Games v drills v coaching v fun

There’s a powerful school of thought that tells us we should be coaching more through games than drills.

Let’s for a moment see why that makes sense.

Games are a fun way of learning. They create lots of scenarios where the players need to make decisions. A wrong decision during this game means they reflect on how to improve to win the next game. The competitive nature of games motivates players to try harder and look for more solutions.

Well-modified games create circumstances where certain skills can be enhanced. A narrow pitch will lead to more contact, a wider area to long passing.

What’s not to like about games? So why do we bother with drills?

“Drill” is a dirty word with many coach educators, and with good reason. A drill is something we do repetitively, without thinking. That doesn’t allow the player to develop the perception of when and where to use it.

Yet when used properly, a good drill brings a great deal to the party:

  • It gives a player a template. If the player knows what the skill or technique is supposed to feel like, he can self-correct… during a game!
  • It allows the coach to see quickly and clearly what a player is lacking. And understand whether he needs to spend time away from training sessions to work on these aspects.
  • It can sometimes use only a few players, giving them plenty of opportunities to work on an aspect of their play. For instance, a player might need to get his footwork right to make his tackles more effectively.

It can be fun too. As long as the target is clear, players gain a sense of achievement from doing the exercise.

We should be mixing up our training with games and drills. Both have a place on the learning spectrum.


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