Using fixed solutions within sessions is something that though on the surface may seem like deepening player learning is in fact taking away from player’s decision making abilities. The effect of this means long term, the player can become coach dependent waiting for instructions rather than problem solving themselves. These fixed solutions act as enforced rules and begin to not only diminish the development of our players creativity and individuality but also of their game understanding and intelligence.

If we are to develop individual, creative and free thinking footballers, we are better off steering clear of enforcing ‘must do’ solutions when are designing our exercises and sessions and instead provide them with action choices. Yes we may have a collective topic that we are trying to work within and want this to come out, but by providing constraints and reward systems that encourage creativity and in game decision making it keeps players thinking quickly and independently all within the session’s topic.

Giving players license to express themselves and take ownership of their actions with what may be seen as unconventional methods will foster their creativity and allow them to find what works for them and what doesn’t. It will lead to plenty of mistakes and missed opportunities but it provides us as coaches with plenty of coaching points and opportunity for player learning.

The look players give you when you put conditions on them.

We can allow players to play freely both in individual formats as well as more collective ones but there is a distinction between letting them decide between a selection of specific choices and in just letting them do what they want. As coach we must provide them the opportunity to develop a different range of skills as well as experience a range of different situations in which these skills could be used.

The point remains that in a game like football for the majority of the situations a player can face has several ways to achieve the desired solution. It is a game of problem solving where there is no one prescribed way that every player must commit to. This is why ‘street football’ has given birth to some of the games greats. This is where players play in a completely player led format which can consist of constraints such as bigger sized opponents and teams, tight spaces and even uneven surfaces. From this we see huge gains in player independent thinking, creativity and game intelligence.

What do we think then? Is there an ideal time to let players go off on their own or not?

I want to hear from you!

Until tomorrow,



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