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As a coach, you have a coach’s toolkit which includes: stop-freeze, guided discovery/questions, coaching in the flow, natural stoppage and individual reference. These 4 tools can be used in several different ways and each one has it’s own time and place of usage.

Warm Up

Here you can use any of the tools, so long as they do not continuously interrupt the flow of this stage. Consistently stopping the practice to teach a minute detail can hurt development.


The orientation stage is focused on introducing the problem and the overall goal of the situation (i.e.: to score, to build out of our defensive third, etc.). How they get to the solution should not be taught in this stage, but you can help by using certain components of your toolkit.

  • In the Flow: Talk to players and ask questions of players as the exercise is going on.
  • Individual Reference: Remove a player from the exercise briefly and ask him/her some questions. Use guided discovery/questions to ask them about their role on the field.
  • Guided Discovery/Questions: Ask questions of your players that provoke thought and for them to begin to take initiative. Use  THE 5W to ask why a certain situation keeps occurring and what cues/actions lead to that occurring.
  • Natural Stoppage: The ball being played out of bounds is a perfect time for natural stoppage and the use of guided questions for the team. Perhaps we are too compact when in possession so asking “how can we make the field as wide as possible?” can influence players to begin to spread out when in possession.

By you simply using these tools, players put words into their actions. It is often the case that we do things out of habit and do not realize it until it is addressed. So by you asking a simple question, the player could solve his own problem without you having to stop the flow of the practice.


In the learning stage, you are here to teach the solution if players have not yet discovered it. Each tool used from the previous stage carries over this stage as well. Some new ones to use in this stage include:

  • Freeze: This is only allowed in this stage and your implementation stage. The freeze is where you completely stop the play as it’s going on. Think Adam Sandler in the movie Click. Everyone goes back to where they were when the play broke down. It is important to know when to use a freeze situation. If one player made a mistake, don’t use a freeze situation. IF several players made mistakes, causing the play to break down, then you can use a freeze. Here, you use guided questions to the team and individual players as well in order to figure out a reason as to why the play broke down. Concluding your freeze, you must demonstrate how you fix the problem, and then allow players to repeat the demonstration. If the demonstration does not work, do not be afraid to bring it back, and try it again until it works.

Implementation Stage

Think of this as you being at the game this weekend. Will you have the chance to just stop the game and give your coaching points? If you give the ref a large sum of money perhaps, but even so I don’t think the parents, opposing coach, and most importantly your players will be too pleased. That being said, if it is absolutely necessary, you may use a freeze. Besides that, all other components of your coaches toolkit are fair game.

As mentioned earlier, the 5W are an important part of the planning of your training session and also the coaching within your training session. Without the use of them, your session may not be as organized or as strong as you think!

“Most people get excited about games, but I’ve got to be excited about practice, because that’s my classroom.
Pat Summitt,

WOLI – The Purpose of WOLI

As mentioned in my previous post, US Soccer structures their training sessions under the acronym WOLI. WOLI is Warm Up, Orientation, Learning, and Implementation. Let’s start with the W, warm up.

The warm up is always the beginning of your training session. The purpose of a warm up is to get players  physically and mentally prepared for the rest of the session. A warm up without the use of the ball is a physical warm up, but a warm up with the ball is a technical warm up. As a coach you decide how you want to combine or separate between the two. Once your players are mentally and physically prepared, we then move to the orientation stage (stage 2).

The purpose of the Orientation Stage is to introduce the situation that you would like to improve upon. Players will now become familiar with what the problems in the situation are and start to think about how they can solve that problem. All aspects such as the area of the field, the space used, and the number of players used will also be key to this section. Some examples of numbers used for the Orientation Stage include: 4v2, 5v3, 4v4, 5v5, 6v6, etc.

Next is the Learning Stage. The Learning Stage is done to teach the solution to the situation. Players in this stage and the latter stage will experience successful and unsuccessful decision-making, allowing them to learn from their experiences. This sort of experiential/cause-and-effect learning is the reason why your session should be player-centered and not coaching/command-centered. Some examples of numbers used for the Learning Stage are: 8v6, 8v7, 9v7, 9v8, etc.

The last and final stage is the Implementation Stage. Here is the application of the solution with no restrictions or constraints. Just play the game! Examples of numbers used include 7v7, 8v8, 9v9, 10v10, 11v11. Getting an 11v11 is difficult, perhaps even impossible for most of us, but the purpose for this stage is to see if your players can use what they have learned and implement it into the game.

Throughout your session, there will be some key-aspects which US Soccer will be looking for when evaluation your session. Be sure to check out my next post to find out what they are!

“People never learn anything by being told, they have to find out for themselves.”

-Paulo Coelho


King George United
Sealston Sports Complex 11048 Fletcher's Road 
king george, Virginia 22485

Phone: 540-370-6656
Email: [email protected]

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