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March 26, 2023

One sided score lines - how we can still develop players


We’ve all been there coaching a game where the score line is extremely one sided. Trying to support players so low on confidence that it’s hard to motivate or beginning to be lazy as they find the challenge too easy. So in these situations, how do we challenge our players to improve, either on the single occasion or over the season? Do we allow the result or our own ego’s to get in the way of challenging the group? Are we too proud to accept “help” from a team that is beating us comfortably? This was a question posed by one of our partner clubs. Here’s some ideas:

Redefine winning

This is a key concept when motivating players. Players and coaches alike will often take the result of a game as the way to judge success or failure. However performance can sometimes go unrewarded. This means losing games where your performance is good or winning games where performance is poor. Focusing on process allows us to redefine winning. This can really help us if games are one sided as coaches can quickly redefine winning. Setting challenges to complete as individuals, units or a team, can refocus and re-energise players. Here are some examples when losing heavily:

  • Can we limit the opposition to less goals/shots in this half?
  • Can we force play wide in the defending half of the pitch to stop them playing through?
  • Can we force them to shoot from outside the box?
  • Increase time between each goal. 

Here are some examples for teams winning comfortably:

  • Can we increase our pass completion?
  • Can we visit at least 1 wide area before we can score?
  • Can we play through our CDM to score?
  • Can we score using a 1 touch finish?
  • X amount of passes before you can score.
  • Must play back to GK before attacking (working on playing out from the back)

Discussions can then be focussed about how you go about doing that. Success can be given by coaches if this is completed rather than if they win/lose the half in terms of a score line. 

Create the environment

Coaches from both teams working together when the score line starts to increase could help with an environment that benefits all players. Creating an overload by either adding or removing players helps challenge the team ahead and give extra support to the team that’s behind. How or when you do this is entirely up to you but, if your league doesn’t allow extra players to be added, taking one/two off can get the same results within the laws of the game. 

Creating the overload in favour of the losing team, will make decision making in possession harder for the winning team and easier for the losing team to get more bodies between the ball and the goal. 

Performance Analysis

Now this is a fantastic area that we will delve into with more detail in future blogs. However in this case, setting performance targets for players to hit is a great way to focus attention on development. Pass completion, possession clocks and tackle success are just 3 areas that you can track during games. The even better thing about doing this is it’s something the players themselves can track. Whiteboards or stopwatches are great for substitutes to keep a tally. The results of each game can then be tracked throughout the season. 

This takes all the focus onto outcomes rather than performance. Setting targets can be great motivators for players. 


We can challenge players in lots of different ways within games, even when the score line is one sided. Teams and coaches that focus on processes rather than just outcome will find players are more motivated by this. But above anything else, with some creative thinking, and Coach Maker+ support we can continue to stretch and challenge players even when the score line becomes one sided.