How To Plan A Coaching Session [Part 2]

In the second part of this series, we explore how coaches can structure and plan a football coaching session to ensure that their players are motivated, acquiring key outcomes and have fun!

Apr 6th 2022

Written by The Coaching Manual

Is it football?

There are a variety of different ways that coaches can structure a training session to introduce, develop or refine your players' skill base and game understanding.

However, as a reminder, it is important that coaches ensure that the sessions they design and deliver are specific to what happens in the game, are age/ability appropriate with individual and group challenges and are fun and engaging for the players.

TOP TIP: Does the practice you're putting on look like football?

  • Is it directional?
  • Is it in a defined space?
  • Is there a clear scoring system?

A coach should ask themselves the following questions when planning for football development;

  • Is football being played?
  • Is football being coached and learned?
  • Are your players enjoying the football experience?
  • Do your players understand where the learning outcomes occur within the game?
  • Are your players provided with individual and team challenges?
  • Are your players being asked to work hard physically?

If the answer to any of the questions is NO, then a coach can self-reflect and ask themselves if the structure of the session is aligned to the development of the players.

Use The Coaching Manual's Practice and Session Design Tools


The first and most important step in designing practices and sessions is to have somewhere to record your ideas. Pen and paper is king, but if you'd like to create a digital legacy of your coaching delivery, try out The Coaching Manual's cutting edge design tools by clicking on the My Content tab above.

Structuring coaching sessions

Here at The Coaching Manual, we are constantly asked about the best way to structure a coaching session.

As a coach who has worked at all levels of the game and across all ages, I have used a variety of methods to help players acquire game understanding and learn the skills required to be successful.

Below are a number of examples of how to set up a coaching session to ensure learning is taking place.


1. Progressive Part/Chaining Method

The progressive part method, also known as the 'chaining' method, is a popular teaching tool in football coaching. It can be used to teach almost any task, particularly those tasks that have a number of distinct elements, performed in a specific order.


This approach involves breaking down a complex action or task into parts and then allowing the learner to perform and attempt each part in sequential order as they build up the confidence and skill set to perform the complete task.

Many of football's National Governing Bodies have preached this coaching method and is also widespread in education. I myself, have utilised the progressive part method for many years when working with youth players as I believe the warm up allows players to acclimatise to the environment and sets the scene for the key learning points.

The technical practice facilitates and refines technical requirements needed to achieve the outcomes, and the skill practice then introduces pressure and game-specific decision making.

Finally, the game can then be used to piece everything together to allow players to demonstrate their understanding and execution of the learning objectives.

2. Whole Part Whole Method

Players are first exposed the the "whole" in this method, which may be a version of the game, as this allows players to prepare and recognise the learning objectives and concepts within the larger framework of the game.

For example, a session on midfield rotation may begin with a whole 9v9 game with both teams playing a 1-3-3-2 formation.

The coaching focus then shifts to the “part”, accelerating players learning and development of the practice objectives. In the theme of midfield rotation, the part may be set up with a 3v3+2 rondo exercise with players focusing specifically on movement, rotation and combinations.

Once players begin to understand and perform the specific coaching points, it is time to return back to the whole as coaches assess learning that has taken place and identify player understanding of the individual parts within the context of the game.

This midfield rotation session can be found in the related content section of this article or by clicking here.


A whole part whole method can also be used to teach individual techniques to young players. A new player to football may be asked by a coach or parent to strike the ball at goal. The process of striking the ball can then be broken down into parts (angle of approach, non-kicking foot at side of the ball, head over the ball, contact surface) before returning back to the whole, original challenge.


The whole part whole method was heavily promoted on The FA"s Youth Modules and I believe the benefits of this method include;

  • Opportunities for players to play
  • Opportunities for coaches to observe
  • Allows players to familiarise themselves with the learning objectives within the context of the game
  • Promotes coaches to use the game as a starting point when planning sessions
  • Young players get to play the game at the very beginning of the session, which is motivating and enjoyable for players

3. Carousel

This coaching method involves dividing your squad into 2, 3 or 4+ subgroups and then setting up stations or activities around a specific theme, as players complete each activity before coming together and implementing the learning objectives in games.


The benefits of this type of session are that it can cater for large numbers of players, introduce variation into your practices and allows for the creation of different game-specific scenarios within the same practice.

For example, this Finishing Carousel incorporates players dribbling to finish, finishing with 1 touch, beating a defender to finish and volley finishes. This session plan can be found in the related content section of this article or by clicking here.

4. Part / Variety Method

The part method involves the coach breaking down the complexities of a concept into distinct parts that are practiced separately.

Unlike the progressive-part method, the part/variety method may or may not be directly integrated. Rather, the part method may be utilised to coach a number of different components that can link to the concept within the game.

For example, a coach may deliver a part 1 practice that focuses on receiving to play forwards, part 2 works on passing and combination play, and part 3 involves finishing in the final third. This session can be found in the related content or by clicking here.

Whilst the three exercises are correlated to achieve the outcome of playing forwards to finish, the learning has not been scaffolded and the parts may be delivered separately before then piecing together to achieve the overall outcome in the game.

In Summary

There are a number of ways to plan a coaching session and the structure that a coach adopts can be determined by factors including the ability of players, player's needs and requirements, space available and player numbers.

Above all, however, you choose to plan and deliver a session it is important that the session looks like the game, challenges the players and is fun to take part in.

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