This article if for coaches and parents that would like to have a better idea of what a soccer practice should include. No matter how much experience we can have, we must always be open to new ways to adjust our soccer practices.
The tips for a productive soccer practice that I’m about to share with you are based on three components: Fitness, Techniques, and Tactics. I wrote a post on this topic and you can check it out here.
If a practice has these three components, especially at the U10+ level, then you can call it a success and your team is one step closer to THEIR BEST!
Fitness – Gotta be Able to Run!
There is no doubt that nowadays soccer has become very physical and talent is not enough. If we look at the recent world cup, most players run close to 10 kilometers (over 6 miles) per game. Now, when we look at fitness as a whole let’s make sure that we include: speed, agility, and strength.
Soccer practices should include speed drills, agility drills, and strength/core work. After a nice warm-up and stretch routine, players can move on to these drills to maximize the results since no energy has been used.
Depending on the age group, 20-30 minutes of fitness should be enough. Some extra work can be added at the end of the practice if time permits. Either way, players should try to get at least 15 minutes of strength/core work on a daily basis. This is my recommendation for individual fitness sets:
- 10-15 Push Ups (3 repetitions)
- 10-30 Sit Ups (3 repetitions)
- 10-20 Squads (3 repetitions)
- Holding Plank Position for 30 seconds (3 repetitions)
Techniques – The World is Watching You!
Footwork is as important as fitness when it comes to soccer. Every practice should have at least 30 minutes where players can improve their dribbling, receiving, passing, and shooting skills. This may be difficult to implement at once but I would definitely recommend having at least 3 out of the 4 mentioned.
The most critical thing about have a good technique with the ball and without the ball (for example: movement into the space) is that the world is watching you! Or perhaps, you NEVER know who is watching you. On one of my other articles I mention that: “to make it to the professional level sometimes you need luck, the right connection, and the right person to get you in the industry”. This is why I believe that technique must be shaped and developed as much as possible.
Also, with good techniques come many other components of soccer that lead to great performances. Playing first touch, into the space, in the air, long balls, give-and-go, short-short-long, and more. These plays require exquisite skills from all players.
Tactics – It’s all About the Team Work!
Once have worked on the fitness and skills, now we have tools for tactics and a game plan. No matter how good or bad a team may be, there should also be strategies to play the game. If a team lacks of tactics, then there will one team playing soccer (the opponent) and another team kick/pass the ball around.
- corner kicks, free kicks, throw ins (defending and attacking)
- attacking runs
- shifting and defensive runs
- switching sides
- stepping up and dropping back
Good communication skills should be reinforced at every practice. The more the players talk, the better the team will look. It’s not a secret that top teams have set plays, styles, and runs (for example: Dani Alves as a left back/winger at Barcelona FC). This identity is acquired during practice and that’s why I recommend at least 20 minutes of work on tactics.
Dedication and Commitment lead to Success!
On top of the work that a coach may bring for players, the dedication and commitment of the players are key to succeed as a soccer team. No coach can be the goalkeeper, defender, midfielder, and striker at the same time. No coach can score from the sideline during an official game. No coach can sub himself/herself into a game. They can’t, but player can.
As part of the routine, all practices should have a quick moment where players show that they care about the team and that they are trying their very best at all times. It is easy to be on a team to participate on a tournament. However, it is not easy to compete and be one of the top teams in your league. If players can help each other and work as a team, then success is around the corner.
I would recommend coaches and parents to make sure that players are at soccer practice to learn and improve. All players must know that they are at practice to take care of business so that when game time comes, they are ready to perform to the best of the ability. Whether a team wins or loses, the desire to win and do everything right must always be there.
No Matter what… Let them have Fun!
Now, everything in the last paragraph may sound like a very strict practice but that is not my intention. All I tried to say on that paragraph was: “Give your Best… Try your Best”. Some teams may just sign up for a tournament for the experience but either way, players should be able to RUN the entire game, DEMONSTRATE individual skills, and SHOW their strategies.
No matter what the weather is like, the age group, the number of players, or the result of the previous game, soccer practices should be fun. Learning and Discipline do not need to be boring. They must be introduced in a dynamic and engaging manner so that players can LOVE the sport.
Working on fitness and the techniques/skills of all players, and the tactics/strategies as a team, any team should be ready for the real show! A show that has a direct correlation with the way rehearsals go during practice. Step Up Your Game!
Please, leave your thoughts and suggestions below.