The majority of coaching courses require that you come up with a session plan that at some point  you're going to run and be assessed on. Most courses now (especially the higher level ones) include multiple assessment days. At the highest level you're required to plan a variety of session's, of which one will be chosen at random for you to implement.

Without harping too much on the cliche of "Failing to Prepare = Preparing to Fail" here are some ways in which you can take your session planning to the next level.

1 - Decide On A Learning Outcome

For every session you plan, have the end goal in mind and ask yourself: how will I make these players better today? What is it I want them to get out of this session? Once you know what your learning outcome is, you can work backwards in constructing a session that builds towards this. The structure of your session, the coaching points that you want to make and what you're looking for as you observe all become tailored towards reaching that learning outcome.

 
 Learning Outcome: Every player to understand the approach and technique of the driven pass

Learning Outcome: Every player to understand the approach and technique of the driven pass

 

2 - Know What Success Looks Like

Building off of having a learning outcome, you can then start to get an idea of what success might look like. These might be:

  • Every player being able to use the move you taught them
  • A player transfers the concept and uses it in the game at the end
  • When you debrief, players are able to answer questions and demonstrate knowledge of the topic taught
  • The team implements what you taught them in the next game

By having an idea of what success might look like, you can then gauge whether your session was effective or not and improve it for future or revisit the topic if player's need more time.

 
 Success Looks Like: Players demonstrate the driven pass and recognize the cue of when and where to use it within the activity

Success Looks Like: Players demonstrate the driven pass and recognize the cue of when and where to use it within the activity

 

 

3 - Pick Your Groups Ahead Of Time

Whether training in small groups for some activities or picking your team's at the end of practice, picking them ahead of time can have major benefits to the flow of your session. If it's already planned, it's a simple case of calling out names rather than wasting precious moments picking teams and assigning groups. When picking groups/team's you might want to consider:

  • How to challenge the strongest players
  • Whether you might differentiate the activities to help those that struggle
  • Ways in which you can group similar positions together
  • How a top player reacts to being on a weaker team (do they drag the level up or drop to that level?)
 
 Which, if any, of the above methods do you think was used to pick these teams?

Which, if any, of the above methods do you think was used to pick these teams?

 

 

4 - Plan For Error

This is a new one for me and one that I'd always thought about when I visualized the session but never wrote down. If you imagine the session ahead of time you can start to identify what might go wrong with the session (most common issue is # of players that show up) and you can already plan how you might adapt.

To take this method a little further, think about what the players might struggle with and how you might adapt to that. Will you have a second way of explaining something to them? Are you able to regress the activity to make it easier until they understand the concept? If you plan for error ahead of time, you don't have to wing it when problems arise.

 
 Plan For Errors: Players don't understand the concept of 'you can only penetrate in wide areas'. Therefore, have a backup analogy/explanation. 'The coned line in the middle is a laser beam; if the ball goes through, it pops.'

Plan For Errors: Players don't understand the concept of 'you can only penetrate in wide areas'. Therefore, have a backup analogy/explanation. 'The coned line in the middle is a laser beam; if the ball goes through, it pops.'

 

 

5 - Have A Response For Errors

Building off of the example above, experienced coach's will have already jotted down what they might do if they get one more or one less player than expected. This is a great starting point for having a response to errors. Furthermore, if you can note down how you might change your instructions or explain a concept differently, this will aid the flow of your session if and when you encounter these errors.

 
 Response For Errors: If the goalkeeper's don't show up tonight, make the middle goals smaller or eliminate them entirely...

Response For Errors: If the goalkeeper's don't show up tonight, make the middle goals smaller or eliminate them entirely...

 

For me, the detail of session planning is the difference between a good coach and a great one. It doesn't have to be the world's prettiest diagram or the fanciest software, but taking the time to think through the details within a session will make a huge difference to the flow and effectiveness of almost any session.