Preparation for a game can be divided into six phases that take place relatively uniformly.
1. Final training and team meeting
Preparation for a game often begins for a coach and his/her team with the final training. The content of the training is focused on the upcoming opponent (e.g. tactical conduct and set pieces) so the players can adapt if necessary. After the final training a team meeting is held, in which all the important information about the opposition (when available) is relayed to the players. This includes but is not limited to: specific players, tactical particularities, probable formation, and recent experiences.
2. Meeting point and arrival
On match day all players should arrive at the meeting point in plenty of time. For home games in youth and amateur divisions about one and a half hours is enough time for talking, a speech from the coach, and a warm-up program of a set length. In higher divisions many teams eat lunch or a light snack together before the game, depending on the time. For an away game you should always allow plenty of time for traffic and delays, so you should leave a cushion to avoid stress. Important: The team’s punctuality at the meeting point is an absolute must!
3. Team meeting on match day
In this session the team gets all of the most important information about the game such as:
⦁ Assignments for individual positions
⦁ Game plan or objectives of the game (how we want to play, what we can use from training)
⦁ A short reminder about the specifics of the opponent
All of this information should be presented in a matter-of-fact tone. The players should have the opportunity to ask questions. All in all, you can plan for roughly a 15-minute meeting (2-3 minutes for the formation/line-up, 10 minutes to remind about tactics and the opponent, 2 minutes for questions).
4. Changing clothes and preparing to warm up
In this phase the players have some room to individualize their routines. A lot of teams have a playlist that plays in the locker room while they are changing into their uniforms. The players slowly begin to concentrate on themselves and the upcoming warm-up program. Most coaches (and teams) value going out onto the pitch together as a united front. In many cases, however, the goalkeepers begin to warm up somewhat earlier than the outfield players.
5. Warm-up program
Warming up can begin with stabilizing exercises. After that, you can begin practicing pass techniques, shots at goal, and small-sided game to get into the right state of mind and used to the pitch. It’s important that the drills done in the warm-up phase are predetermined and familiar, so the players are mentally taxed as little as possible and can concentrate on the task ahead. New exercises should therefore always be introduced in training.
6. Pre-game talk
The final phase before a game is a team huddle. This is your last chance to impact the players – whether it is to calm their nerves or get them fired up – which is why it’s important to use emotions purposefully. A coach who is constantly loud will eventually go unheard. In a well-functioning team there will be enough motivation from the players themselves that it’s not up to the coach alone to motivate them.