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How to coach an odd number of players

We have all been there, we arrive for an action-packed session planned to the finest and smallest of details fit for an even number of players attend and then reality kicks in, an odd number arrive! Here are a few ideas to support your coaching delivery as you add MatchPlay Cards© into your training games...

"It’s crucial for coaches to provide the right conditions for players to thrive. It doesn't matter what setting you coach in – creating a positive environment is really important." - FA Learning


Use MatchPlay Cards© as individual challenges to create opportunities for certain players to get in the game or the use of a whole team challenge to encourage a behavior change can restrict and reward the game to afford a certain outcome.

How you reach the decision of who plays with the underload is also worth exploring; Rock, paper, scissors? A two-round penalty shoot-out? 2-0 scenario head start for the underload team?


Don't miss an opportunity to connect with your players. Considering the game as a puzzle, players will consistently face underload and overload situations throughout the game though, have they got the toolbox of solutions to solve the problem? It is the coach's responsibility to create an environment that prepares players for the game.

With the game in motion can you use this time to effectively interact with your players, this may be with drive-by feedback or more formally as you pull them out of the game and ask them to choose a challenge card from the deck. Explore interacting with two players at the same time, one player from each team, and getting them to choose MatchPlay Cards© for each other as either team or player challenges. This will not only continues the underload and overload theme but also create a golden opportunity to connect players together with their decisions, experiences, and peers.


The use of a second phase ball directly from the coach can dictate and encourage a certain outcome, as one leaves the playing area a new one is rolled in. Coaches can be tactical of where this ball is ignited from and who this ball brings into play. Embrace randomness.

The importance of creating sessions that ask players to make multiple decisions in varying situations is critical yet true learning is possibly drawn from the moments of reflection and feedback.

Think like this... you've got a GPS tracker on your back, come to the end of the session it'll a heat map will be produced. Will your heat map show your static location? Or one that is scattered because of the in-game conversations and connections you have made with different individuals? Stayin in the thick of the action you'll begin to see, hear and feel the game that players are engaging with, you don't get this from the sidelines.

"When kids feel like they belong, their attendance, motivation, and retention increase. Elements of caring include listening, empathizing, respect, and acceptance—regardless of winning"

We know that the game is chaotic, intense, and full of randomness. Our role as coaches is to put players in situations where players feel comfortable to make decisions that #ChangeTheGame because their training environment looks and feels like the game.

Set player missions, coach through games, and bring the game to life with MatchPlay Cards©. We designed OVER 100 MULTISPORT challenge cards to add into your training games! Tap the link to learn more:

Take 10% OFF your order with the code "2022"

1 Comment

James Emery
James Emery
Oct 15, 2020

When I have an odd number I add a rule: If the team with the extra player goes ahead by two goals, they must take two players off the field for certain time (perhaps 30 seconds). Now, the losing team gets to play with an advantage for a short period.

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