How Can a Soccer Coach Best Use Their Subs?

He's subbing off Rooney? - (Photo:

Coaching soccer is as much about game plans and formations as it is about best utilizing one’s bench in the crucial moments of a game.  Knowing when a player needs to take a break or knowing when a substitute could come on and make an impact in the game is often the difference between winning and losing a match.  So when should coach’s make such changes?

The great thing about amateur soccer is that there are typically an infinite number of substitutions allowed during games.  Unlike professional matches that often restrict teams to making only three changes in a game, rec or high school soccer gives coaches a chance to continuously alter their team to best support the squad.

Therefore, a coach can make changes at will and can often soften the blow of hectic moments with smart substitutions.  One key time to play this card is when one or more of your players are on their back foot and are struggling in the game.  Momentum is so key in the sport that a shaky player is liable to cause a mental breakdown that results in conceding a goal.  Worse yet, his or her drop in confidence will spread to the rest of your team and bring down the overall level of play.  Subbing out a struggling player helps two-fold. The new player can delve into the game while the player substituted can recover with a few moments of rest and a sip on the water bottle.

Another time that warrants a subbing off is anytime a player receives a yellow card. Take them out of the game, even just for a few minutes to help them calm down and re-focus.  A young player often will let a booking get in their head and can exacerbate the situation if they don’t have a moment of peace to reflect.

Of course tactical substitutions can be a great bonus to your team as well.  If you notice that the opposition struggles to break down attacks from the right side, bring on your fastest player late in the game and charge straight at the defender.  These kind of moves are what has made coaches like Jose Mourinho famous, and your team can be raised to new heights with brilliant changes and best utilizing your whole squad.

Regardless of how and when you make your substitutions, be sure to keep them up to a regular pace.  A good coach will use his entire squad to enable proper rest and prevent fatigue from harming your team late in games.  Mix it up a bit and see what changes work best for your team, find out which players gel with each other, and watch your team rise to new levels!

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Nicholas Spiller

Nicholas Spiller resides in LA where he dreams of musical super-stardom on his bass guitar. He also writes for and is an avid Arsenal fan!

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