When it comes to soccer coaching, it is very important that we always look to improve upon what we do in our training sessions. It is critical that we consistently put our players in positions that allow them to progress and enjoy the game of soccer. In this article I am going to take a look at 5 key tips that will help you become better at teaching the beautiful game.
Tip #1 – Know Your Players
Too many coaches just go out and run drills they found in a book without consideration as to whether or not they are age appropriate. Running activities that are too difficult (or too easy) for your players leads to frustration on their part.
Take some time to learn the characteristics of your players. Knowing what you can expect them to be able to handle will go a long way towards choosing proper soccer drills for them. Young players will need to move quickly from activity to activity. They are easily distracted, and very focused on the ball. It is best to use drills that have a ball at every player’s feet for the majority of the practice. As the players get older, you can begin to introduce more tactical elements to your sessions.
Tip #2 – Have a Theme
Each practice that you run should have a definite theme. It doesn’t help your players if you jump from passing to dribbling to defending to shooting in the same session. You will often find that you need to stick to a single theme (such as possession) for an entire week, or even multiple weeks for the lessons to stick with your players.
Use your end of the week games as an opportunity to assess how well your players are adapting to what you have been coaching them.
Tip #3 – Make a Plan
This tip really dovetails with Tip #2. Don’t show up at the field with a bunch of cones and set something up based on your mood. As you only have the opportunity to work with your players a few times per week, it is very important that you make each session really count.
Plan ahead so that you have the proper equipment for the activities that you want to run. There should be a flow from simple to complex within each practice session, with each phase getting your players closer and closer to activities that resemble the actual game of soccer.
Tip #4 – Coach the Session
It is critical that you “coach” each session as opposed to just “managing” the drills. You should be choosing your practice drills with a specific goal in mind. All coaching points you make during the session should build on that goal.
For example, if you are running a drill with a focus on possession, your coaching points should include receiving away from pressure and providing proper support angles for passing. You want to make your points as necessary, instead of just watching the players go through drill after drill.
Tip #5 – End with Free Play
One problem that we have in the United States is a lack of creativity, especially in the final third. Most of our youth soccer players only play in structured environments under the watchful eye of coaches.
They are not encouraged to experiment. It is important that you allow your players to play the game from time to time without worrying about you jumping all over them when they mess up. This type of environment is just as beneficial as ones where you are providing active soccer coaching.