Creating a soccer training schedule for an entire season takes careful planning. We need to consider the individuals we’re working with, our environment, what our players want to achieve, and then how we can help them accomplish their goals within those parameters. But the process isn’t necessarily as complicated as it seems. Below, we discuss the key components of a successful training program, how to adapt it when circumstances require, and how to create an appropriate training schedule for our own teams.
In This Article
- Knowing Your Environment
- Creating a Long-Term Training Plan
- Managing Your Schedule Across a Season
- Creating a Soccer Training Schedule: The Key Points
Knowing Your Environment
Before creating a soccer training schedule, it’s important to consider the context of the players we’re working with. How old are they? What is their experience and level of ability? And what outcomes do they want to achieve from playing football — are they looking to develop and play at the highest level possible, or do they simply want to enjoy the sport with their friends? Answers to these questions should determine the intensity of our training schedule and how we structure it.
It’s also important to think about our environment. For example, in a grassroots setting, where we may only have several hours of contact time per week, it might not make sense to spend 30 minutes of a session working on set pieces or unopposed drills when our opportunities to coach more complex, opposed practices are so limited.
“I begin by reverse engineering the whole task,” says Dan Cooke, Coaching Advisor at PDP. “I think about the end outcomes that I’m looking for and then consider where my team and players are now. The schedule should then take us from our current point to where we should be, with the precise nature of the training program depending upon the time we have available to work from one to the other.”
Additionally, we should remember the central component of all exceptional learning environments: A program that gives children positive playing experiences and makes soccer fun. After all, we want players to fall in love with the game and stay in love with it, so that they continue to participate and develop through the age groups.
Creating a Long-Term Training Plan
Creating a soccer training schedule becomes easier when we learn how to place our sessions within a wider coaching plan. Many clubs already have curriculums and/or philosophies in place which we can use as a framework for our long-term planning, while, at a more granular level, example session plans and other coaching resources can give ideas of how to build around that framework.
“Resources like the ones on PDP are invaluable,” says Cooke. “Writing out a full session plan — coming up with the ideas and then adding all of the details — is very time consuming for coaches, most of whom are volunteers with other commitments, so being able to access those resources, take inspiration, and adapt them can be incredibly beneficial, both for them and their players.”
But, as PDP Co-Founder Dave Wright reminds us, we should also be careful not to blindly follow a syllabus: “Sometimes a curriculum can be constrictive, but it’s important that you don’t put on the same type of training session every time; each one should be relevant to the stage of the week, the appropriate physical load for your players, and the topics you’re covering. We still need to maintain some flexibility within any framework.”
Further to this, we should remember to adapt our sessions to focus on the individuals within our group, and perhaps be prepared to deviate from our schedules to address things we’ve noticed on gameday. Ultimately, training should reflect the needs of the players we’re working with; if we want to affect certain individuals in a session — perhaps because the topic complements their individual development plan, or is particularly relevant to their position — or address an observation from a recent match, we may need to veer slightly from our soccer training program.
Managing Your Schedule Across a Season
Another aspect of creating a soccer training schedule is managing the intensity of our sessions across the course of the season. For the purpose of avoiding injuries, it’s vital that we consider the ongoing workload faced by players and ensure that we don’t push them too hard at any point in the program.
As Wright explains: “If you have a very heavy session, with challenging conditions, ensure that the players aren’t being overly stretched in a physical sense during the next session; perhaps adjust the distances, or even shorten training. Likewise, you may wish to run a lighter session if it’s just one or two days before a game.”
Warm-ups also become an increasingly important part of injury prevention as players get older. This, in turn, requires us to be clever with our use of time, perhaps by combining them with arrival activities and semi-opposed practices in order to make the most of our limited contact hours while still giving players adequate opportunities to prepare.
Monitoring players’ conditions is equally essential: “Tracking key information like training load and Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) can be really important to preventing injuries,” says Wright. “This can tell us how players are feeling, whether they’re carrying a slight injury, or if they’re fatigued, enabling us to adjust their schedule before it negatively impacts them.”
Once again, this emphasizes the importance of flexibility; we will sometimes need to depart from our schedule, not just for our players’ developmental needs, but for their wellbeing. Training programs can be valuable coaching tools, but we should always strive to make the player the syllabus.
Creating a Soccer Training Schedule: The Key Points
- Our training schedule should account for our players, their desired outcomes, and how much contact time we have with them.
- Curriculums and philosophies can provide great frameworks for our training program, but we must be flexible in how we follow them, and prepared to adapt them according to our players’ needs.
- A soccer training schedule should consider the workload faced by players across the season, and allow for adequate warm-up time and player monitoring to optimize injury prevention.
- Make the player the syllabus: No matter what our schedule says, our sessions should always reflect the individual needs of our players.
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