Advanced players need to further refine skills they’ve learned from the past. A coaching plan for this level also introduces several new skills, including diving and collapsing for goalkeepers. Individual, paired, and small and large group activities are also important. As with the intermediate level, there are psychological, fitness, technical and tactical aspects of a player’s growth.
As players become advanced and confident in their skills, they should learn assertiveness, tension control and self and team discipline. Their focus should remain for an entire match. Fair play, mental focusing techniques, and control of the emotions are important.
As for fitness, players should concentrate on power, changing speeds, anaerobic exercises like small amounts of weightlifting, and continued cardiovascular training. At this level, a player’s fitness is his or her own responsibility and the coach should not need to cover this aspect in practice except for mentioning it. Cross-training in other sports will be helpful both from a physical and mental standpoint as well.
Advanced players will have mastered the basics and are continuing to improve and learn new technical skills. They should be hungry to learn new aspects of the game that will give them an edge. New skills include chipping to pass, sharper bending passes, and crossing the far post with accuracy. Half-volley and volley shooting, heading backwards, diving headers, and dummying the ball will become critical aspects of their skill arsenal. For goalies, far post play, medium and high diving, parrying over the crossbar and around posts, kick saves and long over arm throws will be skills to master which will help the overall team.
For tactical prowess, advanced players will learn compactness, commanding the goal area for the goalkeeper, the role of a third defender, making recover runs, stronger throw-ins, and penalty and free kick plays. Also, comfort playing in the attacking and defending third within the center and flanks, switching positions with ease during the flow of play, and providing offensive and defensive support when needed.
Coaches rarely feel they have enough time to cover everything they want to practice. This will be less likely with the advanced level, because most players have a firm understanding of what’s expected from a given drill. They are better able to visualize scenarios and the importance of certain plans. In that respect, a coach’s job is easier. Practice plans, though, may require more thought and planning in order to keep player interest during a session.
Constructing practice plans for the advanced level will require organization but also a larger degree of flexibility. If you find that what you’ve planned for in practice isn’t working, have a backup activity that keeps the play fun as well as interesting.