Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

Child development v parent glory

davidscwnewDuring the off season I spend a lot of my time at tournaments and I often look around for new players who, for whatever reason, have not fitted in with their clubs and face a season out in the cold.

Last year my club had been offered a number of players from rivals that were closing down. Three of these players were in an age group I was coaching and I was asked if I could fit them into my team. This was fine as I had a number of tournaments ahead and was looking for players to come along for a bit of fun and show me that they were up for playing in my team.

The next tournament was a six-aside affair and so the three new players would have a great deal of influence on the game and could let me see how interested they really were in playing for the club. I didn’t have any idea where they played on the pitch but because of the small-sided games, they would have to play in every position – again an ideal scenario because all my players swap positions during a season.


Dani Alves training fun with Barcelona

Of course, they all told me they play up front. The team performed really well but one of the parents did take it upon himself to voice his disapproval. “He doesn’t play in defence, hasn’t anyone told the coach?”

The player in question played very well during the first half but the parent kept up his banter.

“You don’t play in defence but you’ll just have to get on with it and do your best,” he said in his best stage whisper. The player looked across at me and we laughed.

“Is it right you’ve never played in defence?” I asked him at halftime.

“No,” he smiled, “I’ve played there plenty of times – I like playing there.”

So the second half started. “In defence again, that’s crazy!” shouted the parent. Eventually I did move him into midfield much to the parent’s delight and he played well there too, so it was a great game for me to watch him and to see that he was already able to play in more than one position.

His dad was wrong in wanting his son to play up the pitch to have the glory of scoring goals – just ask defenders like Dani Alves at Barcelona or Nathaniel Clyne at Liverpool if they hate being stuck in defence. There are all sorts of pressures heaped on young players and dads should try to support children wherever they are on the pitch. They should help them to learn all the positions because it helps with their development.

Latest Soccer Coach Weekly


Today’s issue features Fastest players in the Premier League led by Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy… no wonder they are third in the league.

Three sessions to speed up play for your team – score within 10 seconds of losing the ball – plus making your words work with youth players, touchline tales, and winning the 1v1s.

Get a $1/97p trial here

Screen shot 2015-11-18 at 11.55.04

What’s it like to be coached by YOU?

“A coach who smiles and praises his players will get more out of them”

davidscwnewAs a coach I know I have a lot of responsibilities, so how I coach and how I get my points across are vital to the progression of my players. It is not just about progression on the pitch either – my coaching should also help them learn how to achieve their life goals away from the pitch.

I try to imagine what it must feel like to be coached by me. Do I take enough interest in every one of my players and make them feel special? When they arrive at training or for a match I try to recall a key fact or occasion that will make each one of them think: “he remembered”.

What do you think it feels like to be coached by you? When your players arrive what goes through their minds when they see you? Do you inspire them? Are they afraid of you? An inspirational coach will find players respond better – they will listen more intently when you are explaining what you want them to do in a particular exercise.

A coach that breathes fire should realise players are just doing what they have to because they are frightened. I want to inspire my players, not scare them. When I think about my coaching I want to base it on best practice rather than just controlling kids. Best practice comes from the activities I create, how I use them and the enjoyment the group gets.

DavidClarke1At a recent coaching event I watched a top class coach run a session – unfortunately the youth team he used didn’t understand what he wanted from them. He got exasperated and his coaching style became very commanding. Afterwards he moaned that his session didn’t work because the players were not up to his standard.

A good coach should recognise when players are not up to the level of the session and quickly change the exercise to make it easier.

A coach who smiles and praises his players will get much more out of players than one who snarls and shouts.

So take five minutes to sit down and imagine what it’s like turning up to your sessions. Are players having fun? Have you coached them in the fundamental skills – touch, passing, receiving, communication and heading? Do they know the rules? Have you explained tactics and sportsmanship?

There is a lot there, but think about how you coach, what you coach and try to get to know a little more about each player. You will build a solid foundation and a better understanding between you and your team.

Why parents criticise coaches

davidscwnewI think all of us have a dark side that turns us into critics. Some people can be more critical than others, but if you’re on the receiving end you have to close your ears to the comments and just let the critics get on
with it.

I was at a coaching session last week and all around me coaches were being critical. Rather than write the session down and create something new from it, they just wanted an excuse to say “I’m better than you”.

But it’s not just true of coaches. Working with grassroots teams I tend to hear criticism constantly and a lot of it comes from the parents at the side of the pitch. If their son or daughter has not played well, they think the coach hasn’t been doing his job properly. If their son or daughter is substituted, the coach hasn’t a clue what he’s doing.

And on it goes. Remember, criticism is easy to make but your achievements are not. And it’s easier to deal with criticism when you realise the reasons behind it. Criticism from parents is often a tool to defend their children and to defend themselves in the face of other parents with higher achieving kids – it’s not an attack on you as such but it can be hard to ignore.

Screen shot 2015-09-23 at 10.08.45

You are doing a great job so don’t let them put you off. It is because you have given up your time and taken on the role of coach that you have been thrust into the limelight and unfortunately a lot of people will resent your position of importance.

When I first started coaching I remember that one of my teams went through a sticky patch in the middle of the season, having started out with four straight wins. After one game a parent came up to me and told me that he had spoken to a few of the other dads and they had decided my tactics were wrong.

I was taken aback and rushed home to go through my notes and think about what they had said. My tactics hadn’t changed but the players were on a steep learning curve and some aspects of their play were just beginning to come through. At that time I felt quite nervous about the score in games – not like now, when I look at how well the team played before I even think about the score.

In attacking me the dads had come up with reasons why their kids hadn’t won the game, but it was their problem, not mine. Now that I understand why people criticise, I no longer feel nervous about what parents think of me. Once you realise why people criticise you’ll deal with it much better too.

Give Players Time To Understand Your Session

davidscwnewMy coaching word for this week is perseverance. I heard Sir Alex Ferguson the former manager of Manchester United in the English Premier League talking about the attributes that make a good coach and his first one was perseverance.

I immediately experienced why this is such an important part of your coaching style. In training this week I was trying out a new session which I was writing up for Soccer Coach Weekly – I do it on the premise that if it works with my U10s then it will work for pracDavidClarke1tically all age groups.

It was an exercise that uses movement, coordination, passing, receiving and sprinting. I know sometimes when you are using exercises with young players in front of their parents it can be a bit awkward for you if the players don’t understand immediately what they have to do. Especially so when they have just come out of school and are raring to go – concentration is at a minimum.


I ran the exercise a couple of times and it was not going well. It needed some fine tuning and a lot of demonstrations by me to get the players to understand what I wanted. It was eating into my coaching time but I thought it was worthwhile persevering with it. After 10 minutes they were still struggling but suddenly one of the players shouted “got it, Dave!” and he showed the others how it worked.

And with demonstrations from both of us suddenly the whole squad could do it. We played thblog_volleye exercise for the next 20minutes and I took notes on how to change it to make it more easily understood for my Soccer Coach Weekly readers.

After the session a coach from one of our other teams came up and said “wow what a great session that was!” It had worked in the end but only because I was prepared to persevere with the session and use visual aids and use a player who could help me to show the others how to play it.

Not only that but it has given me another good, different exercise to use with my players as soon as we get to training that they can quickly get going with. And you can be sure that once I’ve used it a couple of times and drawn it out you will be the first coaches to get to play it because it will soon be in Soccer Coach Weekly.

Jose Mourinho? No scapegoats in a youth game but plenty of pressure on the volunteer coach

davidscwnewIt can be a scary moment when you face the first game of the season. It doesn’t matter whether you are a new coach or have coached the same team for a few years, that first game is so important.

Getting the momentum is one thing but getting the parents and players right behind you is another, so a good display is important.

Screen shot 2015-08-17 at 15.40.06

Last season our first match was away at a very impressive ground with lots of facilities, including a main pitch with stands and floodlights.

As it was the Under 11s that were playing we were not on the adult A team pitch but we were on a pretty impressive one surrounded by a clubhouse and tennis courts. We had been promoted the previous season so we were not sure how we would cope at this higher level, but I could see my players were not intimidated by the surroundings and were raring to feel the excitement of the kick off.

We were quickly into our warm ups and soon we had shaken hands with the opposition ready for the match. I can’t imagine how it must feel to be Uwe Rosler, the new manager of Leeds United, as he waits for the whistle to blow with the eyes of his trigger happy owner Massimo Cellino upon him. Or Claudio Ranieri at Leicester, back in the Premier League hoping he can have the success he had before.

Kick off came with great relief and my initial fears that the team wouldn’t be good enough were soon banished as we unleashed a flurry of attacks. Twice we were nearly caught out on the counter but our defensive training sessions paid off with some good covering and clearing. However, as half time approached all of our hard work was undone when a clumsy clearance went into our own net.

The boy involved was heartbroken, but at half time we all gathered around him and told him it wasn’t his fault and that we were all pleased with the way the team had played. We ran the game in the second half but failed to score and that one own goal had been the downfall of the team.

However, parents and players alike were in high spirits because we had all seen we could compete at this higher level and I was proud of the way they had all gathered around the player who had scored the own goal.

So a great start to your campaign doesn’t always mean a winning start but momentum comes from playing well and working as a team – we went on to have a great season in a very tough league.

Fellaini spitting: a problem in youth games?

QUESTION A referee has threatened to report one of my players for excessive spitting during a match. Can he really do this? ANSWER If the player in question was spitting only at the ground and not in the direction of someone else on the pitch, I can’t see there has been any offence committed here. The act of spitting may carry with it a certain amount of kudos in making players feel grown up, manly and sporty, but it’s also really important for players to play soccer feeling comfortable. That said, it sounds as if one of your players has been rather over the top with the amount he was spitting, so this should be something you must have a word with him about. For all its usefulness, spitting is still not a particularly pleasant act, and my guess is the referee made a light threat in the hope that your player would knock it on the head. If the referee has gone ahead and reported this, you should hear from your league committee within a couple of weeks. Simply state the player’s case and explain that you are putting measures in place to remind all players of the etiquette required when on the soccer pitch. But if I were you, I wouldn’t be unduly worried about this. Answered by Yemi Blanolo, a retired referee from Maidstone in a recent issue of Soccer Coach Weekly


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,241 other followers