Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


Possession… dribble or pass

davidscwnew

When players feel pressure in matches, it can often affect their ability to make decisions. You will undoubtedly have players who dribble brilliantly in training, yet "panic pass" in matches. Other players will hesitate when on the ball and a great opportunity to pass to a team mate is often lost.

Knowing when to surge into space with a dribble or when to switch play with a good pass comes from lots of practice – and you can’t expect players to learn this on their own.

Therefore, it’s a great idea to set up situations where they have the choice, because making that call can be vital to their development.

This session shows players where options present themselves, then develops into a small-sided game, in which the right decision will give their team the advantage.

How to set it up

  • Create a playing area measuring 30×25 yards.

  • For this session you’ll need bibs, cones and balls.

  • There are two teams of four players.

  • Set up three small goals – spaced equally apart – along the longest sides.

  • Each team must defend its goals while trying to score in the other three.

Getting started

  • Players score by dribbling or passing the ball through the poles.

  • Players must react quickly to situations around them, looking for areas on the pitch where there is space to exploit. They should look to mix dribbling with passes to team mates, but every decision is made with the aim of retaining team possession.

  • Play for 15 minutes.

Developing the session:

  • Develop the session by making the area 50×30 yards with two five-yard end zones.

  • The players must get the ball into the end zone by passing to a player who has run to meet the pass, or by dribbling into the end zone themselves.

  • Players are not allowed to stand in the end zone waiting for a pass – they must always be on the move.

  • You can award an extra "goal" if the attacking team makes five consecutive passes before scoring.

  • If players find the session easy, reduce the size of the scoring zone at each end by a yard. For younger players, increase the size.

Why this works:

This practice rehearses players in the logic that clever dribbling can move the ball into areas where there is space to be exploited. A final pass to a team mate should make the creation of goalscoring chances that much easier.

Players are also encouraged to score with a pass which represents a quicker route to goal than a dribble. The decisions depend on the player’s ability to read the space and that will come as they practise this session.

This session originally appeared in Soccer Coach Weekly.

Interested in more counter attacking exercises? Try these links:

2. Shake off and pass

3. Elite Soccer Issue 1 – Alex McLeish: Whole team attacking



Attack through the midfield

By David Clarkedavidscwnew

It’s understandable for some players to want to bypass the crowded, pressurised environment that is the centre of the pitch.

But hitting long balls forward or always targeting play to the wings makes teams predictable and boring.

This is a practice that will boost confidence and remind players that getting the ball into midfield and using it smartly can often be the best way to attack.

How to play it

  • You need balls, bibs, cones and goals.

  • Mark out a 50×30 yards area split into three zones.

  • There are two teams of six, each also has a keeper.

  • The team in possession is allowed up to 20 seconds unchallenged in the central (safe) zone. It can stay there for that time or break out, but if still in the zone when time elapses, the opposition can go in and try to win the ball.

  • If the team in possession loses the ball in any area of the pitch, its players must vacate the central zone.

  • The size of the central zone is key to the challenge and skill of the game as players will discover so, after six minutes, increase or decrease its size to see what effect it has on the game.

Developing the session

  • You can advance the session by allowing one opposition player to go in the central zone. This puts more pressure on midfielders.

Technique and tactics

  • The safe zone encourages play to go through midfield, with players getting used to receiving on the half-turn or practising controlling technique.

  • While doing this without the fear of being tackled, the option to survey options and pass the ball on is encouraged. However, the margin for error increases when the central zone is shortened.



Simple crossbar heading challenge… remove the fear factor

davidscwnewOne of the things I always like to do when my team is having a game day training session is our own version of the crossbar challenge.

It is set up using the penalty area of whichever size pitch you use but the goals and penalty area of an 11-a-side pitch work best for U9s and upwards.

I line my players up in two rows with the first player in each row behind the 18 yard line of the penalty area either side of the penalty arc.

A helper and I throw balls in line with the penalty spot that the two teams have to head and try and hit the crossbar of the goal.

I set a time limit and see which team can hit the bar the most times in that time limit. It’s a great fun game for the players which also gets them used to heading the ball and to stop being afraid of it.



Why coaches need equipment

davidscwnewWe had a debate in Soccer Coach Weekly last year (issue 284) that asked whether the cost of boots and kit is turning players away from the game – 67% said it was, so I’m not taking costs lightly. And I know it can be even worse for those of you who have to buy stuff just so that your players can train.

A coach’s kit includes all the playing basics, but might also include cones, bibs, balls, target goals, and more. They’re not the cheapest of things, but largely essential.

In my early days of coaching I went through a season where I thought I could cope without costly equipment. How wrong I was. The environment for coaching was bad and the players picked up on this. I was limited to using the same selection of drills and playing similar games on the same sized pitch each week because we only had a few balls.

Success as a coach depends not only on what you do but also on what you don’t do. An important part of that success is the environment in which you coach your players. It needs to be safe and sound to make the players feel secure but it also needs to give them decisions to make, must be fun, and most certainly needs to develop their playing skills.

I spoke to a coach this week who, like myself all those years ago, was trying to get by without budgeting for cones, balls or bibs. He’d got into the bad habit of splitting his players into two teams depending on what colour shirt they were wearing, and playing a game for the majority of the training session.

There was nothing in the environment to help him coach – he could have been down the local park for all the good it was doing his team. Of course, there will be times when you’re thrown into an environment when you don’t have the right equipment for some reason – maybe there’s no key to the sports shed, or you’ve rushed home from work and forgotten your bags. I have strategies for those days that help you continue, but that’s a lesson for another day.

As for the coach I was speaking to, he’s going to rethink the way he approaches coaching and, on my advice, will invest in some cones and bibs as a first step. If you’re serious about your coaching then you have to be equipped, and very often parents will chip in because, after all, it’s for the good of their own kids.

Also look around for any deals through local associations that could save you money or bulk buying with another team.

I guess the message to take away from all this is ‘you’re not alone’!



Simple game for a lot of passing

davidscwnew

I find this small-sided game is a great way to get your players passing with purpose when they are under pressure. Clever or disguised passing make all the difference in this game as teams try to stop the opposition scoring points.

Give your players permission to do what they want to create space and make good passes. Tell them they must be constantly on the move to pass and receive the ball.

How to play it

  • Set up a 4v4 game with two target players at either end.

  • Use the 18-yard area or half of a seven-a-side pitch and cone off the two ends.

  • Tell your players each team must get the ball and score “goals” by successfully passing to either of the target players.

How to coach it

  • Tell your players they need to be quick and sharp. They must win the ball by intercepting it or by tackling for it.

  • Instruct them to practise moving to and from the ball to create space.

  • Once the ball has reached the target player, the team can keep possession by moving so the target player can pass it back to them.

  • Tell your players to switch the ball to the opposite target player as quickly as possible.

How to change it

Tell teams they past the ball from one target player to the other without the other team touching the ball. If the other team gets a touch, it goes back to the target player and the other team receives the ball from the target man.



The cure for a bad day’s training

davidscwnewI’m driving home after a coaching session in the rain – I’m wet through and so are the two players on the back seat.

Thanks to the performance of the car’s heater (which was better than mine at training), there’s an ever-growing musty smell, as sweaty bodies dry out. I can’t open the window because it’s pouring down… really pouring down.

The boys are hungry, but the traffic’s snarled because of the worst rainstorm of the summer, and I’m not going to be home in time for dinner. What an afternoon. Why do I do this?

And the training session? What a washout. No-one was doing what I wanted. The defenders were attacking, the attackers were defending – essentially the whole thing had been turned on its head, and not through instruction. I thought glumly about this as I looked at the trail of red lights ahead of me, as the wipers continued at full speed.

But once we had got home and were dry and warm and (finally) fed I looked back and went over the session, as I normally do. I use something called an achievement exercise when I think a session has gone badly. It’s where you simply write down up to five things you achieved in the session.

No matter how stressful or frustrating training was, as a whole, this is a pleasant reminder that some progress was made in some areas. Some achievements might appear minute in the grand scheme of things, but they are achievements nonetheless, and I write them down.

The defenders attacking, the attackers defending – it all has a place in coaching. It is a huge positive that these things came out of the session.

Even something as seemingly unimportant like my players all turning up despite the bad weather – that’s a positive too.

And I might not have enjoyed it, but I know most of them did. After all, what kid doesn’t get a thrill from getting muddy and battling against adverse conditions?

Then add in the fact that my relationship with the players became even stronger because we trained together in those appalling conditions. They saw my commitment and liked it.

It was a powerful exercise for me to snap out of my frustration and be grateful for what we, as a team, had achieved in that hour-and-a-half.

So, the next time you think you’ve had a bad session, reassess by writing down what you achieved. You’ll find that it’s often the little things we take for granted, and the relationships with others in our lives that bring the biggest smiles to our faces.



Winning the 1v1s

davidscwnewIn the game my U10s B team played on Saturday they were involved in a lot of 1v1 duels both in defence and in attack, which had a big effect on the game. By winning the majority of these battles, my team held a huge advantage by having possession of the ball much more than their opponents.

Fortunately in the session before the game I’d been using this session designed to improve 1v1s in the midfield. Players are forced to continually attack and defend 1v1 in order to forge a chance to score a goal.

These are the kind of duels they would face in a real game. Remember to also alert your players to the fact that beating an opponent in a 1v1 will remove them from the game, allowing more space to attack.

How to set it up

Use an area 50 yards by 30 yards with a 10 yards by 10 yards area in the centre of the larger area.

How to play it

Pass a ball into the smaller area where two players must compete for it. The player successful at taking the ball outside of the area has the chance to run and take a shot at goal.

How to develop it

The player that wins teh initial batlle in the centre area has take on the defender in 1v1.

However, if the defender wins the ball from the attacker then they can pass the ball back to their team mate in the centre square.

The team mate can now go 1v1 at the opposite end.

Now when winning the 1v1 duel, your player attacks as he would in a game with the attackers outnumbering the defenders (the picture showing 3v2 can be changed to suit the players available in your session).

Play it in a game

The objective is to show the players in your team the benefits of competing and winning the duel against their immediate opponent in the game.




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