In the last week of May many teams enter their final week of practice before the end of the league season and end of the year tournaments. At least this is the case for our teams in the Midwest. If a team is not participating in State Cup and are one week away from the summer break, how do you approach the final practices?
The weather is turning hotter, the season is coming to an end, school will be out soon and the attention span of your players is at an all time low. The players are not going to be interested in reviewing passing and receiving or doing a walk-through of defensive shape. For those coaches who try to review the mundane they will find it a difficult and frustrating situation.
At this time of year I turn to small-sided games to generate excitement and motivation in the players while still running a productive session. If the rules of the game reward what you are trying to reinforce, then the game becomes the teacher. When I make a coaching point the players don't look at it as correction, they look at it as it helping them find a way to win the game. There are many, many different small-sided games and you can find one to suit any topic you want to focus on.
Here is a progression of small-sided games that I use at different points during the year but especially near the end.
Five Goal Game
The size of the field will vary depending on the age and ability of the players. There needs to be enough room behind each of the cone goals that players can move in and out of it easily.
The number of players on each team can be anywhere between four and 10. You can also play this game with three teams where two teams play against one.
The teams are able to score in any of the five goals.
There are a number of different ways that you can award goals depending on what you want to emphasis.
1) Dribble through the cones in possession of the ball
2) Pass the ball through the cones to a teammate on the other side
3) Either dribble or pass through the cones
4) Five passes equals a goal
The emphasis for the first three are pretty obvious but the fourth one may not be. Adding this method of scoring will encourage good passing and support play but more importantly it will reward high pressure defending and discourage a team from 'goal hanging'.
The black team can only score in the red cone goals on one end. The yellow team can only score through the yellow cone goals on the other end. Either team can score through the blue cone goal in the middle. This gives the game direction and makes it more game related.
Any or all of the previous scoring methods can be used or you can allow the players to simply shot the ball through the cone goals.
Full Team Scrimmage
Toward the end of the year I usually spend more time allowing the players to scrimmage freely without restrictions so that they can apply everything we've worked on during the year. The players enjoy this and I'm able to evaluate how the players, and the team as a whole, have understood what I've attempted to coach.
What do think? Are your sessions at the end of the season different from any other time? What have you found that works for you?