By Tim Bradbury, Director of Coaching Instruction, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association
Perhaps it is because I played the game as a youth player and hated drills because they bored me. Perhaps it is because I clearly remember the boredom I felt as the latest drill I was exposed to as a player sucked all fun out of the game as quickly as I could finish a cold glass of water on a hot day. Perhaps it was because I was a creative kid who liked to think and come up with my own way of solving problems, that I hated rote learning and being told what to do and when to do it. Whatever the reason, the deep-rooted hatred I have of drills is really very strong.
Perhaps it was a good thing that in attending University in England and specializing in Physical Education and teaching that all the information, teaching methods, learning seminars all reinforced the reasons I had learned to hate drills from an early age. It was great that all the educational research and learning theory reinforced the reasons why I could find no fun in any drill. I felt vindicated and inspired to start creating exercises and activities that could replace drills and allow my players to think and have fun.
Every time I attend an instructional training session or read another article on learning styles, environments that create great players, the evidence to support the "No Drills Ever" mantra is simply stronger and clearer.
Imagine my despair then when I see youth coach after youth coach expose another batch of young players to the next great drill they have created. Each and every time I observe this teaching environment, the body language of the players is the same––disengaged, bored and often finding ways to create their own fun. It is a sad truth that it is often the coaches who most use drills who are the ones who most seek advice on how to discipline unruly players and how to get their players to be more attentive.
While I am on a rant, how on earth are a series of drills which translate to boredom and lack of creative thought ever be considered to be a good pre-game warm up? How are youth players being suitably prepared for a game by participating in a series of drills more likely to put them in a coma than they are to inspire highly creative competitive thought?
So in an attempt to convince all those that still turn to drills as a way to teach the beautiful game, I offer the top 10 reasons to never use a drill presented below:
1. Drills are zero fun.
2. The game is all about making decisions. Drills prevent players thinking.
3. Drills are boring.
4. The process of myelination –key in players learning techniques is rooted in their ability to think.
5. Drills create robots unable to create their own solutions when posed with a problem in a game.
6. Good training activities look like a slice of the game. Drills never do.
7. Drills drive players away from the game.
8. The game is charged with adrenalin and nervous energy––making decisions under pressure no drill ever does this.
9. Drills involve standing around waiting for a turn. This is no fun at all.
10. There are simply better more engaging and fun ways to teach the game.
So instead of drills, design activities, exercises and games that:
• Look like a little slice of the game.
• Allow players to think, make mistakes and solve problems.
• Are highly competitive, challenging and fun.
• You can structure in a way that allows certain skills to be performed frequently under graduated pressure.
• Allow all players to be engaged at all times.
• Involve multitasking, thinking about and solving numerous problems at the same time.
I promise that if you move away from drills and into activities and exercises in the way prescribed above, your players will develop new energy and passion at your practices.