Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


8v4 game – Get your coaching point across with overloads

David Clarke

Playing with overloads is a great way to get achieve your coaching focus. I often play games achieve success for players in certain aspects of the game. In this 8v4 game for instance, the overloads created and the set up means I can see switching play, short passing, long passing, good control and technique for the team of 8 and the team of 4 needs quick thinking and shooting to win the session

This game gets players practising different aspects of possession play and movement. When shooting at the targets, the scoring team must combine to goalscoring effect, while for the in-circle passing team the aim is to find a way past the opposition. The passing team outside the circle must be mobile and able to position themselves in the best way so as to receive the ball.

dave clarke

How to set it up:

  • Mark out a 30-yard diameter circular pitch (with markers or cones if necessary).

  • Place four goals at four equal points around the edge of the circle.

  • There is one team of eight players, the passing team.

  • The other team has four players, the scoring team.

  • The passing team starts with four on the pitch and four off the pitch.

  • The scoring team starts with all four players on the pitch.

The rules:

  • The passing team must attempt to keep possession at all times, playing out to their team-mates positioned outside the circle.

  • The player passing the ball must go to the outside whilst the receiving player dribbles into the playing area.

  • The scoring team must get the ball into the target goals.

  • The passing team get a point for each successful switch.

  • Play for a time period to be designated by the coach, then gradually rotate groups of four players so that each team gets the opportunity to perform in each role.



Patience is key to beating the Barcelona of your league

David Clarke

How do you beat Barcelona? Real Madrid, Valencia and Manchester United have all tried to do it by getting more possession of the ball and none of them have managed it.

If you find you’re playing a team like Barcelona who won’t allow you to have the ball don’t try to stop them playing – you end up not being able to stop them and ruining your own game plan.

Sure your players will be thinking that it’s time they had the ball because all teams want the ball but if they hold their positions and when they do win it hit quickly on the break they can make the game theirs.

When teams lose patience they often lose the game because they become easy to pick off with one-two passing and 1v1 skills.

If you jump in like Nani does on Lionel Messi you will easily be beaten. Watch the video clip below of Messi beating Nani.



Your coaching focus should be on technique

David Clarke

If you have one New Year’s Resolution make it that you are going to improve the technique of every player you coach – everything a player does on the pitch is about showing good technique.

Everything has a label – control, dribbling, shooting, first touch – but it all relies on good technique.

Technique is the bedrock of a young player’s success in soccer – there are of course other essentials like agility, balance, control and speed, but technique is the crowning glory.

Technique isn’t just Xavi or Messi’s close control. David Beckham has kept his career going for a second decade because his technique keeps him in demand. He doesn’t play anything like Xavi or Messi but he can do things with a ball they cannot. And vice-versa, you wouldn’t see Beckham involved in short passing, lightening quick moves up the pitch because he could never be Xavi.

So it’s about a player finding out what they are good at and practicing that skill. Repetition of the technique is a key factor in this. The more you can get them to repeat the technique the better they will become.

Watch the technique, even on the beach David Beckham can take accurate free-kicks!

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The right response to an under pressure referee

David Clarke

Reacting to the decisions of officials is a very challenging aspect of being a coach, and a tricky thing in terms of making sure your players develop their game in the way that they should.
We came up against a team earlier on in the season who claimed for everything, even throw-ins that were obviously not theirs! But coupled with the pressure applied by a band of vocal parents as well, this had an effect on the referee who, in reacting to the side constantly appealing for decisions, gave the team the benefit of the doubt in almost every 50/50 situation.
That’s not something that you want – nor expect to see – at this level, but it was evidence enough that it happens. Certainly, I would never recommend my players to constantly appeal for decisions – it’s not the brand of football I want them to learn. After half-time though, I did recommend they were more vocal when they were sure that possession was theirs, be that from a ball going out of play or an obvious free-kick situation.
Otherwise, by accepting that the other team was ‘better’ than we were at claiming a corner, for example, we were giving up a good deal of possession. When you play teams like this where the opposition players and parents put pressure on the referee, it can be very daunting for your team. You will probably find that your own players’ parents begin shouting opinions from the touchline, and the match can descend into something of a farce.
The best solution is to talk to the parents of your players and explain that, as a team, we have to get used to coming up against opponents who try to bend the rules. Point out that we want the lads to learn the game in a respectful way, and always retain hope that the referee will begin to see a pattern emerging in the game and will get smart to the barrage of appeals.
If he sees the opposition calling for everything but then realises your players are only reacting when they know it is their ball, he will respond accordingly, and your players will get their fair share of the ball having gone about it the right way.



70% of a goalkeeper’s work is done with his feet

David Clarke

It was raining this weekend. It was muddy and it was windy. Who in their right mind would be a goakeeper on days like this?

I always like to warm my goalkeeper up so he is ready when the match starts.

And you want to warm-up their feet as well as their hands because in these conditions, it is the footwork that will often be the deciding factor when the ball is crossed or shot in with the rain, wind and mud making handling treacherous.

I use this warm-up all the time in the winter – and often during good weather as well! It’s so easy to set up and you can get a couple of dads to help out while you take the rest of the boys for other warm-ups.

It’s one I got from Mike Toshack, the goalkeeping coach for Houston Dynamo. All you need is a goal and two cones with a couple of helpers and balls.

Set it up like this:

      • Put two cones five yards in front of a goal in the centre, four yards apart creating three “goals”.
      • You need a goalkeeper and two players or helpers.
      • First helper passes a ball to the goalkeeper in the middle goal, who passes back firmly with his right foot.
      • The goalkeeper then moves to the “goal” on his right to save a shot from the second helper.
      • The goalkeeper then moves back to the centre goal to make another pass and so on. After five shots to the right, the goalkeeper must then move to the goal area on his left.
      • You want to see the goalkeeper moving quickly between the goals while keeping his hands and head steady.
      • He needs to be on his toes, ready to react to the ball.

Goalkeeper drills and games



Shoot like Higuain

Argentina and Real Madrid striker striker Gonzalo Higuain shooting tips:

  1. Use positive touches to beat defenders
  2. Shoot across goal
  3. Hit hard with instep

Ten of the best soccer shooting drills



Socrates…. memories of a legend


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