Player Development

A Foundation for Youth Soccer Drills in 2020

Are you revitalizing your soccer drills for the 2020 season? Practices should be fresh, exciting and educational.

by Tim Bennett

A veteran of the college and youth soccer ranks. 24 years at the Division I level as a player, assistant coach, associate head coach, and Head Coach in such conferences as the Big 12, SEC, PAC 12 and the Big East. Served as an ECNL staff coach, US Soccer Development Academy Director and an Executive Director at the club level.

Are you revitalizing your soccer drills for the 2020 season? Every team or club knows the importance of breathing new life into their development programs. These exercises should be fresh, exciting, and, most importantly, educational. Depending on the age of the team, your drills should vary from technical practices to functional and phase of play drills.

With each drill you implement, you should have an expected outcome. You should be able to quickly access at the end of the drill whether or not a player met those exceptions. I like to start each session with basic rondos (keep away). The expected outcome here is each player should be sharp before diving into the bulk of their daily workout.

I then typically move into a specific topic from the team’s seasonal plan. If I’m coaching U9 or U10 players, the focus is on improving their first touch under pressure. For our U16 or U17’s, our focus is on preventing counter-attacks starting in the opposition’s half.

Our youth drills are continually evolving, and we depend a lot on game film. I have every game recorded so I can understand what the common themes are throughout a season and what the most vital component of the next practice should be. I expect my players to watch their game film consistently. It’s a pretty simple formula; the more players watch game film, the quicker our development program sinks in.

Here’s the result of one of my players.

I know this player is a #10 in our 3-5-2 formation. Looking at his heat map, I would design a session that helps him concentrate his workload and movement more centrally, rather than covering the entire field. Some action out wide is a good thing to create certain overloads and find the ball in vacant pockets of the field, but his role should be more defined centrally to maximizes his skill set and find the ball in more dangerous locations to set the team up for success.

I also notice that his stamina ends up being one of the lowest on the team, and he ran the most distance for the entire team. He’s a hard worker, so that doesn’t surprise me, but to make him a bit more efficient with his stamina and help him focus his workload in more central locations, we’ll continue to work on the drills that keep him in the best tactical spots on the field

Finally, regardless of the soccer drill, I’m always looking to create healthy competition among the players. I find this to be the most realistic way to relate the exercises to a game. Soccer is about competing, and this is an excellent way to promote development within your squad.

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