Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


My 12-point plan to dealing with troublesome parents

dave clarke

There will be times as a coach when you have trouble dealing with parents.

Parents are one of your main support links with the team and you rely on them for lots of things – mainly getting their child to training or matches. However, your biggest supporter could become your biggest problem if they feel aggrieved by the way their child has been handled.

This can result in problems in the coach-player relationship

A cross parent can be difficult to get through to because when dealing with their child logic or reason goes out of the window. This can be very stressful for coaches, and in some instances could threaten their job with the team.

Here is my blueprint to dealing with parents.

  1. Arrange a meeting rather than have a stand up argument at the side of the pitch.
  2. Hold the meeting in private but have another coach or some other person present.
  3. Do some digging and find out if the parent has previous history of aggressive or unreasonable behaviour.
  4. What does the problem revolve around? Playing time/Not starting games/Upset by coach. You could put together a plan of how to resolve this but if the parent is being unreasonable don’t agree to something that means other players will suffer – time on the pitch for example.
  5. Give parents time to get their point across without interruptions.
  6. Give your point of view but don’t give too much information than is necessary and don’t discuss other players.
  7. If possible, document the facts or details of the parent’s complaint. Determine whether any and all supportive information will be available at the meeting.
  8. When meeting with the parent, always have another person sit in on the meeting, perhaps the AD, assistant principal, or another coach–someone to verify what actually takes place.
  9. Meeting alone with the parent can develop into a no-win scenario.
  10. At the meeting, allow the parent to vent his or her spleen. Make mental notes, but do not interrupt.
  11. Avoid attacking the parents over the reasons they may be attacking you.
  12. If parents start being rude or shouting at you stay calm and let them calm down
  13. Go over the meeting in your mind and action any points you have agreed with the parents. What could you have done better? How could you have made it easier for yourself?

 Soccer Skills and Drills



Sorry coach, I forgot my boots

dave clarkeIt’s raining heavily. I’ve just gone outside to put some things in the car and I’m already soaked. The pitch is going to be a nightmare.

To be fair there hasn’t been many matches this season where the rain has spoiled things but I can tell this is not going to be fun. We have two matches to play with one of my three teams having the Saturday off. The pouring rain brings added problems – two players phone up ‘ill’ so we have not substitutes for the first game.

We’re playing a team that is top of the division above us so it’s going to be a test and judging from the state of the pitch when I arrive at the ground the ball will not be easy to pass.

During the first half one of my players is like Bambi on ice. He can’t stay on his feet so he’s not tackling or intercepting any passes like he usually does. Suddenly it dawns on those of us watching that he’s playing in trainers.

It hadn’t crossed my mind that any of the players would forget their boots but today of all days he’s forgotten his. His dad runs to look in the car but they aren’t there. We lose the game 4-2 – after being 2-1 down at half time. The difference between the teams was the size of one of their players, the boggy pitch so we couldn’t play our normal passing game – and of course my player without his boots.

It is worth checking when your team arrives on match days that everyone has all their kit with them including shinpads and boots. There would have been time for his dad to drive home and get them had I checked or had he told me, but because I neglected this small task it had a big effect on our game.

Players slipping can give goals away… or make you miss. Go to my blog and see some clips of Kieran Gibbs for Arsenal and John Terry for Chelsea slipping at vital times.



When a draw feels like a win

dave clarkeThere are great goals in matches that you think about for a long time afterwards. When one of my U10 teams was losing 1-0 in a game they were bossing. They couldn’t believe they were a goal behind and try as they might they just couldn’t get the finishing touch.

“Lost this one I reckon,” said one of the fathers grinning next to me.

But then with the minutes ticking down we attacked down the left. The ball was played back to our centre forward who, finding the route ahead blocked, played it back to one of our midfielders. With a powerful swing of his leg our midfielder dispatched the ball on a perfect arc into the roof of the net. 1-1. But it felt like a win and gave everyone a great feeling for the rest of the game.

It was a feat mirrored by Deportivo de La coruna fighting to preserve a 20-year stint in the top flight – they were 1-0 down to fellow relegation contenders Almeria in February. Defeat would have left them a solitary point off the relegation zone, with four teams below them all within two points. And next weekend, they’re playing Real Madrid.

The referee had given four minutes of additional time. With four minutes up Deportivo won a corner. Pablo Álvarez took it into the heart of the penalty area and from the melee inside one head made contact and the ball hit the back of the net. 1-1.

It was the head of Dani Aranzubia, the goalkeeper…

“No one told me to go up for the corner, I just thought it was a good idea,” he said, becoming the first goalkeeper to score in Spain for nine years.

And that felt like a win for Deportivo.

Watch it below



Counter attacking as a tactic

dave clarkeHitting teams on the break is a good tactic to use when your team is playing away from home against a team they know nothing about. Fast counter-attacks can take advantage of players being out of position.
Players need to be aware and alert to their team-mates and react quickly when the ball is turned over.

It relies on accurate passing and having the ability to hold off retreating defenders. You can watch the best counter attacks in the video below and play this exercise to help your players get used to running with the ball and holding the defenders off.

How to play it

  • Mark out an area 40 yards x 20 yards – you can make it smaller for younger players.
  • In one of the corners, mark out a 10 yards square with a small, coned goal in it.
  • In this soccer drill the ball is passed so the attacker can run onto it.
  • The attacker must take full control of the ball at this point. The defender starts his run as soon as the pass is made and his first action is to hold up the attacker. The attacker should change his pace to fool the defender.
  • The defender cannot tackle until they get into the marked-off zone.
  • Once they get into the marked-off zone, the attacker must try to lose the defender with a turn – for instance, a stop turn, then try to put the ball between the two cones.
  • The defender must stick close to the attacker and try to get a tackle in to win the ball.


Never write your strikers off… just ask Matri at Juventus

dave clarkeA friend of mine was thrilled this week. His son had scored the winner in an U14s match against a team at the top of the league. It gave the team a huge boost because they hadn’t scored a lot of goals recently.

But even more important to my friends son was that he had actually played. The team normally has the manager’s son playing up front, and although he is a good player no one else got to play in that position – my friends son was limited to bit part substitute roles.

The fact that without his son up front the team still played well and his “reserve” striker had scored the winning goal hopefully made its mark on the manager. Players must be allowed to play games or you cannot see how much they have developed from week to week.

It reminded me of the recent Juventus v Inter Milan game. “It’s hard to score goals without any attackers,” Said Juventus manager Gigi Del Neri in January when they won just two of seven league games after losing top scorer Fabio Quagliarella to injury.

He went out and bought Alessandro Matri from Cagliari on the last day of the transfer window which didn’t impress everyone.

Former Juventus great Franco Causio was not impressed: “Matri? He won’t make the difference.”

But just like my friends son he has. He scored the winner against hated rivals Inter.

“Matri is already a legend,” said the Turin-based newspaper La Stampa. Gazzetta dello Sport is even more enthusiastic. “Do you realise what you have done,” it declares. “That was not a goal. That was a howl of liberation, a declaration of love, an act of desire, a black-and-white orgasm.”

You’ll never know how good a player is until you see them playing in your team each week. Don’t have bench warmers in your team.

Watch Matri’s goal below:

 Soccer Skills and Drills



How to do an overhead kick like Rooney

dave clarkeWayne Rooney has been in disappointing form so far this season but on Saturday 12th February the England international showed just how good he can be using the perfect technique and body shape while hanging in the air – pure genius. The match was in the English Premier League, the Manchester derby between United and City at Old Trafford – boring game lit up by this goal that was also the winner.

Nani put in a cross from the right flank which clipped Pablo Zabaleta, but Rooney was there to think instinctively and went for a spectacular overhead kick that flew past England goalkeeper Joe Hart and into the City net.

After the game, Rooney said that it was the best goal he has ever scored, and enthused: “I saw the ball come in the box and I thought ‘Why not?’ I tried to get in a good position from when Nani crossed it. Nine times out of 10 they go over the crossbar or wide. I tried it and thankfully it’s gone in the top corner.

“You don’t have time to think about what you’re going to do. It’s the first one since I started playing professionally so I’m delighted, especially as it has given us three points.”

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini was impressed: “He is a fantastic player who has done a fantastic thing. It was genius.”

Former Manchester City player Mike Summerbe said: “Pele did something similar in Escape To Victory. It took a goal like that to beat us – a moment of Rooney magnificence to do it.”

WATCH ROONEY'S GOAL HERE

And here’s Pele’s overhead kick in Escape to Victory:

How to do the overhead kick

This skill is all about balance and technique. Get those right and you may have a chance of kicking the ball cleanly. It’s not an easy skill to perfect but your players will have a great deal of fun trying to do it. Practice it on soft ground to prevent your players injuring their backs, but don’t let them overdo it.

How to practice it

  • Players throw a ball in the air.
  • Jump up using the kicking foot as a spring.
  • Then bring the kicking foot up and hands down to break fall.
  • Twist your body so you don’t land on your back and use your arms to cushion your landing.

 Soccer Skills and Drills



Soccer AM showboat clips

There’s always one player at training…

The player that messes about at training… every team has one and mine are no exception. One player is always last to stop, always kicking the ball into the goal when you’re talking or wandering along absent mindedly when you’re waiting to talk to the players.

There is one particular boy in my squad, lovely boy, but his mind is always on the move, taking him with it. However much I talk to him about it he cannot help having just one last kick of the ball.

I have no problem with this at the moment because he is not distracting the other players from the training they are concentrating on, but if my coaching sessions begin to suffer then action must be taken.

What I would do is take away the thing they love the most – playing the game. Sit them out for five minutes and if they do it again keep sitting them out. Or stop them taking part in the game at the end of your session.

And don’t lose your patience – that isn’t any good for either of you.

It’s not only the kids that mess about at training. I’ve seen seasoned internationals refusing to train or run during sessions – tantrums, fighting you name the professionals do it.

If you go to my blog you can see a clip of David Beckham at the England training camp messing about while the England players run around the pitch. He does get told off though!

 Soccer Skills and Drills



Getting things wrong as a coach is part of your learning curve

dave clarkeFaced with entertaining the team that has scored the most goals in our league last week I decided to play three defenders for the first time this season, bring my wingers into midfield with a lone striker up front.

It meant my team was sitting deep allowing the opposition to come on to us. It was a tactic we used to great effect last season hitting teams on the break after they lost the ball to us. It relies on us keeping a clean sheet up to half time then adjusting the team accordingly to try and get a goal. We have been much more attack minded this season and are the second highest goal scorers in the league so I was expecting a lot of shots on goal.

Unfortunately the plan was never tested properly because we let in two early goals and then struggled to change our tactics to get ourselves back into the game. Such was the intensity of the match I was finding it hard to get my views across to the players – not helped by the squeeling parents around me.

We found it hard to take the initiative back and all our hard work in training where we practice compact defending had gone to waste.

In the same week Steve Bruce the manager of English Premier League team Sunderland also decided to play three centre-backs to deal with Stoke City’s threat from set pieces, but the plan did not work for him either as the home side scored all three of their goals this way. The final two Stoke goals were similar – coming from excellent Jermaine Pennant free-kicks, and converted by Robert Huth, who is ironically enough a centre-back.

It is disappointing when your tactics don’t work, but it doesn’t mean you were wrong to try it. As a coach using tactics in matches should be part of your game. It’s not just the players that need to experiment – getting things wrong is part of your learning curve as a manager.

Watch these highlights of Sunderland playing Birmingham in which both teams use three centre-backs and both get caught out.

 Soccer Skills and Drills




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