(English) Coaches should be realistic when determining the activities to be done in the practice session, keeping in mind:

  • the skill level of the players;
  • the amount of time available for each activity;
  • the specific “teaching points” to emphasize in each activity. It is often possible to use one activity to teach a range of different skills;
  • the simplicity of the activity; generally the simplest activity should take precedence over more complex activities. The coach should also consider whether or not the activity has previously been used with the team. The more familiar the team is with a particular activity the lower the psychological load;
  • the integration of the activity, into the overall framework of the session; the activity that fits in best should take precedence;

Stages of a Practice Session

In general, a training session should be divided into three stages:

  • In the first stage, the aim is to prepare the players to be physically and psychologically ready when they reach the main stage of the practice. Warm-up activities without the ball such as running, stretching, etc., should be included here, and simple activities with the ball (low physical and psychological load) that, little by little, require greater concentration and physical effort.
  • In the second stage, the coach should incorporate the main objectives of the session, those requiring greater physical and psychological effort, combining activities of greater and lesser physical and psychological intensity. This is where the most teaching is done.
  • In the third stage, the coach should progressively reduce the physical and psychological intensity, although not necessarily simultaneously. Thus, in the first part of this third stage, they may include a physically intensive drill requiring low concentration. Or they can organise
    it the other way around, a psychologically intense drill with a low physical workload (for example, a shooting contest). Then it would be appropriate to end with exercises that require little physical and mental effort, such as basic stretching exercises.

The coach must decide what the main goals of the training session will be and, based on this, select the contents to be included and the most appropriate drills, taking into account the time available and the physical and psychological loads that they consider most appropriate at a given time.

In general, the goals of an activity can be grouped into four main blocks:

  • learning: the objective is for the players to learn or perfect new skills, both technical fundamentals (passing, dribbling, shooting, etc.) and tactical skills (1 on 1, 2 on 2 or 3 on 3 strategies, etc.);
  • repetition: rehearsing skills that players have already mastered in order to consolidate them and to perfect them. These activities can also be used to provide a physiological change, as the case may be (for example: shooting a series of twenty shots or running and passing for a period of ten minutes). It is important that repetition is done in context - for example, having someone stand in front of a shooter will help the shooter to develop a higher release.
  • exposure to real game conditions: the objective here is for the players to train under real game conditions (mainly stressful conditions) so that they get used to these conditions;
  • specific game preparation: the objective is to prepare the team to confront specific rivals who present specific difficulties.

With athletes aged 12 and under learning activities will predominate and, to a lesser degree, repetition goals. It is not appropriate to spend training time on the other two areas.

For teams of 13-14-year-olds, learning and repetition should predominate but the players should also practice skills mastered in non-stressful game conditions. However, it is not appropriate for this age group to spend training time on specific game preparation.

For teams of 15-18-year-olds, learning, repetition, exposure to game conditions, and specific preparation for games should be adequately combined. Learning drills should generally be done early in the practice session (when the psychological load has been low) or after a break.

The contents included in practice sessions should correspond to the goals for that session (e.g. perfecting foot movement in 1 on 1 defence; repeating passes already mastered, etc.).

Well planned activities are essential for making the most of practice time. A session made up of good, well- coordinated activities will benefit the players much more than a session with inappropriate or poorly coordinated ones.

With each activity that the coach uses, they must clearly identify their “teaching points”. These are the things that they will emphasize for the players to do. They are “process goals” and form the basis for evaluation of players.

In planning practice, the coach should also plan how much time will be used to “present the activity. Simply, this is briefly explaining the activity to be done and explaining the teaching points, which are the specific things that the coach wants the players to concentrate on.

The explanations given should be very brief. The players cannot be standing still for a long time, listening to long explanations. If an activity is to go for 10 minutes, no more than two minutes should be spent presenting the activity. Many coaches will try to restrict the amount of time used to instruct athletes at practice to 1 minute (the length of a timeout) or 2 minutes (the short break between quarters).