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How Soccer Training Programs Work

There has been much speculation lately – as occurs from time to time – about the world’s best current coach.  Is it he who wins most trophies?  The one who achieves parity with leading sides despite having access to limited resources?  Of course, the answer is down to our opinion, but a third factor is very much in vogue at the moment.  That is the kind of coach who improves players; not just fits them into an effective tactical system, but who takes even the highest standard of player, and makes them better. How does a soccer coach build a great soccer training program?

Soccer Training Program SWOT Analysis

This is something to consider when we think, as coaches, about structuring our training program.  A good starting point to putting our plan together is to carry out a standard SWOT analysis.  This is where we consider:

·        Strengths of our team – Those elements which are already good, but which we want to make better.

·        Weaknesses – Those aspects of our play which need to be improved as a matter of urgency.

·        Opportunities – What might emerge to make us a better team?  Player recruitment?  Training facilities?  Money raising to increase resources?

·        Threats – Most obviously, injuries or other causes of player absence.  With youngsters, especially, that can be not enjoying sessions because of limited opportunity, or extreme pressure placed upon them.

The analysis enables us to know objectively where we are as a team.  Next, it is important to think about the barriers to our training program.  Given a professional set up, with bespoke training facilities, specialists and access to both a gym and our players when we need them then most of us would become more effective coaches.  Sadly, real life gets in the way.  Our plan should seek to maximize our opportunities given the barriers we face.

Soccer Training Program Principles

Next, we consider the following aspects to our training program:

·        Player development – The skills and techniques players have to make them better exponents of the game;

·        Physical fitness – We will not be successful if our team runs out of steam in the second half of matches;

·        Mental strength – The ability to overcome adversity and keep our goal focused in our minds;

·        Tactics – As much as purists love the idea of free flowing, inventive soccer, winning is also important.  Our tactical organization can help to nullify relative weakness of our team in some matches and exaggerate our technical superiority in others.

·        Rehabilitation – Players do get injured, and we can help them to recover more quickly with the encouragement and support of the club.  Getting over, say, a hamstring injury can be tough if our players are alone; doing so is much easier with the support of our team mates.

·        Match Play – Getting fit, or technically improved, is not most people’s prime motivation for joining a soccer club.  They come along for the game, so that should form a part of a training session.  However, this can be small sided to help develop the skills of players.

We will look at practical applications of the above in other blogs.  Also, we need to keep in mind the age group with which we are working – Under 10s require a very different process than adults.  For example, there is probably no need at all for fitness work with this age group, and strength work must be avoided unless we have access to proper physiological expertise or we risk damaging growing muscles.  However the principles below hold true, broadly speaking, across the entirety of teams from our Under 6 kids to professional levels.

Player Development

At least fifty per cent of our training regime should be dedicated to this.  Soccer Drills, skill sessions, individual and group practices can be used to make our players into better performers.

Physical Fitness

Between ten and twenty per cent of our time should be spent on fitness.  Often, this takes place at the beginning of a session.  The expectation should be, however, that players also use their time away from team training to work on their strength and fitness, with runs, sessions in the gym and so on.

Mental Strength

Maybe five percent of our time can be spent working on mental strength with, for example, team bonding exercises and visualization tasks.  This does not mean that mental strength cannot be worked on during other activities.


Perhaps twenty per cent of our sessions can be spent on tactical exercises – this can include formations, working on set plays, concentrating on roles during transition and so forth.


This is very much an individual process; it is support, resources and (where possible) expertise that will enable the player to get fit more quickly.

Match Time

Finishing a training session with a game helps to create team bonding, and enjoyment.  Allow ten to twenty per cent of a session to be given over to match play.


Soccer Training Program Sample Session One

Here is an adult session given three hours once per week (plus match days) on a shared artificial pitch.

Welcome – Five minutes outlining the focus of the session

Warm Up – Ten minutes of stretches and gentle passing or dribbling

Fitness Work – Twenty-five minutes of sprints, strength work, agility exercises and so forth. 

Technique and Skills – 6 drills of ten to fifteen minutes each, plus change overs.  Each drill geared to the requirements, strengths and weaknesses of the players.

Mental Strength – Ten minutes of visualization work, and discussion of the drills and the needs of the team.

Tactical Work – Thirty minutes working on offensive corners and defending free kicks.

Match Play – Two small sided games, each of fifteen minutes each.

Warm Down – Five minutes of gentle jogs and stretches.

Soccer Training Program Sample Session Two

This time based on ninety minutes per week (excluding matches) on field with average ability eleven year olds.

Warm Up­ –  Ten minutes of light dribbling and passing.  Drills used every week so players just join in as they arrive.

Skill Development – Thirty minutes give over to three drills to perfect strengths and address a weakness.

Match Play – Twenty minute small sided games to controlled to create opportunities to practice skills from the development session.

Match Play – Twenty minute full game.  Controlled to allow tactical points to be highlighted.

Warm Down and Clear Up

But for all this, the best coaches know their teams.  We can adapt our regime to address the requirements of our players, ensuring we are not too rigid in sticking to our plans.

And, of course, not forgetting that most of all soccer is fun!

If you liked this blog post, you need to check out our next blog on different soccer formations and their utilities.




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