How many times have you heard players, parents and coaches making excuses for losses or for poor performances? “The field is too small, the weather wasn’t good or the field conditions were poor” just to name a few. Do both teams not play under the same conditions? Often you will get the response “they were the home team and they were used to the conditions.” These types of excuses are 100% on the shoulders of the coaches. It is your job as the coach to prepare your team for whatever conditions you might encounter. Stop making excuses and start coaching!
As the coach it is your job to put your team in the best position possible to get results. Preparing for field conditions is part of that process. In advance of your game take a drive up to the field of the team you will be playing. Walk off the field and see how the field compares in size to the fields you train. Take notice to the slopes, the level of hardness of the ground, the goalie box area, the middle of the field, the outside of the field, everywhere!
Let’s say that the field you will be playing on is much smaller than the norm and as we like to say it’s a “postage stamp.” These types of conditions bring difficulties to the game if you don’t prepare for them. The field will compact so getting the ball wide and getting in crosses will be difficult. During practice that week shorten up the field and make a “mock” field of what you are going to be playing on. Time and space are going to be limited so emphasize the importance of quick touches and short passes. You are going to have to be able to play under pressure and know where you are going to play the ball before you receive it. In your practice work on receiving the ball under pressure and getting rid of it quickly. The game is most likely going to be won by the team who makes the least amount of mistakes. Whenever you get an opportunity at goal, take the shot! A lot of good things can happen; you can get a deflection that finds the back of the net, it could deflect out for a corner or you could score a magnificent goal!
You should be looking to take advantage of any opportunity you get; it’s the small things that make the difference. It could be something as simple as wearing the right pair of boots. If it’s raining out, you shouldn’t be wearing turfs, if you have available a pair of studs wear them. It could prevent you from slipping and causing a mistake. If there is an obvious slope to the field, defend going uphill the first half. As the game continues the players will get fatigued and it will be an advantage for you to go downhill in the second half. The same thing goes for the wind, if you can battle and get through the first half going into the wind you will have an advantage attacking with the wind at your back the second half as players get fatigued. Another example is the placement of the sun. Depending on what time of day it is the sun will change directions. If you can plan it so the sun is in the opposing teams goalie’s face for more of the game that’s an advantage.
Being adaptive to uncontrollable conditions will make your team stronger. Try to simulate different situations that could occur in games within your practices. There are certain situations in the game that you can not control but that you can be prepared to face. Stop making excuses for your losses and poor performances and start taking responsibility. Prepare your team and get results!