"We are excited to use the Scouting Solutions Coaches Guide as another way to deliver our curriculum and engage our coaches"
Welcome back to the second installment of the Coach's Desk. This week we will be looking at PLANNING A SESSION.
Planning a session consists of more than simply arranging 4 or 5 activities for your team to go through. A proper session plan considers preparation, setup, transitions, communication and of course planning activities. When planned correctly each session will engage your players, keep them focused and ultimately help them realize their potential. Here are nine questions to consider when planning your next session.
What do you want your players to bring to the session?
Sunscreen, bug spray, water, practice uniforms, rain gear, cleats, shin guards, runners, extra laces, etc. Of course the answer to this depends on what your objectives are for that particular session. I recommend putting together a list of ingredients for the players to include in their soccer bag they must be responsible for bringing to each session. Be consistent with your expectations. Flipping back and forth on requirements will only confuse players, making it difficult for them to be prepared.
When do you want your players to arrive for the session?
Session tomorrow at 5 pm. Amazingly enough this simple statement can be the source of a lot of confusion IF you haven't previously indicated to your players session protocol. Indicate to your players when the session starts and when you expect them to be ready. I have never come across a team that has the luxury of too much practice time. Taking the first 15 minutes of your session for your players to suite up fill the water bottles prevents you from maximizing your sessions and is colossal waste of time. Session tomorrow at 5 pm means players are ready, water bottles are filled and we are going through the session plan at 4:45 pm. If a players needs 30 minutes to get ready then they should time their arrival accordingly. Setting a consistent protocol for your players to follow will help your team immensely.
What are you going to wear as the Coach?
Will you be wearing jeans and t-shirt or will it be a track suit? Work Boots or Soccer Boots? Jogging Shoes or Sandals? Believe it or not what you wear does influence your team. There are no right or wrong answer on what you should wear, just be aware how your attire influences your team. Make sure this influence is inline with your expectations.
How are you going to engage the players?
It doesn't matter whether you prefer a whistle or your voice to alert the players of your intentions during the session - Do what works for you. Make sure you have given this some thought as you will be conditioning your players to respond to you during the sessions. Flipping back and forth between methods will delay the reaction time and not get the response from the players you expect. Motivational cues are essential, which come in the form of key words to ensure the players sharpen their skills and raise their level of concentration when and if needed.
How are you going to present the activities to your players?
Are you going to send them a copy of the session before hand or are you going to draw the activities on a practice board? Whatever your method make sure you are prepared. Sending the session plan to the players will not be effective if you don't allow them enough opportunity to access it. Sending off a session plan the night before a 10:00 am session the next day is not enough time. If you will be drawing out each activity make sure you have the proper materials to do so. Above all else BE CONSISTENT!
What are you going to bring?
See question 1. Coach items could include but are not limited to a First aid kit, emergency action plan, contact list, balls, water bottles, nets, cones, tactics board, markers, pinnies etc.
How are you going to Set Up and Transition between each activity?
Thoughtful consideration towards transitions will allow you to dictate the pace and keep your players engaged and focused throughout the entire session. One of my favorite ways to prepare for a session with a U11 or U12 Academy Team session is to establish an area 40x30 with two goals on each endline prior to the start of the session with the pinnies and additional cones set-up at the halfway line outside of the grid. This allows me to start the session with the players warming up across the grid, which means running 30 meters forward and backward across the width of the area. Then we progress to using 50% of the area for the intial part of the practice, which means 20x30. In this area we can work on passing in pairs, dribbling, juggling and so on. For the next portion of the practice we can use the entire area for possession games, or if need be bring in the goals and start to work on 1v1 defending and/or attacking working on two goals. To finish the session we will play a game in the area 6 vs 6 plus goalkeepers. This type of set-up allows for the players to move effortlessly between the session topics and/or parts. For the instances where there is an extended transition period between activities have you players perform a simple activity while you set up - this can include juggling, passing etc. Doing this prevents your players from standing around and losing interest in the session. Additionally this is a great way to maximize touches for your players during the session.
Why are you selecting these activities for your session?
The better you understand each activity the better your session will be. All to often coaches only focus on the HOW for each activity without ever considering the WHY. Of course understanding how to properly execute each activity is important, but even more important is understanding the reason you are doing each activity in the first place. The activity above (for keepers) demonstrates each area you should be aware of:
Explanation - this is HOW you do the activity
Objectives - this is WHY you do the activity
Progression - this is how you can change the activity
Coaching Points - are the important items for each activity
This activity form can be found in the Coaches Guide. The Coaches Guide provides you with the tools to create, organize and store each of your activities. Additionally Coach Guide members gain access to a database of over 350 different activities - giving you plenty of ideas for your next session. Specifically planning your sessions allows you to target your focus on key items and share this with your players.
What activities to include?
Each training session should include the warm-up, a technical focus with progressions, a game related to this technical focus, a small-sided game with a tactical focus and a cool-down. These elements are critical to the success of a well organized training session which will motivate and educate youth soccer players.
We will be discussing each of these components in the upcoming weeks. Next week we will be looking at the warm-up and go through examples you can use with your own team to help get them ready.
Thanks for joining us this week.
Yours in Soccer,