Representative Seminar/Workshop Design

Having attended many coaching seminars and workshops (and having given a few myself) I have in the last year started to reflect on their true purpose and use in their traditional form. Most seminars have some lectures (an orgy of power point presentations?) and sometimes there might be some practical sessions. More than often these are not even connected. Sometimes someone is selling a product. Many who are attending are looking for simple answers to complex questions (yes this is where the products come in). Those attending rarely get to take part. With all this in mind, I have been looking to adjust and adapt my own seminar/workshop design.

Here are some notes from a recent workshop.

Workshop Design:

11.00-12.00 Training session with 16 players aged 11/12 observed by 32 coaches

12.15- 13.45 Workshop + discussion + training design (players were also involved to give their input)

14.00-15.00 Training session 16 players aged 11/12 (led by some of the coaches)

15.15-15.30 Q and A

Session description: Passing – External focus of attention. By this I mean allowing the young players to explore the task by directing their attention towards the movement effects that are to be achieved.


6v2 (Developed this from a session I was involved in a few years ago at RCD Espanyol. I can also recommend Kieran Smith who has done some excellent work around similar session designs)

  • 1st line pass: To the side but not past the first press
  • 2nd line pass: To the side and past the first press
  • 3rd line pass: Splits the first press
  • Defenders try and close off passing lanes and break up the passes

Discussions with players due to emergent behaviors (no instructions given):

  • Body profile: Try to find a position where you can receive the ball with the foot furthest away from where the ball is coming from
  • Opening passing lines: If you can get in to a position where you can SEE the ball then it is more likely that you can receive it
  • 1st and 2nd line pass requires various degrees of width. 2nd line pass requires width and depth. 3rd line requires depth


4v4 Game

  • Dribble the ball between the red cones = 1 point
  • Dribble the ball between the yellow cones = 2 points
  • Use 1st, 2nd and 3rd line passes to build up play and create scoring chances
  • Can we use 1st and 2nd line passes to create possibilities for the more penetrative 3rd line pass?

Workshop & discussion: I began the workshop by getting the kids to share with the coaches how they experienced the session. I felt that it was important to not ask them what we did as I felt that their experience was of greater value for future discussions.

Here are some of their thoughts.

  • The emphasis was not on how we passed but more to who and where the pass was going
  • We constantly needed to adapt ourselves to every situation (yes! An 11- year old said this!!!
  • We needed to think more, make decisions. We were working on game understanding/insight
  • I sometimes did a simple pass and asked for the ball back so that I had more time to see what was happening. That way it was easier to find the most dangerous pass.
  • I never thought about HOW I was passing the ball
  • If we create width and depth and communicate a lot it was easier find a good pass
  • We can move the opponent by passing the ball. They become disorganised.

Investigating the Complexity of Youth Development                                                               

The workshop continued investigating factors that influence performance, participation and personal development in Youth sports.

 The Game is Complex : The coach needs to understand the game but also other aspects that surround the game. The surrounding environment, society, economy – Joan Vila (Head of Methodology, FC Barcelona)

The Culture is Complex: The culture of youth sports in general, has become disproportionally both adult and media- centered. There is a need to address interactions between athletes, coaching styles and practices. The effects on youth athletes from parental expectations and the view of youth athletes as commodities, which is often intrusive with a fine line between objectivity and sensationalism. (IOC Consensus Statement on Youth Development). More information? see this link

Learning the Game. Yes! It is Complex: Learning involves retention and transfer. It is dynamic and context dependent and cannot be observed here and now. Performance at the point of instruction is not a good indicator of learning. Emotions form a critical piece of how and why people think and learn.

If we as coaches step in to the learning process, we better know how to add value!

I introduced the Constraints Led Approach as I feel that it is a useful framework to help us integrate vast amounts of information.

I gave a simple of example of environmental, individual and task constraint. The coaches got in to groups to discuss these constraints and come up with some examples that were relevant to their environment.

Once coach came up with a very interesting constraint that she thought had a negative effect on her player’s motivation. She noticed that some parents spent more time looking at their mobile phones than watching their sons or daughters play. She said that she could see that this caused a lot of disappointment with some kids. Is this some sort of modern socio-cultural constraint?

Training/learning design and nonlinear pedagogy

How nonlinear pedagogy, a learner centred method can help coaches to design their practices.

Training should capture the inherent variability of the competitive performance environment. Leading performers to use information that is relevant. (Pinder, Renshaw, & Davids, 2009; Pinder, Renshaw, & Araujo, 2011)

We analysed one of the sessions from the Swedish FA C Diploma curriculum. I provided some information and challenged them to manipulate the task to achieve a certain goal.

Encourage players to create, identify and attack free space


3v3 game

A goal is scored if one team dribbles the ball over the opponent’s end-line

  • How can you manipulate the task constraints if you feel that players are passing the ball instead of accepting or picking up information about gaps or spaces to attack?
  • How can you further manipulate task constraints if the defending team plays a high-pressure game and the team in possession because of the previously added constraint have difficulty building up play?
  • For more information see this link

The other session design was the one I did together with Swedish National team coach Maths Elfvendal (see here). I had a video of this session and asked the coaches to analyse the session as if they were “shining a light” on

  1. Goalkeeper
  2. Defenders
  3. Attackers

This also gave us a good chance to discuss co-adaptability.

Click on the video near the end of this blog link

Some of the attending coaches organised themselves and the young players to take these two session designs.

Afterwards there was a Q n A.


4 thoughts on “Representative Seminar/Workshop Design

  1. Hi Mark,

    In the 6v2 game, are the attacking team trying to score points by getting the ball to the opposite side? Or is it just a case of keeping the ball. Also, if the defender won the ball, what would the two of them do?

    • Hi James
      Thank you for the message. I usually do this 4×2-3min with intermittent balance, coordination, movement excercises. All players get the chance to be in the middle and try and close off the passing lines. The attacking team should use pass 1 and 2 to unbalance the defenders so that they can complete the higher risk but more penetrative pass 3

  2. Hi Mark,

    Love your blog posts – very informative. I’ve been looking into the design of coach development sessions (workshops, seminars, courses etc), and have identified some key aspects that help immensely. These could be “wrapped” around the approach/content you provide above.

    1. Build relationships – It is crucial to build relationships between participants and between the facilitator and participants. If we are to challenge a coach’s beliefs (which can be an embodiment of who they are) then we need to create a safe environment for the coach to potentially question their own beliefs/practices.

    2. Find out what they know – Any learning opportunity should be aimed at a point just beyond what the coach currently knows. If it is too easy, learning is compromised, if it is too hard, they switch off. Pitching the learning just beyond what they know allows the facilitator to link to what they know, and build on this. It is this link that helps the coach make meaning of the learning. Create a shared experience by doing an activity, or by drawing on previous experiences – this will help create a link to what they know, and provide context for the learning.

    3. Allow the participants time to work with/implement any new information – “The brain that does the thinking, does the learning”. Participants should be actively involved as much as possible throughout the workshop – so no stand and deliver powerpoints!

    4. Protect time for reflection and action planning at the end of the learning opportunity – Have the participant reflect on the learning to fit it into their own particular context. And get them to action plan (in detail) what they will need to work on, how they will work on it, when they will do it, and who they will get to help them.

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