Coaching, Player Development

Grassroots Coaching – Part 2

As we head into part 2 of this 5-part mini series, take a moment to reflect on your next practice and setting up with the 5 W’s.
Constant questions to improve your ability to read the game and challenge your player appropriately.

And we move into the core of part 2 – The 5 elements of a training session.
To begin with, I believe there are two phases to your practice.
1 – in planning. Everything is perfect on paper…
2 – in reality, on the field. It is not so perfect!

Element #1 – Organization.
Does the practice environment reflect on the age and skill of the players you are working with?
On paper – 10 yards of space per player +/-
On the field – enough ‘good / safe’ space to set up in? Other teams setting up, parents walking through the field etc.
But you get set up, finally, and the practice is underway:
Its too easy, too hard, or just not quite achieving my practice goal:
Space – make the area smaller or bigger, longer or wider. Typically bigger = easier and smaller = harder with confined spaces and less time on the ball.
Time – play in time limits – 1/2/3 minutes of play per ‘rep’.
1v1 – 30s to 1m
2v2 – 1m to 1m30s
3v3 – 2m to 3m
4v4+ 3m to 4m
The timings identify a maximum work load at each level of competition. The effort level of players up to and beyond those identified time limits will significantly decrease. Try playing 1v1 for 3m. It will be competitive and soon tail off.
Another benefit to timing is that players know how long they will work for. When it is open ended, you will see the effort and focus begin to tail off as they begin to get tired.

Other alternatives include:
– Changing the game rules,
– Adjusting the number of players to give an advantage – 3v2 / 4v3 etc.

Element #2 – Is it game-like?
Can you see the game in your practice and does it replicate how you might try to play at the weekend.
Dribbling around cones is not game like and should never be encouraged (personal opinion). So, if you play the 7v7 game, take the big game and begin to cross off players to address the 5 W’s, namely the Who and Where:















The field on the right shows the 7v7 game with a focus on the blue team creating scoring opportunities. Is it game-like? Yes.

Element #3 – Repetition
Does the practice provide multiple opportunities for your players to experience the practice focus? Using the practice set up for the blue team, do they get multiple opportunities to attack if the blue goal keeper starts with the ball? Yes. If the red team start with the ball they would then have to win it back, which would be a different topic and for this topic, provides less chance of repetitions.

Element #4 – Challenging
If you play 10v1, is that challenging for the 10? Reflecting on the image, it is set up as 6v5 (including goal keepers). The numbers are fairly balanced and should be challenging for both teams. Too challenging? Too many players can lead to chaos for the players and a loss of focus for the practice. Challenging is also reflected in success and failures. Some elite coaches believe their players should never succeed in practice, instead ‘saving’ the success for performance in the game. At the grassroots level, I believe that a chance to succeed is key. Success is not a given, but it is achievable if you think, apply yourself, and respond to coaching. Conversely, too much failure can lead to dejected players who may find it ‘too hard’ (yes, too hard. Think of how easy they can achieve anything with a smart phone now – working hard at something is sometimes difficult when easier options are available).

Element #5 – Coaching
It is not about you, but you are involved.
Are you coaching? What specific moments are looking for, to coach? ‘What happened there? It also happened in the game…’
Are you asking questions or autocratically telling players what to do?
Do you engage with and challenge players individually, as well as collectively?
Do you talk about anything other than Soccer with your players? Do you know who THEY are beyond Soccer?
What about your education? Do you take the SFYS required education and then coach for 7 years? Or do you keep up with trends? Did you / do you plan to take the next grassroots level of license 7v7 moving to 9v9 etc.?
Although it is #5, this is so important for your players and for yourself to develop with the game.

Thanks for reading and please share with other like-minded coaches. Feel free to comment / ask questions via the comment section or email

© LeeDunneSoccer

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