A solid practice plan makes efficient use of the time you get with the players. The typical practice should include time for focusing on skills and scrimmage time to prepare young players for games. A healthy dose of encouragement and a positive team culture helps the kids enjoy practice. Whether it's your first season or you've been coaching for years, break down your practice time to meet the goals for your soccer players.
Check the schedule to verify the practice start time, length and location. Knowing how much time and space is available allows you to break down the practice to include appropriate activities. Check on other teams that might practice in the same location to ensure your practices don't overlap. If you're sharing the practice field, you might need to modify your drills to fit the limited space.
List the skills you want to cover in the practice. The age and experience of the kids affects the type of skills you'll practice. For beginners, proper kicking technique, dribbling and throw-ins are skills you need to practice. Younger kids also need practice with the basics of the game, such as staying within the field and knowing what happens when the ball goes out of bounds. For older kids, skills might include better ball control when dribbling or attacking the ball.
Identify position-specific skills that only certain team members need to practice. Goalkeepers aren't typically used in youth leagues with younger kids, but if you coach older kids, you might have different positions that kids play.
Plan a warm-up for the team for the first five minutes of practice. Instead of just running laps or doing calisthenics, incorporate soccer skills into your workout. If you want the kids to run, have the players dribble a ball up and down the field at the same time. To get their arms moving, assign the players a partner and practice throw-ins back and forth.
Divide the rest of practice time between the skills on your list. Allot more time to the skills you want the kids to focus on the most. For example, if keeping the ball under control while dribbling is a problem during games, dedicate a larger portion of practice to dribbling drills.
Write out a schedule that breaks down the practice time with each activity listed. Include rest and water breaks. For example, the schedule might be: 6-6:05: Warm-up dribbling practice, 6:05-6:10: Shooting practice; 6:10-6:15: Water break. Balance the type of drills you do throughout the practice so the kids don't get bored or worn out. If you start with a high-energy drill with lots of sprinting, follow up with a slower passing drill so the kids get a break.
Arrive at the practice area at least 15 minutes before the players so you can organize the physical space. Set up any cones, goals and other markers on the field. Get out the balls, pinnies and other equipment for easy access. Give your assistant coaches a copy of the schedule so everyone knows what is on the plan.
Items you will need
- Soccer gear
- Copies of practice schedule
- Keep a list of your favorite drills and soccer skill games with a description of the activity and the skills it uses. This makes future practices easier to plan. Refer to the list when you need an activity for a specific skill.
- When possible, plan drills that keep all of the kids involved. Break the players into smaller groups for drills so the kids aren't waiting long in line.
- Turn drills into games to keep the young players interested in the activities. Instead of just practicing dribbling, turn the drill into a game of red light, green light with soccer balls.
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