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Game Day


It is possible to begin a game with players running from the parking lot onto the playing field just before the whistle blows. It is also possible to be on the short side of a 1 - 0 score within a few minutes of kickoff because your team wasn't ready to play, physically or mentally. Showing up to a game on time means being on time for all warm-up activities. A coach can encourage punctuality by preparing a routine and making sure that every player and parent understands its purpose. The team's printed schedule should include arrival time for pre-game warm-up in bigger print than the kickoff time.

Older youth teams may spend 45 minutes to an hour preparing for a game. For preteens, a routine that takes 20 - 30 minutes should be adequate. Teams playing at an unfamiliar field should allow extra time for traffic and vague directions.

T -30 The first players and parents to arrive can socialize, watch the previous game, and make sure they are properly dressed - shinguards, cleats, an extra layer or two in cold weather, etc..
T -25 As players arrive, take the time to have a brief word with each one. "How is your sore knee?" "How did your piano recital go?" "Try to get out wide when we win the ball." Since the playing field will often be in use, find an area where they can pass a ball around in groups of threes. Encourage a variety of touches: one, two, juggle, dribble and turn, in the air, on the ground. Each group should intermix with the other groups using the entire area. Keep them moving. You can also play a keepaway game; 2/1 offense/defense ratio. Socializing is over now, it's time to play soccer!
T -20 Assign a new player every week to lead dynamic stretching. All at an easy jog pace: Jog, Backwards, Side-to-Side shuffle to the left, to the right, Hit your outstretched hands with your knees, Kick your open hands (which cover your rear end) with your heels, Carioca (alternate sideways crossover/cross behind) to the left, to the right, Jump up off your Left foot, off your Right foot, off Both feet, bend down Touch the Ground w/Left hand, w/Right hand, w/Both hands.
T -15 Everyone get a drink of water. Organize them for static stretching, more to develop the habit rather than out of necessity as they approach their teens. Announce lineup. Resist the urge to change it when stragglers show up a few minutes before kick-off. From your notes, offer an offensive and a defensive pointer to the GK, backs, midfielders, and strikers. Try to keep your remarks to under two minutes.
T -10 Note how many minutes until the final whistle of the previous game so you'll be ready to make the best use of the time between games. Organize a shooting drill that keeps balls and players moving. Make arrangements to have an assistant warm up the GK separately! With YOU in goal, put Player "A' just outside the penalty area even with the right goal post, player "B' next to him even with the left post. The rest of the players form two lines on either side of the goal posts just off the playing field. First player in the line plays the ball diagonally to "A' who shoots. Passer runs around "B' to take his place. "A' goes to the back of near line after the shot. First player in the other line passes to "B' who shoots while passer runs around other shooter to take "B''s place. Limit the shooting distance and number of touches before the shot according to age and skill. Encourage low shots on target; put away rebounds. Parents can help collect missed shots or kids have to chase their own high and wide ones. Keep the lines moving.
T -5 Captains are called out for the coin toss by the referee. When they return, bring the team together for a very brief pep talk. A big cheer, and starters take their positions on the field. There should be a minute or two to warm up the keeper in the goal area you will be defending and to pass a few balls among the players who are in their positions. When the other team is ready to play, kick the nongame balls off the field, and you're ready to kick . . . . . . .


The amount of time available at the half will be extremely variable. At times it seems each league, each tournament, and even each referee will add or subtract time. The rules state that halftime should be a minimum of 5 minutes but that can be eliminated at some tournaments. This can be a valuable moment for a coach in a game and should be used wisely.

Planning begins before the half is over. Pick a spot where you can assemble the team, preferably away from distractions (parents, friends, siblings, etc.). Depending on the weather you may want to select a sheltered area out of the wind and sun. Send your team in that direction while you briefly talk with your assistants to confirm your opinions or get more suggestions.

Try and get the team to face you with no distractions behind you. They should be drinking or enjoying half time refreshments by now and your thoughts should be organized, perhaps on paper. Some players (particularly in the older age groups) may need to stretch or move to keep the muscles limber. Make sure that everyone has adequate fluids (note: adequate-don't drink till you slosh).

Step 1: Check for injuries- now is the time to note blisters, twisted ankles, etc. that may affect your line ups for the second half.

Step 2: Check for fun. In the younger age groups this is paramount. If they are not having fun, why are they there?

Step 3: Praise- be brief and complimentary.

Step 4: Announce line ups for second half.

Step 5: Make your points. They may just be a repeat of the topics you mentioned at the start of the game or a brief description of some problems you or the assistants noted. It should be limited to 2 or 3 points for U-10, just one point for U-8 and younger. More than that and you will run out of time or they will cease to hear you. Some coaches like to ask for players' opinions. This may best be left for older age groups since some immature teams will unleash a disruptive chorus of comments or complaints.

Step 6: Praise and encourage again.

Step 7: Send them out for warm ups/ start of the half (whichever there is time for). If there is time for warm-ups you may want to bring the team in just before the half starts for a huddle, very brief reminder of your points, and a team cheer. Be prepared to announce the line ups again since most younger age groups will have forgotten their position by now. Count the players on the field before the whistle.

Step 8: Have a seat and enjoy the game!


Two or three long blasts of the whistle signal the end of the game, but don't send your players home just yet. Watch your players for possible unsporting behavior on the field and nip it in the bud. (You can expect the referee(s) to check as well). Before the traditional walk-by handshakes, have your players come together quickly away from everyone else and make the following points.
  1. "Regardless of the outcome of the game and opponents' attitude, tell them 'Good Game', look them in the eye, and mean it."
  2. "This means you have to feel as good as possible about yourself, so forgive yourself for mistakes, and don't get too swell headed about your good plays. Line up." Check the line for good sportsmanship. Thank the ref and the coach. (You will likely see them both again, perhaps many times.) Pay attention to local customs regarding postgame rituals. Applause by your parents or players for your team or opponents or running through parent formed arches should be performed only if you can enhance the enjoyment of all the participants without making the losers feel worse. Anything that resembles gloating is not only poor sportsmanship, but will likely come back to haunt you as the losers gear up for the inevitable return match. Don't give them a reason to work harder to beat you.

If you lost, you may want to attend to egos by making sure that no one accepts or places blame, by saying things like "It's just a game.", or "Everyone has a bad game sometimes.", or "They had to get through ten of you before they beat the keeper, so don't blame him/her." These little homilies may help ease the pain. Don't go into a long technical analysis of what went wrong. Consult with the manager, assistant coach, or other volunteer for any announcements. Avoid serious team meetings after a game, especially after a loss.

Take the team out for a treat if you like. Maybe save it for a special second-half effort against a strong team, not as a reward for a win. If you're driving home with your son or daughter, keep the conversation light. "Did you enjoy the game? I did." Suggest that other parents avoid long technical discussions on the way home. A blame session often results which can breed dissension in the team.

Updated 1 April 1999