As the warm, bright sessions of summer become distant memories, it's time to turn our thoughts towards winter and preparing for the challenges it presents as a coach.
Focus on Preparation
Warming up is important, warming up in winter is even more vital. The cold months are a great opportunity to educate your players about the benefits of a warm up as they feel the physiological changes more than they do in the summer.
Don't go through your standard routine though - static stretching of cold muscles can be more conducive to injury - think of it as blu-tac in the fridge, it's brittle when cold and more likely to snap than when warm - so get creative!
Think of fun games which gets your players ready in different ways. Players will be more enthusiastic about the start of the session as well as the warm up itself.
Vary Sessions to Keep Morale High
Dragging yourself out for training on a cold, wet night can be tough! And it's just as tough for your players too so plan sessions to work on different things each week to stay engaged.
In the summer, players are happier to work through more mundane sessions, however in the winter, tedium can kick in quicker.
Plan to do the technical and tactical sessions in the summer so that in winter, sessions are more focussed around match-specific scenarios with a competitive element to keep morale up.
Beat the Weather
Don't let the weather win! When pitches are frozen or surfaces are in poor condition, you have to be prepared to adapt and sometimes that could mean leaving your sport behind completely
Think about other ways you can get your players active and working as a team - I've been in a team where the coach had set a treasure hunt up around town instead of training.
Players went off in groups with a list of things to collect and have photos with all within a given time limit. With an awards ceremony after and a laugh at some of the photos, the session was great for morale and improving teamwork skills without going anywhere near the sport!
Set Rules About Kit
You'll be surprised at how many players and parents arrive under-dressed and under-equipped for the cold.
Keep an eye on forecasts and anticipate poor conditions in advance. As a coach, the players are your responsibility so a day or two before the session, send out a message outlining rules on what kit to bring.
A gentle reminder and a group fully equipped to battle the elements will make for a smooth running session!
Be Prepared to Adapt
Social calendars can get busy and motivation levels can drop as we get further into winter.
As a result, numbers could potentially dwindle so before you arrive for the session make sure you have contingency options.
Plan sessions way in advance and involve practices which you can easily adapt to the amount of people you have at training. You don't want to be scrambling around under-prepared when you realise only half the group have turned up.
Game Play is Best
Reverting to game play is a great way to keep everyone moving and involved with the session. You don't want players to be standing around waiting for their turn or listening whilst you explain a complex technique.
Instead, develop technical skills within conditioned games by incorporating rules (e.g. three-touches) and adapting the playing area (e.g. dead zones players can't enter) etc.
Game play will allow you to adapt quite easily to numbers and conditions and gives you the option to pull out specific individuals to work with whilst the game continues.
The best advice for your winter coaching sessions is to plan, plan, plan. By being prepared for anything, you will take any changes and extreme conditions in your stride.