Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

What’s it like to be coached by YOU?

“A coach who smiles and praises his players will get more out of them”

davidscwnewAs a coach I know I have a lot of responsibilities, so how I coach and how I get my points across are vital to the progression of my players. It is not just about progression on the pitch either – my coaching should also help them learn how to achieve their life goals away from the pitch.

I try to imagine what it must feel like to be coached by me. Do I take enough interest in every one of my players and make them feel special? When they arrive at training or for a match I try to recall a key fact or occasion that will make each one of them think: “he remembered”.

What do you think it feels like to be coached by you? When your players arrive what goes through their minds when they see you? Do you inspire them? Are they afraid of you? An inspirational coach will find players respond better – they will listen more intently when you are explaining what you want them to do in a particular exercise.

A coach that breathes fire should realise players are just doing what they have to because they are frightened. I want to inspire my players, not scare them. When I think about my coaching I want to base it on best practice rather than just controlling kids. Best practice comes from the activities I create, how I use them and the enjoyment the group gets.

DavidClarke1At a recent coaching event I watched a top class coach run a session – unfortunately the youth team he used didn’t understand what he wanted from them. He got exasperated and his coaching style became very commanding. Afterwards he moaned that his session didn’t work because the players were not up to his standard.

A good coach should recognise when players are not up to the level of the session and quickly change the exercise to make it easier.

A coach who smiles and praises his players will get much more out of players than one who snarls and shouts.

So take five minutes to sit down and imagine what it’s like turning up to your sessions. Are players having fun? Have you coached them in the fundamental skills – touch, passing, receiving, communication and heading? Do they know the rules? Have you explained tactics and sportsmanship?

There is a lot there, but think about how you coach, what you coach and try to get to know a little more about each player. You will build a solid foundation and a better understanding between you and your team.

Why parents criticise coaches

davidscwnewI think all of us have a dark side that turns us into critics. Some people can be more critical than others, but if you’re on the receiving end you have to close your ears to the comments and just let the critics get on
with it.

I was at a coaching session last week and all around me coaches were being critical. Rather than write the session down and create something new from it, they just wanted an excuse to say “I’m better than you”.

But it’s not just true of coaches. Working with grassroots teams I tend to hear criticism constantly and a lot of it comes from the parents at the side of the pitch. If their son or daughter has not played well, they think the coach hasn’t been doing his job properly. If their son or daughter is substituted, the coach hasn’t a clue what he’s doing.

And on it goes. Remember, criticism is easy to make but your achievements are not. And it’s easier to deal with criticism when you realise the reasons behind it. Criticism from parents is often a tool to defend their children and to defend themselves in the face of other parents with higher achieving kids – it’s not an attack on you as such but it can be hard to ignore.

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You are doing a great job so don’t let them put you off. It is because you have given up your time and taken on the role of coach that you have been thrust into the limelight and unfortunately a lot of people will resent your position of importance.

When I first started coaching I remember that one of my teams went through a sticky patch in the middle of the season, having started out with four straight wins. After one game a parent came up to me and told me that he had spoken to a few of the other dads and they had decided my tactics were wrong.

I was taken aback and rushed home to go through my notes and think about what they had said. My tactics hadn’t changed but the players were on a steep learning curve and some aspects of their play were just beginning to come through. At that time I felt quite nervous about the score in games – not like now, when I look at how well the team played before I even think about the score.

In attacking me the dads had come up with reasons why their kids hadn’t won the game, but it was their problem, not mine. Now that I understand why people criticise, I no longer feel nervous about what parents think of me. Once you realise why people criticise you’ll deal with it much better too.

Give Players Time To Understand Your Session

davidscwnewMy coaching word for this week is perseverance. I heard Sir Alex Ferguson the former manager of Manchester United in the English Premier League talking about the attributes that make a good coach and his first one was perseverance.

I immediately experienced why this is such an important part of your coaching style. In training this week I was trying out a new session which I was writing up for Soccer Coach Weekly – I do it on the premise that if it works with my U10s then it will work for pracDavidClarke1tically all age groups.

It was an exercise that uses movement, coordination, passing, receiving and sprinting. I know sometimes when you are using exercises with young players in front of their parents it can be a bit awkward for you if the players don’t understand immediately what they have to do. Especially so when they have just come out of school and are raring to go – concentration is at a minimum.


I ran the exercise a couple of times and it was not going well. It needed some fine tuning and a lot of demonstrations by me to get the players to understand what I wanted. It was eating into my coaching time but I thought it was worthwhile persevering with it. After 10 minutes they were still struggling but suddenly one of the players shouted “got it, Dave!” and he showed the others how it worked.

And with demonstrations from both of us suddenly the whole squad could do it. We played thblog_volleye exercise for the next 20minutes and I took notes on how to change it to make it more easily understood for my Soccer Coach Weekly readers.

After the session a coach from one of our other teams came up and said “wow what a great session that was!” It had worked in the end but only because I was prepared to persevere with the session and use visual aids and use a player who could help me to show the others how to play it.

Not only that but it has given me another good, different exercise to use with my players as soon as we get to training that they can quickly get going with. And you can be sure that once I’ve used it a couple of times and drawn it out you will be the first coaches to get to play it because it will soon be in Soccer Coach Weekly.

Jose Mourinho? No scapegoats in a youth game but plenty of pressure on the volunteer coach

davidscwnewIt can be a scary moment when you face the first game of the season. It doesn’t matter whether you are a new coach or have coached the same team for a few years, that first game is so important.

Getting the momentum is one thing but getting the parents and players right behind you is another, so a good display is important.

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Last season our first match was away at a very impressive ground with lots of facilities, including a main pitch with stands and floodlights.

As it was the Under 11s that were playing we were not on the adult A team pitch but we were on a pretty impressive one surrounded by a clubhouse and tennis courts. We had been promoted the previous season so we were not sure how we would cope at this higher level, but I could see my players were not intimidated by the surroundings and were raring to feel the excitement of the kick off.

We were quickly into our warm ups and soon we had shaken hands with the opposition ready for the match. I can’t imagine how it must feel to be Uwe Rosler, the new manager of Leeds United, as he waits for the whistle to blow with the eyes of his trigger happy owner Massimo Cellino upon him. Or Claudio Ranieri at Leicester, back in the Premier League hoping he can have the success he had before.

Kick off came with great relief and my initial fears that the team wouldn’t be good enough were soon banished as we unleashed a flurry of attacks. Twice we were nearly caught out on the counter but our defensive training sessions paid off with some good covering and clearing. However, as half time approached all of our hard work was undone when a clumsy clearance went into our own net.

The boy involved was heartbroken, but at half time we all gathered around him and told him it wasn’t his fault and that we were all pleased with the way the team had played. We ran the game in the second half but failed to score and that one own goal had been the downfall of the team.

However, parents and players alike were in high spirits because we had all seen we could compete at this higher level and I was proud of the way they had all gathered around the player who had scored the own goal.

So a great start to your campaign doesn’t always mean a winning start but momentum comes from playing well and working as a team – we went on to have a great season in a very tough league.

SWITCHED ON: Move the ball into space

By David Clarke

davidscwnewThis session will give players the confidence to use their craft and vision to be able to switch play from one side of the pitch to the other

Why use it

It is crucial for young players to know how to switch play so they can exploit space by moving the ball from one side of the pitch to the other. They can do this either by using a long pass or a series of quick, short passes.

Set up

Create a 30×15-yard area split into three 10-yard zones. Mark out three gates along the two lines that create the centre zone – the gates should be one yard wide and evenly spaced along the line. We’re using three teams of four, one in each zone. You will need balls, bibs and cones.

How to play

In their groups of four, get the players to work out how many ways they can get the ball from one side to the other: one long pass; three short; one short, one long etc. After five minutes split the middle team in two – one pair defends the three gates on one side and one pair defends the gates on the other side. The two outside teams must try to pass quickly in order to find a chance to get the ball through one of the gates. Rotate teams every five minutes.


Having three goals and only two defenders means attackers will be keen to hunt out space to score.

Soccer Coach Weekly


Score In Shoot-outs
July 27, 2015, 1:38 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

davidscwnewUse this knockout scoring game to improve the ability of your young players to score from the spot and cope with the pressure of a penalty shoot-out

Why use it

In this knockout game the penalty becomes just another aspect of scoring goals. The pressure is on the individual but there are three different shots to ensure that the pressure on young shoulders is not as great as it could be.


Set up

You need a goal, a goalkeeper, two servers and plenty of balls for this session. You also need a number of players to make it a worthwhile competition.

How to play

Each player has three goes to get through to the next round of the competition: a penalty, a turn and shoot technique, and a header. The first shot is the penalty – then the player must run to touch the goalpost before returning to a ball played in by a server and turning and shooting with one touch. He must then follow that shot in to place a header in the net. Start by saying players must score with one of the chances, then after round one make it two – and as players are knocked out, make it all three chances.


There are three ways of scoring but because the player has to concentrate on what follows the penalty, the pressure is much less on the actual kick. Players should show good technique and a fearless attitude that they can carry with them into a penalty shoot-out.

– See more at:–1–Score-In-Shoot-outs#sthash.vPu6i0E6.dpuf

Fellaini spitting: a problem in youth games?

QUESTION A referee has threatened to report one of my players for excessive spitting during a match. Can he really do this? ANSWER If the player in question was spitting only at the ground and not in the direction of someone else on the pitch, I can’t see there has been any offence committed here. The act of spitting may carry with it a certain amount of kudos in making players feel grown up, manly and sporty, but it’s also really important for players to play soccer feeling comfortable. That said, it sounds as if one of your players has been rather over the top with the amount he was spitting, so this should be something you must have a word with him about. For all its usefulness, spitting is still not a particularly pleasant act, and my guess is the referee made a light threat in the hope that your player would knock it on the head. If the referee has gone ahead and reported this, you should hear from your league committee within a couple of weeks. Simply state the player’s case and explain that you are putting measures in place to remind all players of the etiquette required when on the soccer pitch. But if I were you, I wouldn’t be unduly worried about this. Answered by Yemi Blanolo, a retired referee from Maidstone in a recent issue of Soccer Coach Weekly


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