PDP’s latest course covers the fundamentals of effective planning and session design for a youth soccer environment. By utilizing the experience of professional coaches and industry experts, we have created a course that teaches coaches how to design, organize, and deliver high-quality training sessions at all levels of participation. Participants will learn about the fundamentals of planning, how to place player development at the heart of session design, the different types of practice session, key communication and intervention techniques, and the value of reflection. Applying the principles of first-class academies, How to Plan a Soccer Training Session enables coaches to incorporate professional standards into a grassroots environment.

How to Plan a Soccer Training Session: The Course Curriculum

How to Make a Training Session Plan

  • Considering the context and aims of your session
  • Understanding the Four Corner Approach
  • The Three Rs: Repetition, Relevance, and Realism
  • Common mistakes (and how to avoid them)
  • Developing independent decision-makers

The first unit covers the process of designing a training session plan from scratch. It discusses the things coaches should consider before getting started, including our environmental constraints, the context of our players, and the things they want to achieve; how to incorporate the Four Corner Model into our coaching; striking a balance between repetition and realism, moving beyond traditional soccer drills, and making training relevant to game situations; and how to use representative design to encourage adaptive behavior and develop a team of independent decision-makers.

Key Youth Coaching Considerations

  • Placing the session within a wider coaching plan
  • Further context: remembering the What, Who, How, When, and Where
  • Planning for the individuals in your group
  • How to be adaptable and deviate from your plan
  • Maintaining a focus on technical development
  • How to use technology and equipment

Having laid the foundations, we delve deeper into the planning process. This means contextualizing the session within our wider coaching plan and asking where it sits within a given week, month, or our broader curriculum. We also assess the advantages and disadvantages of using a curriculum, discuss how to ‘make the player the syllabus’, and examine the ‘What, Who, How, When, and Where’ questions we must ask about a topic in order to coach it effectively.

Training Sessions and Exercises

  • Traditional examples of practical sessions
  • Contemporary training exercises
  • Isolated versus Opposed practices — and the right times to use them
  • The different ways to structure session design
  • Using the Design Continuum

In this unit, we explore a collection of practical sessions from both traditional and contemporary approaches and analyze their merits, leaving us with an extensive library of training exercises to introduce into our own practices. We discuss the growing body of research on skill acquisition, when to transition from individual ball mastery to opposed practices, and the many different ways to structure session design, from functional and conditional practices through to using phases of play. Finally, we learn about the Design Continuum, and how it can be used to identify appropriate practices based upon the levels of variability, decision-making, and technical and tactical challenge that our players require.

Intervention Styles and Communicating with Players

  • Traditional communication styles
  • A contemporary approach to communication
  • Building strong relationships and understanding players’ needs
  • Making helpful interventions (without intervening too often)

The penultimate unit addresses how we interact with our players and make meaningful contributions during our sessions. We evaluate a range of traditional communication styles alongside contemporary techniques founded on new research in sports psychology, assessing the benefits of methods like open questioning, ‘drive-by coaching’, and using positive affirmation as an alternative to praise. We also find out how to communicate effectively without disrupting the flow of our sessions, use concise interventions, and maximize ball-rolling time. 

Reviewing and Reflection

  • Why is reflection important?
  • How to review targets with players
  • How to evaluate your session
  • Using video and peer-to-peer feedback

The final unit considers the various aspects of review and reflection. We begin by learning why reflection is important for our players, and how we can use tools like match diaries to help them review their targets. We examine the risks of comparison and constant assessment, see how the review process is conducted in professional academies, and look at how it can be transferred to a grassroots environment. We also discover how evaluating our own sessions can improve our coaching, and learn how to use tools like video and peer-to-peer feedback to enhance our practices and improve the learning experience for our players.

The Art of Effective Session Design

How to Plan a Soccer Training Session is created to help coaches deepen their understanding of practice design, session delivery, and the review process. By covering an array of different approaches to session planning and delivery, and exploring the ideas that underpin them, we aim to give coaches the depth of knowledge to become innovative, free-thinking educators capable of forming their own successful approach to coaching.

In addition to a library of ready-to-use training sessions, this course provides coaches with guidance on how to think independently, adapt to their environment, and tailor their coaching to the individual needs of their players. And these tools provide the basis for delivering fun, stimulating training sessions that will help young players to develop while furthering their love for the game.

Would you like to learn more about session design?

You might be interested in our foundations of session design course created by UEFA A Licensed Coaches, Dave Wright and Dan Wright. They will teach you everything you need to know about designing world-class sessions that your players will love.

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