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CAN WE PLAY A GAME? How many times do you hear this during your session, especially with younger players? Have you ever considered starting with a game?

How many times do you hear players say, ‘when are we playing a game?’ 

When do you usually play your game? I see a lot of coaches do the standard, warm up, drill and finish with a game, which is not an issue, however there are lots of different ways we can structure sessions. 

Some examples: 

Parallel Practice: 

This allows different activities to happen at the same time – and it's a great way to support the varied needs of your players and manage differences in the group.  

Carousel Approach: 

A carousel approach is one where players experience a variety of activities within one session and move round from one station to another. This allows players to get lots of touches on the ball and work on a variety of skills. This can include working with and without the ball.  


  1. Start with a game (whole) 
  2. Identify and practice a technique/part of the game (part) 
  3. Play the game again, this time with an emphasis on applying the technique from the ‘part’ (whole) 

Whole-Part-Whole is a great way for players to get lots of ball rolling time and exposure to game situations and stops them from asking the question... 
‘When are we going to play a game!’ 
As a coach it also challenges your ability to observe the game and recognise problems players or individuals are facing. 

I recently observed a session, and I asked one of the players at the end.. 
‘How was the session, did you enjoy it?’  
Their response - ‘Yes it was my favourite session so far this season.’  
I asked the question ‘why’  
Her reply... ‘Because we got to play a game straight away, and then we did activity and put the things we learnt back into the game; it was great.’ 

This made me think how often as coaches do we use the game as a reward for players, or just play it at the end without linking it back to the session objectives, verses, using the game as a real opportunity for players to learn. 


I use Whole-Part-Whole often, especially when working with female grassroot players, as I still find a number of girls do not watch football or play it as often as boys so it’s a great way to support learning and develop their game understanding. 

So, I challenge you as coaches to vary the structure of your sessions and don’t always put the game at the end of the session or use it as a reward. 

Remember, Whole-Part-Whole it’s just one way to structure a session… it’s important we still give players a mixture to ensure we are meeting the needs of all individuals.

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Written By

Abbie Sadler

Women’s High Performance Football Centre Coach Development Officer at the FA and BCWFC WSLA Academy Coach at Bristol City.

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