How to Plan a Coaching Session for Soccer

Three Parts:Setting up the PracticePreparing Practice ActivitiesPreparing Follow-Up Discussions and Messages

Coaching sessions can only be useful and effective if they are well thought out and carefully planned. The more you plan, the more successful your practice will be. Whether you be a brand new coach or a coaching veteran, there's always cool new ideas and tips you can use in your practice. By staying active and changing your practice a little from time to time, as well as planning well, you can have a great practice that's not just enjoyable for the players, but you too.

Part 1
Setting up the Practice

  1. 1
    Make sure you have a copy of the team roster. This is a list that usually consists of the following: each player's name, age or date of birth, uniform size, if they have played on a team before, preferred position, name and phone numbers of parents/guardians (if they are younger than 18).
  2. 2
    Figure out when the next game and/or tournament is. You may need to ask your league's soccer commissioner for this information, check the league's website, or contact another coach responsible for the same age group as you. This information is crucial when planning the difficulty and frequency of practices.
  3. 3
    Set up a basic, uniform soccer practice schedule. Some leagues do this for you. Contact other coaches who coach at the same level and age group as you to ask how often their teams practice if you're unsure.
    • At some point you should be able to decide this based on your own understanding of the mechanics of your players and when they need practice versus when they need breaks.
    • Try to maintain at least two soccer practices per week. High level teams with older players sometimes increase this to four or even five practices. It is your decision how often and long you should hold practices. It is important to manage this with when the soccer fields are free.
  4. 4
    Reserve your field and times. You may have to contact the league commissioner for this, however all leagues are different. Sometimes you have to contact a county run office, for example the county recreation department office. Generally a league commissioner will have notified you how to do this when you signed up for coaching for their league.
  5. 5
    Update any website or social media websites your team may use. Having some form of online presence is greatly encouraged as it gives players a way to contact each other if other methods fail. Post upcoming games, practices, as well as the entire soccer schedule and be sure to add reminders for their upcoming games.
  6. 6
    Contact players and parents. Most coaches find that the best way to notify players is through group email. That said, some coaches find that calling each player works best.
  7. 7
    Make sure they know what to bring. For older players this is probably pretty self-explanatory, however new players need to understand what to bring and wear.
    • They need to be equipped with cleats, long socks over shinguards, and bottled water. It is up to you to decide if they need anything else after preparing a full practice plan.
    • You can post this information on the internet, and/or explain it in the email, text, or phone call.
  8. 8
    Prepare your own list of things to bring. This also depends on the practice you choose to drill, however there are some basic things every coach tends to bring.
    • Remember to bring soccer balls, cones, several full water bottles, coloured bibs, clipboard with practice plan as well as roster, paper, pencil/pen and any handouts you choose to give players or parents.
    • Sometimes a drill may require a 'ladder', a flat ladder-shaped agility obstacle. If you choose to bring this, try to keep it untangled.
    • In addition, mini soccer goals are occasionally provided by coaches when training on a field without them. If you decide to purchase some, look for some that wrap and compress easily.
  9. 9
    Prepare any handouts. For first time soccer practices, it can be important to prepare a handout with league rules for games and general behavior. Also include your own rules for practice, your phone numbers, telephone number of your supervisor and the number to call to see if games have been cancelled. Also consider adding information about contacting you to get more involved both as players and parents.
    • Encouraging activities such as carpooling, after-game dinners, and possibly even snacks (for younger age groups) will both encourage players to get more involved as well as bring your team closer together. The closer your team is, the more likely you are to see good teamwork on the field.

Part 2
Preparing Practice Activities

  1. 1
    Evaluate player abilities. It is important to have a clear understanding of your teams weaknesses and faults before planning a large practice. Many leagues have a tryout date at which you can observe and take notes on players' abilities. If not, consider having your next practice be purely for evaluation purposes and have them do some very clean cut and stark drills (i.e. running sprints, long distance, and basic drills).
  2. 2
    Figure out where your players are best being played. Depending on how you coach and their ages, you may not need to assign specific positions. At an early age, a player should be more focused on developing their skill everywhere rather than one specific position.
    • That said, with older teams it is important to pick out one or two goalkeepers. These players need to be dedicated and hard working. Some coaches choose to bring in specialists or assistant coaches to coach them separately, but bring them back in occasionally for scrimmages and exercises to keep the flow of teamwork.
  3. 3
    Remember to provide lots of water breaks, especially on hot days. Keep players hydrated, it's important to keep them playing at their best.
  4. 4
    Choose your first drill. This is usually a pulse raiser, or a drill specifically designed to gradually increase body temperature and blood flow to the muscles. This can be as simple as running laps, or you could include a small circuit of exercises. Try to limit this to a simple 5-10 minutes.
    • For youth teams, fun activities such as stuck in the mud are good.
  5. 5
    Try a short pre-practice stretch session. This stretches out joints and can make exercise more comfortable. Stretches such as lunges, side steps, high kicks and windmill arms are great for this. That said, your pre-practice stretches shouldn't consume too much time.
  6. 6
    Move into a short skills activity. This gets the body back into soccer mode and your muscles get to remember how to perform the basics again. Make the players do some exercises such as these:
    • Short and long passing in pairs or small groups.
    • Quick shooting practice.
    • Again, for youth teams this could be made into a game. For example, seeing which pair can make the most passes or hit the target the most in a certain time period.
  7. 7
    Fit in some fitness work. This should raise the players' heart rate to 60-80% of their maximum heart rate. This helps to develop their cardiovascular endurance. Fitness needs to be constantly maintained so that players are at match fitness throughout the season.
    • Fartlek training is possibly the best training method for soccer. The mixture of intensities and terrain simulates match situations.
  8. 8
    Work on developing skills. If you want to go through set pieces, new tactics or just maintain the team's skill level, this is the part of the session to do it in.
  9. 9
    Add in a scrimmage (a small-sided game) to finish off the main part of the session. This gives the players a chance to put any new skills or tactics they have learned into practice and helps develop muscle memory. If the players are tired and weary, let them rest before playing the game. Adding a game is optional.
  10. 10
    Cool down with a pulse reducer. This gradually returns the body to its normal state and disperses excess lactic acid, reducing stiffness and muscle soreness. This is often consists of a light jog around the pitch, then slowing into a walk before sitting down with straight, stretched legs.
  11. 11
    Finish off with some static stretches. This helps stretch out your joints and is good for relieving stress after a hard session.
  12. 12
    Be sure to offer an immediate water break. After practice is when everyone should be quiet, refueling, and listening to you. Lots of coaches use this time as an opportunity to review practice and remind players what to do outside practice.

Part 3
Preparing Follow-Up Discussions and Messages

  1. 1
    After practice, gather everyone and let them know what they need to work on and how they can improve at home. It's important to remind them to stretch, practice and stay active in general. Never ridicule specific players, but feel free to compliment any players you think did exceptionally well, or the ones who could use some encouragement. It's important to switch up the players you call out to avoid a teacher's pet situation.
  2. 2
    Give out any handouts. It's important to have some handouts ready for players and/or parents to let them know what happens next. Be sure to announce the next practice time and offer yourself to answer anybody's questions or concerns.
  3. 3
    Wait for everyone to get a ride home. This is simple coaching etiquette and simply shows you care. For lower age groups, it's also a safety matter. Wait for your players to either get home by themselves or have their parents take them home.
  4. 4
    Shoot out an after-game email. Phone calls and SMS may be a little bit heavy handed for this, but it's good to let players know what they need to work on once again in an email and on your team's online presence.
    • If you've got the time, shooting emails out to individual players is a good idea, too. Remember, however, anything you email a player can be shared with other players. The goal is to provide an open and positive community within your team.


  • Make sure to take breaks after each part of the session to recover and rehydrate.
  • More drink breaks will be needed if it's a particularly hot day.


  • If it's a hot day, don't work the players too hard or they could get sun/heatstroke. Be sure to give lots of water breaks or even end the practice early if you think that's best.

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Categories: Team Sports