Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


Simple skittles – but very match relevant

davidscwnewHow often do you watch your striker reach great attacking positions only to then delay his shot, offering enough time for defenders to get back and put in a tackle? It’s a frustrating part of the game and something that’s certainly not exclusive to youth football!

It’s important to give players the confidence to shoot from anywhere on the pitch, rather than them trying to walk the ball into the net. So below I’ve put together a great practice that, quite simply, encourages players to shoot at the earliest opportunity from all areas.

How to set it up:

  • You will need six target cones and seven balls, plus additional cones to mark out a pitch. You will also require bibs and a goal.
  • Create a pitch measuring 35×25 yards.
  • Three yards in from each end touchline, and halfway up the area, place three cones in a triangular shape.
  • Each cone has a ball placed on top of it.
  • The game can be played either 3v3 or 4v4.

Getting started:

  • Each team defends its set of cones.
  • Players must try to knock the balls off the cones at their opponent’s end of the pitch while ensuring their own cones do not come under threat.
  • If a player shoots and gets a “strike” (knocks all three balls off with one shot) the team gets six points, otherwise it’s one point scored for each ball.
  • Should all three be dislodged, the balls are set up again before resuming.
  • Play for three games of six minutes, ensuring players are ambitious in their attacking play and do not hang back crowding around their cones as a defensive tactic.

Developing the session:

If you have three or four teams, play so the team that knock three balls off, then faces a different team. Teams waiting on the sidelines act as ball boys.

Note which teams are the best at winning a strike – undoubtedly this will be because of the frequency of shots and from all distances – and point out to the other teams why they are so successful.

How to advance it:

  • Put a goal and a keeper at one end and set up a bowling alley-style group of six cones with balls on at the other end.
  • This is a straight knockout, with one team trying to knock all the balls off the cones and the other trying to score three times past the keeper. Which team will fulfil its task first?

Why this works:

The initial practice encourages players to shoot at targets from all areas of the pitch. Teams defending cones will also be pushing forward trying to attack, so the scoring options should be plentiful.

Direction and power are, of course, vital to a team’s success, while the set-up ensures players are aware of the need to shoot quickly and positively. Should they not, a tackle could see the other team attack and complete their task first.



Great Pogba goal Juventus v Udinese

Love the technique used to keep the ball down with this long range shot.



Play sat nav football – so players know where they are on the pitch

davidscwnew

When young players are involved in fast, action-packed matches they often lose their position and don’t realise what is going on around them. You find that the pace of some matches they play in will be just that bit too fast for them and they lose their soccer sense.

What I do with my teams is to play a fast, constantly moving game where players must think about position, action and direction.

How to set up and coach it

You need a 30 yard x 20 yard pitch. Use two teams of four players, and four mini goals. Create a triangle in the centre. One team defends the triangle the other team defends the four mini goals.

The team defending the triangle goal must nominate a goalkeeper whilst the other three players try to pressure and win the ball.

Play for 15 minutes then reverse the roles.



Match day and only 9 players turn up

davidscwnewAt the weekend everything was looking good – the weather had cleared up and our game was on. But then, as I was preparing to leave the house, I was informed that three players had gone away for the half-term holidays without bothering to tell me.

So I had a problem. And sure enough, within the hour I had only nine players present, and was being asked what time the others were turning up. “Well, this is it, lads, this is the team… we’ve been let down”, I replied.

We’d beaten our opponents 1-0 earlier in the season, but a repeat performance seemed unlikely… not that I told my players that.

We gathered for our team talk and I assured them that they could still perform with only nine men. It’s not the first time this sort of setback has happened, and in the past I’ve used different tactics – one being to tell them to pretend we’d had two players sent off. But nothing had worked because, simply, they wanted to be told that everything would be okay and they wouldn’t be easily beaten.

So this time I took a simple, honest approach, telling them that hard work would compensate for the loss of players, and how if everyone put in an extra bit of effort we could make up the difference.

The reality was that the three who had failed to show comprised two strong covering players and a speedy trickster. So how was I going to cover that tactically?

Well, the pitch seemed particularly narrow, so my first move was to sacrifice the left-back position and tell my defenders to cover left. The defenders were sure they could manage – great.

I wanted to leave my four-man midfield as it was, so that left a lone striker up front, but we’d give it a try. It was an exciting challenge.

And I’m pleased to say the formation worked well. The opposition didn’t really take advantage of our left defence problem – they had a fast winger but he continually attacked our right-back. The only thing that let us down was support in attack – we created more chances than them but couldn’t get shots away, and when we did, there was no-one to follow up.

The game finished 0-0 but the players were magnificent and it was a great lesson in how hard work can overcome a numerical disadvantage. In many ways, it was probably the best game we have played all season.

The moral is don’t be put off by what might appear to be a major setback. It’s from such events that we usually learn most about ourselves and our players



Alex Morgan – the perfect strike

Attack and defend in quick, simple overloads

When playing matches the elements are constantly changing.

You can be attacking on your own one second, then have a team mate aor team mates in support to pass to pass to the next.

In your sessions it is a good idea to run exercises that are constantly changing so your players can prepare for this happening in matches. You can sometimes see players switching off when you do repetitive drills that have them doing A, B or C and they don’t have to think about it.

This exercise is a high intensity, near continuous game using five players. You can set up two or three of these depending on numbers at your training session.

How to set it up

Set up a few 15 x 30 yard pitches marking out with cones a couple of small goals at each end. You will need one pitch for every five players.

How to play it

  • Choose 3 players who will be given the ball first against the remaining two. Decide which end the 3 are to attack. The attacking team start with the ball bringing it out from the goal line. They can choose to pass or dribble, but no direct goals are allowed on the first touch. The emphasis is on restarting quickly.
  • The 3 play against the 2 until either: the two defenders win clear possession of the ball; they must have it under control; or the ball goes over the goal line last touched by an attacker.
  • If either of these two things happen, the two players who were defenders become attackers trying to score at the opposite end in a game of 2v1 against whichever attacker last touched the ball, the player who lost possession or took a shot.
  • The attackers retain possession on all balls that go out over the side lines.
  • You will need a coach or knowledgeable soccer parent to act as referee…the point is to designate immediately which player stays on and which players go off (ignore the “it wasn’t me” shouts). The attackers who go off should quickly step well out of the way of this new 2v1 game and sit out until it is finished.
  • The 2v1 game continues until it resolves in the same fashion as for the 3v2 game; the lone defender wins clear possession or the ball goes out off one of the two attackers.
  • Now the 3 players who just played 2v1 immediately join together in a team of 3 attackers against the 2 who had to stand out, with the 3 now attacking, so we are back to step one.


Make use of the cold weather

Wow, the temperature just gets colder and colder. As a result, there was no way our match was going to be played at the weekend.

I very quickly get withdrawal symptoms from not playing matches, particularly when we’ve prepared well.

Take this week for example – I knew we had two tough games approaching, so had been training support play in defence. This is where the players cut down the space in and around the penalty area, all the time being ready to cover if the defence is breached.

So when I heard that our weekend game was off I went to look at the pitch to see if there was any way we could have a kickabout amongst ourselves.

Because only a couple of teams use our pitch – coupled with the fact we have an excellent groundsman – there were no spikes of frozen mud on the playing surface. Those peaks can be especially dangerous to youth players, so always watch out for them. But thankfully the pitch seemed just very flat and hard – a bit like playing on tarmac.

I called around the parents and most of their kids wanted to come along. The masses soon arrived, and I kept the players warm with hot chocolate from the local cafe – which is, by the way, a drink recommended for half time in cold weather.

I double-checked the pitch with three of the dads. The top layer had crusted, which made it fine to play on.

We played 8v8 in order to brush up on the defensive lessons we’d learnt in the previous session. And the conditions really did us a favour…The hardness of surface provided the best reason for the lads to stay on their feet at all times – a lesson that’s always worth re-learning. In addition, the responsiveness of the ground created the need for good passing accuracy from players.

And finally, by the time we’d summed up the session at the end with a biscuit and another hot chocolate, there was a togetherness in the team that we just wouldn’t have had from a normal training session; a camaraderie and joint spirit brought about by having to battle against unusual conditions.

Try to use adverse events as a spur for your side. See how players react – even introduce some artificial obstacles if you think the effect may be really positive. You may be surprised how your team responds to the challenge!



Quick, easy centre circle warm-up

David Clarke

There are times when I have turned up to find the equipment not where I would expect it and all I am left with is a ball and a pitch. So while I wait for the cones, balls and bibs to turn up I play a game that uses a ball and the centre circle.

How to play it

  • Set up as shown in the diagram with players split into pairs. Two pairs start in the middle of the centre circle with others spread around the outside.
  • In the middle, one team is nominated as attackers and the other pair defenders.
  • The attacking pair must keep possession for 30 seconds in order to score a point. To help them do so, they can use players around the outside for one-twos.
  •  If the possession is lost, the other pair now attempts to retain the ball for 30 seconds.
  •  Rotate the pairs every 90 seconds.

CentreCircleWarmUp
Technique and tactics

  •  The central players need to work hard at all times – either in moving to support, or closing down opponents in possession.
  •  Outside players must be alert and ready to receive the ball at all times.


Ghost attackers can be the real deal

David Clarke

Young players often stand and wait for the ball to be passed to them, then wonder why they are either second to it or have nowhere to go once they have it.

I like to get my attackers moving around and thinking about where they can go to make it easier to receive a pass. In this tight 2v2 game tell them to behave like a ghost, appearing in a defender’s line of sight one second, then gone the next. It will give the defenders nightmares.

Use this exercise so your forwards ask questions of the defence. I like to make my practise sessions as game-like as possible so there is some form of soccer realism created.

Get your attackers to try and prise openings around the penalty area while your defenders are keenly marking and watching out for players dropping off and moving, creating 1v1, 2v1 and 3v2 situations.

Set up on the edge of your penalty area as in the diagram above. You need three attackers, two defenders, a goalkeeper and a few balls.

The middle attacker acts as server and plays the ball to attacker 1 who is marked by defender 1. Attacker 1 must break away from defender 1 and get the ball under control. He will be supported by the server, who is close by, and attacker 2 on the far side, who must try to lose his marker – defender 2.

The defenders must be aware of the attack building up around them. Defender 1 has two players to worry about – the server and attacker 1 – while defender 2 must stay with attacker 2 and not be drawn to the action.

There are a lot of situations developing here in a short space of time. The attackers need to move quickly to first take advantage of the developing 2v1 situation and then the 3v2 situation.

When you are coaching this, try to get attacker 2 to move inside defender 2 and not go wide. If he does go wide, it will create a difficult angle and allow defender 2 to get between him and the ball.

In the second diagram, both attackers must move quickly to the areas marked B and C to put distance between themselves and the defenders.

The server must quickly decide who to pass to – whichever attacker moves fastest – and then play develops from there. You want to see attackers moving quickly to areas B and C and away again, putting the defenders on the back foot.



Turn crosses into goals

davidscwnew

Arriving in the box in the right place at the right time is a particular strength of the world’s top strikers and attacking midfielders. Giving your players this ability will add to the potency of your team’s attack.

During your training session work on these things:

  • Are the attackers meeting the ball as it arrives or are they waiting for the cross? Perfect timing will make the defender’s job of marking almost impossible.
  • Ask the wingers to supply a variety of crosses at different angles, heights and speeds to encourage the attackers to make different runs.

Good build up play will allow wingers to exploit width, putting them in a position to get the ball into the box for your forwards to attack. This session shows your players how to turn these opportunities into goals by getting players on the end of crosses.

  1. Use an area the size of two penalty areas.
  2. One goal either side.
  3. Wingers start at either corner on one side of the area, attackers on the opposite side.

In diagram 1 the first winger carries the ball the length of the playing area and crosses the ball. Attackers set off just after and try to get on the end of the cross and score. The players join the back of the queue and the exercise repeats in the opposite direction.

In diagram 2 you can advance the play from diagram 1 by adding a pair of defenders. This will increase the pressure on the attackers to find a yard of space and on the wingers to improve their crossing accuracy.

  • The coach passes into the two attackers who combine to move the ball wide to the winger.
  • The attackers must then try to lose the defenders and score from the winger’s cross.
  • After attacking, you defend and the previous defenders break out to attack the opposite goal.



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