Many of today’s youth soccer clubs are limited to between one and three practices per week. Although there are a few clubs that are fortunate enough to train more than this, a common soccer coaching complaint is that it is difficult to try and cover all aspects of technical, tactical, and physical work in the time available.
For coaches who are holding extra practices to get work in, or are limited by weather conditions, here are five ways you can make your practices more efficient and effective when given time constraints.
1. Be Prepared…Have a Plan
Many coaches come to practice knowing what they want to do but yet don’t write it down. Instead it is all kept in their head! Keeping a record of each training session will allow you to develop a solid training plan that is both progressive and sequential in nature. Without a written plan it is difficult to peak your team at the right time. Remember the old phrase ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’.
2. Don’t separate conditioning & playing the game
It is not always necessary to include additional fitness exercises at the end of a practice. Be mindful that playing the game is conditioning. Incorporating training variables such as the number of players, the number of balls available, the size of the field, and touch restrictions are all ways to create various conditioning effects.
3. Include speed work in your warm-up
Speed wins soccer games. A great time to incorporate this type of training is at the tail end of the warm-up. The players are fresh and the training volume required for speed development is not very high. A quality speed session that focuses on technique may only take 5-8 minutes. This time invested will prove huge results on the field.
4. Incorporate circuit training
Circuit training is a beneficial method to use when training large groups of athletes. It is also used to raise work levels and can be designed specifically for a strength, a conditioning, or even a flexibility emphasis. For example, set-up 8-10 exercise stations on the field and in groups of 2-3 players per station. Begin with 30 sec. of exercise at each station and 15 sec. rest (time to switch to the next station) and complete the circuit twice.
5. Organize practice so only minimal setup is required
Taking time to set-up drills can eat up the clock. Therefore where appropriate, make use of one space to accomplish multiple goals. For example, begin by having a team play a 7 v 7 non-directional possession game in a medium size grid, then progress to adding direction to the possession game, and then finally play to goals. A session of this nature can easily last 45 minutes to an hour with minimal setup required. You can even do all of your warm-up and speed work in this same area!