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7 ways to adapt a training session for fewer numbers

Some clubs in Europe and the US may have fewer numbers turning up to training over the winter months, with the usual cold-weather illnesses compounded by Covid-19.

But, even with unexpected last-minute dropouts, there are a few easy ways to tweak your session to ensure you still get the desired outcomes and players still have a great time.

A familiar scene? A lot of coaches have to deal with late pull outs or lower attendances at training, which disrupts session plans

01. NEUTRAL OR ‘MAGIC’ PLAYERS

The go-to option when you’re unexpectedly left with uneven numbers is to introduce a ‘neutral or ‘magic’ player, who plays for whichever team is in possession.

If possible, try to link this to your session. For example, if you’re working on switching play, maybe include neutral wingers, or a neutral central midfielder to enable the switch.

 

02. OVERLOADS/UNDERLOADS

Teams don’t always have to have even numbers. When thinking about a game, attackers will often be outnumbered in the final third by defenders, or there could be times when a team counter-attacks and has a temporary overload. Uneven numbers in training is a good opportunity to work on these game-related scenarios.

 

03. SET THE SCENE

Inevitably, in the above scenario, you’re likely to be faced with complaints that teams are uneven. But this is a good, game- realistic challenge for them.

Set them the scenario of defending a 1-0 lead for the last 10 minutes of the World Cup final, when they’ve just had a player sent off. In reality, maybe at the weekend you won’t have the numbers to field a full team, or perhaps an injury and no subs means you’ll be a player short for the last 10 minutes.

 

04. GIVE PLAYERS A COACHING ROLE

If you find last-minute dropouts leave you with awkward numbers, this could be a good chance to challenge players in other ways.

Offer them 10-minute turns at being the coach. Set the session up then step aside – let your new coach take the reins and see what they pick out to coach or advise on. This can give players a different perspective and enable them to develop confidence and leadership skills.

 

05. HAVE A FUN BACK-UP PLAN

Be led by the players. There are always games players ask for time and again, which usually get the “maybe next week” response. Well, this could be a great opportunity to roll them out!

Wembley Doubles is a classic, but if numbers don’t allow, then simply switch it to Wembley Singles – these types of activities are not only great fun for players, but allow them to work on individual skills, staying on the ball, awareness and a heap of other skills too.

 

06. WORK ON TECHNICAL DETAILS

Having only a handful of players at your training session can actually present a really valuable opportunity.

It’s not often coaches get the time to work with individuals or small groups on intricate technical details, so jump at the chance while you can! You might even have some sessions or ideas already in mind from the summer, when social distancing meant we could only work in small groups.

 

07. DON’T BE AFRAID TO STICK TO YOUR SESSION PLAN

There are plenty of ways to make a session plan work, even with fewer numbers than expected.

For example, if you have a session where you want players to pass to target players around the edge of the playing area, just take a couple of those target players out.

The remaining targets will have to cover more ground to make themselves available, but this adds elements such as fitness, awareness, scanning and communication – so you might actually get even more outcomes than originally planned.

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