As we approach our tournament season we wanted to share some tips for football tournaments. For many the first in a couple of years we wanted to highlight some tips for coaches on how to approach tournament football. In this blog we will explore how to approach tournament football, giving coaches some top tips on the best way to plan, deliver and review it.

Like with any competition, it’s important to understand the age groups that you are working with and what is expected of them. Therefore, our the first thing to consider is setting the clear expectation.

Setting Expectations:

Clubs should look to introduce at the beginning of each season an induction for their players, coaches, and parents. Induction is a great opportunity to provide clarity on how you will run as a club and what your expectations are. In an induction, tournament football can be covered and this is a great opportunity to not only highlight your tournament (if you’re hosting one) as well as how you will approach other tournaments too.

As you near tournament season, or before any tournaments, a ‘Pre-tournament meeting’, can also be another great opportunity to remind parents, players, and coaches what our expectations and approach will be to the tournament.

For many, tournament football will be the first opportunity for them to be introduced into ‘competitive’ football where scores will be recorded and the children will have the opportunity to win the competition. As a result, emotions for players, coaches, and parents will be heightened as they try to do their best in each of the tournaments that they participate in. Clear expectations can provide clubs with the opportunity to Pre-empt what this may look like and remind them of the expectations.

Outcome:

What do you want the outcome to be for the tournament? What does success look like?

As mentioned above, providing clarity on what you want to achieve in the tournament can align parents, players, and coaches. Coaches may go into a tournament with an expectation to win, however, the players may have a completely different expectation and therefore it will mean that there can be unrealistic expectations leading into the tournament.

Working with your players to define what they want to achieve will help to avoid this. This will also provide coaches with a platform to share with parents what the group wishes to try to achieve in the upcoming tournament so that there is alignment.

Consistency:

Tournament football will also challenge coaches to be consistent with their approach to such areas as coaching behaviours, language, playing time, positions, etc. As tournaments will be competitive this can often lead to coaches approaching the tournament differently to a normal match. Children can go in with the expectation to play and be sat on the bench, with some not even being selected. Therefore, coaches must maintain being consistent and provide all of their players with equal opportunities to develop.

A great tip for coaches is to plan out their game time for players before the tournament and look ahead to each fixture and have a rough understanding of who’s playing where and who will get what minutes. This may mean that you have to be flexible if someone needs to come off through injury or is late arriving but it will be a great way of ensuring all of your players are provided with an equal opportunity.

Engaging With Parents:

Linking back to the initial point around expectation, you should also consider how you will engage with your parents throughout the tournament. One approach may be to keep the players away from the parents throughout the tournament to keep them focused on the tournament and allow them to be independent to deal with the challenges of tournament football. Another approach may be to keep parents fully engaged throughout the tournament and allow for them to have interaction with the coach and players.

Whatever you decide, make it clear to parents what the expectations are beforehand and continue to remind them if needed throughout the tournament. It may be worth having a meeting with your parents before the tournament kicks off on the day and address this and remind them of these expectations.

Off The Pitch:

As we know tournaments aren’t just about football. It’s a fantastic opportunity for the children to strengthen their relationships with their peers as well as interact with other children from other clubs.

Therefore, between the games, coaches should look to plan out some social time for their players. This may mean that they’re active and playing with some of the activities provided in the tournament, but also it may mean simply some downtime too.

Again, providing expectations for the players before the beginning of the tournament and how this time will or could be used will keep them engaged as well as help to manage their energy throughout the day. Children will need to be given time for drinks and snacks throughout the day and allowing for his time is important.

Considerations:

  • Free time.
  • Food/Drink breaks.
  • Tournament activities.
  • Reflecting/tasks.
  • Time with parents.
  • Review.

At the end of the tournament, you will have a great opportunity to sit down with your players and parents to review the tournament. This review will allow you to get some feedback from them and help you to plan, deliver and review future tournaments.

Coaches should look to seek feedback on:

  • What went well?
  • Even better if?
  • What to do differently next time?

Whether it is a meeting with the players and parents or simply a feedback form for them to complete – collecting some feedback on their experiences is a great way of measuring whether it delivered upon those expectations that you set out.

Conclusion:

To conclude here is a summary of some of the key points that you make wish to take into account for tournament football:

  • Set clear expectations.
  • Engagement with parents.
  • Be consistent.
  • Plan ahead (on and off the pitch).
  • Review.

It might be also useful to read this blog which highlights the role of the coach for junior football: https://footballdna.co.uk/the-role-of-a-grassroots-coach/