Stephen Constantine, FIFA coaching educator and one of the most travelled managers in the world having coached multiple national sides throughout Africa and Asia, delivered an in-depth and insightful lecture on halftime. It’s not uncommon for a coaching presentation to allot a few minutes toward halftime considerations (compose oneself, limit your coaching points, etc.), but Constantine dove much deeper into the halftime period and gave this portion of the match the proper significance it deserves. Halftime is not something to be glossed over.
The lecture began on a light, but truthful note of the realities facing a modern day manager with a video clip of Harry and Paul Football Manager: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0QMV622vY8w before Coach Constantine posed the question of “when does halftime begin?” to the audience. Constantine contends that if you wait for the whistle, you’re much too late. His halftime begins 10 to 15 minutes prior to the whistle. Obviously when you play by FIFA Laws of the game (maximum of 3 substitutions, no re-entry), the gravity of each decision is magnified, but his contention that the preparation that goes into halftime must be well thought out and organized in a cohesive manner to maximize the impact on the 2nd half is relevant no matter what level you are coaching at. At the conclusion of this piece, I will offer a few ideas for a club or volunteer coach to consider and how to potentially address them during the halftime segment, but I chose to leave that to the end in an effort to provide a true account of Coach Constantine’s presentation.
Coach Constantine offered up the perspective that there are two distinct halftimes, a coach’s halftime and a player’s halftime. The coach is attempting to deliver a message that is impactful and resonates to each individual, the units within the team, and the team itself whereas the players are receiving a message. These are two very different things and it’s important to recognize them as such.
There was a consensus that all halftimes have common aims and considerations.
Halftime Aims: The 8 R’s
- Reflect-what has happened to this point?
- Remind- what had you hoped would happen?
- Re-Organize- your thoughts and the squad
- Re-Motivate- still have a half to play
- Re-Visit- what you had worked on leading up to the match
- Reconsider- was our approach correct? Do we need to change?
- Replace- Do we need to make substitutions?
- Recover- Rest and refuel for the final half
- How to make efficient use of the time
- How to communicate with individuals & groups
- How to ensure players get feedback from each other
- How to avoid emotional confusion (give yourself a few minutes to collect your thoughts)
With the halftime aims and considerations understood, the discussion shifted to the delivery of the message. One can have all the correct information, but if you can’t deliver it in a manner that resonates with the players the opportunity for an effective halftime is lost.
- Be specific (don’t speak in generalities)
- Give actual examples that took place (use visual cues if possible)
- Be positive
- Tell the players how they can improve (don’t just point out mistakes, try to offer solutions)
- Compose- gather your emotions
- Consider/Contemplate- what has taken place, good & bad
- Consult- with your staff
- Connect- with the players
- Communicate- in a clear and concise manner
- Clarify- what needs to take place in the 2nd half (individually, in units, collectively as a team)
The Halftime Period “15 minutes for players and coaches”
To maximize the halftime period Coach Constantine recommends dividing it into 3 blocks. Although many youth/club halftimes aren’t a full 15 minutes the 3 period recommendation is still valid & applicable. The coach will just need to adjust the time period of each segment.
A coach needs to maximize his/her impact during this period. Therefore one must consider their words and actions carefully. The body language and positioning of the coach is crucial. You should stand where everyone can see you and be in control of the room. A coach may choose to involve the players when appropriate, but should never ask questions that he/she doesn’t know the answers to. Constantine contends that it’s best to only involve players that will support the message you are intending to relay to the team. This promotes “buy in”. The halftime period is too important to have an open ended discussion. The coach needs to be in control of what messages are being sent and how they will be received. The head coach may or may not choose to allot a minute or two for the assistant coach to chime in, but the core message should be delivered by the head coach and any information shared over this period should support that message.
The delivery of information and ideas along with tactical adjustments and motivation all must take place during this period. This is a crucial time frame since you won’t have the opportunity to have the full attention of the group again until after the result has been decided.
Coach Constantine’s three periods of halftime are as follows:
Half-Time- 0-5 Minutes “A calm and orderly dressing room”
· Think About the Message
· Specific Points
· Discuss with Assistants
· Compose Him/herself
· Personal Evaluation
Half-Time- 5-10 Minutes “A quiet and ordered room”
· Deliver information
· Explain changes and why
· Ask for observations
· Discuss if necessary
· Suggest if appropriate
· Effects of info given on team and you
Half-Time- 10-15 Minutes “A prepared and knowledgeable room”
· Revisit objectives
· Physical contact as players leave
· Eye contact!
· Refresh and ready
· 1 minute silence
· Quiet words of encouragement
· A new half/game starts
· Leave room for 2nd half
· Warm-up on the pitch
Coach Constantine likes to be the last person each player sees as they leave the locker room for the 2nd half. This allows him to gage whether the message he intended to deliver was received. A physical contact whether it be a handshake or a pat on the shoulder helps create a belief that you are in this together. You are a team.
Finally, the 2nd half will present different challenges then the 1st half. Did you prepare the team for these challenges? Did you anticipate any tactical changes the opponent may make? Did you create an atmosphere that will gain a positive response from the team? Can we score within the first 15 minutes of the 2nd half?
A few tips on how one can apply this information to the club level.
The goal of every halftime should be to improve the performance of the team for the 2nd half. Can you, as the coach, be a difference maker? The best coaches no matter what level they are coaching at can, not only identify problems and why they are happening, but also offer potential solutions to these problems. Although each match presents unique challenges you’ll likely find yourself coming back to the same points over and over. This is natural. Having a consistent, repetitive approach is healthy. You may need to change your demeanor from time to time to generate a response from the players, but having a measured approach will lead to more sustained performance over the course of a season.
Below is a short list of a few things a coach should consider at the half. The list could be much more expansive, but if you spend a few minutes considering these issues it will be a good starting point to having an organized, successful halftime.
But, I don’t have a locker room!
Select a location where you can have the player’s undivided attention. This could be a shaded area just outside the field of play or it could be within the field of play (pictured on the right). I recommend moving to a space away from the bench area to both create separation from the opposing team and also providing a unique environment for this portion of the game.
Keep this area consistent so players know the routine. Instead of heading to the “locker room” they’ll head to a specific area that will serve as your locker room For away matches try to identify a space prior to the match your halftime will take place. You may even want to have your pregame chat in this space as well.
Team Formation/Shape & Balance within the team- Numbers in the attack, numbers in the defense
· What’s our line of confrontation? Where we begin to pressure.
· What’s our restraining line? Where hold our backline.
· Are we overcommitting numbers forward or are we remaining balanced?
· Do we have proper spacing between the various lines within the team both horizontally and vertically?
· Are we compact defensive or getting too stretched out?
· What’s their line of confrontation? Where they begin to pressure.
· What’s their restraining line? Where they hold their backline.
· Do they move as a cohesive unit or are they freelancing?
· Where do they allot their numbers? up top, through the midfield, at the back?
· Where do their attacks tend to come from (the center, the wing)?
· What is their style of play? Direct or possession oriented.
· Are they strong in transition both attacking & defending?
What’s the Score? Is the score an accurate indicator of what has taken place?
Leading at the Half
Trailing at the Half
· Do we carry on with the game plan?
· Do we become more conservative in our approach? Send fewer numbers forward, keep more numbers behind the ball.
· When do we “lock it down” to secure the result? 10 minutes from time, 15?
· Do we carry on with the game plan?
· Do we become more direct in our approach? Send more numbers forward and potentially become more exposed at the back.
· When do we press for the next goal? Immediately, 15 minutes from time?
Who are the “difference makers?”- Identify two or three players that are impacting the game the most.
· Can we find ways to get them on the ball more and take advantage of their qualities?
· Should we isolate them to provide more space to play in by running teammates away or should we support them and offer more combination play?
· Can we anticipate how the opposition may try to adjust to limit the “difference makers” impact on the match.
· Can we limit their damage over the 2nd half?
· Should we crowd out their space to play with additional numbers and cover in that area of the field?
· Should we steer the ball into different area to lessen their ball contacts and decisions?
· If it’s a striker with pace, do we keep our backline deeper to eliminate the space between the last defender and keeper.
· Do we play quickly or slow the pace?
· Do we play short corners or long?
· In-swinger or out-swinger?
· Do we have a specific play for a certain distance?
· Who takes the kicks? Who takes the throws?
· Are we protected against a counter-attack?
· Do they play quickly or slow the pace?
· Do they play short corners or long?
· Men on the posts or not?
· How many players in the wall? Who are those players?
· Do they have specific players to watch/mark?
· Do we defend man to man or zonally or a mixture?
As you can see a few bullet points about halftime doesn’t do this crucial period of the match justice. Coach Constantine’s presentation was a refreshing and insightful look at this critical period of the match when coaches are provided a unique opportunity to impact the game. A coach can’t guarantee a positive performance in the 2nd half, but we owe it to our players to put them in the best position for success over the final 45 minutes (or for whatever duration your 2nd half will be) and having a consistent thoughtful approach to halftime will do just that.
Enjoy your coaching!