Thomas Tuchel is a strong advocate of ensuring training is tougher than games. Utilising his differential learning methods, he explains that creating environments for players to be challenged in unusual ways makes the game ‘easier than the training sessions’. This is due to the increased thought processes, increased decision making and the often decreased space available, i.e. when the players get onto a full size pitch with more space, there is more time to make decisions.
There are various factors that occur in matches that need to be accounted for in training – another key reason to make training harder than the game itself.
1 – expect the unexpected! How often does a situation occur which hasn’t been planned for in a game? Maybe it’s the oppositions formation being different than expected. Perhaps it’s a specific individual causing tactical problems for your team. Help it by offering game play in your training sessions and encourage random situations.
2 – this breeds confidence, something of which is needed when playing matches. This may be individually or collectively but having a feeling of ‘we’ve faced this in training, it can’t be harder than that/different to that’ is only going to be helpful, surely?
3 – psychologically prepared players are confident, decisive and effective game changers who are prepared for all possible outcomes and don’t fear those unexpected elements. Create a strong group – team bonding and fun elements in each session. Create learning opportunities within settings that players want to be a part of.
4 – push physical limits: why? If training is harder, games become easier! Appropriately plan your sessions across the season within suitable ability levels but challenge players and demand more. Tip: periodise your sessions, i.e. SSG’s having time based rounds, for example. Another bonus for this is that players become used to working under tiredness… this can be helpful in games, especially late on.
5 – create problem solving opportunities in sessions. Coaches aren’t on the pitch in matches so you need leaders and thinkers everywhere. Create your problems and let players discover the solutions within your set boundaries.
6 – make training game realistic. Why have sessions that are low intensity all the time when a game is higher? You can set the desire for a group in training and if they can do it with their team-mates, they’ll certainly be able to do it against others!
Overall, the conclusion is based more around those senior players (but tweak these to suit your your players *) – include game play in training sessions. Demand a high intensity and a desire to succeed in training sessions. Allow for problem solving opportunities and ensure the fun element that everyone wants to be involved with.
*please don’t push a desire to win with your youth players – they’ll want to win naturally so focus on the technical and tactical understanding and the test will come with performances.