Every Practice Must Have a Purpose; Planning Your Team’s Soccer Practice

Photo credit: CLF / Foter.com / CC BY

Photo credit: CLF / Foter.com / CC BY

If you are successful in your day job, you know that a key to your success is planning. For successful soccer coaches at every level, planning is equally important. If your plan is to roll a ball out there and scrimmage with your kids, you have no plan.

EVERY PRACTICE MUST HAVE A PURPOSE.  Practice time is limited. If you get 90 minutes of practice time, twice a week, you have three hours to get ready for your 60 minutes of game time on Saturday. Every minute counts. Your warm-up, your keeper training, each drill must be targeted towards a specific goal. The goal: a demonstrable improvement in individual technique and in team tactics. A practice plan is not a suggestion. It is a requirement.

Before I lay out a typical practice plan, let me give you seven tips.

1)    Non-ball fitness training in the younger groups (U-12 & below) is a waste of practice time. A properly planned practice will do plenty for fitness and, most importantly, maximize touches on the ball.

2)    Stretching, as a warm-up, is a waste of time. Current research is clear. Warm-up stretching is not helpful. An active warm-up is far better.

3)    No one takes shots on goal without a supervising adult present. This is especially critical pre-practice. Kids love to shoot on goal. Unfortunately, the shooters rarely look to see if any kids are retrieving balls from the net. Far too many kids get hammered in the back of the head whilst digging in the nets for a ball. It’s a rule: No shots on goal without a coach present.

4)    Specific and engaging drills are YOUR job, Coach. In this article, I give a general idea of how to structure a practice, but you need to search the links at the end of the piece for what works for you.


5)    Goalkeeper training is mandatory. Put your players in position to succeed. If you don’t take ten or fifteen minutes to train your goalies of the week, you are setting them up for failure.

6)    If you are playing, you are not coaching. Demonstration is good. Playing is bad. If you want to play more soccer, join a league.

7)    The game will teach. Swallow your whistle. Resist the urge to constantly ‘coach.’ Set up the drill or small-sided game. Demonstrate. Give a few very brief instructions. Demonstrate again. Get out-of-the-way. “A-ha moments,” on the soccer field, as anywhere else, come when doing, not when listening.

In planning, there is freedom. Put your practice plan on paper. Don’t wing it. If you know what’s coming up next, you are free to be 100% present with your team. A portion of a practice plan from one of my U-15 teams is below. While I might not use the same drills for U-10 or 8, the planning process is the same.


  1. Reflect – What needs to be addressed? Every practice must have a goal.
  2. Research – Use your resources for drills to help the team reach the practice goal
  3. Equipment – Any special needs? (You should always have a few spare balls, scrimmage jerseys & low-profile field marker cones.)
  4. My General Format:
    1. “What will we learn today?”
    2. Active warm-up
    3. Individual ball skills.
    4.  Small sided game for field players.  Break out goalkeepers for GK skills training.
    5. Large sided game
    6. Shooting
    7. Set plays
    8. “Today We Learned…”

THU 10 AUG a.m. practice

8:25             “What will we learn today?” (We will learn to recognize the 2 v1  offensive opportunity using the wall pass)

8:30 am        Indian Run w/ball

8:40             Juggle

8:50             2 v. 2 w/2 Neutral Players outside 10×20 grid  Neutral players support the offense.

                     GK training – Needs to be HIGHLY age appropriate

9:05             7 v. 7 crossfield w/GK (small goal)

9:25             2 v. 1 Shooting w/GK (full size goal) defender applies 50% pressure.

9:45             Set plays – direct kicks just outside the box.

10:00            “What did we learn today?” –

Use the Oreo. “We did ABC well today. We still need to work on XYZ. But I really liked the LMN I saw.”


  1. Every practice must have a purpose.
  2. In planning, there is freedom.
  3. The game will teach. Let it.
  4. Kids are fun. Enjoy them.

Number Four is the most important.


There are 1,600,000 “soccer coaching website” hits on Google. Here are several I find useful. If these don’t work for you, find two or three that do.

http://www.finesoccer.com/ – I use this more than any other.

http://www.nscaa.com/  – the national coaching association

http://www.ussoccer.com/ – the home for US Soccer

http://www.usyouthsoccer.org/ – the home for US Youth Soccer



The Beginning
About David Stanley

Teacher & science guy, writer, musician, coach, skier and bike racer, I am interested… in everything; your story, food & spirits and music and everything in the natural world, spirit & sport. My son is 22 and still needs his Dad. I am 56 and so do I.
I blog on life and death, cancer and sports, kids and education at http://dstan58.blogspot.com/

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