Maximising Contact Time
'' If you have to completely demolish your set up area for each individual exercise you are wasting valuable time ''
For most, having your players 3/4 days a week to train and develop them is merely a dream. Most grassroots clubs especially perhaps will get their players for an hour or an hour a half a week, whilst many Academies in the foundation ages (8-12) will still only get their players a couple of times a week. This is the situation I have found myself in with my group, but instead of being green-eyed with the luxuries many Category 1 and Category 2 academies have, I relish the challenge of trying to close the gap and trying to maximise what we have.
A crucial objective of being a coach is to obviously develop and improve players/athletes. Therefore the time we have with them is absolutely imperative in achieving our goal. I have both taken part in and delivered coaching sessions where lots of time has been lost organising, setting up, explaining and clearing up. I think a lot about this and I strive to make every single second of contact time with the players valuable. I once did an equation to work out how much time is potentially lost over the course of a season through slow starts, setting up before and between activities, clearing up etc. Over the course of say a 35-week season (may be longer), where a team trains for 2 X 90 minute sessions a week, 17 and a half hours is lost if we go by an average of 15 minutes 'wasted time' per session (which I believe can be very easily done and I'm sure some coaches exceed this). 17 and a half hours could be the same as thirteen 80 minute games added to your fixture list, or an extra eleven 90 minute training sessions. This calculation disturbed me as I thought about the potential development that could be lost by neglecting and wasting such time. The odd 5 minutes here and there wasted on setup, clear up etc. clearly adds up over the course of the season.
I then began trying to think of methods I could use to reduce the amount of 'wasted' time during sessions. One example of a simple method I use to save time is to set up my activities prior to the players arrival. One more method is to try to plan for activities that require minimal changes to the playing area (I.e. The lifting of just a few cones). If you have to completely demolish your set up area for each individual exercise you are wasting valuable time. The two examples provided are probably quite obvious, but are also incredibly significant. Other smaller details include the location your players leave their drinks; I've had players in the past that have had to travel across a full size 3G to grab their drink and walk back again, again killing valuable minutes which could be utilised for coach-player interactions/player-player interactions or 'ball-rolling time'. A simple solution is to mark out a drinks area close to the playing area and ensure drinks are left there. Ideas mentioned are literally just grazing the surface of methods I have tried and you can use to maximise contact time and I urge you to try to think creatively to do so. Activity doesn't necessarily equal achievement though and all of this is less significant if the sessions in the first place are ineffective - but that's a whole different topic.
Also, as coaches we can be creative about how we can facilitate the learning process in your players where they are away from training. Can you make the players aware of the objectives of a session before they arrive? Can you plant seeds in their head away from training? Can you facilitate the consolidation process during their car journey home? There are many many ways learning can be achieved without you necessarily being there, of which many can be extremely effective to their development as a player. I have sent my players clips of individual players in the past which they've watched at home, they have then come back and started implementing things they have seen to great effect.
Hope this post has served a purpose and given some a bit of food for thought.
Enjoy the process.
About the author: Matty is a talented young UEFA B Football Coach who currently works in the foundation phase of an English Football League Academy. Make sure you give him a follow on Twitter!