How to maintain high quality play as the season draws to an end
The soccer season is coming to a close. Cup finals, league races, playoffs and relegations are coming thick and fast in all levels of the game and for many clubs this is the most exciting part of the season.
But for those not battling for titles or fighting for survival, this time of the season can create lacklustre performances and the season can end with more of a whimper than a charge.
After a gruelling season of soccer, with fixtures hitting thick and fast, players are tired and are more than likely looking forward to a summer break, to relax a little more and give their legs a well-deserved rest.
Although all coaches understand this, and may be feeling the same, they need to do their best to motivate their players, even if there is “nothing to play for” and end on a high.
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A great way to do this is to reinforce season-long goals that were set late last summer. If there was a points target or table position in mind, is that still achievable and how close can your team get? Without pushing too hard, can your team put in some good performances and prove that the objective was achievable?
Alternatively have players been given individual targets. Can your strikers get a certain number of goals, midfielders a certain number of assists, defenders and goalkeeper a certain number of clean sheets?
These are all ways of giving your players something to aim for when their larger team objectives have been and gone.
Not only are targets important but so are the rewards for achieving them.
If there is no trophy to be lifted or medal to be placed around their neck, then providing other incentives may help get the best out the players towards the end of the season.
All clubs will have end of season awards that may motivate certain individuals, but could you as a coach find more creative ways. Let’s not forget that Ranieri famously rewarded his Leicester team’s clean sheets with pizza. Who knows, maybe it was the tasty treat that spurred his players on to win the league!
When the season comes to an end, mid-table teams are always criticised for lacking focus and drive to win games. Although this is understandable, players, fans and staff of all clubs will really want to end the season on a high, and not merely stumble over the finishing line.
For coaches, this can really test their player management skills, are they able to motivate their players when there is nothing on the line. To do this they need to be creative and find fun and enjoyable ways to get players excited to play, especially after a long and tiring season.
If the pressure is off then there is no excuse not to make the end of season an enjoyable one for all!