if it becomes monotonous or boring? Etc…

Now I will give answers to these questions. While this article is geared more to those who start coaching football, than those who already have experience, you always learn something from others, so, I also think that veteran coaches can draw useful ideas for their practices.

The first thing I have to confess is that there is not a single training session in which I have no doubts, fears, questions, etc., before starting... despite my extensive experience. I always have a moment (thankfully just for a short time) when I feel I know nothing, I could have designed a good session, in which I do not know how should we move forward, after this, I take a deep breath, I look at my notes and the coach I am comes back to me.

Before starting the planning we have to do Football Periodisation. This issue was discussed in a previous article. If you haven't read it, I recommend you do it because it's essential to understand planning.

It would also be desirable than you read the article on training load since we will explain planning using the volume and intensity parameters that are well explained in that article.

Football Homework

I mean what we have to do prior to training.

The first thing to do is to plan the training session, choose the objectives, content, methodology, resources, etc ...

If you've done the periodization of training with your team and have filled them out with sports planning for football, choose the "topic of the session" that is, to know what you want to achieve and that what you will be working on is very easy, you just have to continue as planned. For example if we are in the pre-season period, sub period 1 Starter: initial contact, one of the goals is to meet the players and pre-determine their football skills level. The issue then would be "distribution of players by level groups."

The selected content would be activities where we could clearly see the technical and tactical skills of the players: unique situations, adapted plays, application games, real games, etc…

Specific activities or exercises.

Select activities according to age and level of the players, however all activities start as simple (below the expected level) and I have already prepared some progressions which increase the level of difficulty as I see that the players are excelling (as you can see in activity number 3).

In my proposal we will make seven activities:

1. Welcome players

2. Warming up by couples with a ball.

3. Specific Skills 1: passes and controls.

4. Implementation game 1: Rondo 5:1 to 3:1. As I said in the previous paragraph, 
it is easier to make a rondo of 5 to 1 than 3 to 1, here is an example of progression.

5. Specific Skills II: dribbling and shooting.

6. Implementation game II: Dribbling and shooting.

7. Implementation game.

8. Warm Down.

Methodologies would be several:

Direct: you offer activities with little or no decision-making and the players are executing them very literally, e.g. "pass the ball with the inside of the foot,"

Discover the solution: you set up the situation and the players need to understand and find the best answers, e.g. three versus one (3:1) “Let’s keep the ball inside the square."

Resources to be used, bibs, cones or marks, balls.

Sketching the training session

I mean making a sketch on paper of how you are going to place the activities, marks in the field. Where will you welcome the players, where will the cones be placed, how large are the spaces for exercises, how many spaces, etc…

Normally after designing the training session, I take a moment to revisit the above: overall planning, subject, objectives, content, activities, resource, spaces, etc… Once I determine that the selected activities are in line with the above, and that they are the best I can offer, I dedicate some time to "think negatively" I mean, I'm probably the most optimistic person in the world , so I have to stop and think what could go wrong when making my work in the field and I have to look for alternatives and answers to each of the situations. For example, what if I did not bring enough balls to do the warming up in couples? The alternative would be to make parties of 3, etc... This session is very easy, because we are pre -evaluating the skills of the players, if they only know how to pass precisely with the inside of the foot and their instep passing is scary, we should not proceed to adaptation or intervention, yet, just have to note it for future sessions.

Explanation of the session

Prepare a summary of the session: subject, objective, activities by order, sketching the spaces, etc...

Preliminary tasks

Arrival at field and installation of spaces for practice, it will be easier for you and the players if you use marks in the same color. For example, to limit my warm up area, I mark a square with red cones, to practice skills I use yellow cones, to mark the game spaces I mark lines in which I alternate red cones and yellow cones, etc… Follow the drawing you prepared.

Receive the players after greeting them and tell them where they should leave their belongings, read to them the summary that you elaborated about the session. Show them the image you drew to explain where workspaces are.

Let's train

Organize players in couples, groups, etc… Explain the first exercise and get to work.


Be brief with the explanations, players, especially the younger ones, have very short attention spans. I explain to them very quickly the first set of exercises and immediately put them to work. Once I see that they understand the dynamics of activities, I'll slowly making changes, norms, challenges, until the activity is developed as I had planned and designed.

Be positive when they do something well, and also honest when they don't. Your job is to make them learn and improve, to do so, you must try generating activities that starting on the comfort zone of the players (what you know they do well) become progressively more difficult, challenging them and encouraging and motivating them to achieve them. But if in the comfort zone, executions are flawed by lack of concentration or any other reason attributable to the player him/herself (regardless of technical level) let them know that their work is not good enough so they will understand and know that you know.

Finally, review your design and add improvements and new ideas you may have for future interventions. Usually my initial designs are very good, but my re-designs are perfect.  Every day I learn new things from the players that I coach, and that makes me a better and prepare better trainings for them. That's why I love my job.

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