Practices begin on "practice week." For teams in the 7-8 age group, 9-10 age group and the 11-13 age group, each team starts out with two weekly practices on the days-of-week chosen by the coach. Day selection takes place at the Coaches’ Meeting. I had a preference for Mondays and Fridays, because it gave me a break from practices during the bulk of the week; allowed me to debrief on Monday with the memories from the last game played still fresh in the players’ minds; and allowed me to run some drills and have a brief "pep rally" of sorts the night before the game on Fridays. You may choose any two days you like depending on works best for you.
For teams in the 5-6 years old age group, practices will be at the same time and place as the games, with the first part of the "game time" used for practices (which in this age group really amounts to a warm-up/play time on a mini-playground with nets). However, coaches should schedule two (2) practice dates before the first game to help the kids get to know each other and to help the coaches and parents get acquainted, too!
A Note about Team Pictures, Jerseys and Game Schedules
Your team pictures schedule will come to you at the coaches’ meeting. This date happens during the practices before the first game, because your players will be given their game schedules and their team jerseys at pictures. Encourage kids to wear their team jerseys to practices, since it gets them in the habit of wearing them to soccer events (so they don’t forget on game day, which means they can’t play!) and makes team identification easier if there is a scrimmage.
How to Manage Your Practices
Newer coaches, even those who aren’t really new to the game of soccer, might like some ideas about how to have practices. To help, I’ve put together a couple pages for the web site that explain how I conducted my practices and the skills you need to teach during practices.
A special note about practices in the 5-6 age group
Note that kids in this age group only need a short practice just before their game times to keep them from getting bored. To keep them from becoming overwhelmed at this exploratory age, the game’s rules have been greatly simplified and therefore line-up-and-drill type practices aren’t suited for this age group. Supervised playtime with limited interaction from the coach, other than to offer encouragement, motivation to play and so forth is appropriate. To children this age, the soccer field is a mini-playground with nets. Let them play! The objective for coaches in this age group is simply to encourage the self-development of motor skills and allow for much self-exploration on the part of the child in a happy, fun environment. Gradually, as coaches grow with their children into older age groups, more advanced soccer skills can be introduced — things like positions, offense and defense. But at the earlier age groups, players are quite egocentric and soccer education should focus on individual body and ball control at their own pace. Visit the 5-6 Years Old Age Group Practices Page for more information.
When to Have Your Practices
Once games begin, you should continue to have at least one practice a week. Some coaches will continue to have two full practices weekly -- which is what I used to do when I coached. You will enjoy the time spent with your team at practice and practices are fun for them, too, so I encourage all coaches to pick two practice days that they can make and give the players on their team the full two practices every week for the duration of the season.