Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


Spot signs of bullying

David ClarkeThere is no place for bullying anywhere in life. If you are aware of bullying in your team you must address it immediately because of the wide ranging consequences for the individual and the team.

  • You should have a bullying policy at your club, but it is even better to deal with the problem before it starts.
  • Be aware that bullying can have small beginnings, so stamp out any minor indiscretions immediately.
  • Be a presence in places where groups can gather. Listen as you walk around.
  • Reassurance from a child can be quick, but don’t take a simple answer that the player is okay to mean that he is not under pressure.
  • Victims of bullying are often “easy” targets. In other words they have weaknesses which can be easily exploited, such as weight, lack of skills or communication problems. Don’t put them in compromising positions in training.

Recognise the signs

A bullied player’s behaviour changes especially if they become withdrawn or reluctant. They might stop coming to training for no reason or start making excuses not to train or play.

You might notice that they have stopped taking part in the banter with other players or has become the butt of their jokes. It might just be that they are left out and not passed the ball during games and exercises.

Don’t brush it to one side, it could be your child it is happening to. If you do recognise the signs make sure you either inform your club’s welfare officer or deal with it yourself by talking to the team as a whole rather than identifying individuals that may make the bullying worse.



Winning without the ball

davidscwnew

Call me strange but I like watching my team when we haven’t got the ball. In one of the matches we played this week my U10 team was attacking – all the players were in advanced positions. The opposition defence won the ball and were moving quickly to counter attack.

What was great to see was my players moving to cover the space they had left. The nearest player went to the ball and the others moved to cover. It was a great example of getting into a good defensive position and it stopped the counter attack immediately.

By moving into this defensive block, they were playing a compact game making the pitch smaller for the opposition by covering the space behind them.

This is a great tactic for young teams, they can work hard and win the ball back when they have lost it – but remember it is hard work and needs committed players!

To practise this I use a warm-up and a small-sided game:

 

Warm-up

  • Lay out several rows of two cones, about six yards apart.

  • Split your squad into pairs.

  • Players pass to their partner, then follow behind the pass and try to slow the advancing player using a jockeying technique – blocking the player’s movement without contact.

Small-sided game

  • Play a small-sided game on a pitch 30 yards long by 20 yards wide. I’ve shown a 4v4 in the picture but depending on the size of your squad you can use 3v3 or 5v5.

  • The player with the ball takes three touches on the move before they can pass. Players cannot kick the ball three times quickly when they are stationary.

  • No tackling at first, only jockeying. Allow tackling once the game has been played a few times. Opponents must close down quickly before the three touches are taken.

  • Play first to five goals or time it for 10 to 15 minutes.



Hit the target man and score

By David Clarkedavidscwnew

This is a great game to practise with all ages. It is all about using target men to set up attacks. Neither team can score without utilising the target man, so this is a great game to teach link-up play in the final third and reminds players not to be greedy.

It also rehearses the art of playing through opponents, and only positive and well-organised supporting runs will be rewarded with goalscoring opportunities.

How to set it up:

  • Create a playing area measuring 35×25 yards.

  • Within that, create two end zones, each 10 yards in from the goal lines.

  • There are two goals – one at each end – and keepers in place.

  • This game is best played with two teams of four outfield players.

Getting started:

  • This game has no offsides, and if the ball leaves play, you have a few different restart options:

1. You pass a new ball onto the pitch.

2. Players take a roll-in.

3. Players take a throw-in.

4. Players make a pass-in.

5. Players dribble the ball in.

  • Each team selects one player to be the "target man". This player stands in the attacking end zone.

  • The aim of the game is to make a pass to the target man, and then for a supporting player to receive a lay-off pass to shoot at goal.

  • When the target man receives the ball, only one defender can come back to attempt to break up play.

  • After a shot is made, the shooting player swaps position with the target man.

  • If a tackle is made before the ball goes through to the target man, the other team can attack in the opposite direction.

  • Restart after a goal or if the ball goes out of play.

  • The game is played for a set time period of 15 minutes.



Communicate with your players through challenges

davidscwnewHow do you get and keep your players’ attention in training? One way to ensure this is to ask questions of your players to check they are listening.

And rather than just do this through verbal means, why not create challenges?

Not only does this reveal to you how well certain elements have been understood, but practical play is a great way of cementing ideas in the minds of the players too.

Thus:

1. The answer needs some thought from the respondent, allowing the questioner to effectively gauge their level of understanding

2. Asking a player ‘an open question’ helps to reinforce learning, and the learning of the other players around him. A ‘yes/no’ question requires virtually no effort from a player. He’ll brush it off and you’ll be left with nowhere to go!

3. And answers to open questions give you immediate feedback on the player’s understanding of a technique, skill or situationBefore you head to training, think about some of the situations that will crop up. By anticipating what may happen during the session it will help you plan in advance the challenges you want to set and the sort of questions you might ask.

Examples of challenges

  • In a counter-attack session, develop a scoring chance within three passes of gaining possession.
  •  When running with the ball or dribbling, challenge a player to attack and shoot without using his team mates.
  •  In team sessions, instruct that the player who starts the attack must pass the ball on and receive it back before a goal can be scored.

Examples of questions to follow

  •  What did you do as an individual (or group) to successfully penetrate the defence with three passes?
  •  What did you do as an individual to keep the ball and get past your opponents? What did you do if you lost the ball?
  •  In the team session, what factors influence your choice of action? How can you make sure you are successful?

The answers your players give you will provide you with opportunities to further explore their understanding. You can do this by asking supplementary questions.

And when listening to answers, replicate and use their words as a focus for different questions.

And of course, if a player comes up with a ‘wrong answer’, try saying, “I like your thinking. Can you think of an alternative?”

Great communication can make such a difference to how players take on board information. Why not try it for yourself?



Play out from the back

davidscwnewOne of the things that is important in playing out from the back is the pass from the goalkeeper out to a defender in space. This is an important part of the tactic. A pass that puts the defender under pressure will usually end up in disaster.

A good first pass and the defenders are on their toes ready for the ball.

Play this game which keeps the defenders on their toes but gives them a target to aim at.

Pitch size: 30 x 20 yards (minimum) up to 40 x 25 yards (maximum)

  • One full-sized goal
  • One keeper
  • Two teams of four players
  • Three mini target goals
  • One team starts the game as the attacking team.
  • One team starts the game as the defending team.
  • The keeper starts the practice with the ball in his hands.
  • The defending team must attempt to pass out of defence and into one of the mini goals in order to score a goal.
  • The attacking team must try to win the ball and shoot into the net to score a goal.
  • The game is played for 10 consecutive balls.
  • The two teams then reverse roles for a further 10 balls.


Control the game without the ball

davidscwnew

An important characteristic of modern teams is their ability to control the game even when they haven’t got the ball. The whole team plays a part in this tactic with the intention of forcing the opposition into awkward situations.

The formation succeeds by covering all avenues of opposition attack, meaning that play is stifled. It relies on pressing as soon as the opposition has the ball. The defending team always keeps the action in front of them and tries to stop any balls through the centre or in behind.

This tactic requires good fitness from players because it is hard work. And for pressing to work, the team must prevent any switches of play as this will give overload initiatives to attackers. But performed well, the game rewards are significant.

How to set it up:

  • Set up an area measuring 30×20 yards. Make three 10-yard zones across the width of the pitch.

  • You will need bibs, cones, balls and goals.

  • The players in the middle zone must prevent other teams passing through them.

  • This featured session uses nine players split into groups of three (one group in each area), but it will work with any equal denominations.

  • No balls are allowed over head height.

  • Players are restricted to two touches.

Getting started:

  • Play starts with either end zone team. Players pass among themselves before threading a ball through to the team in the opposite end zone.

  • For the first two minutes, the middle team is not allowed to move any player out of its zone.

  • After two minutes, allow one player from the middle zone to go forward into an end zone to press the ball. Play this for three minutes.

  • If the ball is intercepted, play restarts at the other end.

  • Rotate play so that each team fulfils defensive duties in the middle.

Now try this:

  • Remove the zones and add two goals, with a keeper in each. Also add a halfway line.

  • Keep the teams in threes but this time the middle team attacks one end, then turns and attacks the other.

  • The outer two teams must defend the area and clear the ball using the pressing technique.

  • If a goal is scored, play restarts with the middle group and they attack in the opposite direction. If a tackle is made, the defenders’ reward is to now switch places with the middle group, thus becoming the attackers.

Why this works:

Pressing the ball is a great tactic for winning back possession. This activity shows the value in doing that, compared to standing off waiting to intercept. Pressing means opposition players rarely settle on the ball and mistakes can be forced, either through poor control or a rushed pass.

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How to analyse youth players

davidscwnewI gave a talk last year about analysing players during the season – essentially when I do it and how I do it.

A lot of coaches were asking me about the system I use and wanted to try something similar themselves. They were keen to know how appropriate it was for assessing new players during pre-season or on trial days.

I use a system I call TIPS, which was introduced to me by a couple of youth coaches who worked at Dutch club Ajax.

Here’s what TIPS stands for:

T = Technique.
Can the player control the ball? What about his first touch, passing, shooting and tackling ability?

I = Intelligence.
Does the player make the right decisions? Can he think ahead?

P = Personality.
How does he communicate with others? What about leadership, creativity, receptivity to team mates and discipline?

S = Speed.
Is he quick off the mark, mobile, and can he maintain pace over long distance?I use it for players during the season to assess how they are progressing, but when I look at new players for my team it’s the IPS bit that I find most interesting.

That’s because if I feel a player is short on the ‘T = Technique’ part it is up to me to bring him up to a good level. It may not be his fault that his technique is not up to scratch so I look at the other things in which he may or may not excel.

Arsène Wenger said recently that when he assesses young players it is speed he looks for first and technique second which, coming from a coach who utlises a system where player technique is vital, it just goes to show that technique can be taught.

When you think about it, the level of technique for 99% of players in grass roots football can be taught – it is only that tiny percentage who go on to play in the academies and the professional game who need something extra. You can coach technique to your players so they are of a sufficient standard to play at grass roots level.

So on trial days I will give players marks out of 10 after observing them, and get my helpers and fellow coaches to do the same. This gives us a way of fairly analysing which players we feel would be a good fit with our teams.Why not apply this criteria to your players?

If it works for Ajax, it will hopefully work for you too!

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That vital first touch

davidscwnew

It can be difficult at times to find a good workout for your players that replicates the vital first touch, good movement and quick passing of typical match day situations.

Players are generally relaxed in training – sometimes overly so – and there’s certainly less pressure on them performing a move well.

But with the right set-up, and providing you can instil the notion that a player’s team mates are depending on him (and him only) to perform a specific task, you can get your team working at a high tempo.

This activity, Touch And Go, ensures players remain physically and mentally alert at all times, always aware of the concept of using available space in order to make maximum use of the ball.

It is a fast session that rehearses overloads, shooting, passing and movement in the same manner that your players will encounter in a match – indeed, a shortened version of this is perfect as a pre-match practice, so ensure every player is getting the ball and thinking about moving to the pass.

How to set it up:

  • Alter the size of the playing area depending on the ages of your players. For U9s, use the centre circle of an adult (11-a-side) pitch, or a circle 20 yards in diameter. For U10s and older, mark out a 30-yard circle as a playing area.
  • You will need to create three small goals using cones at equal points around the playing area. These will each be two yards wide. There are six players on one team and three on the other, though you can alter the number of players and the size of the playing area depending on your squad size, providing one team has twice as many players as the other.

GETTING STARTED

The warm-up

  • One player on the team of six starts with the ball at his feet.

  • He must release the ball to a team mate. His team aims to complete six consecutive passes.

  • The team with three players must attempt to overturn possession. If it does, it tries to score in one of the small goals.

  • Play this for 10 minutes.

The main move

  • Now they have warmed up, prepare your players to restart with the same 6v3 set-up.

  • This time though, the team of six must arrange themselves so that three players begin inside the circle and three outside.

  • The three inside must keep possession, always attempting to switch with players on the outside of the circle by passing the ball to them. When they do this, they swap places with their team mate.

  • They gain a point for each successful pass out and player switch.

  • As before, the team of three gain a point by winning the ball and scoring in one of the three goals.

  • Play for 10 minutes then rotate players.

Why this works:

This is a great overload game that never allows players to relax. Because it is performed in a playing area that most aren’t accustomed to, they should be constantly aware of situations developing around them.

In the second exercise, the playing numbers are still 6v3, but the overload is not as obvious with players inside the circle feeling as though they are involved in a 3v3 small-sided game.

On each occasion, look for players to adapt their style of play to the way in which they can score points. The team of six should be looking to play a controlled passing game, while the team of three must be bold and ambitious in their attacking play.



Advance the pass

davidscwnew

This advanced passing and moving exercise gets players thinking about where they are moving as they control and pass the ball. It helps young players perfect the weight and accuracy of the pass while they are on the move and looking around them for the player to pass to.

How to set it up

  • Set up an area 30 yards long by 20 yards, with a cone at each corner. Have a queue of players at the first cone and one player on the next three cones.

  • The game is continuous but because there is a lot of passing and movement, it relies on your players to listen and then perform the tasks using good technique, running and passing skills.

What you want to see in your players

  • Follow the steps in the diagram. Your players will have to concentrate as you talk them through the steps. Read the diagram carefully so you can see how the ball is moving around the cones.

  • Make sure your players are concentrating on all the aspects of the exercise – passing, controlling, awareness and moving with ease around the cones. Explain to them that the weight of the pass and accuracy of the pass are vital to the exercise.

  • When you have run the exercise for 10 minutes (or less if you are only using a few players) have a drinks break then tell your players you want to see them do it again at full speed for five minutes. They will either be brilliant at it or have a great deal of fun and laugher trying to be brilliant at it!

  • End with a small-sided game where you want to see some of the aspects the players have learned in the session.




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