This will be my first year of being a head coach (11-14 year olds). Last year, I was assistant to a friend of mine (same age group). His philosophy was that you should do nearly all drills with the ball at your feet. While there are a few exceptions due to the nature of the drill, especially agility drills such as running backwards or sideways, he thought that running without the ball was mostly a waste of practice time. His philosophy was that you could get the aerobic fitness of running AND give them tons more ball touches at the same time. Kids that age, especially in this country where many of them don't play in year round, need as many ball touches as they can. I've really come to agree strongly with his philosophy. Plus, there's a pragmatic reason. I only have the kids for an hour and a half or an hour and 3/4 a day and the middle school has a somewhat shorter preseason than varsity. I have to cram in a lot of teaching in a short period of time, especially since for many of them, this is their first real taste of competitive soccer. If they're running without the ball, they're not learning, they're not even getting a feel for having the ball at their feet. I'm a firm believer that, after actually enjoying the game, having a feel for the game is the first and most important category in becoming a good player. Coaches can teach skill, but a feel for the game is something the kids have to develop on their own. Ball touches is a way to help that. Although I coach younger kids, I think it applies even to older kids too, such as those at varsity level. By that age, players should be doing fitness stuff (running, lifting, etc) on their own time so that soccer practice can be devoted to soccer skills., strategy and so on. I don't deny the need for a little fitness training in practices, especially in the first week of pre-season, but I don't think it should be emphasized in practice independently of other soccer skills. What are you guys take on this?