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General Advice for Coaching in Soccer Tournaments

When coaching in soccer tournaments, you need to take a slightly different approach than you might for regular league games.

There are a lot of events out there and deciding which one is the right fit for your co-ed 6 v 6 under-8s / town travel under-14s / state cup winning under-17s can be tough. Even after you have trawled through the various options based on their suitability alone, there are further issues to consider such as transport options, hotels and weather conditions.

Here are five tips for to keep in mind when you are coaching in soccer tournaments.

1. Choose the Right Tournament

You can check out this story for more advice on what to look for in a soccer tournament but suffice it to say, if you get this part of the process wrong, you will have real trouble giving your team the best possible soccer tournament experience.

If you have a team manager, make sure you are both on the same page as to what it is you are looking for. You wanting the highest-level of competition possible while your team manager is focused primarily on securing the cheapest hotel rates might lead to conflicting agendas.

Youth Soccer Coach Strategizing With Team

2. Check Early on Player Availability

After you have sent in your entry fee is not the time to ask 'will I have enough players'? Be in constant contact with your team to advise as to which tournaments you are looking at so they don’t double-book themselves. The majority of soccer tournaments, understandably, take place at weekends and during vacation periods so consider any possible conflicts your players may have with prior commitments.

One way of ensuring you have enough players is to take advantage of a rule that many tournaments have, which allows teams to field guest players. If you are allowed to roster them, decide in advance precisely how you intend to use them.

Plan at least a handful of practices and scrimmages with the guest players so that you can determine how they are going to fit into your line-up. And be ready to deal with any bruised egos that might ensue. If one of your guest players is a good striker, for example, how will your current strikers feel about having to share playing time?

3. Playing Time For All

Plan on going deep into your roster when you're coaching in soccer tournaments, and take steps to have your players ready for this. Most tournaments guarantee a minimum of three or four games, but successful teams often play more if they advance from group play. Five games in two or three days is a lot, and if yours is the kind of team that depends on a handful of key starters to carry the play, you’ll soon find your side’s ‘engine’ sputtering through sheer exhaustion.

Tournament play is when the concept of equal playing time really comes into its own. If you spread the load equally among the entire team, rather than relying on just the most gifted players, your chances of success will be greatly enhanced. If you have made a point of doing this throughout the year, your team will be that much better prepared when you do it in a tournament. Remember, everyone paid the same amount of money to be at the tournaments so sitting certain players for longer than others will not go down well.

4. Expect your team to be challenged by the playing conditions.

Many tournaments are played on less than ideal surfaces. During the regular season, it is a simple matter to reschedule games if field conditions warrant. When you're coaching in soccer tournaments, however, with a great many games being played in a short period of time, and people who have traveled a long distance to participate, there is no opportunity to reschedule. This means that you may find yourself playing on fields that would not normally be acceptable in league competition.

This is the great equalizer of soccer teams. Poor conditions affect weak teams less than they do good ones. A rough field that makes good smooth passing impossible does not degrade the performance of a team that cannot pass well in the first place. Preparing in advance for this eventuality could have a major impact on your team’s success.

5. Keep a Little Perspective

When you're coaching in soccer tournaments, it's best to remember that the main purpose of a tournament is not so much to determine which is the best team, but to determine who can win the tournament, and there is a difference. There are a great many more ways to lose a game than there are to win one, and tournament play has an uncanny way of exposing new ones. Very often, tournaments are won by inferior teams who manage to put together one really good game at the right time.

For this reason, it is not usually a good idea to attach too much importance to winning a particular event. If your team is reasonably competent and you enter enough tournaments, you will win your share. The main thing is that you, as a coach, get out of the event what you wanted to going into it, whether it is facing new opponents, playing in a different climate or making sure your star striker is seen by that Division One school coach!

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