Approaching planning a session it’s easy to look at the beginning of the session as the logical start of where you should be planning from, however, this is far from it. When planning from start to finish, it’s important you understand that where you start isn’t where you will finish, therefore the start of your planning should actually be with the end in mind. In this blog, I am going to explore what you may need to consider when planning a session.

Everyone Plans Differently…

Once I was tasked with delivering a session from someone else’s plan and found it incredibly difficult to follow. Why? The process of how I plan had been bypassed and I was unable to deliver what I was provided with as it had indented to be. However, another individual was able to seamlessly pick up the session plan and deliver it as it had shown. This exercise made me realise that my process that I follow as a coach to plan is unique to me and shouldn’t be undervalued by me not spending time both following as well as improving it. Likewise, if you are providing a plan for others it’s equally as important to share the process that you’ve followed in order to design the session you are providing for them.

The means in which one may plan will vary from one person to the next and in a world which is provides the assistance of technology to help us plan it’s very important that we don’t constrain individuals from being able to plan effectively based on what they feel comfortable with. Therefore, as a coach i’d challenge you to look at how you currently like to plan and why? What makes you plan that way? Is it that you are constrained by time or find the use of computers a challenge or perhaps you prefer to use sessions that you’ve stored in your mind and in a split second you are able to cipher through to determine which one is best to deliver? Therefore, I would recommend coaches completing this task to understand why they plan the way that they do:


In whatever way you wish, look at these considerations for how you currently plan:

Method of planning i.e. laptop, by hand etc.
Time spent planning a session
Do you always follow the session plan?
Who is the session plan for?
How do you currently review your session? If so, do you refer back to your review for future sessions?
What do you like most about how you plan?
What do you feel could be improved in how you plan?

The reason why it’s important to understand why you plan as you do is it will enable to help you to understand how/what areas you may need to consider moving forwards to plan more effectively for your sessions. For example, it may be that you notice that through planning on paper you find it difficult to review and keep a record of your sessions or another example may be that you are spending too much time planning.

Approach to Planning:

Objective of the Session – When planning your session you need to look at what the objectives are of the session for your players. This may vary from preparing them for a fixture to improving a particular area that they group needs. Your session plan should always have this objective in mind for your group as well as your individuals within the session.

Individual Players – Individual players should be the focus of your planning. Approaching planning by focusing on coaching points or topics are important, but not as important as the individual player. You may need to look at the topic and how and which players are best for you to focus on throughout the session. Planning for individuals should be the main focus of any coaches planning.

Coaching Topic – Once you’ve outlined the objectives for your players as well as what individuals you will work with. Now it’s time to begin planning what the topic or theme is for your session I.e. what are the principles of the topic and the coaching point? The main objective of the session will outline what you want to achieve and the detail of the topic and how you plan for individuals will help you to bring it to life.

Practice Design and Constraints – Your practice design will enable you as a coach to look at how you plan each part of your session and implement your plan. Practice design will help you as a coach to deliver your plan as well as meet the needs of your players. Some examples of the types of practice designs that you may wish to consider could be: Technical Practice, Small Sided Games, Whole – Part – Whole, Carousel, Skills Circuit etc. A constraints based approach is also one that enables coaches to simply plan out specific constraints/challenges for the players throughout the session to support their learning around the topic or what they as an individual are focusing on.

Delivery – Now you have planned your session it’s time for you to understand how you will deliver it. What will your coaching style be? For example, will you be command led, use guided discovery and or ask players questions throughout to check their understanding. How will you support their learning I.e. will it be a player led session or will you lead it?

Review – After you’ve delivered your session it’s important that you review it by yourself or with other staff that you were working with. In order to review a session a process may be that you look at WWW (what went well? what would I do differently? What will I change next time?). To review further, it may be that you look to review each of the areas outlined above I.e. did you meet the session objectives? Did you meet the needs of the individual players that you wanted to focus on? Were you successful in developing the players understanding of the coaching topic? Did the practice design work? Was your coaching style suitable for the players and the topic and were you able to transfer learning effectively?

Planning Phase

Professor William M.K. Trochim, outlines a process that coaches may wish to follow through the Planning-Evaluation Cycle. Whilst this may not wholly be geared for sports coaches, the principles of the planning and evaluation phase outlined by Trochim can certainly resonate with coaches when approaching planning and evaluating their own coaching sessions. This method may be one that you wish to look as a coach and consider how you can apply it to your own planning for your sessions for your players.

Prof William M.K. Trochim

The story of the great interpreter and session thief:

The great interpreter is someone that I’ve been intrigued with by a number of years now. They are an individual that can simply observe a session and interpret the intent as well as how it is delivered and completely make it their own. The great interpreter studies from a distance, on your shoulder and through delivery by simply taking what they’ve seen before them and transforming it into something they believe will meet the needs of their players within their environment.

The session thief is an intriguing figure. They take on the structure of each and every session that they see and deliver it word by word, minute by minute as it they had seen it. They search high and far beyond for the best practices and deliver them, over and over again. They are never happy, they always look for new sessions and don’t settle.

The session thief, as resourceful as they are, for some reason isn’t able to deliver the sessions they’ve taken to their own players and deliver it as they’ve seen in person or on paper. When the session doesn’t work, they move onto the next one and don’t look back in the search for the next best session. Time after time.

The great interpreter, their approach is different. They stick with the session that they’ve seen, the idea ignites and inspires them on how they can make it their own. Continually, they review and adapt the plan to meet their players needs.

Neither way is right or wrong. We all need to be a thief but the skill is interpreting it and making it our own and right for our players within our own environment.

For more tips on planning sessions, have a read of this blog on small sided games: