As soon as I heard it, I had to rewind and listen again…

I was listening to a short, but quite good podcast (the link is below if you’d like to listed to it)…

The interview was just getting going, starting to talk about mentality. Then he dropped this value bomb…

“What you accept in training is all you can expect in the arena”

What a beauty!

I’ve always thought that one of the strong points of my training sessions was getting players to train at a high intensity level. Having played at a high level myself, I’ve always felt it was something I could transfer to the players. While I demand a high intensity, after hearing that quote, it made me examine my training sessions.

What have I been ‘accepting’ that doesn’t benefit the players, that doesn’t promote an elite environment?


I think it’s important to note that I coach some of the younger ages and fun is an integral part of our training sessions. What I’m not making that quote mean is that our U9 players need to be all business the entire practice. We’re not wiring robots, we’re developing children as people and players. Our young players need to enjoy themselves and I’m happy to promote and ‘accept’ them having fun.

But there’s more to it…

Have you ever watched a practiced and seen a 5 minute water break where the kids are running around squirting water on each other?

Have you ever watched a training session where the coach spends 5 minutes setting up and removing cones between each activity?

Have you ever watched kids arrive to training, launch their soccer bags in every direction and proceed to punt their balls in all directions (and sometimes at each other)?

These are some of the things that I don’t need to ‘accept’ as a coach. And fortunately, I can take responsibility for those things and quite a bit more.

How Do We Create An Elite Atmosphere?

If we want our young players to develop and ultimately perform in the ‘arena’, training has to be a special place.

Our young players need to have fun, but we also need to introduce them to elite training. We need to hold them, and ourselves as coaches, accountable, in the right way, to giving their best within a challenging space.

To do that, there are some small details that we can address as coaches that can make a huge impact on how our kids practice.

Take a look at a few…

  • Pre-set Warm Up/Arrival Routine – The time between when a player arrives to training and when training begins can be a chaotic one. The coach is usually setting up and the players are simply killing time until training begins. How about having set activities for when players arrive to training? As soon as they arrive, they know what to do. If no other players have arrived, they are working with the ball. When more players arrive, they begin to play 2v2/3v3 or play 4v1/5v2 rondos up until training starts.
  • Line Up The Bags – This goes along with the arrival activities. When players arrive, they line their bags up. And they don’t just throw them close in what might be considered a line. They line them up impeccably. All bags facing the same direction looking neat and sharp. It’s something I started doing recently with my teams and while it’s an activity that takes very little time, it helps set the tone for the entire training session.
  • Plan Training Down To The Minute – There are some great stories about John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach, and how detail oriented he was during training. Maximizing his time was something he was excellent at. Planning training sessions down to the minute allows coaches to truly maximize the session. All coaches should be planning their sessions, but when you plan down to the minute, everything changes. Imagine three water breaks during a session that average 4 minutes each. That’s a long break, but not uncommon in an unplanned session. That’s 12 minutes of water break time. A session planned to the minute could average a minute and a half per water break. Three of those is just under 5 minutes of water break time. A 90 minute session where 85 of those minutes are spent playing, learning and developing will naturally help players maximize their development.

These are just a few of the ways coaches and clubs can start maximizing their player development and create an elite atmosphere at training. There are plenty more…

The more ways we pay attention to these details and commit to maximizing them, the less we have to ‘accept’.

The end result should be more kids developing and having more fun both at training and in the ‘arena’.

Here is the link to the podcast if you’d like to listen…

Listen To The Podcast Here