INSPIRE Blog: Self-management & Empowering players

I read an interesting article during 2017 in regards to ‘Game Management’, and the ability of coaches to empower their players to problem solve and self-manage the way they perform and behave on the field during a match, without the interference of a coach.

Original article –

This week at training I had the opportunity to exercise my ideas in an attempt to recreate the concept the above article describes, and empower my players to identity and problem solving based on various scenarios that are presented to them.

I split up the 26 players into teams of 2x 5 players and 4x 4 players and allocated them to a small sided field, roughly 35m x 25m (if that – we were all on half a full size field) with no goalkeepers, using 1m x 1m goals.

Each team was then presented with a scenario, and as a team they had to come up with a solution to the scenario in order to win the game, see scenarios below:

Game 1

Team A – ‘You are winning 2-1 in a grandfinal with 8 minutes to go. Win the game’

Team B – ‘You are drawing 2-2 in a grandfinal, with 8 minutes to go, what do you do?’

Game 2

Team A – ‘You are losing 2-0 with 8 minutes to go. Set yourselves up to win the game’

Team B – ‘You must only score from central areas’

Game 3

Team A – ‘You are winning 3-2, with 8 minutes to go. Retain the lead’

Team B – ‘You must play wide before you can score’

As you can see, the focus on winning is the motivator for the players to be able to problem solve and achieve their outcome.

After a heart racing 8 minutes and some shrewd tactics from teams we finished the games and indicated for each team to have a team talk to discuss their tactics;

  • What worked
  • What did not work
  • What they learnt about the opposition
  • How are they going to achieve the outcome this time around?

We then played the same teams again, keeping the same scenarios for another 8 minute game.

The results were interesting. Some teams set out with a completely different set of tactics whilst others maintained their approach from the previous game.

Overall, two out of the three games had a different winner in the second game – interesting. This meant that for 2 out of 3 of the losing teams from Game One, had achieve a better result and therefore took into consideration two important variables more than last time; the scenario present and the opposition ‘style’/approach in front of them. This result was pleasing to see, and also generated further discussion from the losing teams as to ‘why’ they were outsmarted and performed, and how they could counter this next time.

For Game three we swapped opposition teams around, however kept the same scenario for each team. I chose this method to see whether the players could self-manage and change their tactics during the game, having been introduced previously to self-management and independent thinking. Throughout this game I began to see a lot more organisation and communication from teams as a whole, as well as individuals stepping up and establishing themselves as leaders in rallying their players to a ‘plan’ and executing it.

In the end, I had some spare time and decided to play an additional game. For this game I provided conditions to each team with the aim to have players understand the concept and ‘why’ behind a session we had completed the previous week, focussed on ‘winning the ball back in the attacking third’.

Team A – ‘You are losing 2-1 in a grand final, you need two goals to win’

Team B – ‘You can only score within 5 seconds of regaining possession’

At the end of the game we gathered as a big group, 26 players, and discussed the tactics that were implemented by each team in an effort to achieve the outcome. It was pleasing to hear that after the 8 minute game, many of the players from ‘Team B’ had identified that in order to achieve their outcome, they MUST set themselves up to pressure and win the ball back in the attacking third. Otherwise 5 seconds was simply not enough time to be able to create and convert a chance on goal.

Two days further on and I am reflecting on the session. My outcome was:

‘To empower players to self-manage and problem solve based on the scenario infront of them’

Did I achieve this? I would say ‘waves hand horizontally’, a little yes, a little no. In reflection my new outcome/aim of the session would be:

‘To empower players to self-manage and EFFECTIVELY problem solve based on the scenario infront of them’

All of the teams successfully identified a method of achieving their outcome, however struggled with the ability to problem solve when presented with the opposition. In simple terms, if you are 2-0 down, you know you need to score three goals to win. However the challenge arises when you begin taking into consideration the variables that exist on a football field, such as in our case; the oppositions approach/tactics, the field size constraints, player number constraints and fatigue.

I would confidently say that we made progress to achieving the outcome. I was once told that if your players are achieving the objective on their first effort then it simply is not challenging enough. Moving forward, my ability to empower my players must occur regularly, in both structured training and non-structured training session (such as this) to always afford the players the opportunity to think for themselves, make decisions on their own, problem solve and execute as a collective.

When I see my players next I will ask them the following questions, one week on from the session, and report back via our INSPIRE facebook group their answers. Join our facebook group here. I will ask the boys the following questions:

What do you think we were trying to achieve on Monday night at training?

What lesson did you take from the session?

Did the session make you do anything differently?

Happy coaching!

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