Smedley’s Soccer Drills PDF
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Smedley’s Soccer Drills PDF

I know myself pretty well. There are things that I’m good at, and things that I’m not. I can eat a lot, but I can’t cook. I love going on road trips, but I get lost all of the time.

And even though I’m very organized, I sometimes forget where my organizer is and so I have to plan my day all over again. But hey, nobody’s perfect.

I’ve enjoyed being a teacher and a college soccer coach for the past 30-plus years, but it’s not something that comes easily for me.

I’m a lot more self-conscious than most people realize. And that’s because I’m very good at acting like I’m a self-confident person.

Even though I’m always anxious before speaking in front of large groups, I just step up to the lectern and start acting like I own the place.

And so nobody knows that I’m as nervous as a rookie on his first day. But within five or ten minutes, I loosen up a little bit and I get rolling. Even so, it’s awful at first.

The only thing that gets me thru it is being well prepared. As much as I hate to admit it, I’m a nut for preparation.

I rehearse my lectures beforehand. I double check my notes two or three times. And I don’t leave anything to chance because I know that things don’t always go according to plan.

On one very sad occasion, I forgot to bring my flash drive with me and I had to wing it for an entire class. And that was a loooong fifty minutes, believe me.

I felt like a ten-year-old giving his first speech in front the class—and halfway thru the speech, I’d dropped all of my 3 x 5 cards on the floor and mixed them up.

It was that bad. And I’m positive that the whole room could see how uncomfortable I was, which made it that much worse.

Somebody even asked me if I was feeling okay, like I had a bad case of the flu or something. No, I am not the kind of guy who can make things up on the fly and look cool.

No way. And the same goes for me when I’m on a soccer field. If someone came up to me out of the blue and asked me to do a practice session on dribbling, it would not go very well.

A hundred different drills would be buzzing thru my head and I wouldn’t be able to pick out the ones that I wanted. And I’d be struggling thru my explanations during the session as well, because I’d be so unorganized.

I have always been a person who needs structure, some kind of a framework to work off of. And so I always make sure that I’m set up in well in advance before each and every practice. And if I could be so bold as to say this—I don’t think that any coach should simply show up to practice and try to wing it.

The players deserve a lot more of our time and effort than that. Plus, they need to know that we care about them. Being prepared shows them that you care about the team and the people on it.

Making it up as you go or just scrimmaging a lot tells them that you don’t. The players will know right away if you’re just mailing it in. And they’ll know that coaching the team really isn’t all that important to you.

I’ve always got a practice plan, or a new drill, or a small notebook in my front pocket. I have them because I’m always thinking about the team and the next practice.

I have them because I want the team to do well. I have them because I care. The rest of this chapter should give you a good idea of what should go into the planning and organization of a successful practice, starting with how to choose your practice session topics.

As you read the text, take a look at the practice plan that I’ve included along with the drills that I’ve used, and then steal as much of it from me as you like. I’ll be flattered if you do.

Choosing a Topic for Your Practice

The first week of pre-season has always been my favorite time of the year. It’s a brand new year, and I get see all of my favorite players again.

New players are coming in too, and I can’t wait to see how they’re all going to do.

Everyone is so excited to be in camp and to make a great first impression.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a Division III team or Division I, like the university I’m at now.

Regardless of the talent level, it’s still the week when everybody tries their best at everything. You practice twice a day, you eat your meals together, and you spend the whole day talking about soccer and the guys on the team.

It’s soccer nirvana. But with so many new faces and so many questions to answer, it’s often hard to know where to start.

The same questions come up every year: What should we work on first? Should we start with attacking or defending? Should we decide on the formation we want to use and then put players into those slots, or should we decide on a formation based on what the players can do? These are all very important questions, ones that need to be answered before getting very far into the season.

And the first step in the process of deciding where to start is to go to the sidelines, take a knee, and watch the team play.

To me, this is the best way to accurately assess what your players are capable of. You just put them out there and let them play.

As the game goes on, you’ll start to see the big picture, and get an overall impression of what the players are capable of.

Their level of ball control will soon become apparent. Their ability to play 1 v 1 defense or to cross a ball will be easy to evaluate.

Other issues such as how much they talk or how hard they work will also be noticeable. By simply watching them play, you can identify the areas that need improvement right away and the ones that don’t.

So by the end of this first day, I’ll have two lists in my possession—a list of the things that the team did well, and a list of the things that weren’t so wonderful. And the first order of business for me is to take the ‘not–so-wonderful’ list and prioritize it. I put the items on the list in order, with the most urgent items at the very top.

It could be 1 v 1 attacking, or group defending, or even a fundamental skill that my team might be lacking in.

Hopefully, I won’t have more than five or six weak spots to address, but whatever jumps out at me as the biggest concern goes to the top of my list.

For instance, let’s say that during my initial scrimmage, two different players scored three goals apiece, all on long dribbling runs.

The good news is that I’ve got some goal scorers on my team, which is always a big plus. The not so good news is that my 1 v 1 defending is pretty anemic.

If one player can dribble right thru my entire defense, then that’s a big red flag for me. So that’s exactly where I would start—with 1 v 1 defending. And then? Then I go to the office and plan my first practice session, using a set framework to help me keep it organized from start to finish.

I’ll choose my drills, I’ll pick out the teaching points that I want to cover, and I’ll put the players in the groups and positions that I want to see them in that day.

During the rest of this chapter, I’ll go thru this process from beginning to end and use an example practice plan to help me illustrate this organizational framework.

Planning a Practice Session

Once you’ve chosen a topic for the practice session, it’s imperative that you devote the entire practice session to that topic and nothing else.

If the topic is finishing, then there shouldn’t be any passing drills or games that emphasize dribbling in your practice.

The topic for the day is finishing, and so all of the drills, games, comments, and corrections that you make should be all about finishing.

Resist the impulse to try and fix everything. As I said earlier, I made that exact same mistake when I first started coaching, and I stopped practices WAY too often.

Big mistake. Pick your topic and base everything that you do on that one very important subject. Leave the other issues for another day and stick to your plan.

Also, there are certain types of drills and games to include in each practice session. And they should be done in a certain order, progressing from simple to complex.

Your practice session should also include a warm up and a cool down. You can find an example of a practice session—one that I wrote on finishing for my team at Longwood University—starting on the next page.

I’ve included a practice planner (the first page) and the first three drills that I used during the practice session. Refer back to it as you read thru the descriptions of each phase of practice in the text:

Smedley’s Soccer Drills

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