Training economically means the inclusion of more than one of the four components of the game into the same activities within a training session. An example of an uneconomical practice would be running for a whole practice. Fitness might be improved (though injuries increased), however, players would not improve tactically or technically. An economical activity at practice such as ball tag would include the manipulation of the ball (technical work), turning, stopping, and running (physical), decision making (tactical), and if the coach sets the environment for success, confidence can be built by the coach (psychological). With the little time we spend with players, economical training is a must. The 4 components of the game must be integrated into all of our activities.
The 4 components do NOT occur in the game in isolation, therefore it is important we do not train or practice this way. Economical training allows our practices to be more functional and allows us to make the best use of the limited time we have and enhance the development of our players.
- I. Technique (Skill): Mastery of ball handling (dribbling, passing, shooting, receiving/trapping, heading, etc.) within "game-like" conditions.
- II. Tactics (Decision-Making): Decision-making, both on and off the ball, based upon a player's understanding of the game...learning how to "read" the game!
- III. Physical (Soccer Fitness): Conditioning, endurance, speed, agility, power, flexibility, and strength, etc. achieved through soccer-specific activities.
- IV. Psychological (Attitude): Competitive spirit, aggressiveness, sportsmanship, and productive attitude…learning to deal with both success and failure!
- What age group am I working with?
- How many players will I be working with?
- How much time do we have?
- What kind of space/environment is available?
- What kind of adult assistance will I need?
- Do I have the right equipment? (Cones, Pinnies, Balls, Goals, First Aid Kit, Ice Packs)
- Are my players/parents clear about what they need to bring to every practice? (Ball, Shin-Guards, Water, Proper Footwear)
- Am I prepared if an injury takes place? (Emergency Phone Numbers, Cell Phone, Medical Release Forms, First Aid Kit, Ice Packs)
- What is my mood today and how might that effect my communication with the players?
- Am "I" ready to have some fun???
Begin with Warm-up Activities
- Introduce creative and active games or activities that encourage lots of movement and ball touches
- Add stretching to this part of the practice for U12 and up (stretch only after an initial period of activity)
Main Practice Activity
- Choose a technique that you want to teach and use games or activities to facilitate the learning of that technique
- Keep all directions clear and simple trying not to talk for more than 2 minutes per instruction - apply "K.I.S.S. Principle" (Keep It Simple Stupid!)
- Add variation to the game or activity to increase the level of pressure that the player encounters while practicing technique
- Maximize player participation by avoiding non-participatory "line drills"
Play a Scrimmage
- Small-Sided Games Provide the Best Learning Opportunities
- Use the scrimmage to provide players with an opportunity to further integrate new techniques/tactics under game-like conditions
- Allow free-play without instruction - Let the kids play!!!
Every coach needs a variety of coaching methods to use as tools with his/her teams. Here is a tool kit of 5 coaching methods and explanations of their use. Please be sure to keep coaching points BRIEF and focused on ONE topic per practice session (i.e. shooting or passing or 1v1 defending). Also limit coaching points or stoppages to 1 or 2 per activity.
I. Coach within the flow of the game: This is successful with players whose technique allows them to process and play at the same time. The coach provides clear, brief instruction to individuals or small groups of players as the ball is moving. This is not an ongoing monologue, but comments at a critical time to influence play. The caution here is to not let this become noise.
II. Coach the individual player as the game continues: Here the coach stops an individual player to make a coaching point, but does not stop the activity. While the coach interacts with the player, his team plays a "man down." Obviously the interaction must be brief and concise to get the player back into the activity.
III. Coach at natural stoppages: Here the coach addresses groups of players during times when the game is still, e.g., when the ball goes out of bounds; at water breaks; change over. While being brief and concise is always important, here it is important to focus on a problem that is fresh in the player's mind.
IV. Allow the conditions of the activity to coach the theme: Here the conditions of the activity provide the problem for the players to solve. For example, using the 6 goal game to coach small group defending. Defending three goals forces the players to pay particular attention to cover and balance. Conversely attacking three goals will reward the team that can change the point of attack quickly and accurately.
V. Coach using the "freeze" method: Here the coach "freezes" the game to make his coaching point. This allows the coach to "paint" a very visual picture for the players. Use this option with care, because if used too often it can disrupt the game and frustrate the players. A technical freeze allows the coach to correct incorrect technique and is coach directed. Here the coach can demonstrate proper technique and have the player rehearse the technique. A tactical freeze is often coach directed, but can benefit from guided questions as well. If we use questioning, then the questions should state the problem. e.g., "we are giving the ball away coming out of the back, how can we prevent that from happening?" The tactical freeze should be reserved for "big picture" situations involving several players. Optimally, the play should be "frozen" just as the situation presents itself. e.g., as the defenders should be stepping to the ball.