You’ve defined your playing philosophy. You want the teams within your club or academy to adopt a high-intensity pressing game, with an emphasis on shifting the ball quickly through the thirds and striking on the break. Your coaches have been briefed and are onboard. Now, it’s time to put it into practice through running carefully planned training drills that are aligned to your new style of play.
What are soccer training drills and why are they important?
In essence, soccer drills are the most effective way to take the Director of Coaching’s (DOC’s) approach to the game and translate it to real-world situations.
A PowerPoint presentation may help your coaches to understand the theory behind your playing philosophy, but don’t expect players to grasp the practicalities until they’ve encountered it on the training field.
That’s where soccer drills come in. Every facet of the game – from your preferred formation, to how players use the ball, and what they do when they’re not in possession – should be covered through the drills that your coaches run.
What are the benefits of effective soccer drills?
Unsurprisingly, different drills offer different benefits. But in general, soccer drills help coaches to:
- Break down complex messages into simple, understandable activities.
- Improve specific skills that players require to fit in with your playing philosophy.
- Build familiarity with a new formation or approach to the game.
- Run game management scenarios, giving players the confidence to cope with challenges when they arise in a match situation.
- Encourage discipline and teamwork.
- Evaluate the development of individual players and the wider team.
Additionally, when planned and executed effectively, soccer training drills should be fun. You want players to look forward to training, not dread the thought of it. If you can make your training drills fun, it’s far more likely that players will progress within your club.
How to run effective youth soccer drills
Effective soccer drills don’t happen by chance. Your coaches should follow these steps to keep their training drills organised, efficient, and aligned with your objectives:
Plan effectively in advance
First and foremost, coaches should never be unprepared to lead a training session. At youth level, coaches only get a couple of sessions a week with their players. The only way to maximise this time is to plan training exercises in advance – the last thing you want is for part of the session to be wasted as the coach struggles to clearly explain a specific drill. Before the session starts, coaches should gather up all the necessary equipment and hold a brief run-through with some of the players to demonstrate what the drill entails.
Keep all players involved
There will inevitably be times when your coaches want to hold one-to-one training or provide individual feedback. That’s all well and good, but distractions happen when a drill is specifically run for a single player.
Ensure that your coaches never leave the wider playing group without anything to do. Instead, they should wait for a drill that incorporates the entire group, then pull the specific player aside. Alternatively, feedback can be presented to the whole group, using the player in question as an example. However, this approach carries its own risks – the last thing you want is to leave a player feeling alienated or victimised.
Ensure your training drills remain focused
As we’ve already noted, coaches get limited time with their players, so they simply can’t afford to waste a single session. Each session should be geared toward a specific outcome – perhaps related to improving defensive structure, teaching players how to close down the opposition more effectively, or encouraging them to spend more time on the ball. Every drill within the session should therefore be focused on achieving that outcome.
Don’t muddy the waters by planning a counter-attacking drill in the middle of a session aimed at defending more effectively as a team, or a penalty-taking exercise during a session geared toward exploiting space and using the width of the pitch. At the end of the session, every player should have a clear takeaway – something they’ll be able to put into practice come match day.
Align training drills with your playing philosophy
Just as training sessions should be targeted at achieving a specific goal, they should be closely tied in to your philosophy. This isn’t rocket science: as a DOC, if your playing philosophy is all about patient build-up play and dominating possession, you don’t want your coaches to run training sessions aimed at promoting a fast, counter-attacking game. By tying all training sessions – across all age groups – into a single overarching philosophy, you make it easier for players to progress to higher age levels come the end of the season.
Of course, it can be difficult for coaches to plan a whole season’s worth of training sessions upfront. Fortunately, our season planning tool offers the perfect solution. Answer a few simple questions and our software will automatically generate a full coaching curriculum, made up of hundreds of drills and sessions created by our expert in-house coaching team.
Conclusion: Evaluate and improve
Even with ample planning, access to all the necessary equipment, and a dedicated playing squad who are eager to learn, not every training session will run smoothly. But it’s your job as DOC to ensure that the vast majority of sessions are achieving the desired outcomes. There are two key considerations here:
- Do your coaches possess the ability and experience to lead the sort of sessions you want them to run? It’s up to you to help your coaches develop if they lack key skills.
- Are you running the right types of training session? Regularly meet with your coaches to understand what sort of drills are resonating with players, and which aren’t hitting home. If you need ideas and inspiration for new training drills and exercises, check out our extensive catalogue of professional-standard coaching sessions.