Adapt your drills on the spot

Sometimes your best-laid plans must be ripped up because progress has been quicker or slower than expected. So be ready to change tack if players are struggling or they crack a skill and are getting bored.

Our players make or break planned sessions. Either they aren’t progressing as you’d hoped, or they’ve achieved the goals ahead of time. Either way, it’s time to rapidly rethink the content of the session. Initially, you must:

  1. Stop and take stock. Give the players a water break, or if more time is needed ask an assistant to run a short game.
  2. Think. What is preventing the session from working? Is it the session itself or a skill within it that the players are struggling with? Alternatively, if the players have succeeded already, what would an extension be?
  3. Plan on the hoof! How you respond will depend on the nature of the problem.

What to do if players are struggling

Session failure

If the session itself is just not working, it may be best to reject it immediately. Review it later, of course. But right now, forget it and do one of three things:

  • Use last week’s session again.
  • Play a game until the end.
  • If it’s a latter part of the session that isn’t working, repeat the last part that did work. Maybe the players just didn’t quite nail the part that was needed to move on.

Skill failure

If it’s a particular skill deficiency that’s preventing the session from moving along, use a whole-part-whole approach to work on the technique that is lacking.

With this approach, you break out in smaller groups and work on the specific skill. For instance, split into groups of three for tackling. One player walks along a line, another player tackles side-on, and the third player observes and looks at one key factor.

Then the players rotate. You should observe the exercise from the periphery before bringing them back in.

What to do if they crack the skill early

Your session has gone so well that you’ve completed all the tasks within it well before the allocated time. In which case you could:

  • Go straight to a game.
  • Return to last week’s session that didn’t work as well and spend the remaining time on that.
  • Use a game-related exercise that encompasses the newly gained skills. Condition the defence, make up rules, use narrow channels for contact, wider channels for space.
  • Repeat the final part of the session but increase the pressure on the skill, technique or move. Decrease the space or time to perform it in, or run the action against the clock and create competition.
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