Training facilities for soccer are better than they have ever been. Beautifully drained grass pitches, 4G Astroturf, indoor halls. It is no surprising that the standard of players is improving all the time. But the fact remains that some clubs might end up with ropy facilities, especially bumpy pitches which mitigate against the development of that most important aspect of soccer – the first touch.
There is no simple answer to deal with this. However, some of the suggestions below might help coaches cope better with poor conditions.
If It Is Down to the Weather…
For some teams, the poor condition of the pitch is down to the weather. Even the most well kept of facilities will struggle in heavy rain, especially if that is combined with frost or ice. In those circumstances, pitches ideally need recovery time, and training should take place off pitch.
However, a coach can prepare for such conditions with a little forethought. Keep a file of sessions which are weather dependent. Those close control, dribbling and low passing drills can wait until the weather (and therefore the pitch) improves, and time can be spent on the sort of activities which are less dependent on a good surface. For examples of these, see below.
Is Any Part of the Pitch Usable?
The chances are that, even on a bumpy, uneven pitch, there will areas which are in better condition. By holding numerous drills simultaneously, in a kind of soccer focused circuit, those drills requiring touch and precision can be based in the flatter zones, while the rest of the group works on drills which can be played more easily on a bumpy surface.
Which Drills can be Practiced on a Bumpy Pitch?
There are still some activities which can usefully be worked on even in poor conditions.
- Fitness work.
- Long passing.
- Set plays – free kicks, throw-ins, corners, penalties.
- Heading – paying due regard to rules regarding heading and younger age groups, and the potential risk of damage even to adult players.
- Shooting – not ideal on a bumpy pitch, but still practical.
- 1 v 1 games. These games work in a way that larger sided games do not because passing ceases to be an element in the play.
- Goalkeeper drills.
- Soccer-free games. Games such as handball involve tactics which duplicate those of soccer and are not reliant on a good surface.
However, no team (especially one with young players) will prosper if they have poor conditions on which to train. Players will inevitably get in the habit of playing the ball long, so their touch, passing and dribbling skills will fade. Frustration will creep in when good technique is nullified by a poor surface.
It might be that some lateral thinking is required by the coach. The chances are that other facilities will be available from time to time. It is better to vary the time and location of sessions while desperately seeking better, permanent facilities, than impact on the development of a team because of poor conditions. The only exception might be when the sole purposes of the team are to have some fun, make some friendships and keep fit. In these cases, the soccer is merely a means to achieve those goals.
By planning ahead, a coach might be able to access better facilities for some weeks. If half of all sessions can be held on good facilities, then it is not too disruptive to use the poorer pitch the rest of the time, implementing some of the ideas above.
When the coach is ahead of the game, he or she can plan sessions knowing that, for example, week 1 will be in an indoor facility, week 3 is on a local Astroturf. A couple of weeks after that a good pitch is available. Later, a local team is prepared to do a one-week swap. Perhaps a local pool is available for some fitness, games and water polo – professional teams often make use of pools as training facilities because muscles can be developed without the stresses placed on them by a hard surface. Players and parents will usually be happy to chip in for the hire of a pitch or indoor facility on an occasional basis if it means a better experience.
So, coping with poor training conditions is best (but never ideally) addressed by:
- Planning well ahead to book better facilities when they come up.
- Being flexible in timing and content of sessions, keeping players and, with youth teams, parents in the picture.
- Communicating well with all parties, and as far in advance as possible. Communication is all in this situation.
- Training according to the conditions.
- Being willing to spend longer in preparation. Utilizing an uneven pitch involves more setting up time. Getting the help of some assistants can maximize the experience for players
But, all the time, be on the look out for a better, permanent, facility for next season.
If you liked this post, you can check out our other books here.