Coaching in Tight Areas

May 26, 2020

By Tom Arnold

During these uncertain times it is easy to forget that a lot of sports coaches have to work in limited space once sport resumes. This got me thinking about the challenges I have been having coaching Harrison in the back garden. Although we have managed well, there always challenges due to limited space!

As coaches, once we are all back coaching at our clubs or school environments sometimes the space we coach in can be part of a larger pitch area or part of a training court where it is impossible to run sessions involving goals or sessions that need half a pitch or more.

For some coaches it becomes a weekly battle to adapt sessions to a smaller space so the players get good practice in all aspects of the game.

Often in game-based situations children will find little space to work in, and they will struggle to keep possession when surrounded by opponents. Playing games in tight spaces helps players to prepare for this.

  • Tighter areas increase difficulty, and challenges children.
  • Working with limited space gives children less time to make the right choices and decisions
  • Less time result with children being pressured more quickly
  • Children learn how to problem solve more swiftly and apply creativity
  • Children learn how to shield, protect and keep possession
  • If children find it difficult, ‘safe zones’ can be added which allow children more time.

Keeping Possession

Using football as an example, Elite football players like Neymar will ‘comfortably’ hold onto the ball whilst surrounded by opponents. This would indicate what kind of coaching sessions and practice he enjoys.

So it is not always a negative having small areas to train in. The other positive aspect of small areas is that the coach is very close to all the players involved, so the coaching point is a lot easier to get across and group discussions are far easier to achieve.

Planning for this is vital so the coach must understand the coaching point and explain to the players what he/she wants to achieve from the practice. Without both coach and the player-understanding, the benefit of the small space is lost.

Of course, there are big downsides that coaches will find when they have a small space to work in.

Difficulties when coaching in tighter space:

  • The game and space can become unrealistic. This needs to be managed by the coach
  • Children do not get the time they may need. Intermediate or beginner children may need numerous scenarios or limitations added to engineer the set up to help them
  • Creating space is very tough, so sessions can be limited
  • Set-piece play

My Top Tips for Coaching in Small Areas

  • Be prepared – take a print out of the sessions to training with you.
  • Make sure you have enough cones, bibs and balls, pop up goals!
  • Give yourself a clear understanding of the coaching point.
  • Make sure the children understand what the purpose of the session is and what it will achieve.
  • Use players around the perimeter of the area during small sided games so they can act as rebound boards. Three team activities will give children space, lots of rotations
  • Make games short and sharp with lots of changes

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