How to plan a soccer training session?

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In the world of soccer we often hear that soccer is a simple game and that the best players usually make their game so simple it gives the impression that anyone can do it.

Achieving that simplicity in the game, playing fast and simple is not something people are born with and often it is the result of long hours of training.

The coach’s goal is to achieve the state of the art simplicity in his players that would ensure the fluidity in the movement of the players while using his tactics. And to do so it is of the essence to plan and direct sessions that will create situations similar to those a player will encounter in a real game.

Planing soccer training sessions is an important facet of the work of a good coach because the more he can make his players invested in those sessions the more they will comprehend their role in the big scheme of his tactics.

Competitive soccer training session

The effectiveness of a soccer training session is greatly hinged on the coaches intensity, execution, explanation, expectations, communication with the players, and time spend on an activity. However, the most important piece of making an effective soccer training session is to make it competitive and game like by paying attention to the details.

Start with looking at the team as a whole. Break it down a little smaller to see how this affects players as they work in small groups. Now think about each of the individual’s roles as they perform their tasks and challenges each individual has, then focus on the mental pressure situations these individual players have.

So now that you have drilled down to the focus or topic you should start with the individual player and work your way towards the large group. Here are some ways you can make your soccer training sessions more competitive and game like:

  1. Mental Pressure situations. Set up imaginary situations and assign a goal to each player to reach. Hold a competition to where each player competes to reach the goal.
  2. Challenges. Present the players with a challenge.
  3. Competition. Set up 1v1 competitions where players play head-to-head competition.
  4. Controlled small group games. Set up small sided games that focus on a specific topic or game like situation.
  5. Controlled large group game. Set up a large game (8v8) that focuses on a specific topic or game situation.

How to plan a soccer training session

How often do we arrive to training and think “what should we work on today?” Time is wasted on thinking and setting up equipment which then has a negative impact on the players experience.

Purposeful practice aims towards progress, and making the most of every minute we have with the players at training. This can only be done through planning.

The age and ability of your players will have the biggest impact on how you coach. Plan your session around the players needs. Coaching 5 year olds is different to coaching 25 year olds. Coaching community players is different to coaching elite players.

However the fundamental points are still the same if applied to the appropriate needs of your players.

1. have a focus

Otherwise known as a Session Objective. Every session should have a ‘topic’ based on a particular skill or moment in the game you are trying to develop with your players or team.

2. have a plan

Each session should have progression where the topic is introduced, and becomes more challenging throughout the session to finish in a game. (Beginning> Middle> End) or (Passing game> Positioning Game> End Game)

3. have a plan B

What happens if some players don’t turn up? don’t worry because you already have a back up plan. Don’t waste time thinking on the spot, do it beforehand.

4. have 3-4 key points

What is it you want your players to remember? If the focus is 1v1’s it may be to sidestep, use the side of your foot to change direction, and then accelerate. If your focus is scoring from wide areas it may be play to ball into space out wide quickly, take your first touch to play forward.


A classic soccer training session

If your usual preparation involves a jog round the park and a game of ‘three-and-in’, help is at hand with this programme.


The drill Have the players form a circle, with one player in the middle. The player in the middle has to break up the play, while the players stationed on the perimeter have to keep possession. The player who concedes possession swaps places with the player in the middle. To progress the drill, add more players in the middle and impose conditions, such as one or two-touch passing.

What this works on For the players on the outside, this works on touch, awareness, communication and passing. For defenders it works on closing down, mobility, agility and intercepting passes. This warm-up will increase the players’ heart rate and prepare them for the fitness phase of the session.

Make sure you check the warm up drills you can use in this piece I wrote here football training: warm-up drills

For how long 10 minutes


The drill Set out a box at 10 x 10 yards, with five attackers occupying it. In pairs, defenders have to enter the box and try to win the ball off the attackers.

What this works on Defensively this drill focuses on communication and teamwork. The defenders have to keep the right distance between one another, and as a team show the attackers one way, to make the pass predictable. The ball players must work as a unit, passing and moving and supporting angles once a pass is played. It helps if you set goals in the session: 10 passes equals a goal, as does a defender winning the ball back three times quickly.

For how long 20 minutes


The drill Set up a back four on the edge of the 18-yard box, with two holding midfielders sitting in front. In the same half of the pitch, have four attacking midfielders and two strikers set up to attack. The aim of the attacking team is to score, and the defensive team to defend.

What this works on This encourages the attacking team to get the ball out wide so their winger can isolate the full-back and try to beat him.

For how long 20 minutes


The drill Mark out a 60 x 44-yard pitch with two goals at each end, positioned in the corners of the pitch. Two teams of seven play against each other, aiming to score in either of the two goals at the opposing end. To stop the defending team sitting back and protecting their goals, introduce the condition that 10 consecutive passes will equal a goal.

What this works on With two goals to attack, this drill encourages switching play and develops decision-making and an awareness of what pass is on. It will also force both teams to keep their shape and counter at speed.

For how long 30 minutes. Change the rules of the game to make it easier or harder depending on the players’ level. For example, make one area smaller or limit the touches of one or both teams.



A top soccer coach understands the importance of gradually progressing their sessions throughout the football season. A coach should never give in to the temptation of producing random coaching sessions, which are influenced by previous and forthcoming soccer matches. The coach should always produce session plans that will help them achieve their end goal, which is their style of play. Each session should be a progression of what was previously taught, only then you will see better results from your coaching sessions. I recommend that a coach should stay on the same topic for at least 3-4 sessions, and if they feel that their players are not ready to move on then they continue until the players are ready


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