Inspirational opportunities through tournament football

Inspirational opportunities through tournament football

Jodie Whitford-Stark, coach development officer for the FA women’s high-performance football centre at st marys university, talks about how you can provide inspirational opportunities through tournament football. 

Whenever I’ve said, ‘today we are going to play a tournament, I’ve been greeted by smiles and cheers! And other than being enjoyable, tournaments can be a great way to support player development. By manipulating the rules and constraints of our tournaments, we can ensure our players engage in inspirational opportunities to play. And, this is what this blog shall explore. 

The first thing you may decide is who is involved in the tournament. Is it an in-house tournament or is it versus an external team? There are benefits to playing new opposition as well as playing within your age group or club. Either way, the concept of a ‘tournament’ – where you record scores, award points, and play for a set amount of time should encourage competitiveness.  

Next, you may decide the format of your tournament.  Smaller-sided tournaments e.g., 3v3 may encourage more: 
- passing – receiving – turning – finishing – moving with the ball – pressing – challenging. Whereas 5 v 5 tournaments may encourage more interceptions. Whilst 7v7 tournaments incur the least amount of these actions per player; they may help you to support your players tactically more so than technically. 

The other format to decide is whether it is a league tournament or knockout or both. The way a team may play to win a league may be different from how they play to win a knockout game. And, with a knockout, you could have teams enter different tournaments e.g. champions league, europa league or europa conference. 

You may also decide that the format of the tournament is not about winning a game or series of matches. You could award players and teams based on several things (as well as or instead of winning) e.g.  

  • Team to score the most goals 
  • Individual to get the most assists 
  • Team to concede the least goals  
  • Individual to make the most tackles  
  • Player who scans the most  
  • Player who communicates the most etc.  

Another thing you may consider is the surface of the pitch e.g., is it indoors, outdoors – grass, Astro or on a hard surface? And what size/weight football or futsal do they use? All of these can challenge the players to use different core skills e.g., how do they control and manoeuvre the ball etc? 

And my last suggestion is, how do you choose your teams? You could group players on ability or equally distribute positions or overload one team with a particular skillset. You could group a team based on another attribute, such as the foot they use, their age or size. Each variation will offer you different outcomes.  

In conclusion, tournaments seem to be well received by players during coaching sessions. So, be experimental with the formats, surfaces, and how you group players together to maximise the outcomes you are looking for. Hopefully, this blog has inspired you to come up with even more ideas of what you could change in your tournaments.  

Let us know your ideas below.