Here are some ideas to try at your next training sessions:
1. Split your group into a number of teams (4 players in a team would be great).
2. Set up a number of small-sided pitches and let play begin with each team starting in the group stage of the tournament.
3. Each time a team wins a game they move up a level, and each time a team loses a game they move down a level.
For example: Level 1 = group stage
Level 2 = quarter final
Level 3 = semi final
Level 4 = final
5. The teams who are in the final have the challenge of staying there as long as they can.
6. Give the players the opportunity to use a ‘pause’ within games in order to consider their game plan and strategy. You can read more here.
These are just some ideas on how to create a tournament format and you will have your own. The main aim is that the players are thinking strategically about how to get to, and stay in, the final.
Most importantly, the tournament doesn’t have to end at the conclusion of the coaching session.
To create the feeling of a real international tournament extend the games over a number of weeks. The players can simply pick up the competition where they left it at the end of the previous session.
Each team then has the opportunity to consider their strategy before they play again the following week.
This is a principle borrowed from computer game design. When you are playing a computer game you can save your progress and pick it up the next time you switch the computer on.
Special features are another key part of computer games and should be used within your tournament. Consider how you can help each team to find the right level of challenge and also to have an opportunity of getting to the final. Nothing should be out of reach for any of the teams competing.
Other ideas include:
Using different scoring system for different stages of the tournament. For example: goals in the final are worth less than in the group stages.
Having a ‘boss’ level for a team that has been in the final for a long time. For example: for every minute that passes in the final you have to remove a player from your team.
In the end, the team that has been in the final the longest or the team that is winning in the final when you decide the tournament is over wins the game overall.
It is this concept that allowed last year’s group to play a tournament for the best part of two months.