How to build a positive matchday experience

Guide All Ages

Saturday and Sunday mornings can be a joy – and a challenge. If you've ever spent them managing your own emotions, a tense team or prickly parents, then these top tips could help.

1. Act respectfully towards everyone

Everyone has the right to safe, fun and inclusive football experiences.

While matchday can be intense, it’s important not to let heightened emotions influence your behaviour in a negative way. By acting respectfully towards everyone, you’ll help to set a positive tone.

Some simple actions include:

  • greeting every player
  • thanking parents and carers
  • shaking hands with your opposition and match officials (if possible).

2. Uphold match officials’ decisions

In grassroots football, many referees and their assistants are under the age of 18, which means they’re actually classed as children. While ranting over a missed foul or a ‘definite’ penalty might blow off some steam, this type of behaviour can have a damaging impact – especially for young people.

You might not always agree with them, but upholding an official’s decision is part of being a good role model for your team.

3. Keep substitutes involved

While players are waiting for their time to shine, get them into the game by:

  • discussing what’s happening on the pitch
  • asking them to ‘be the coach’ and help and encourage their teammates
  • keeping them active – try setting up a nearby training area where they can practice skills they’ll need in the game.

Keeping substitutes involved, and prioritising equal playing time, helps to provide a positive matchday experience – both on and off the pitch.

4. Use Respect barriers

Whether you're a player, a parent, a volunteer or a spectator, Respect barriers are a physical reminder as to what is – and isn’t – acceptable behaviour. They also provide a degree of space for the game to occur without interference, with the aim to reduce pressure on both teams and officials.

5. Leave facilities tidy

This is an extension of acting respectfully – and it’s a habit you can build with your team. After your match, make time to:

  • collect litter
  • gather or dismantle equipment
  • clean your changing room.

These small actions can leave a big impression. Following their 2018 World Cup defeat to Belgium, Japan made the news when they left their changing room spotless – and included a thank you note to boot.

6. Create consistent routines

When children know what’s going to happen – and when – it helps them feel safe and secure. In fact, we can all benefit from a consistent routine, so here are some basic steps for matchday:

  • make sure everyone knows when to arrive and when the game is due to end
  • use the same warm-up each week – but ask a different player to lead
  • allocate a specific area for storing belongings, such as kit and drinks.

7. Make matchday an extension of training

Whether you’re leading a session or coaching the match of your life, you need to stick to your philosophy.

For example, if you’ve spent the week helping players practice their individual skillsets, don’t let the thrill of success – or fear of failure – throw you off.

Matchday is an opportunity for your players to have fun, build stronger relationships and continue their learning. To take advantage of this, why not set challenges that support what you’ve been doing in training? You could also engage parents in the focus of the game.

Want to know more about how to build a positive matchday? Check out The FA Playmaker course – For All and for free.

Article image courtesy of Alex Pantling/Getty Images Sport via Getty Images.

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