OK. Let’s jump right into the soccer practice basics.
You have two primary options –
Develop Your Own Practice Plans
Use Someone Else’s Practice Plans.
What have I done? I generally develop my own practice plans but I am always looking for new ideas for warm-ups and drills to incorporate into practice. I sometimes take a ready-made practice as a basis and modify for my own use.
Once you get the soccer bug you will always be looking for fresh, new ideas. Check out my soccer drills page for specific favorites of mine.
You will find that practice plans must be flexible. Kids go on vacation or get sick. They forget to bring their soccer ball. Sometimes you just have a bad day. Whatever the cause I recommend that you plan too many activities and let the flow of practice determine which ones to weed out.
Just starting out I would recommend using some of the “ready-made” plans that I have listed below and then as the season develops and you get more experience, you can begin to develop your own ideas and favorite drills.
Like to do things yourself? Be my guest! It isn’t rocket science. Jump down to the section on developing your own soccer practice plans and have at it. It will take more work on the front end to develop plans and drills but it is very rewarding.
You can shortcut much of the up front work with the book Organizing Your Youth Soccer Team. This book will give you a huge jump on organizing your own practices and can be downloaded in minutes!
The following free resources provide entire practice plans for various age groups. There are generally 8-10 practice plans or weeks along with diagrams and descriptions of the drills and games. These resources will also discuss important coaching points for each drill, as well as provide general discussion around age appropriate activities and skills to develop.
The best soccer drill book I have seen for youth soccer is Organizing Your Youth Soccer Team. The book also has a section on how to organize a soccer practice and how to properly instruct the kids during practice. Read my review and form your own opinion.
Even better, you can be learning new drills to use in minutes because the book is available as a download!
The Soccer-Coach-L website is an excellent resource for new soccer coaches. I recommend you start your journey of developing your own soccer practice plans by pouring over their web page on the Nuts & Bolts of Holding Practices.
Have you read it yet? Well, I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt. I’m just that kind of guy.
Here are some important tips to keep in mind when planning a soccer practice:
The generally accepted outline of a soccer practice is the following:
Warm-up, 5 min
Individual Activities, 5-10 min
Small Group Activities, 5-10 min
Scrimmage, 20 min
Cool-down, 5 min
My preference for warm-up is to involve the soccer ball. Although standard stretching can also be done, I would limit it at the younger ages. Include the ball when stretching.
There are many good warm-up exercises for soccer practice. You can play “fetch”, in which the coach throws or kicks the ball and the child must return it using both feet, or left or right foot only. You can have them stand and roll the ball with their feet, kick the ball back and forth between their feet, or do foot traps with alternating feet. Dribbling in a box using “Simon Says” is good for warm-up.
More warm-up ideas can be found HERE or in the coaching manuals listed earlier.
Another great resource is the Strongsoccer website. They have free video clips and explanations of turns, fakes, and warm-up touches.
Individual activities are those involving everyone with their own ball. There is a large gray area between the warm-ups and this category. This is a good time to work on dribbling, turns, or fakes.
Many good dribbling games and drills are designed as individual activities. Avoid lines if at all possible. Keep everyone moving or involved in some manner. Here are some ball control exercises that are great. The coaching manuals by Gavin Spooner also have great ideas.
This is a good opportunity to begin working in groups of 2 or 3 people. Passing and receiving are good skills to work on here, although you can find drills for whatever skill you want to focus on for that particular soccer practice. The purpose of small group is to begin the transition from the individual to the team concept. Emphasize working together and make sure the weaker players are properly supported and teamed up.
Here are many passing and receiving exercises that work well for small groups.
This is an easy one. PLAY SOCCER! Use small sided teams of no more than 4 and no goalie (at least until U10). Rotate kids often between offense and defense to let every kid have several shots on goal. Try playing without boundaries, use cones to make up to 4 goals, or anything else creative to keep the kids excited.
To be honest I’m pretty bad at this one. A little stretching with the ball is a good idea. I usually give handouts and discuss the soccer practice briefly. It is also a good idea to give a little homework like a juggling target, maybe to use their knee and foot before the ball hits the ground, or to practice a particular turn.
Finally, the New Hampshire Soccer Association has some really good advice for new coaches in the following manuals. The information is very specific to each age group.
In case you hadn’t noticed, Amazon.com also has many good resources for soccer practice, exercises, and drills. I did a search for soccer practice and have placed the results below.
This is your chance to share a favorite soccer game or drill with other volunteer soccer coaches!
Have you developed a new soccer game or drill?
Do you have a certain soccer game that the kids absolutely love?
Let other soccer parents learn from your experience!
Send it on in and we'll get it posted right away!