Training Captains – Captains Practices

Captain’s Practices

I have met twice with my Captains now as a group, once during the late spring/early summer and a second time in midsummer.  We are now a week away from Captain’s Practices.  This is a two-week period before the actual High School season begins when, in my State, the coaching staff is not allowed to interact with the players.  But the players are pumped and want to get some touches in, so the Captains run the practices.

Leadership Qualities

In this final meeting, I like to recap our last meeting, remind them again of the leadership qualities of a Level 5 Leader from the book “Good to Great” by author Jim Collins and how to work out those qualities on the playing field during the next couple of weeks with their teammates.

  • Embody a mix of personal humility and professional will. 
  • Display workmanlike diligence – more plow horse than show horse.
  • Display modesty, are unassuming and understated.
  • Fanatically driven with an incurable need to produce sustained results.
  • Attribute success factors to others than themselves, but if things go poorly they take full responsibility.
  • Set up their successors for even greater success in the next generation.

Now we will talk about soccer!  Some topics for discussion are:

  • What are you deeply passionate about?
  • What can we be the best in the State at?
  • What style of soccer produces sustained positive results?

When these topics are fleshed out by them, they take ownership in them and it makes for us all to come together for the same purposes.  We will revisit these during the course of the season and fashion or practice sessions around them.

Notice that we don’t talk about systems of play, or players put in specific positions.  That will come later as we see who we have on the Varsity.  The key for them is to put together a vision for how they want their team and this season to come together.  Then we talk about how we start the process, which begins with their Captain’s practices.

These Captains are being placed in a position where they are in charge of 20-80 players with no adult supervision.  WOW!  CRAZY!  SCARRY!

Purpose

  • Have all players come together as one group – our soccer program.
  • Encourage the new players to our program and make them feel welcome.
  • Let everyone have a safe and fun experience, while still working hard in a controlled environment.
  • Come into the first week of training for the High School season with a high enough level of conditioning so that time can be spent on skill development with the High School coaches rather than physical condition.  We test the first day of High School training to assess the relative physical conditioning and skill level of every athlete.  This helps us get off to a good start during the first part of the season.

Safety

  • Practice is outside during the heat of the summer. Make sure everyone brings their own water – no sharing of water bottles.  We want a healthy group coming into the season.  In addition, the Captains will bring a large container of water to refill water bottles.  The school is also open for water and bathrooms.
  • These practices are in the cool of the morning and are 90 minutes long.  Players are free to take water breaks as they need them.
  • The Captains learn about heat exhaustion and heat stroke, what signs to look for, and the precautionary measures to take.  Heat Stroke – call 911 immediately.  The safety of the players is always the primary concern.
  • The Captains have a medical kit. 
  • Ice is available in the school, or sometimes they will have a cooler with ice.
  • No hazing of any type is tolerated.
  • I work out a schedule with the parents of the seniors to make sure that at least one parent is on-site during these Captain’s Practices.

Conditioning

  • Soccer Players Love To Run!
  • The Captains learn about aerobic vs. anaerobic conditioning, what kind of running is best for building each type of conditioning, and what the work to rest ratio should be.
  • We talk about the difference in physical abilities between a 12/13-year-old and an 18/19-year-old, and how they will have to adjust some of their long-distance runs to accommodate the players who are not physically able to keep up with some of the other players.  One way is to split the group into two parts, the new-to-the-program players and the returning players.  Have a Captain lead each group in their distance runs and adjust the pace to the group.
  • Some of the running can be done with a soccer ball at their feet, which is more fun than just running.  However, I encourage a mixture of running with and without a soccer ball.
  • The Captains have many options for running with and without a soccer ball.  Some of the most used runs are “Peal” or the “Australian” two-line run, “Snake” two-line run, and an Army cadence run (if your Captains are creative enough to come up with an appropriate cadence 🙂 and Man U sprints.  They can also play 1v1 to a cone for 30 seconds, then rest for 90 seconds.  If they go all out, it is exhausting!

Skill Work

  • The players are all given access to the MOTI soccer app at the beginning of the summer, which contains 24 soccer skills.  We ask the players to all work on perfecting these ball manipulation skills before the High School season begins.
  • The Captains review these skills daily with the players during Captain’s Practices.  I give them a number of simple activities they can do as a group to help them practice these ball control skills.  They also have a number of activities from their club soccer coaches which they are free to use.
  • The returning players know that when the High School practices begin, we work on these ball control skills daily as they are the prerequisite for a good first touch.  If you want to play at the varsity level, your first touch has to be outstanding.

Activities and Games

  • I encourage them to play small-sided games rather than 11v11 full field.  We want the players to have more touches on the ball and opportunities to score.  Half field 6v6 up to 8v8 works well.  They can even tighten up the field by playing the width of the box, which provides more pressure.
  • Depending on the numbers, a fun game to play is “King of the Field” where three teams are involved.  Two teams play, the third team rests until a winner is determined, then the resting team replaces the team that lost.  If numbers support it, you can have two-half field games going on with a “winners” field and a “losers” field.  Play for 5 minutes, then move according to the score.  Add the 5th team to rest if numbers are up, or even a third field.  The key is small-sided, competitive, with lots of touches and action.
  • Perhaps the most important part of playing games is dividing up into teams.  I encourage them to stay away from the Captains manually choosing players to play for their team.  Remember how much it hurt when you were one of the last ones are chosen!  I give them some other creative ways to divide into teams and to make each team competitive.

That is a lot for these new Captains to process and put into practice.  Fortunately, they have been in your program for up to four years or more, have had great Captains and leaders come before them to show them the way, and have us counsel them.

The First Week of Training!

Now let’s have a great first week of Coach’s Training, tryouts, and enter into our first games of the season prepared.  We will talk about that next when I share with you some ideas for your first week of the High School season.

By Brad Carlson

Brad has coached a variety of sports in the community, middle school, and high school for 40 years (coached the MN 2021 Class A State High School winning team.  He has coached soccer from U6 at the recreational level to U19 at the club level and all age groups at the high school level, including 11 years as a head coach.  He holds a USSF "B" coaching license and USC diplomas.