4 Tips for MUCH Better Soccer Practices
"Soft" Soccer Coaching vs. "Hard" Coaching
Specific Examples of how to coach soccer by using "Tips"
This approach will result in your players wanting your help
and asking for your advice so they can improve
Benefits of Keeping Score in Soccer Practice
How to Teach your players without "Over-Coaching"
Be Careful not to take the Fun out of your Soccer Practices

How to "Teach" your players while avoiding "Over-Coaching" that takes the fun out of your practices. To quote Coach Doug: "Soccer should be fun. Fun is the most important thing for the young soccer player."

If you are a coach of young players, your practices should involve 4 things:

  1. Fun. Ask yourself these questions: Do your players play harder if they are having fun? Are they more excited and eager to come to practice if they know it's going to be fun? The answers are obvious. If soccer isn't fun, kids will stop playing.

  2. A High "Ball-Ratio" and Lots of touches on the ball. Two things are key: (1). A ball for every player and (2). Practice Games that have a high "ball-ratio". Scrimmaging isn't good because it has a low ball-ratio. Dribble Across a Square and Hit the Coach, for example, have a 100% ball-ratio. Dribble around Cone & Pass Relay Race and Win the 50/50 Ball or Be the First Defender 1v1 Attacking and Defending have 50% ball-ratios.

  3. Keep score as much as possible because keeping score creates competition, pressure and "Game-Speed" - the result is that your practices become "Game-Realistic". Keeping score also allows you to monitor each player's progress.

  4. Teach your players by giving them "tips" that will help them improve their scores in the Practice Games. That is a better and more fun way than "hard" coaching. If you use this "soft" coaching approach, it changes your role from a nagging coach to a teacher who is giving his players tips so the can improve. The reason it works is that when they are playing SoccerHelp Practice Games they will see IMMEDIATE results... so they are getting immediate positive feedback and seeing that your "tips" really work. Your players will see that the players who follow the coaches' tips win more games than those who don't... those who listen will win, and those who don't listen will lose.

An example of how to coach by giving "Tips" in the Dribble around Cone & Pass Relay Race Practice Game:

Let's say you're playing "Dribble around Cone & Pass Relay Race". Play it once and ask "Who wants to win this game?" Tell them you will give them a tip that will help them win. Here's an example of a tip: Tell them that the player who starts with the ball can kick the ball in front and run to it as a way to go faster. Tell them they will just have to be sure to not kick it too hard. (Demonstrate or have a player demonstrate). Another tip: Pass the ball as soon as you can after you have rounded the cone. Another tip: The Receiver must stay on his toes and watch for whether the pass is going to his left or right and start to immediately move that way - the Receiver's most important job is to STOP the pass, because if one pass gets by him his team will lose the game (this will start to teach Receiver's that they can't just stand still and wait for the ball to come to their feet - the Receiver MUST stop the pass, just as they must in a real game). Another tip: The Receiver can start moving toward the ball as soon as it is passed (that's the rule in this game and probably would also be how you want the receiver to play in a real game), but the Receiver can't just rush at the ball... it's not that simple... he must be sure the ball is coming at him, because if it's a bad pass he may have to move sideways to stop it. Another tip: The Receiver can block the ball in front of him and run to it as a way to speed up (again, this is good training for a real game). Another one: The pass MUST be accurate... one bad pass can lose the game... the pass needs to not be too hard, but it can't be too easy either... they will learn the proper "weight" by playing this game. These are some of the things this game teaches, and your players will learn by playing the game.

An example of how to coach by giving "Tips" in the Dribble Across a Square Practice Game:

Each player should keep count of his or her trips across the square. A player gets one point each time he or she turns. Have the first player to reach the target score (e.g., 12 or 10) yell "Done" and raise their hand. As soon as a player yells "Done", blow your whistle and have all the other players stop as soon as they get back to the closest side of the square. Then, ask each player his or her score so you can monitor each player's progress and give tips for improvement. What I would do was start with one player and ask: "John, what was your score?" and then quickly ask each of the others. It is also an opportunity to praise anyone who has improved or to give tips such as "It is very important to keep control of the ball on your turns. If you lose the ball it will cost you several points". This only takes 2 or 3 minutes. The game is self-teaching, but it is helpful for the coach to be encouraging and to point out at the end of each Game how players can improve their performance by giving "tips" on how they can improve their score. A simple way to do this is to point out what the player did who won the Game. For example, in the smaller square, the winner will be the player who keeps the ball near his feet, "Shields" the ball from traffic, and makes the turns without losing the ball -- the winner will keep control of the ball. In the larger square, the winner must still keep control of the ball, BUT the winner will also look for Open Space and kick the ball into it so he can Speed Dribble, and he will still make the turns, so he can't kick it too hard. This is very much like a real game, where if you don't keep control you will lose the ball. This approach works because the players want to improve their score and if they use your "tips" they will see immediate results and get higher scores.

David at SoccerHelp