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Paco Seirul·lo’s proposal to design a training session in team sports

20 Oct 2021   ·   

The training session is when the exchange of information between the coach and the player takes place.1-4 Two elements must always be present: 

  • A reflection: which should make it possible to check whether there is a connection between what was proposed and what has happened, and which should serve to make the following proposals.
  • An observation: both of one’s own behavior as well as that of teammates and the coach.

The construction of the training session must start from a selection by the trainer of the objective to be achieved by the players. The aim is to build the session in a practical way, proposing exercises that generate learning conditions that allow athletes to improve themselves. Once the tasks have been proposed, the players must carry out the practical execution to obtain the motor experiences desired by the coach. Afterwards, self-observation, observation of teammates and the coach and a joint reflection should help to assess whether the objective of the session has been achieved.

Training in team sports is not just about choosing a goal and putting it into practice. Feedback, observation, reflection, and observation are very relevant elements to help players improve. The player must be the centre of the session.

The training session must meet some conditions to help the player improve:

  • The athlete comes to clearly identify and recognize the sole objective of the session.
  • The objective becomes evident by adding a certain meaning to it. The same information can have two different meanings for two players. It is necessary to identify how each athlete interprets what the coach wants to train.
  • During the practice, there is an environment of communication and interaction. The more communication and interaction, the greater the learning.
  • Self-observation takes place. The personal (or group) evaluation of the reactions produced by one’s own performance is essential to achieve the objective of the session.
  • A connection of the practice with the social and cultural environment of the players must be achieved.

The training session should have three fundamental parts: activation (or warm-up in more traditional terminology), the activity (or core part), and theorisation (or cool-down).

Activation is the first contact between the coach and the player, and between the player and the environment where they will intervene. It consists of two sub-phases that are not carried out successively, but alternatively: information and activation exercises. The main objective of the informative sub-phase is that the player knows the objective and feels attracted to it; they enjoy it and want to achieve it. The coach has to activate the athlete, make an objective proposal, and inform what type of practice will be done. We should identify what they want to achieve from that objective and develop a technique to focus on. It also helps to build and understand the group’s climate of interaction: what we will do, where we will be, what material we will use, etc. Triggering exercises relate the goal to the practice. They are the first test of how to achieve the objective. It is about attaining several things: stimulating interpersonal or intergroup relationships, awakening the player’s interest in the session’s goal, preferentially awakening the athlete’s systems demanded next and recognising the space. The methodology is never the same. It depends on the coach’s observation and the players’ spirits.

The activity presents the tasks/experiences that we will put into practice to achieve the desired objective. This practice does not consist only of the player’s physical performance; it is also necessary to consider the communication established between the coach and the players and between them. The activity consists of the realization of the goal that has already been stimulated in the activation phase. Each of the tasks should contain several moments:

  • Moment 1. Presentation of the task.
  • Moment 2. Practice time.
  • Moment 3. Reflection.

Thanks to this methodology, the player must end up being responsible for their learning. The coach must propose the conditions of the tasks, but it is the athlete who must execute them and reflect on them by self-improvement. The task’s reflection phase must help understanding if the objective has been met, the reasons why it has been achieved or not, and the variants proposal in the exercise or the behaviour.

Theorisation should be done when the session is over. The purpose of this phase is to achieve the session’s objective. It is not the goal proposed by the coach but the meaning of the goal for the player. This supposes a particular optimisation of the athlete’s systems. The coach knows that the goal has been met through the player’s communication. It is not only about quantifying what has happened; the athletes’ subjective perception is also very relevant.

With elite players and a high sports culture, they need to observe + optimise + see the need during the session. If the players can identify possible lines of improvement, which activity should be reinforced, and what projection the behaviour has, the session’s goal has been met. Coach communication should allow for athlete input. For players at early stages, the coach should guide the reflection phase much more and help them assess their behaviour and that of their teammates. Then, they should relate it to the session’s goal.

In more traditional methodologies, the coach uses a more directive methodology where there is hardly any space for the player to intervene and contribute to his vision of what is happening in the session. The task execution is practically the only means by which we can achieve the session’s goal. In a methodology that engages the player, the coach must propose practice conditions that help the athlete self-improve and reflect on the practice. Football and team sports are too changeable to allow playing without understanding why things happen and how we can alter them.


1 Seirul.lo, F. (2009). Una línea de trabajo distinta. (A different line of work.) Revista de Entrenamiento Deportivo, 23(4): 13-18.

2 Seirul.lo, F. (1998): Valores educativos del deporte en D. Blázquez (ed) (Educational values of sport in D. Blázquez): La iniciación deportiva y el deporte escolar (2ª edición), pp (Sports initiation and school sports). 61-75, Barcelona: INDE.

3 Seirul.lo, F. (2010). Estructura socioafectiva. (Socioaffective structure). Documento INEFC – Barcelona. Taken from:

4 Lago Peñas, C. y Seirul.lo, F. (2021). La dirección del entrenamiento y el partido en el Fútbol y los Deportes de Equipo (The direction of training and the match in Football and Team Sports). Next Post.


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