In this blog, we are going to explore five different ways you can challenge your better players as a coach. In every group at all levels, you will come across a difference between the level of your players with some players excelling and others finding it more difficult. As a coach, finding ways to challenge your better players can sometimes be difficult which can lead onto them feeling bored or not trying as hard as they could. Therefore, this blog is going to provide some potential ideas to coaches that are looking for ways they can challenge players within their team:

Plan Around Them: Firstly, when planning your training sessions you should look at how you can plan to support and challenge individuals in your sessions. If you have a particular theme or topic, plan how you can stretch that player in your session. In order to do this, you will need to understand what makes them your better player? Are they more physically developed? Technically ahead? By understanding the individual will help how you can plan your session to challenge them throughout. After you’ve planned your session, as you begin to deliver it you will need to observe their behaviours and success of the challenge and then be able to adapt how you can challenge them further. A great way of engaging the player may be to ask them how did they find the challenge? What could we do to make it harder for you? Involving them in the process may help provoke some ideas of ways you can tailor the session to meet their needs.

Provide Problems; Not Solutions: As coaches, we can often be drawn into solving the problems for our players in fear that the practice looks messy and chaotic, similarly, when the team isn’t having success on a match day. As acknowledged in the planning, we as coaches should look to find ways of providing problems for our players, particularly, our better players to solve. For example, if you’re delivering a defending session rather than organising the session to have defenders defending against the same number, you may increase the number so they defend in an overload. Being deliberate with providing problems to your better players, will challenge them further to find ways to solve them independently, with the guidance and support of the coach.

Playing Them Across Age Groups: Another way of challenging your better players is playing them across age groups. Whether it’s playing with older or younger players, each will provide a different return and a different challenge for your players. Playing your players with older players will challenge them in different ways whether it is: physically, socially, technically etc. This may help you to stretch your better players by placing them in an environment where they may not get as much success, but also leading onto them to find different solutions to the problems that they’re facing throughout the session or game.

Using Positions to Stretch Them: Playing players in different positions will force them to adapt and play in area of the pitch that they’re not so comfortable. When it comes to challenging your better players, you may play them in a position that they’re not so comfortable in to provide them with a different challenge. For example, if you have a really good dribbler in your team – you may look to play them in defence rather than as a attacker, which will challenge them to dribble past more players to create opportunities for themselves or their team mates as well as challenging them to make the decision of when to pass and when to dribble.

Even better if…: Another way of challenging your better players is acknowledging when they get success with a particular task or action, is praising it but challenging them with ‘how could it be even better…’. For example, if a player has receive the ball and kept it for the team by passing sideways, you may acknowledge their decision but then ask them how it could be even better.. i.e. passing forwards or breaking a line. Using even better if… can be a useful strategy to challenge your players even further to help them to improve even further on the decisions that they’ve made.