Creating Practice Plans For The Season
I have been asked by a number of coaches, who use the advanced coaching platform, if I would share with them the process of how I put a practice and/or season of practices together. It is not a simple question that can be answered in a few sentences, so read on to see how I create my practice sessions. As an experienced youth coach, here are some ideas that will hopefully help you with your practice planning for your team or club
My practice is divided into 3 parts; technical warm up, focus activities/small sided games & scrimmage. One of the most important parts of my practice is the first third, which is spent on dribbling, passing & receiving which some may call technical warm up activities. These activities focus on dribbling moves, first touch, receiving and passing balls both on the ground and in the air. For the majority of the time players have their own ball or work in small groups. I make sure the activities are different for almost every practice. This keeps them interested and focused and this part of my practice remains consistent and is not dictated by team deficiencies. Repetition is what this part of the practice is all about. I use the other 2/3 of practice to focus on what I think the team needs work on based on the previous game. This is not the case for the younger age groups (U7-U10) where your main focus should be teaching skills.
Here is how I put the first part together: Before the season begins I plan the technical warm up (1st third) section of 8 practice sessions, which takes care of an entire month of practices (2 per week). I need 25 good technical warm up activities to use in the various sessions (2-3 per session). I name the sessions 1-8 and I save them in my custom folder called "Fall 2016". Once they are saved, I can use these sessions month after month and only have to change the focus activities on a weekly basis (2nd section).
With the first third of my practice set, I just have to sit down a day or two after my game and add my focus activities to the session and off I go. Whether you us the youthsoccer101 advanced coaching platform(which has 50+ technical warm up activities) or use another source for your activities, it is important to have a variety for your players. Even though I repeat these activities a month later, the players have seen 20+ other different ones before seeing them again. A key part of my practice planning is finished for the entire season.
Here is a sample of a technical warm up section of one of my plans HERE (click on the name of each drill on the first page and you will see the animation/video)
The next step is "Customizing your plan to help improve on your team’s weaknesses"
With the first 20-30 minutes already done for my first 8 practices (as I mentioned in part #1), I just need to open up session #1 and add the activities that I want the players to focus on. This team desperately needs to improve on passing and receiving balls both on the ground and in the air. Remember, if your team played a game over the weekend you may want to focus on a weakness or two that you saw in the game. Don't try to fix everything in one practice--the players will get confused!
With my focus on passing and receiving, I just need to find 2-3 activities that will help work on these skills. If you use the youthsoccer101 advanced coaching platform, there are over 60 activities related to this topic in the drill library. As I mentioned in Part #1, I do not want to look at 60 different activities every time I try to make a plan--it is just to overwhelming. I already marked 20 activities as FAVORITES, so I can jump to those favorites immediately. After adding 2-3 to my plan, here is what it looks like HERE
2/3 of my practice is complete. The final step is to tie it all together with a scrimmage & add some fitness with a ball.
Scrimmage time is not just throwing the ball out there and walking away. I do try to limit the play stoppages until I see a repeating trend that I do not like and will address the team as a whole. There is a fine line between letting them play to figure it out on their own and stopping the play to make a coaching point. Give them certain restrictions or guidelines before they start and give them some time to work it out.
I like to end the practice with a fitness exercise or two that involves the ball or a partner. Finished plan
You can save yourself a ton of time and aggravation by doing some simple planning and a little work prior to the start of the season. If you are still writing practices on a napkin and throwing them out after the session is completed, you are throwing away a lot of hard work.
Practices run better when you come prepared and the players will know if you are prepared!
Good luck with your team!