Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


Get your strikers using both feet in two easy lessons

David ClarkeCoaches often ask me about getting grass roots players to use both feet – and I have to admit it is hard. The best way is to try and make sure you practice with your players so they get used to using both of them. But it is something you have to work on all the time because they can easily stop doing it in matches.

I have two ways for you to work with your players. The first is from Andre Merelle the technical director of French Football Federation (FFF’s) National Technical Centre at Clairefontaine, arguably the best youth soccer development center in the world.

It is a simple exercise but very effective – plus you get to watch him explain it in the clip below.

He has helped develop players like Jean-Pierre Papin, Thierry Henry, Louis Saha, William Gallas and Nicholas Anelka.

The French focus a great deal on technique……The players must play with the ball as much as possible from an early age, the younger the better.

Check out his simple way to coach two-footed strikers in the video clip below and set it up and try it out with your players. Then move on to my session below it:

Close to goal, strikers can guide the ball into the net, they don’t need to rifle it home. So this exercise is all about coaching your players to be comfortable in front of goal with both feet.

Set this up like the diagram below on a small pitch with two teams of four players. You, or a helper, act as the server by standing on the halfway line at the side.

In the diagram the white shirted players dribble and then pass (1) to the coach. The coach makes a return pass (2) for a first time shot with the right foot (3).

Immediately the player moves across the penalty area and reacts to a pass from a team mate at the side of the goal by shooting with his left foot (5). He then takes the place of his team mate next to the goal.

The dark shirted players do the same thing in the opposite direction. This time the left-foot shot is further out but here just look for direction from the player. Tell him you want to see him hit the target not necessarily score past the goalkeeper.



Back to goal, turn, shoot, score

David Clarke

By David Clarke

Young attackers often find it difficult to turn and shoot when they receive the ball with their back to goal, because they are unsure what is behind them and where the goal is. They will often play it back into midfield rather than go themselves.

What you need to do when you are coaching attackers is to make it second nature for them to be able to receive the ball and immediately turn. This means they need to be aware of their position on the pitch in relation to the goal at all times.

This is a great drill to make attackers aware of the goal and where they have to turn so they can shoot – you can advance it to include other elements like lobbing the goalkeeper, or you can make it easier by not having a goalkeeper. It is a very versatile drill for the coach.

  • Use an 18 yard area for each attacking set up

  • Run two shooting sessions at the same time using the two goal set up in the diagram so your players are getting more time on the ball.

  • The player at the front of the queue on each side plays the ball into an attacker positioned side-on to the passer and with their back to goal.

  • The attacking player lets the ball roll across their body, takes one-touch to play the ball into position before turning and shooting with their other foot.

  • The attackers shoot to score by hitting the corners of the goal. Repeat the session for each player.

How to advance it

  • You can add a defender to close down and pressure the attacking player.

  • Tell your attacking player they must play the ball with both feet – one to control and one to shoot.

  • Instead of a first time shot, get your attackers to run one-on-one with the goalkeeper and try to score.

Change it so they have to lob the goalkeeper

Get your goalkeepers to stand a yard off their line and tell your attackers they have to turn with the ball and try to lob the goalkeeper. This makes it harder for your attackers to score.

Key coaching tips:

  • Tell your players that each part of the session is important – concentrate on passing a good ball to the attacker so they can control it easier and concentrate on the turn and quality of the shot whether they are trying to lob the goalkeeper or drive it low into the corner of the net.

  • Highlight the turn to your attackers. Show them how it must be done, and stop the session if they are not doing it right. You can use one of your more skilful players to show them if you cannot do it yourself!

  • Tell them they must be quick so that in a match they can create a shooting opportunity.



When my players win the ball they can’t launch quick counter attacks

David Clarke

By David Clarke

Changing the dimensions of the field is a quick fix to a lot of problems.

  • Making the field larger gives the attackers and midfielders more space to show off their skills.

  • If a team is not scoring, increase the size of the pitch until they learn how to pass, shoot and score. Gradually reduce the pitch to the normal size and they will have learned what they have to do to score.

  • Making the field smaller helps the defending team by reducing the amount of space they have to cover.

The problem: Your team is not taking advantage when they win the ball to turn defence into attack.

The solution: Use a long narrow layout with small goals to force players into fast, direct attacks through the middle of the pitch. Attacking small goals needs swift passing to break the defence down and create opportunities to score. The shape of the pitch will force play to be quick and direct.

Set up a pitch that is 50 yards long x 10 yards wide, to create a tunnel effect where the players’ focus is narrowed like a racehorse wearing blinkers. Play games of 3v3 with small goals. No goalkeepers. Restart with a dribble or pass from in front of the team’s own goal.



Two ways to recover your session from disruptive players

David Clarke

By David Clarke

I was speaking this week with Dan Cottrell a rugby coaching guru who often has to deal with disruptions in his coaching sessions. We were discussing how you can recover your session once it has been disrupted by silly behaviour.

He said: "Working with children can fall apart if there is a distraction, like two players fighting, someone burps or there is something significant happening on another pitch. But there are ways to recover the session quickly."

These are the two ways we spoke about.

1. Silent treatment

  • Get everyone together and don’t speak for 30 seconds.

  • Don’t even tell anyone to shut up.

  • Players will become embarrassed by the silence.

  • Some will tell others to shut up, while some will continue to muck around or laugh. Don’t worry about how they react.

  • Then, look at your watch, say: “Right, where was I was? Yes, we were working on…” and carry on as if nothing had happened.

2. Peer threes

  • Split players into groups of three.

  • Ask them to come up with one key factor for the exercise you are doing between them in 15 seconds.

  • Ask someone you know will give you a good answer.

  • Give them lots of praise.

  • Ask someone else, again who is going to give a good answer.

  • Praise them and say that you are sure there are lots of other good answers… and move on.

  • Like above, act as if nothing happened.



Supporting players who can do it in training but not in matches

David ClarkeI have coached players who make recurring errors during matches but can perform the skill perfectly well in training. They need my support and help. I always start by trying to find the cause of the problem.

Why do performance errors occur?

Anxiety

All players experience anxiety before performing. For many, this enhances their performance by increasing the production of adrenalin. However, in some individuals, it causes them to tense up and has a negative effect.

Players might experience increased anxiety during matches when coaches and parents shout too many negative comments from the touch line.

Tactical naivety

A player might have all the skills, but consistently makes poor decisions when under pressure on the pitch.

Tiredness

This is common in players who are dehydrated or haven’t eaten or slept properly before matches. Tiredness affects the decision making processes and also the body’s physical ability.

Four steps for dealing with performance errors

Speak to the player and use the following four-point process to help them understand and overcome their performance errors.

1. Acknowledge the error

The player needs to realise they are making errors during matches that, given their skill level, should be avoidable. Discuss how they can perform the skills well and how you both need to find out what is causing the match day errors.

2. Review the errors

Work with them to determine how and why the errors occur. Do they get nervous before matches? Are they eating and drinking properly during the build up to matches?

3. Make a plan

Based on their responses, you can put together a plan with the player to make the necessary corrections for the future.

4. Execute the plan

Provide the player with support to execute their personal action plan before the next match. Ensure the player is realistic and doesn’t expect the errors to disappear instantly. They need to understand it is a long-term process and might take many weeks.



How to score from every chance

David Clarke

Three ways to finish using dribbling, combination passing and a shot at goal. Great fun, concentrate on direction and technique. Power for younger age groups will come later. All goal scoring greats work on this exercise.

How to set it up

You need to set up a 40 yards by 30 yards playing area and use three cones, three outfield players a goal and goalkeeper.

How to play it

  1. Player 1 dribbles and shoots at goal.

  2. Player 1 now turns and makes a choice of which player to combine with. The player chosen passes to Player 1 then runs inside to receive a return pass and passes out to the opposite wide player.

  3. Player 1 and his chosen team mate now run into the penalty box and attempt to score from the wide player’s cross.



The chipping green – developing a soft touch

David Clarke

A great game to play at the end of your training session is chipping the balls into the bag! You’re coaching a skill and getting the players to clear up.

When golfers talk about getting a feel of the ball around the greens, they’re talking about a soft touch using their hands to chip the ball so it doesn’t go racing past the hole. Soccer players can get a feel for the ball with this chipping game and help them to realise it isn’t all about power.

It also means that when they are receiving the ball in a match they will find it much easier to manipulate because they won’t put their foot through the ball.

There are lots of reasons I use this exercise:

  • It takes seconds to set up.
  • A great game to play while waiting for players to turn up at the start of training – you can start with one player and end up with ten.
  • Or a great game for the end of training to put all the training balls back into the bag.
  • It develops soft touch and control of the ball.

How to play it

  • All you need is your ball bag, players and balls.
  • Players stand in a circle around three yards away.
  • One player starts with the ball on the ground and tries to chip it in to the bag.
  • Players take it in turns to hold the bag open and can chest the ball into the bag if the chipping player misses.
  • If it goes in they get 1 point and the next player goes.
  • If they miss the next player tries to put the same ball into the bag.
  • When a player misses, whoever reaches the ball first can take the next turn.

The game ends when the last ball is in the bag. Everyone’s a winner (including you, you don’t have to collect all the balls!).




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