Unrealistic practices-common thing or exception to the rule? Impact on players learning?

Some time ago I had an argument with my fellow coaches: use floater player or not? Some coaches use the phrase “magic man”. Whichever way you name it, there is no player in the game of football playing for both teams! Simply doesn’t exist and that is the fact! Why then vast majority coaches use it, going against realism of the football match? How’s that impact players learning? Do they learn different kind of game? Being coaching for nearly 20 years it seems common practices rather than exception to the rule. This is worries me and here is why?

Do you play with offsides? No!

This is common practice at grassroots level as well as higher up of the football pyramid. Young players learn different game for months and sometimes years. Can you imagine a tennis practice or a game without the net? Kids will be learning a different game, don’t they? Now back to football. Players playing the game without offside rule will find it difficult to play when that rule is finally introducing. Simply because, their brain learns the bad habits already and it will take a lot of effort, practice and time to adjust movements off the ball.

Can you defend two goals please?
How often do you asked one player to defend two goals? You may have your own reasons, however the only reason you should have is how the game looks like? I make no apology to repeat myself, players don’t defend two goals in game of football. Firstly, is very difficult to defend two goals. Secondly, you asked players to learn defensive behaviours that has very little to do with defensive principles of the game. Most people these days criticise old school coaches, only because they want to teach the game as it is. In my view you still can be creative and staying true to how the game is played and its principles.

We don’t have numbers so you will play as “magic man”!

When player is sent off during football match, I never saw an introduction of player playing for both teams? Have you? Both teams continue to playing the game with more and less players in each team. So, why not play underloaded or overloaded and learn the game as it is? Players will learn a lot more from it, things such as: resilience, being out of comfort zone when play one or more players down. In fact, using “magic man” you don’t help your players deal with real scenarios that happen in the game. What if they have to play with less players? What are you going to do then? Who are you going to blame if they don’t know what to do?

Massive overloads such as 8v4, 6v3, 5v1-how often this take place in real match?

I got a lot to learn still, but I never witness massive overloads on the pitch. Well, some coaches may have their own reasons or perhaps their own principles of play? Again, if does not happen in the game, why bother to use it? Imagine an attacking player in 8v4 scenario, what would they learn? Half of them, have no any opponent to play against, neither do they have any pressure that demand quick play and decision making. They also have no any psychological pressure to deal with. This is completely opposite to what they will experience at the weekend!

You are locked in your thirds!

Practice constraints need to be use with the line of learning process. How young player learn and how much they know about the game, before we introducing measures, that restrict players opportunities to learn. When kids can’t move freely means they are also very confused. Look at their faces when you try to do that next time? Simply, because, every weekend nobody locked them in at certain areas on the pitch. They practice different game to the one that they waiting to play Sunday. No wonder, why so many young players does not understand how to play the game?

These are just few common examples that happen every day. Coaches love to use more and more equipment, nonsense restrictions, silly practice constraints that have negative impact on young players learning. The only outcome is, we drifted further away from realism of football game. Is worth to remember that kids are the ones that suffer and struggle even more to learn the game they once love.