Failing To Plan Is Planning To Fail – Planning A Season Plan As A Soccer Coach

Failing To Plan Is Planning To Fail - Planning A Season Plan As A Soccer Coach

This is BY FAR the number one mistake that coaches make… and the single biggest secret to success at any level.

Consider this comparison:

Pre-Planned Practice:

Makes the best use of available time, space and equipment

Minimizes down time and transition time between drills

Allows you to teach skills in an appropriate progression. Learning speed is maximized and athletes master new skills quickly and easily

 Immediately demonstrates your knowledge and confidence to athletes, parents, administrators and fellow coaches

 Structured practice minimizes horseplay and athlete misbehavior

Winging It:

x Leaves you at the mercy of poor facilities or insufficient equipment

x Wastes time and slows down practice by inefficiently moving from drill to drill

x Drills are arranged in a shelter-skelter fashion, without any clear progression. Athletes have more difficulty picking up new skills or plays

x A poorly organized practice can cause team members to question your coaching ability

Lack of structure allows athletes to goof off, waste time and create potential safety issues

It doesn’t matter how many killer drills or plays you know.

Without a pre-designed practice plan, you’re like a sailboat with a broken mast… just floating through the ocean with no particular direction.

The key is to break down your season into bite-sized pieces, then plan exactly what you’re trying to accomplish each step of the way.

I like using a seasonal, weekly, and daily practice planning system.

You can prepare these schedules in advance… and the whole process should take less time than watching a ball game on TV.

The result: efficient, effective practices that are simple to run, and immediately boost your credibility with players, parents, and fellow coaches.

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How To Create a SEASON Plan That Virtually Guarantees You Accomplish Your Team’s Goals

This is your road map to ensure that you will accomplish all of your objectives you’ve laid out for the season.Start by identifying the skills you want your athletes to acquire. It can be useful to divide these up into five categories:

1. Technical
2. Tactical
3. Physical
4. Psychological
5. Social

Technical Skills:
The specific athletic body movements required to perform a sports-specific task.

Tactical Skills:
The judgments and actions made by athletes during a competition to gain an advantage over their opponent.

Physical Skills:
The development of endurance, power, speed, strength, or agility to meet the physical demands of the sport.

Psychological Skills:
The development of confidence, concentration, motivation and emotional control to meet the mental demands of the sport.

Social Skills:
The development of positive character traits, such as respect, kindness, and fairness. Effectively communicating with other team members using verbal and non-verbal methods.

Once you’ve established the skills your athletes need to learn, you need to prioritize which skills you will focus on for the season.Consider how old your players are, how much playing experience they have, and what their prior skill base is.

Which skills are most closely aligned with your coaching philosophy?

If you’re coaching a competitive varsity high school soccer team where winning is a high priority, you may want to emphasize tactics and mental toughness. A 5-6 year old soccer coach might decide to focus on basic technical skills. And so on… 

Next, look at your resources. 

How many assistant coaches do you have?

What kind of facilities do you have access to?

How much practice time is available?

Once you have a short list of skills that you want to prioritize, try dividing your season up into

4 Phases of The Season:

Off Season: Participation in team events is usually optional or non-existent.

Pre Season: Approximately 1-2 months before season begins up until your first official competition. Includes tryouts and team selection.

Early Season: The first half of the regular season.

Peak Season: The second half of the regular season and the playoffs.

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Peak Season

For each phase, jot down the high priority technical, tactical, physical, mental, and social skills you want your athletes to acquire… and the team goals you want to accomplish.

For example, in the off season, a soccer coach might focus on physical conditioning, setting a 3x/week workout schedule which emphasizes core training and leg strength to increase shot speed.

In the pre season, that same coach might set a technical skill goal of teaching every player on her team how to do the “scissor move.” 

In the early season, the tactical emphasis might shift to defense, with a heavy emphasis on jockeying/delaying the opponent that has the ball and not letting them get past you.

Maybe you’d set a goal to have a shutout percentage of 80% or better through the first half of the regular season. And in the peak season, the overall team goal could be to win the district championship.

You don’t need to talk about specific drills or activities here. This is more of a “view from 30,000” feet on what you want to achieve.

Weekly Session Plan

Once you’ve identified the specific skills your athletes need to perform well, you’ll need to decide what types of drills and activities you can use to develop them. Before each week, take 10 or more minutes to plan out a rough outline of your practices.

Think of your main practice objective and the skills you want to focus on for each day. Consider the facility you’ll have access to and the equipment needed for each individual session.

For example, say you’re a soccer team preparing to face your rival team on Friday night…

Monday’s practice might focus on reinforcing fundamental skills, with some group work and small sided games.

Tuesday might be a medium intensity practice, where your goal is to have every player on the team to complete in small group keep away seasons  and ending with a fill scrimmage.

On Wednesday, you might have half field games where your offense plays competitively against your defense. Leave 30 minutes at the end of practice for a full field scrimmage.

Thursday might be a light practice, where you’d run some placement set plays (corners, free kicks, etc.) for game day.

The key here is to develop a detailed plan for the week that takes into account your overall objectives for that phase of the season. If you’re in the peak phase of your season, you’d probably focus less on conditioning, and more on preparing for a specific opponent.

Daily Session Plan

On the other hand, a weekly plan during the regular season might really focus on individual skill development, and rehearsing your offensive and defensive plays.

Okay – this is where we get into the real meat and potatoes of coaching your team.

First, sit down and outline your top three primary skill goals for the day. If you were coaching a 11-12 year old soccer team, you might want to teach your kids how to execute a shot on goal, practice passing back and forth “one-touch”, and work on good passing technique.

Make sure you record any special equipment you’ll need, like cones, whistles, or training vests. Once you’ve  established your goals and equipment required, let’s plan the specific activities.

Start with a warm-up using three five minute phases: Aerobic Warm-up, Stretching, and Technical Skills Warm-Up.

During the aerobic warm-up you may decide to have your athletes complete a light jog around the field or perform some other kind of gentle aerobic activity to increase their heart rate and warm up their body.

Once your athletes are sufficiently warm, you can transition into the stretching phase of your warm-up. Focus on stretching the muscles that are used most often in your sport.

Next, introduce a simple, sport-specific drill that your kids have done before.

For this youth soccer team, you might set up a 4 corner jog – sprint – jog – sprint, or do a fast passing give and go drill. Now, we’ll move onto the “core” of your practice. First list the technical, tactical, physical, mental and social skills you would like to work on with your team. 

For example, we might decide to work on the technical skill of “left footed passes.”

Next, assign a drill to each skill that specifically targets the area you want to improve, and write that down in the middle column. In this case, we might use the “one touch passing drill.”

Finally, use the third column to make note of any coaching points you’d like to remember during the drill (ie. ball speed while passing, use the inside of your foot etc.) Repeat those 3 steps for each of the skills you’ve chosen to work on for that practice. Complete your practice with a cool down that lasts at least 10 minutes. Slowly bring your athletes’ heart rates down with gentle aerobic activity (do not abruptly stop practice or aerobic activity as this may cause injury). Once your athletes are breathing normally, lead your team in a thorough stretching session to wrap-up.

NOTE: Make sure you allow athletes to stop for water breaks every 15 minutes to ensure they remain hydrated throughout your practice. It’s best to schedule these into your plan- ner so that you don’t forget. At the end of each practice, take 5 minutes with your assistant coaches to evaluate how your team did.

Were the practice objectives met?

How are you progressing on your prioritized skill goals?

What could you do better next time?

I won’t lie to you… there is a bit of work involved in this process. But it’s well worth it…

If you take the time to create these plans, you’ll be less stressed out and much more confident with your team. Athletes, parents, administrators and fellow coaches will sense your confidence and have much more respect for your coaching abilities.

Comment below in the comments section with your thoughts…

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