by Coach Gianni Mininni
This is a very sad aspect that, unfortunately, is often present in the practices of youth teams that I’ve had the chance to observe.
Many coaches, have the players, boys or girls, and sometimes men or women, wait in line to do something, in particular for shooting (the rare times that players are shooting at practices!).
This is something that really kills me!
What’s the meaning of practices? To simulate and repeat over and over REAL individual or collective game situations so, when they happen in a REAL game, we are ready to react properly to them.
Beside the absurd wasting of time by staying in line and doing nothing, please tell me when we stand on the field for 2 or 3 minutes, or even for 10 seconds?
So, why is the majority of the time spent on the field at practices, spent staying in line?
Plus, if you want to be 100% sure to lose control of the kids and make them push each other or fight, there is not a better way than to make them stay in line and do nothing!
I was recently visiting the sessions for the D coaching course on Burlingame, and with another 15 coaches plus the instructors, we were at the center of the field, while a youth team was practicing (???) in a corner. During a pause, we were astonished at how much time the kids stayed in line waiting and we decided to use the chronometer!
Feel free not to believe this, but this doesn’t change the reality. Do you have an idea about the proportion between exercises and waiting in line?
More than 3 minutes waiting in line and 11 seconds activity! The kids (boys) were like ‘monkeys’ trapped there ready to explode in a riot every second. They were kicking each other, pushing, stealing positions in line like, ‘I was before you!”, “no you passed me!’”, plus the lazy ones that constantly stayed behind!
And what was the exercise done every 3 minutes? For 10/12 seconds, chasing each other, without the ball, trying to reach and touch the team mate with the hand! What does this exercise (???) have to do with soccer? Another mystery!
So, dear coaches, and I consider all of you brothers in soccer, let’s get out of this nightmare and correct this absurdity, FOREVER!!!!!!
The FUNdamental ‘9-Step Practice Routine’ was created to give you ‘tools’ to help your kids constantly learn, never standing in line and constantly using the ball.
When you’re coaching at practice, you ‘teach’ soccer in a soccer ‘class’. And for ‘teaching’ soccer in a soccer ‘class’ you need something fundamental:
The soccer ‘desks‘, one for every kid just like at school, are the 2 cones of the FIGURE 8 or the 3 cones of the SERVING PATHS, where the kids NEVER wait in line, and ALWAYS use the ball!
These 2 elementary tools/situations, will allow you to simulate and reconstruct ANYTHING that happens during a soccer game. This way, you’ll ‘teach soccer’ to your ‘soccer students‘, make it interesting, fun, stimulating and make every second count. And considering that there’s not to much time in the 1 or 2 practices of 1.5 hour a week, I think this is not only good, but is MANDATORY, if you want to coach (teach) for real!
This is not great only with kids. I lead weekly soccer classes all year round for adult players, women and men, and this is exactly what I ALWAYS do.
There is no other way to manage 10 or 15 players (soccer students) and make every second count.
Even shooting, that is the worst situation in which I CONSTANTLY see ’soccer players’ wait in line for their turn to shoot. This is not realistic, because it never happens during a game!
If you have 12 players, you need minimum 20 soccer balls. When they shoot, if there are NEVER soccer balls around to shoot with, how can they do it without wasting time and getting bored?
So divide them in 4 groups of 2 , 3 or 4 players (depends of many you have at practice). 2 groups stay to the side of the 2 goal posts, with plenty of soccer balls. 1 serves and the other 2 or 3 constantly run around collecting balls. (great fitness without realizing it!)
Please underline to them that there is walking, jogging, running and sprinting so, if you say RUN, it doesn’t mean the first 2!!! Please don’t misunderstand me but often I have the sensation that the new generation was born already tired and lives to rest!
The other 2 groups, stay at the border of the big box ready to shoot, with plenty of soccer balls, refurnished by the 2 groups at the posts.
NO KEEPERS ON GOAL! Why? For the elementary reason that, with simultaneous shootings, they could be hit very hard, particularly in the face, while they are focused on catching another ball. Instead, put a big cone in the middle (the keeper) and 1 cone to each post, 2 feet away from them. (those are the targets of the shooters!)
So, here’s how the exercise works.
1. The first player of the 2 groups shoot (with the laces) at the far post cone with the correct foot (right the one on the right, left the one on the left)
2. Sprint forward while the players at the post send a good ball on the ground toward those who are advancing. They kick the ball at the near post cone, with the INSIDE of the foot, like a hard pass on goal! (so, they will strongly ‘deposit’ the ball in the net, not try to make a hole in it!)
3. Keep running forward and hit the ball with the head that is send by the same 2 groups at the posts. Always try to hit the ball just above the nose and with the eyes open, sending it on the goal line away from the keeper cone!
4. Run to pick up a ball (NOT IN THE NET SO THE OTHERS DON’T SHOOT AT THEM!) and run back to the border of the big box, dribbling the ball as fast as possible, ready to shoot with the other foot starting from the other side.
This is very dynamic, realistic, no one waits (except for a few seconds at the beginning), great fitness in running to collect the ball and great to improve shooting, supposing that you have thought them the right technique to do that, during another part of practice.
Every 5 minutes, or less, collect all the balls on the net and switch groups. Have them do this in an organized way. This means not making a mess by not staying in the right place and not doing what you have explained to them to do.
If you do this, please let me know how it goes. Last recommendation. Make this VERY CLEAR TO THE PLAYERS BEFORE STARTING. If in this exercises there are players that instead of running, just jog or walk, in particular the girls, they will skip the next game. Next practice, they will run like gazelles, if they are soccer players who like to play soccer. If not, there are plenty of other kids that would like to run and play soccer instead of…………………………………………walking around at practice and pretending to be soccer players!
In our peninsula and the bay area, there are great beaches and parks to go to and walk. And it’s very fun too, like……………………………… playing soccer!
Coach Gianni can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org