Soccer training question

Following on from a point made above by dreambig, i’ve a question for the forum in general:-

What are your thoughts with regards consecutive matchdays (In this case pickup games) when coaching developmental & young players?

From my experience i’ve always promoted them and let players compete (within reason), several reasons behind this;

  • At this level there tends to be less involvement with play (measured as an interaction between the player, the ball or an opposing players possession of the ball) and more general aerobic/anaerobic movement patterns, generally resulting in less injuries and fatigue (as oppossed to consecutive matches at a senior level)

  • The need to develop greater communication and understanding of the game

  • The need to increase the quantity & experience of “actual” match situations

  • Extra development of specific playing positions:- positions are learnt quicker & mistakes are rectified sooner i.e a mistake made on the first day is fresh in the mind and is less likely to be repeated than if several days/ a week has passed before a similar situation repeats itself

I wouldn’t advise playing consecutive games if the player was playing at a higher level, feeling fatigued, carrying any injuries or was due to play another match within 4 days.

Does anyone disagree with this philosophy - bearing in mind some of these young players could turn professional at 16 and be playing 3 full senior games per week and training in small sided games daily?

Modified tactical games within training and with instruction and coach-led education would be a better use of youth players time at that stage of development than whole games.
There is a greater probability and control in these situations eliciting positive learning outcomes in the youth, rather than other options.

Sounds good I was thinking doing match speed dribbling up to a cone and making a move and accelerating away would be a good drill to carry out on high cns day. On lighter days I can still carry some out though I think or maybe at a lesser intensity depending on how I feel. I will try do skill in the morning and tempo in the evening like ESTi’s template.

I am speaking from North American side of youth soccer.

I have seen your scenario where higher level youth clubs will practice 2x week and play 2-3 games on weekends, including possibly 2 games within 1 day, often 3 games in 36 hour period. And this is done close to half the year.

As far as I remember the US Soccer coaches program advocates technical development early on (not many games), progressing to tactical development (more game focused). I will try to dig out the info if I can find it, but i recall around age 14 they recommend physical preparation.

Teams around age 12 can handle such a weekend load, but I don’t think it should be done for extended periods of time. My belief is to use a “GPP”-“SPP”-“Comp” scheduling, twice a year. GPP in summer (physical preparation), SPP in early Fall (aug-Sept, technical focus, maintain fitness/speed), and comp would be maybe 6-8 weeks of more game focus. Depending in the winter/spring focus this could be repeated 1-2 more times. Technical training is a must year round. the “GPP” above might include short sprint work, med ball work, general strength, ab work, flexibility/mobility (especially around age 12 when puberty begins to cause chaos). I have seen too many kids get burned out with the current set up and “only the strong” survive often leads to many injuries (I have found more kids get hurt in the end of a long competition block).

(1) my set up was mainly based on their team’s schedule. I am not a soccer coach, and leave skill development to those much better versed. The skills training was either on their own, with a team, or with a skills circuit one of my college girls was tested in (mainly variations of juggling and dribbling work). I liked it because it gave them something organized to do that was purposeful. I feel skill training can be categorized. Juggling, touch work, passing (without much running around) is very low intensity and can be done often. Shooting is one many want to do alot, but I find they overdo, and leads to quad tightness. I always recommended shooting done on speed and wt days, keeping the “HI_LOW” theme intact, and tempo days was the lower intensity skills.

(2) Starting with 1 set and working to 2-3 sets of hills is do-able. MY track team has a 15 yd hill and we did 3 sets of 10 during fall GPP.

(3) I have kept things very simple and never tried to combine (soccer + speed drills) much into my sessions. I left that for their technical sessions with trainers who know more than me (Just like as a person versed in speed development, it drives me nuts watching soccer coaches do “speed agility quickness” training with teams, I prefer to not do soccer training in my sessions). I’m not saying you can’t, I just don’t. I did however, do testing of a cone course every 2 weeks to keep athletes on task with skill development with the ball.

The change of direction drills would be categorized similar to A skips, B skips etc. They are easy to do, and just require some attention at slow speeds and progression to faster speeds. The progressions may be difficult to understand through words. I came up with the 3 P’s for changing direction. Plant step (foot ideally perpendicular to the direction you want to go), Point (the not plant leg foot pointed in direction you want to go, while being placed under the hips), and Push (with foot under hips, you can now accelerate with proper mechanics). Most athletes can do the first 2 great, but the Push step is often a long reaching step landing way too far in front of the hips. I find these worked well. When ball work was done, the Push often led to a long reach step to maintain balance (but then again, maybe the touch was poor-me not being the skill coach).

I think it also depends on what the player needs to work on. For me, working on my first touch in game situations is priority so it makes sense to get more game scenarios to improve it so I’m leaning towards playing both on Saturday and Sunday. Also what do you guys think about dribbling question again? Can speed dribbling to a cone and making a move and accelerating away be done on lighter days as technical ballwork? And is it best to do skill work and tempo separately (skills in A.M. and tempo in P.M.) Ill play Sat and Sun and rest on Monday and Wed and Fri are lighter days. Should I do this for both days? (the a.m. skills and tempo p.m.)

Can someone also give me advice on this?

Wouldn’t it be good to do soccer drills with speed to make it more specific to the sport and help you in the game more? And what do you think would be the best way for me to setup my schedule. I’m leaning towards playing sat and sun (check my recent post as to why) and Monday would be a good rest day. You know how you did skills a.m. and tempo on p.m. would that be a good idea for me as well? And for skill work I can do dribbling up to a cone and making a move and accelerating away on my “lighter days” too yeah? Also how much volume would you go for tempo if you do skills on morning. Should that affect your tempo volume or am I overthinking? So my wed and fri will be lighter days. Should I follow the a.m. skills and p.m. tempo routine for these days? And for Tuesday and Thursday I was thinking for Tuesday I do hill sprints first for acceleration work… do you think I can get the benefit out of it by doing 1 set of 10 reps? After that I will start my lifting 5 minutes later where I will do squats, upper body push and pull compound movement and also a single leg exercise (high box step ups not heavy weights) 6-8 reps 2 sets to finish it up. This all will take me around an hour I suppose. And in the evening instead of doing tempo I can carry out skill training and also doing my dribbling and acceleration away by making a move… would that be okay? How should I approach my skill training that day and also on lighter days? On Thursday I will do speed in morning with also those dribbling and accelerating away drills and also sprinting ofcourse and also doing drills where I sprint 10-15 meters and dribble the ball back as fast as I can to where I started the sprint. I know these are a lot of questions but it would be great if you could give me your opinion on these. Thank you very much.

(1) of course it would, but if you don’t have any speed, what good does it do to just do ball work? I leave sport specific drills to soccer coaches and work on the physical side.

(2)In the course of a week, I felt the setup I had for those athletes included everything they needed. I think you are overthinking. We did regular tempo volumes throughout up until a week before major games (which were usually n the late fall for my athletes).

I’d recommend jumping in the water and seeing how things work, then make adjustments. If fitness improves, if strength and speed improve, if you feel good (no excessive tightness/soreness), and you can see improvement in your individual skill sessions, you are on the right track. I tracked all of the above throughout the year at least 1x monthly.

Okay sounds good can I also do skills a.m. and tempo p.m. on Friday and I’ll be playing games on Sat and Sun and resting on Monday. Thursday is a high cns speed/strength day and Wednesday is another skill a.m. and tempo p.m. day and Tuesday is either gonna be speed and strength a.m. and skills p.m. or speed a.m. and strength p.m. Can you give me suggestions on my current setup for the week? Thanks and it will take me about 3-4 weeks to get my muscles and body used to regular training so I will have to judge after that period also.

Thanks for the insight ESTI, i don’t know a great deal about the US Soccer set up but did have an assistant coach who went over to work at a summer camp with youth players - from his experience he suggested there was a larger divide between recreational and higher level youth soccer in the US with regards to training and participation in comparison to the UK. I’d assume this is down to Soccer not being one of the major sports in the states…

Following your training schedule have you had a great deal of success? I’ve used a similar system but feel the workload in the early stages of the season leaves player fatigued. It is is beneficial towards the end of the season when the cups/league come to a close but some years we have struggled to make the final stages of cups and be in the hunt for the league as we’ve been poor earlier in the season.
I’ve long considered taking a gamble (the UK weather generally impacts on several games in Dec/Jan) and having the team peaking at the start of the season, maintaining until the end of Nov. Then incorporating a mini recovery and reloading phase for the majority of the 1st team, fielding the reserves and lesser used players if games are able to be played (Unless the games are against the better opposition/cup games).
Obviously we’d be at the mercy of the weather and the scheduling of games but should be competitive for the majority of the season.

It would be interesting to know if anyone uses different approaches.

Let me also clarify the set up was for 6-8 weeks in the summer only!! Yikes, not year round at any means.

In the US, there is a recreational league where parents are often the coaches. They play weekend game, and might have 1 practice a week.

The next level up is club, which comes in various degrees of seriousness and $$$$. The top club teams cost close to $2000/year per player (9 or 10 month season) + travel costs when they go to tournaments etc. The club teams typically practice 1-3x weekly most of the year, and play competitive games for about 6 weeks (fall is mid sept-late October, spring is throughout may). The winter is more games for fun, but mean little. The fall and spring games lead to national tournaments etc. As players get older, the winter serves as time for showcases for college recruiting. At this stage, being on a top club will pay off as you will likely play in front of hundreds of colleges at these showcase tournaments.

I typically trained kids hard in summer because I knew once fall season started, we would not get the chance to do much other than tempo maintenance and some strength work. We usually did 1-2x weekly for strength/speed and they would do tempo after practices, as their teams didn’t do much fitness beneficial for their fitness levels. The high school players (girls) play in the spring and I never saw them from March-end of May, as they practice 4 days weekly + 2 game weekly. We would then resume in the summer.

Most kids I worked with also did technical work with local coaches/trainers 1-2 weekly throughout the winter and they tried to go 1x weekly in addition to practice. The unfortunate thing is many times these sessions were physically demanding, as the perception it’s “valuable if it’s hard.”

For my lifting volume I have read pakewi saying in the past 10 reps per session (1 lower body + 1 upper body) is enough for soccer player?

How should I structure my lifting then

Can I just do squat and an upper body lift? Will doing extra lifting work help me (like RDLs, extra upper body work)? Any thoughts? And how should I carry my sets? (like ramp up to 3 reps or something)

For my lifting volume I have read pakewi saying in the past 10 reps per session (1 lower body + 1 upper body) is enough for soccer player?…page2&p=241068

How should I structure my lifting then

Can I just do squat and an upper body lift? Will doing extra lifting work help me (like RDLs, extra upper body work)? Any thoughts? And how should I carry my sets? (like ramp up to 3 reps or something)

And ESTI, did any of your players experience shin splints or some lower leg fatigue or overuse injuries from all that volume of running + skill work? I’m asking because I’ve had a history of nearly a year of overtraining my lower legs and resulting in constant fatigue in my lower region of my calf and shins on both legs. It is much better now but does appear to me sometimes (it did on Friday when I tried doing just ballwork). It starts as soon as I start my warm up and I’m hardly breaking a sweat and I get that fatigue and tired feeling in the lower calf regions primarily during that day. I’ve seen specialists and done rehab for the past year and the only solution I’ve seen is having a perfect sleep and good diet regime and just getting used to training regularly and not loose your groove.

When you have issues like this, it’s best to seek out medical help (orthopedic, massage therapist etc). Training plans would obviously need to be adjusted to ensure you remain healthy.

Trust me mate… I’ve done everything I could from doctors to specialist. I am the only one who stuck to myself and believed in my body and got better. The doctors in the past stopped remaining in contact with me when I tried calling them back and I was left on my own but I overcame atleast. Now it just bothers me once in a while if my sleep is not good or if I am not training regularly or in good condition I guess.

I’m starting to doubt whether speed dribbling is needed to be done on speed days incorporated in sprint drills as I won’t be going as fast as just sprinting without the ball. Maybe I should just do ballwork and speed dribbles etc. for 20-30 minutes as warm up for my speed work? Would that be better?

It’s interesting that you find that problems with shin splints etc. are often a result of overreaching in your training.

I noticed with one of my athletes that shin splints, foot pain, and low back pain all flared up when we went on a training camp directly after a couple of massive personal best performances. I of course pushed him too hard that week, doing too much volume when he was still recovering from his spectacular training runs. All of a sudden, his shins, calves, right foot, and low back started to flare up. As soon as I backed off, it all disappeared. The more I see this, the more I think it’s strictly systemic symptoms of overreaching in training, not something specific in the musculature.

Check out the Ithlete’s user manual ( There is an excerpt from Maffuletti’s book that rang true when it discusses the three stages of overtraining. All the lower limb and low back problems are claimed to be systemic symptoms of early stage overtraining (possibly better termed overreaching). I’m inclined to agree!

I will have some more detail about the use of the Ithlete in a mesomorphic athlete’s Short to Long track and field program soon! Very interesting stuff. In the mean time, I’d encourage you to check out the inexpensive Ithlete app. It is a very interesting, inexpensive, and easy to use tool.

Good point and it takes months and months to overcome overtraining depending on how severe it is (atleast it did for me), but when you are not even training hard and you have problems when you are resting and and just warming up then it’s a different case as it was for me.