The Missing Practice Phase

What is a drill? It is a repetitious, disciplined exercise that teaches and perfects a skill. Are you wondering what is wrong with that? Well, if you're entering a skill contest or teaching first time players, there is nothing wrong with it. Don't take this the wrong way. There has to be part of practice dedicated to this, as technique is mastered through repetition. The problem is that some coaches warm up the players, run drills and then play a game or scrimmage. There is something missing that is critical to player development.

Even though the players do well with the drills, they can't use those skills when in a game situation. This is because there is an absence of game related activities. This involves helping the player know when to use a particular skill while playing in a game. It's not enough to teach players how to do it. You need to involve them in activities that teach where, when and why to apply the relevant skill. Players need to move from repetitious drills to activities that develop their skills and techniques.

How often have you heard a frustrated coach say to a player or group of players during a game "we worked on that this week in practice"! Usually this indicates that the kids worked on the skill, but were not given the opportunity to bring out the skill at the right place and time. This is not as easy at it sounds. It takes experience and knowledge to put into action. Take this into consideration.

Drills work on only two aspects of the game - the technical and the physical aspects. Game related activities include all four pillars of the game (technique, tactics, psychology and physicality).

Drills do not demand decision-making or game intelligence. Game related activities compel players to solve problems, make decisions, face several scenarios and achieve goals.

Drills look quite different from the actual game of soccer. Game related activities imitate the actual game.

Drills are typically managed. Game related activities have to be coached.

It can easily be inferred that the most important phase of the practice is the game related stage. Unfortunately, this is very often overlooked, because coaches do not have a vivid interpretation of the game. This is the one way players learn how to bridge the gap between knowing a skill and using it to the good of the team. It tends to make a more substantial scrimmage at the end of practice. You can now truly evaluate if your youth soccer drills have had an effect on your players' soccer behavior.

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