This is not a problem that only 1 coach, team or club experiences, I’m sure.
In fact there will be clubs and coaches all over the world asking themselves the same question – how can we get our players to training more often rather than just showing up to games?
There are a few ways to look at it, but firstly there is a note of caution that I would urge any coach to remember – unless you are coaching players old enough to travel under their own methods, all players rely on their parents or guardians to get them to training. When you are discussing a players attendance, or lateness, to a session it is best to consider if there may be additional factors in play. Therefore I urge you to tread very carefully when discussing attendance and always involve the parent or guardian.
So now let’s look at ways we can try to increase attendance in training:
The first thing for any coach/club should look for is an understanding why players aren’t attending. You can start by asking players and then parents/guardians, alternatively you can do both at same time. Doing this with the parent or guardian of a player, often works to achieving the most positive solution.
For example, “I’ve noticed it’s a struggle for the player to get to training recently. I just want to make sure that everything is ok and try to understand some of the reasons this maybe happening?” is a non-confrontational opening and sets the correct tone for the discussion. It also allows for a more constructive response and better chance to create a good outcome.
Once you understand the situation. you can then work out the schedule that best maximises attendance. If you skip this step you have the potential issue of alienating the people you are trying to bring closer. With modern methods, this could even be done via online meeting or a simple text, WhatsApp group etc, to ask for feedback.
Explain the structure of training
This may have already been done, however if players and parents/guardians understand the clubs approach to training, they may understand the importance of attending. If each session has a theme (i.e. development session, game preparation, match day -2, game review, etc.) players may be more motivated to understand why they are there. A better structured programme will give the feeling to the players that training is just as important as a game for their development. It will also motivate the adults to bring them to the sessions, ensuring they are there, so don’t miss out.
If players are missing sessions, there is a reason. This reason is not always to blame the players or parents attending. Look internally and ask yourself:
- Am I providing an environment that players want to come to regularly?
- What motivates players to attend training?
- Are they being paid to be there? If not, is it a fun environment that gives them what they want – to play football.
Ultimately it is not rocket science – players play football to PLAY FOOTBALL!
If sessions involve being stood still for long periods and listening to a coach talk then why would they come back.
Don’t forget you are competing with other activities they may find more fun – going out with friends, playing video games, etc. Therefore taking out their fun of playing football by dribbling round cones or being stood idle in lines for long periods might just make them question why they are bothering.
As a coach, plan and then review your sessions to ensure that ball rolling time and time spent playing is high enough to engage players. Allowing them to practice in game situations is a great way of achieving this. Don’t allow our own ego’s as coaches to take over what ultimately is the players’ game.
Reward Training Performance
You often here the phrase “if you don’t train, you can’t play!”. That’s a fair stance until you think about what we have stated earlier – The players don’t get a chance to take themselves to training and yet we end up punishing players for what ultimately is out of their control. This only adds to demotivate players, that’s even before you consider that the moment you break this rule once (even for your best player) it loses all meaning to all players.
Why not spin it round as a positive? Rather than a punishment for missing training, why not select the best “trainer” or “trainers”, that week and they get to play the full game, or captain the side. This supports a more positive environment, creating a reward for those attending rather than a punishment for those that don’t, thereby motivating all players to attend and do well.
Getting players to training is a delicate topic when these players are not being paid, playing for fun and ultimately reliant on their parents/guardians to get to training. Therefore solving the problem of non-attendance should be done in cooperation with all 3 parties. It should also start with the coach looking internally at what environment they provide for the players. Once these are done you can then look towards structuring the sessions and topics appropriately and rewarding performance in training to games. Linking training to games and games to training is a great way to get player involvement.