Practice is where all the learning is done. If players haven’t learned the skill in practice, they won’t be able to perform it at game time.
Each practice should be well thought out ahead of time lasting no more than 90 minutes. Therefore the training sessions should be efficient with smooth transition from one drill to the next so players have little down time. Unless preparing for a tournament, training shouldn’t run more than 90 minutes. Parents and players have a lot going on and value their time. During school players have other commitments, homework and family time. Please be respectful of this. An organized and efficient 90 minute session will accomplish much more in terms of development then one lasting 2 hours or more with more down time. No games run over 90 minutes and we want to mirror that time as best as we can.
Practice times should be communicated to the team as far in advance as possible. This helps families plan and will hopefully insure greater attendance. A little communication goes a long way for respect also. If conflicts do arise, ask for a brief note(Email works best for record keeping purposes) from the player/parents as soon as they learn they will miss practice. Not after the fact. Always remind the players and parents that attendance and performance at practice determine play time. The game is the reward.
The content of practices will vary throughout the year depending if you are preparing for a tournament or if it is a training session during the season. Typically you should start with a good warm up, followed with some individual skill work with some small group drills and end with some type of game or scrimmage. Again, if you have something specific to work on, a full field scrimmage might be needed. For the most part use small sided games. They mirror the larger game perfectly and allow more players to be involved in every play. Other good activities that should be in at least one practice a week are fitness and speed/agility drills. Both are critical to the short and long term development of your players.
Communicating and instructing in training sessions is an art. Try to be as positive and encouraging as possible. Every player learns in a slightly different way. Some will have no problem figuring out new drills while others may take a long time. With time, you will figure out the best way to help each of your players. Try to be as brief as possible when explaining drills. Players don’t really want to hear the coach talk, they want to play. And no matter how much we want to tell them, their attention span is only so long. Soccer is all about problem solving; see if they can figure it out first. Then stop the drill to add and correct. Again, be brief. While it is easy to give criticism, try to find positive examples too. Players do hear you and this will create the atmosphere of your team. The more positive and encouraging you are, the more your players will be with each other. If you are critical and even negative, the team will tend to reflect this as their personality.
Remember, the team is only as strong as its weakest player. Development of all areas is key to the success of every player. Don’t coach their every move. Allow them to make mistakes and try to solve it themselves. Soccer is a fun and exciting sport, it is key to make sure you keep the “fun” in the sport. It shouldn’t be a Job. They should be just as enthusiastic and passionate about the game when they are 18 as they were when they first started. Players develop at vastly different rates and times. Your weakest player at U11 could be one of your strongest at U16.
Don’t confuse, strength, speed and athleticism with technical skills, Players that rely purely on their atheism at younger ages will be passed in development by others that focus on developing all areas of their game.
Last Updated: August 4th, 2014