Players arriving late and disrupting soccer practice

A soccer coach writes about problems starting and finishing practices.

Question

I just started coaching this spring, and have pretty much the same U11 team in the fall. My players aren't all getting to practice on time, and I keep having to re-start practice to explain what we are doing as each player arrives. When the new kids arrive, the others all seem to want to socialize for a while, so we just aren't getting very much done. I'm also having trouble managing all the handouts the club sends out, like fundraisers, registration for photos, etc. Any ideas?

Some Ideas

1. Recruit a team manager to handle club paperwork, and never cut short a practice to go over paperwork. Have the players check out with the team manager to pick up handouts before going home.

2. Meet with your parents and players. Set the expectation that players should arrive 15 minutes early for every training session and have their soccer boots and gear on ready to go before practice starts. Let the parents know because they drive the cars that bring your U11 kids to training. Let the players know that the time before training starts is their time to socialize, to warm-up, and to get extra touches on the ball. Also let them know that, once training starts, the socializing is over, and it's time for work and learning. Ask your players to check with the team manager after each practice.

3. Always be on time yourself. Never be late to soccer practice.

4. Always be prepared. Have a practice plan and rehearse it mentally before you go to practice. Don't try to make up a coherent soccer practice in the car on the way to the field.

5. Start your practice on time and don't restart for late arrivers.

6. Greet all the players by name whenever they arrive, but don't stop training and don't allow your players to

7. Let players who arrive late sit out first in any exercise that does not use all the team's players.

8. Keep your practice snappy. Don't dwell on steps in in any exercise that the players have already mastered. If an exercise is not going well because you can't explain it well or you don't have enough coaching experience to recognize what's going wrong, stop the activity. Get help from a more experienced coach on another day to help with the topic and to show you what's wrong - wrong space, conditions, technical level, work rate, numbers, or explanation of what the players should be doing. There should be no down-time in the middle of your practice where your players have time to stand around and talk while you try to understand your practice plan.

9. Taper the activities to build up to higher intensity levels before each water break, and make the last competitive activity as intense as the match, or more so. Let the water breaks be brief and frequent, but not times for the players to cool down and socialize.

10. Quit on time. Practices should not run over more than 5 minutes. This is a challenge for all coaches, but it is important.

For more ideas, visit Bruce Brownlee's Soccer Coaching Notes