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Coaching Tips: How to plan and structure your practice session (Traditional Method)

By Ryan McConville, 12/02/19, 2:30PM EST

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Planning is not always an easy task for a parent volunteer coach, rushing home from work, a late meeting, kids forgetting their cleats etc... In the world of soccer this happens.

I have lost count of the number of times I have spent valuable time planning  my session to then end up doing something completely different at the last minute because of field space, forgetting equipment, kids being sick or not turning up for their session etc.

I am lucky I can improvise  because of personal experience over the years, not forgetting the security of having planned the session in the first place and having this guideline in place will help you if any of the above happen to you.

So... How as a Parent Coach do you deal with these situations ?  

Natural instinct is to just go to your safety blanket and do something that you have done a million times or something you have seen another coach do at their practice last week right?

Well, here are a few useful ideas when planning your session:

Step 1: Set a soccer objective, and don't worry about the explicit detail at this point. For example: passing, dribbling, shooting, having an objective already gives you a template of what you will do at your practice.

Step 2: After you have set an objective, be specific, for example with shooting, think about where you want the players to improve: Shooting inside the box possibly? Now you know that the area you will be working is inside the box with a goal.

Step 3: How many players you are going to have?  Sometimes having an uneven number of players means we tend to take the easy way out and add a neutral player or floater. It's OK and preferred that you play with an overload 3v2 or 5v4, because this happens and is realistic to the game. Neutral / floater players NEVER happen in a game. 

Now you have a template, devise your session. This session structure is based on a traditional training session not P-P-P. 

1. Warm-Up:  Related to your objective, this could be a fun game to get everyone engaged and prepare their bodies for activity. 

2. Technical Practice: This can be unopposed or opposed, but should focus on improving the players technical execution of the topic / skill.  You may want to build this to a 1v1 or 2v2 situation to prepare for the next phase of the training session. 

3. A Structured Small-Sided Game focusing on your objective. This could be 4v4 - 7v7 or a specific phase of play where you may give an advantage in numbers to the attacking or defending team depending on your topic. Try to avoid using unrealistic conditions. 

4. Free Play Match - Play a full-sided game as much as your numbers will allow, allowing the players to put into practice what they have learned in the session with freedom and creativity. It is important to not over coach in this phase and pick only one or two moments to emphasis the topic of the day in a game situation.  

Once you complete your session, review and reflect:

  • Ask yourself, did all your activities link to your main objective?
  • End the session by asking the players a set of questions.  For example; if the objective was shooting, make sure the players have understood how to improve the execution of the technique, the coaching points and how to do it in game situations. 
  • Even the most qualified coaches will not always get the answers they expect but you have to trust the process and the objectives you have set for the players.
  • Following completing your session, this provides the perfect opportunity to self-evaluate the practice and start enthusiastically start planning the next one........

Here's to your next training session, may it be your best yet!