Whether you are coaching an under 9’s game of soccer or the top senior team at your club, there are a variety of techniques you can employ to get the best out of your team. A good soccer coach will always focus on three key areas of the game: fitness, ball skills and tactics.
Many soccer games are won and lost in the final minutes, so make sure that your team has the required fitness level to compete for the entire match. Fitness training should begin at the very first practice and continue throughout the season.
At the beginning of practice, have your players warm up by jogging around the field. After 15 minutes of warm up activities your player’s muscles will be ready for more intense training. Lead the team through a variety of different stretches. To build endurance, end practices with a jog. Fitness level is crucial and allows you to begin to build your player’s skills on the ball.
The skills you emphasise with your players will depend greatly on your team’s style of play. If you want your team to attack down the wings, craft your practices around crossing drills. For example, have your wide midfielders stand in a line at the corner flag and take turns crossing the ball into the box for your forwards to attack.
If you prefer slick, possession soccer, set up a scrimmage where your players only get two touches on the ball. This will encourage quick thinking and quick action. Professional players often play small-sided games with miniature goals as a way to improve first touch and speed of play. Also, make sure that you incorporate at least one drill that requires your players to strike the ball with each of their feet.
Some coaches start with a favourite formation and then plug in the players at their disposal, while others assess the talent available to them before they decide on which formation to use. Unless you are a veteran soccer player, it is probably better to build your tactics around the abilities of players on your squad.
There are numerous player configurations such as 4-4-2 and 3-4-3 that are effective to use. Try to build the ‘spine’ of your team around your best players. If you put your smartest player at sweeper (a central defender who plays behind the other defenders) your best passer in the centre of the midfield and your speediest player or best dribbler as striker you will have a solid axis around which to build the rest of your starting 11.