How to fix it when your Soccer training session isn’t working?

Soccer or football coaches (depending on where you are in the world) can spend hours planning what should be the perfect training session. Especially when there are new skills or tactics to be explained, or an important match coming up.

Despite hours of planning and prep, not every training session goes to plan. This can be as frustrating for coaches and managers as it is for players. It can also cause problems in matches if new knowledge hasn’t been absorbed as a coach intended.

In this article — the first in a new sporting series for XPS (where we look at a wide range of individual sports and aim to solve problems coaches are having) — we review why soccer practice doesn’t always go to plan, and what can be done to fix difficult training sessions.


Why soccer training sessions don’t work as planned?

Soccer training sessions don’t always work out for a number of reasons.

It could be that one or more players are tired from matches, other training sessions, or the weather, if indoor (all weather) training isn’t possible. Injuries also have an impact on player performance in training, of course. As does mental health.

However, many of these issues are often factored in advance by coaches. And players who are unable to take part in training are usually resting, or benefiting from other performance development sessions to return them to full fitness.

Taking that into account, there are a number of reasons why soccer training sessions encounter difficulties. These are usually things that a coach can control, and hopefully, fix.


#1: Poor or none-existent demonstration

Let’s imagine you are wanting the team to try out a new approach, new tactic, or new play. Do you explain this to players, or show them?

Showing them, with a demonstration, takes time. You are probably going to need to explain it to several players or members of the coaching staff first, so that they can demo it to the team in training.

When a demo doesn’t happen, a verbal explanation isn’t always enough. Not everyone is going to understand when a coach explains a new play, tactic, or approach they want players to start using.


#2: Not fun or realistic enough

Soccer players, especially at the semi-professional or professional level, need training sessions that are fun and realistic. Learning and reinforcing skills needs to be as much about fun as it should be about realism.

No matter the training format (whether a 1v1, 2v2, or even a 6v6 battle or game), it should serve a purpose. It’s especially useful to record these training sessions and add them to a video collection within XPS, so players can refer to them before and after future training.


#3: Pitch size doesn’t match the session target 

Depending on how permanent or not your training facilities are, there’s a risk of “ping pong” or “tennis-style” action, when the amount of space doesn’t let players take action and make strategic decisions. Size matters on the pitch and it’s important to consider the training target as well. 

Think about the number of players in the training session, especially when playing opposing teams, and adjust the size accordingly. When a training session is 11v11, then a full-size pitch makes sense. But if the overall group is, say, 6v6, then a smaller pitch means it will be more realistic from a running, scoring and defensive perspective.


#4: Off-balance work/rest ratio

Getting the work/rest ratio right is so important.

In hot weather, players need more rest and water time. Without of course making it unrealistic compared to a real match. Also, when players are injured or recovering from injury, more rest time is essential.

Likewise, when it comes to cold weather. Too much rest time could cause muscles to cramp, potentially causing injuries. Longer training sessions, or one session after another (especially when players have other fitness activities in between) can cause injuries or fatigue before important matches. Coaches need to aim to get this right, to keep players at their best as much as possible.

Now let’s look at how coaches fix these problems during soccer training sessions.


4 ways to fix soccer training sessions

#1: Always demo new skills, plays and strategies

When you are showing players or the whole team a new skill, way of playing, or strategy, this is something you need to demonstrate. Explaining it simply isn’t enough. It’s worth the investment of time and effort. If you want your players to be ready before the training session starts, you can use XPS Collections and Session Planner to share the training content via their XPS phone app

Not only will players grasp the rules, methods, outcomes, ways to restart a new approach, and how to integrate it with other tactics, more easily. It will save a significant amount of time compared to trying to explain something that isn’t understood. A demo of a new approach can be recorded, and included with other training assets.


#2: Keep training fun and realistic

Ensure training is always as fun and realistic as possible. Coaches need to make training fun and challenging, so that players are having their skills tested in the run up to important matches. Setting up training that’s too easy is more damaging than a session that’s difficult.


#3: Ensure the pitch is the right size

Picking a pitch that’s the right size depends on the facilities you can use, and number of players in any particular training session. When there are too few players for the pitch size (e.g. 6v6 on an 11v11 field), there’s going to be too much space for passing and running. Players will be too spread out.

Coaches need to consider the number of players in a training session when finding a suitable pitch or training area. Make sure the area isn’t too small or too large, otherwise no one will get what they are hoping for from this training.

It is also important to consider the training target. If you want to isolate the players in small-space situations, it is good to be ready in advance, prepare the stations and ideally inform the players well ahead.


#4: Balance in-play and rest needs

When thinking about players on-field (in-play) and rest needs, and how to balance these, you need to weigh several factors. Consider the training and other fitness activities they’ve done recently. Matches players have taken part in, or about to play. The time of year, temperature, weather, and the size of the pitch. One way to get a full overview of the factors mentioned above is using the XPS Athlete Profile helping you to monitor training load, player readiness and other interesting data! 

Aim to think about everything when attempting to balance the time players need in a training session, and how much rest time to allocate.

As coaches know, there are a number of factors that can cause training sessions to go wrong. Do everything you can to identify the problems quickly, and then fix these to ensure training goes well in that and future sessions.

Check out how Czech Football Teams use XPS to push the training to another level!


Would your team, club, youth association, or sports association benefit from XPS and its wide range of features? Contact XPS Network if you want to find out more, or Sign-up for a Free Trial today.

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