Coach education

2. Plan the session

A good session plan is vital to the delivery of consistently good teaching and learning. The session plan will help the coach prepare a good session by fully considering each activity, and each transition between activity.  It will also help them reflect on the session by evaluating the gap between what they thought would happen and what actually happened, and why.

Session Planners

It is up to the Lead Coach what planner they want to use. The MoF Session Planner is available at the Coaching Programme link at the bottom of this page.

A good session plan should include:

  • The 'Problem Statement'
  • The activities the coach will use, and how the group will quickly transition from one to another
  • The likely coaching interventions the coach will use, bearing in mind that sessions need to have 75% Active Learning Time
  • Specific planned learning that the coach aims to deliver to specific children in that session (child’s name, what will be taught, how it will be taught

Linking sessions together

Sessions are not meant to be 'stand-alone' sessions. Learning is meant to be built from week to week within a unit of work. It is a good idea to revisit previous week's learning at the start of the session, in order to remind the children of where they got to when they were last together, and to prepare them for the next piece of learning.

This kind of recap does not need to happen in a sit-down lecture. It would be better if this previous learning is revised physically. For example, the coach could use an activity from the previous week in order to remind the children what problems they explored and what solutions they came up with.

Planned interventions and unplanned interventions

There is a fine balance to strike between delivering a completely pre-planned session, and making-it-up-as-you-go-along. On the one hand, you have a duty as a coach to plan a session which takes into account the specific, individual needs to the children you are delivering to. And on the other hand, you won't know exactly how they will respond and what their on-the-day needs are until you actually deliver.

A well-prepared coach will plan the session based on their knowledge of specific children. The coach will know which children need what support, and to some extent they will be able to think about what help they are likely to give. They can think about strategies for how to help those who struggle. After a few weeks of working with a group, it would be acceptable to plan and deliver a session aimed at the few children who are still struggling with the core ideas of the work.

The coach may not know which children will be top of the group and find things easy, but they can plan the extra challenges for these children in advance, and deliver them to whichever of the children need a push.

Session structure

There are lots of ways to structure a session, and the coach may need to consider some or all of the following when they plan their session:

  • What are they confident to deliver?
  • What are the needs of the group?
  • How much time is available?
  • Children need variety and may benefit from receiving learning in different formats and structures

The traditional structure of a session would be: [Technical practice > Skill practice > Game]. This may still have relevance and so shouldn't be discarded. However, it may be appropriate to instead start with a game, or to make the entire session based on games.

Here are some other structures to sessions that a coach could consider:


In the Whole-Part-Whole method of teaching the session starts with a game. The ability of the group can be assessed in relation to the learning outcomes of the session. Players who are struggling and those who are ahead can be identified. The session is then moved to an activity which directly relates to the learning outcome (eg 1v1 if the learning outcome is dribbling). The coach can then aim to improve each player's ability and confidence in the specific area they are focussed on. After this, the session moves back to a game - and the learning outcome that has been worked on can now be taught in a game-situation.

Cognitive Acceleration

The CA approach to learning has distinct phases to the lesson. Click here for more details.

Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU)

The TGfU (or what the Aussies call Game Sense) is a useful approach to consider for MoF sessions. You can read more about this at the links below:

Plan B

No matter how experienced we are as coaches, there will be times when we lose the attention of the group and it becomes obvious that a topic, activity or session is not working.

If this happens, do two things:  

  1. Change things. Be bold, and try to solve the problem. If you are really stuck, then let the children play (that’s what they want!). Set up some small sided-games and let them play.
  2. Evaluate afterwards whether you could have done anything differently to make the session go better.

Sometimes the opposite happens, and you decide to stay on an activity longer than you planned - because you see that the children are really getting a lot from what they’re doing. Or maybe you see an opportunity to progress an activity in a way that you hadn’t planned. In these situations, it’s fine to be creative and spontaneous.

Session time is also a great time to start preparing for your next session. While you are observing activities and games, you may think of progressions or other activities that you know will work well and are what the children need next. Get in the habit of making notes during sessions, have a pen and paper handy. Jot down ideas, frustrations, thoughts, etc as you go. 

Planning to develop as coach

We need to take our own development as coaches seriously. Coaches should know which key areas they need to work on in order to improve. We need to plan our sessions so we get practice in our weaker areas, while also taking into consideration what we do well.

Therefore, Lead Coaches may plan a session based on a specific area of their coaching which they have highlighted as needing improvement. For example, a coach who wants to improve their Questioning may plan a session based around the 5 Key Questions that they will ask during the session. In this example, the coach would need to think not only of the Questions themselves, but what optimum state and task the group would likely be in when this question is asked; and how the group answer the question (practical trial and error; Q&A; small group work etc). The Session Plan would be based around these Questions and may therefore look different and need a different format.

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Mark Carter

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