Youth soccer teams tend to only practice a few times per week, and so it is the coach’s responsibility to help ensure that the practice is beneficial and helpful in the development of young players’ skills. Under such time constraints it is vitally important that practices are run organized and smooth so that players will gain the most they possibly can from such time. Here are some tips to help organize your soccer team’s practice:
First off, you will want to have a plan for your practice in mind before you even get to the field. Always begin practices with a warm-up and some stretches. Then move on to your drills. I find it best to begin practice with something fun like a shooting drill. This helps players enjoy the game and have some fun after the monotonous warm-up routine.
Drills should last just long enough for players to learn the skills and feel like they truly practiced something. Usually each drill should take roughly 15 minutes, but it totally depends on what you have in mind. As a coach, you can organize practices however you want, and as such your drills can be unique to the needs of the team. Be sure to include several water breaks throughout the practice. These should be quick though, and you need to keep the team focused and get back to training. One of the best coach’s I had would announce, “You have 90 seconds to get some water” and my team would have to run over to the sidelines in a panic for our water bottles. Now that was an extreme example, but a water break really should never last more than five minutes.
Early in the season, soccer practices will be hampered by having to explain the drills each time, but once the team gets a good feel of how the training exercises operate, it will be easy and quick to get things underway.
Another thing to point out is that it works best to begin practices with individual drills like dribbling and ball control before moving on to more team-oriented drills later in practice. This way the players will have a good amount of time with the ball to get comfortable before more competitive drills later in practice.
After a more team-oriented drill like organizing a corner kick, or even a full-out scrimmage, try to close practice with another fun exercise. If you already completed the shooting drill, perhaps you could finish off with a juggling contest or team race. These types of drills are competitive and fun so players enjoy themselves and go home feeling good about the game. Try to mix up the drills throughout your practices so players get some training in different aspects of the game.
As a coach, you will need to have lots of patience with soccer practices. Although you may want to have a great plan of drills, sometimes time slips away or practice is cut short and certain things have to be saved for later. Be flexible and aware of the demands of your team. Also, always keep up a positive energy during practices. Young soccer players will feed off of that and strive to improve their skills in the game.