Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


You don’t always have to win to be a success

Winning is always important but not always an accurate measurement of how well a team played. It is better to ask key questions about your team:

  • Did they create chances?

  • Did they have a good shape defensively and cover the dangerous spaces?

  • Did the players make good decisions when in possession?

  • Did they play a mixed passing game?

  • Did they control the tempo of the game?

Jot down your thoughts straight after the game. Then write down what happened in the game an hour after your team has played and re-read what happened. Look for the positives to talk to your players about and then go to work on the negatives.

My team played a game recently where they started off easily
the best team. We totally outpassed the opposition and created twice as many chances as they did. We lost the game 3-2.

So I wrote down my answers to the questions…

  • Yes, we did create chances – praise the team.

  • No, we often left dangerous spaces when we didn’t get back quickly enough when attacks broke down – work on defensive positions and recovery movement.

  • Mixed, but on the whole we made good decisions.

  • Yes, passing was good, long and short – praise the team.

  • No, they allowed the opposition back in to the game when they had it won – work on closing the game out.

You can then see what to talk about, what to praise and what to work on at your next coaching session.



Fernando Torres and 1v1 situations

At the weekend Liverpool played away at Everton, hoping to change their recent poor run.

Key this has been the form of their striker Fernando Torres. His loss of form has been one of the reasons the team has struggled. The Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson decided Torres should go up against Everton’s Sylvain Distin at centre-back rather than attack Phil Jagielka.

This was a key battle in the game – if Torres won most of these he was likely to score or create lots of chances.

However Torres won just four of the 14 head to heads he had in front of goal mostly with Distin. Distin won 10 of the 14. Torres and indeed Liverpool didn’t score or create many chances.

One of the key reasons that he didn’t win many of them was the poor service into him, balls in the air rather than into his feet or body. It is much easier for a big centre back to win crosses into Torres than trying to stop him with the ball at his feet.

But the other key reason is that when commentators say he is out of form what they actually me is he is no longer winning the 1v1 situations he is famous for.

Watch the two video clips below. In the first he scores in the final of Uefa Euro 2008 to beat Germany 1-0. The second is a compilation – watch the number of times Torres is 1v1 and the number of times he scores after beating a defender 1v1.



Working towards your first win

The qualifying matches for the Euro 2012 competition brings it home that for some teams being beaten and ridiculed is a fact of life. For San Marino, Andorra, Malta, Luxembourg, Faroe Islands and Azerbaijan I could list you teams ending in Juniors, Colts, Youth or animals like PUmas and Tigers – youth teams that find themselves being beaten every week.

But while I feel for the teams that this happens to I also know that the players and the coach will be learning a great deal about themselves and getting better every time they play. I’ve seen teams turn it around during the season. But I doubt Euro 2012 will see any of the bottom seeds will be going to the tournament.

However what a turnaround can do is create a good team – just look at Cyprus. Their rise in recent years owes a lot to an influx of money into their domestic game, which propelled Anorthosis Famagusta and Apoel Nicosia into the group stages of the Champions League.

They have begun to develop as a force – last month’s 4-4 draw in Portugal was an excellent result and points to a strong team.

After amazingly beating Switzerland 2-1 in the recent World Cup qualifying campaign, Luxembourg midfielder Fons Leweck said: “See, with strong morale and good team-work you really can achieve something in football. Nothing is impossible.”

It was Leweck who scored the winner and it was a very clever free-kick – watch it in the clip below



Fit to last the whole match

I’ve had to work hard this season on getting my U10s to play their best right to the end. Tiredness in the last 10 minutes has been creating stressful ends to games with us letting in late goals. Endurance is as relevant to your match play as scoring goals because you want your team to perform at their best the whole game.

If your players are fit and up to speed they will be able to put even the best teams under pressure. Don’t waste the speed of your players by letting them stay unfit, you’ll be surprised how much quicker you can make a young player simply by getting them fit.

Working on fitness can be done in small bursts during your coaching session. You can use the warm up time to put players through their paces with a fitness.

Try this simple step jump with your players.

  • Stand beside a cone or soft object to be cleared.
  • Bring knees up and jump vertically but also laterally off ground and over the marker.
  • Land on both feet and jump back in the other direction.
  • Ground contact time should be minimal – don’t dip into a full squat position.
  • Repeat for 15 seconds and a total of 6 sets.
  • Rest 30 seconds between sets.


Jack Wilshere: positives from defeat

dave clarkeWhen teams lose it is always a good idea to go over the good points so you are getting as much out of the game as possible – event though I admit it’s much easier to just draw a line under the defeat and move onto the next game.

Watching Arsenal lose to Chelsea it is easy to just write the game off as a strong Chelsea display – but I thought it was strong Arsenal display with Chelsea showing strength up front. Here the disappointment for Arsenal was losing but the upside for England as well as Arsenal was the display of Jack Wilshere – a young English player of immense talent.

Since coming to Arsenal under Arsene Wenger Wilshere has developed into a player with great maturity and technically excellent qualities. When he is on the ball he can use his vision to dispatch the pass with speed and simplicity. He will also immediately take up another position to receive the next pass – something I am continually striving to attain with my young players.
The next couple of seasons will be big ones for Wilshere and Arsenal and he could be the key to them winning a title or Champions League in the near future.

Watch his range of skills in this compilation:



Dealing with disappointment

All sports players suffer disappointments. The great ones use it to fire them up and come back stronger. In youth soccer it is down to you the coach to help your players deal with disappointment – but don’t think you’re alone.

We have all seen the situation. Your attacker gets the ball in front of goal, they must score but they miss – they come across to you and say they are the worst player that ever lived. However it is not always best to go straight in with words of encouragement – they wont stick if all they can do is picture the moment over and over again when they missed.

You need to try and get them to talk about the situation – to get them to see it was only a moment in the game and the more they practice the more moments like that will get less and less. Try to get them to take note of things they did well during the game. And play a few mind games with them. Ask them: If you had 50 shots and miss one, what’s the unusual event? The goal or the miss? .

I also use this saying: ‘You’re the kind of person who… and follow up with one of these answers…’
‘doesn’t give up easily'; ‘
sticks to things'; ‘
bounces back'; ‘
doesn’t let mistakes stop you from playing the game you love.’

It can help them recover their self image and their confidence.

Check out this clip of the Nike academy team and see what advice Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand and Academy coach Huw Jennings give the squad…




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