According to the FFA “Coaching Process”, these elements are:
1 – Start
Once the players are ready to go, the practice should start quickly and efficiently. This should be facilitated by the learning and repetition of procedures within the team. At the Brisbane Roar Youth team last year, for example, the players knew they should see the coach in the center of the field at 4PM and that after a short briefing, a two-lap general warm-up would follow.
2 – Organization
All gear needs be spot on. And that includes bibs where the players will collect them, balls ready to go, and everything preferentially clean and tidy (clean your bibs!!!). In case any equipment needs to be moved from practice to practice, as it often happens due to shortage of items, the players should help, to keep them engaged and keep the flow of the session.
3 – Attitude
Are the players in the right frame of mind? This is especially important with kids. It’s important to set the standards from the beginning of the season and also to discuss any problems off the session. To yell at players that they are not paying attention won’t exactly achieve much, unless it’s a complete debacle.
4 – Ability
Can the players do what’s being asked of them? This aspect relates to the planning as well, but it’s a part of the checklist, especially if the activities are just being introduced to the players.
5 – Understanding
Do the players understand the rules and tasks of the practice? This one also relates to the attitude. I had one player in my last squad that, after I have explained everything and we started the session, would always wake up: “Wait, what am I doing?”. Would it be great to yell at him every single time how disruptive that was? I think it would be better to approach him out of the session to talk about it. This is a paramount issue when working with kids. Harsh words will pound them harder than they would do to us. This step will also be more efficient as the same practice is repeated over the course of the season.
6 – Shape
Are the players in realistic positions in relation to the way we will play in the weekend? This is also often neglected. I don’t want every single activity to be specific, but, most importantly when we are talking about game training practices, there’s no point in having players executing tasks that they won’t do in the match. And that includes the shape of the opposition.
7 – Self
This one is the cherry on the top of the cake of a well planned session and it might be an issue, even more so for coaches that work during the day and then head to the club at night. A few minutes of mental preparation are important to get rid of anything that might bring down your attitude and energy towards the players. Running a training session is a very demanding mental activity and a solid mindset will be determinant to the success of the session.
As I mentioned in some of my articles, my checklist was a bit of a mess in the last season. I got the amazing opportunity to be an assistant coach with the Youth Roar and that required me to quickly drive (on rush hour, which is always stressful) from there to Olympic FC to rush into my U14 session. My mindset sometimes wasn’t the best. It’s something I don’t want to repeat.