Sometimes we as coaches spend hours perfecting our session plans, making sure the activities are as beneficial and intricate as they can be, only to have the practice fall apart. This article will discuss 4 common reasons why your practice might not be working and how to fix it.
POOR EXPLANATION/DEMONSTRATIONEmbed from Getty Images
Players need to have a clear idea of an activity right from the very start. To ensure that they do, a demonstration is always best, no matter how many times the activity has been done before. Every player’s attention needs to be captured right away, so the coach should take the necessary time to gather everyone’s attention, get everyone close together make sure players standing at the opposite end of the field can hear. If there are different roles or complexities to the activities, every possible scenario should be demonstrated, including progressions when they are implemented. If you as the coach can’t demonstrate something yourself, it’s always fine to have a player demonstrate. However, I have personally found that the players understand what they are supposed to do best when I demonstrate it first and then get them to demonstrate/rehearse after.
NOT AGE-APPROPRIATE, NOT FUNEmbed from Getty Images
Just because an activity works at U9, doesn’t mean it will work at U10. Sometimes activities just aren’t age appropriate and a lot of the time, we create things that are too easy for our players. If the explanation and demonstrations are up to standard, difficult activities can be understood and executed at younger ages. But activities that are too easy become boring and demotivating for the players. Having a defender shadow and follow the movements of an attacker might be good at the Active Start U4-U6 age, but beyond that, defending can easily be taught in more game-realistic 1v1 situations. If an activity is either too difficult or too easy for the players, they won’t have the motivation and desire to make the activity work.
Practice activities can also miss the mark if they are just simply not fun. It probably goes without saying that activities that are fun for eight year olds might not always be fun for twelve year olds. But we often try and do the same activities between different age groups. Other things that aren’t fun for kids include waiting in lines, the coach taking too much time on the explanation, and physical activity that does not include the ball or the sport-specific movements – such as running laps or “suicides.”
SIZE OF THE AREAEmbed from Getty Images
If you get any “tennis” or “ping-pong” action in the middle of a soccer practice…chances are the size of the area is not conducive to giving players time and space to make better decisions. Often times we may be tempted to reduce the size of the area when coaching a defensive topic, but we need to be careful about the defenders doing well due to the small size of the area, or the defenders doing well because they are understanding the topic. I’d personally suggest always giving players as much space as possible given the size of your practice and playing field. If at U8 you play on a 5v5 field, obviously using a 9v9 field is too much room for the players to practice on and the field size should be reduced. But in most cases, giving the players more space to accomplish what it is you’re asking of them will only produce positive outcomes for the players and the session topic.
IMPROPER WORK/REST RATIOEmbed from Getty Images
On hot days, players should be given more breaks for longer periods of time. On cold days, players should be given shorter breaks to ensure they never cool down and can keep moving. If the activity has gone on for too long, especially if it’s high intensity, it’s no secret that the players will become tired and that you might not be able to get the best out of them. “King’s-Court”-esque games where 2 teams are playing at a time with 1 team having a water break may work well and may be another way of conducting breaks without stopping the activity. But if the activity is too short, the players might only have just gotten an understanding of the activity before their momentum is interrupted by a break. Waiting in lines can also be a way to implement rest periods, but coaches must be careful with how long players are waiting in the lines. If the wait time is longer than the time spent doing the activity, then the players are getting too much rest and not enough work. Work-to-rest ratio is a very important consideration when designing the practice activities and it is one that may often be neglected by coaches.
So there it is! 4 Reasons Your Practice Isn’t Working. The work-to-rest ratio, size of the area, demonstration/explanation and age of the players are all important considerations when designing a practice. But they are also things that we often fail to spend time thinking about. Ensuring that thought has gone into these four things will help to stop your practice from falling to pieces and ensure that you get the most out of your practice time.
Thanks for reading!
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