Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

Goalkeepers can counter attack


Goalkeepers like nothing better than having the ball in their hands, running to the edge of their area, then blasting it into the sky.

But throw-outs can be better, not to mention more valuable, because the ability to throw the ball quickly and accurately is becoming an increasingly important skill for goalkeepers in the modern game.

Many of the world’s top keepers can throw the ball more than half the length of the pitch, and the distance and accuracy they can achieve is a big counter-attacking weapon for the team.

The overarm throw allows your goalkeeper to clear the ball over a long distance and at a great height. And it can be more accurate than kicking the ball.

Here’s my seven-step guide for goalkeepers looking to master the art of the long throw:

  1. Tell your goalkeeper to adopt a side-on position and put their weight on the back foot.
  2. Your goalkeeper’s throwing hand needs to be positioned under the ball, and their throwing arm kept straight.
  3. The non-throwing arm must point in the direction of the target.
  4. The goalkeeper can then bring this arm down as the throwing arm comes through in an arc over the top of their shoulder.
  5. The goalkeeper’s weight should be transferred forward as the ball is released.
  6. It is similar to a bowler’s action in cricket.
  7. Over long distances, get your player to concentrate on powering the arm downwards on the same line as the target spot. This will help with his accuracy.

Red Card Roy – insight into the pressures facing young players

Red Card Roy, the autobiography of Roy McDonough … A must read… put this on your Christmas reading list.

David ClarkeIt’s such a glamorous life being a professional footballer… every young player’s dream to be given a contract to play football every day of your life. Just like Balotelli or Beckham or Torres or van Persie…

… but not like Roy McDonough.

Because the hero of Red Card Roy collected his first red card at 16 for trying to strangle the referee in a schools cup final and went on to clock up a British record of 22 red cards.
And yet he could have lived the dream – Roy could have been a hero at Chelsea.
Roy’s autobiography is full of insights into the pressures facing today’s young players – from the heartbreak of release from Birmingham as a youngster to a desperately lonely spell at the famous King’s Road club.

I get a lot of emails from readers of my youth coaching publications who ask me for advice on how to get their young players signed up by the big boys… here’s a reason to keep them away.

This is a tale straight out of Chaucer… The footballer’s tale.

Booze, birds and football… what more could a young man wish for? But the pressures he faces day in, day out, culminating in the suicide of his strike partner at Colchester, John Lyons, show the other side of the coin that players face as they struggle to become a David Beckham or a Clint Dempsey. Anger and loneliness are no strangers to Roy McDonough.

A book that is compulsive reading on many levels.

There are some great footballing tales. McDonough was brave enough to dump legendary Liverpool hard man Tommy Smith over the touchline into a pile of snow and vengeful enough to get sent off after seven minutes of an FA Cup tie for planting a kung-fu kick in Stoke manager Tony Pulis’s ribs.

It’s also a fabulous X-rated romp through the different leagues in England. I recommend you read it because I couldn’t put it down as I rollercoastered between sadness and open mouthed astonishment at what went on in Roy McDonough’s world.

Beating the offside trap
November 5, 2012, 10:57 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

By David Clarke

David ClarkeLet’s be honest, coaching the offside rule to a team of young players can be difficult. The mental and physical requirements of timing runs and passes is something that even senior players struggle to cope with. So it’s no surprise that our youngsters can have problems getting their heads around the rule, and you’ll often hear complaints of it “ruining” their love of the game. But teaching older children the offside rule is important.

If explained and coached well, players will quickly see that rather than being an obstacle to ambitious, energetic attacks, they can utilise the rule to create whole new advantages in play that they maybe didn’t realise existed. That’s because beating the offside trap is not just about holding runs when the ball is played. For one, players can experiment with moving back onside for the second phase of play if they are not interfering with the ball. The offside trap is excellent too for getting strikers to play on the shoulders of their opponents before losing them.

And it’s also a way to keep your strikers on their toes as they judge the pace of through balls.

These elements are at the heart of this move. Practise it with your team and encourage them to welcome, rather than worry about, the offside rule.

How to set it up:

  • For this session, you’ll need bibs, cones, balls, a goal and a goalkeeper.
  • Create a playing area measuring 40×30 yards.
  • Just past halfway, create a coned line across the playing area.
  • A server stands inside each touchline, just behind the cones. Place a goal and goalkeeper at the far end.
  • At the opposite end, set up two lines of players, one on each edge of the pitch.

Getting started:

  •  Players in each line take it in turns, sprinting forward to begin the move.
  • When past the white line (which represents the offside line), a player turns 360 degrees to come back onside before moving forward again.
  • At the point of the player coming back onside, the coach lays a ball into his path. The player continues forward and shoots at goal.
  • Once the shot is despatched, the player must run back behind the line, before turning and running diagonally on to a second ball played by the other server.
  • The player is permitted one touch before shooting at goal.
  •  He then goes to the back of the opposite queue from which he started.

Why this works:

Beating the offside trap is as much about varying the approach and style of runs, as it is knowing the right time to break forward. Players will learn each others’ games instinctively, and can recognise the signals from team mates in terms of when a through-pass will be released. But this move teaches them the skill of disguising and varying runs at the same time. The sooner your players learn to beat the offside trap, the better their advantage over other sides who still regard the rule as an inconvenience, rather than a potential match-winning factor.

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.

Adam Gemili… when two sports collide

By David Clarke

Adam Gemili playing for Dagenham (right)

When Arsene Wenger said speed was one of the first things he looked for in a player he must have missed Adam Gemili.

The 18-year-old found many admirers of his speed at the London Olympics running in the fourth 100m semi-final alongside World Champion Yohan Blake and World Record holder Tyson Gay and came in third.with a time of 10.06 just 0.04 seconds outside qualifying for the final.

His dream growing up was of becoming a professional footballer.

He spent time on the books of Chelsea as a schoolboy and was on the verge of earning a professional deal at League Two side Dagenham & Redbridge.

But a trip to local athletics club Blackheath and Bromley to develop his pace – the one attribute that already set him apart from other aspiring footballers – changed everything.

In his first meeting for the club in April 2011, Gemili astounded everyone by running below 11 seconds – the only athlete to do so at the event. Now he has run in the Olympics. As his football career drifted down the leagues.
His decision to put football on hold for a year came when he was offered his first professional contract by Dagenham and Redbridge in December last year.

“If I signed it, it obviously meant I had to stop athletics because I couldn’t do both, but I wanted to give athletics a go. I’d won the European junior silver in the summer, so I did want to see how far I could take it and how good I could become in athletics.

“I decided to devote the year to athletics and if it didn’t work out, I could still go back to football.”

As the fastest man in Britain I can’t see him returning.
Gemili’s pace is something to think about – should we as coaches be using techniques from athletic clubs to develop the pace of our players?

Other sports can help you coach different aspects of soccer. I often use basketball style coaching to show my players tactics in soccer, it’s a great sport to get players looking up and creating space with movement. Or rugby where players can see the ball, their team mates and the opposition try-line much more easily than when they have their heads down looking at the ball in soccer.

What they said“He’s going to be one of the greatest sprinters of all time.”
Tyson Gay, former 100m world record holder

“What I’ve seen over the last three months is exceptional. I do believe he will run sub-10 very soon.”
Darren Campbell, Olympic 200m silver medallist (2000)

“He always seems to be able to take things in his stride. He is cool, calm and can deal with anything. I can’t see any reason why he can’t run under 10 seconds. He has the world at his feet.”
Pat Calnan, Blackheath and Bromley senior men’s team manager


The greatest one-touch, two-touch passing moves.. at Under-11
July 11, 2012, 3:50 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

David ClarkeIt has been discussed for years and finally the FA are doing something about it.Englandare pushing to close the gap at youth level withSpainandGermany. Doing that should boost the futureEnglandteam…

Well we may be finally putting things in place to do it but I was surprised by how advanced some teams are across the pond inAmerica. They sure are building for the future.

An U11 team inCaliforniahas created its own little area ofSpaintaking their inpiration from the masters of tiki taka,Barcelona. They’ve called their team Barcelona-USA, and play in the same strips as the Catalan giants.

The video that got everyone purring was Barcelona-USA’s U11 Cal South State Cup semi-final against Arsenal FC – no slouches themselves at this level.

But in an epic 13 minutes of football, these young players executed some of the greatest one-touch, two-touch passing moves that you’ll see anywhere, anytime.

According to their coach: “These performances are no accident. It takes meticulous training, studying, and artistry — a craftsman. You can not just throw 11 players on the field and ‘talk’ about possession. That’s just talking. And anybody can do that… you should be asking yourself: ‘Do I really care, or am I just a talker?'”

Are you watching England?

See the video everyone’s talking about below:

My top six penalty misses

David ClarkeIt’ll sson be Euro 2012 in Poland and the Ukraine and that usually heralds a whole load of penalties – here’s my six top penalty misses in all competitions.

John Terry, CHELSEA v Manchester Utd (Champions League Final 2008)

After a 1-1 draw on the night, Cristiano Ronaldo missed his spot-kick to put Chelsea within touching distance of the trophy, but his crucial slip sent the ball crashing against the outside of the post, leaving the England international on the floor and in tears.

Lionel Messi, BARCELONA v Chelsea (Champions League Semi-Final 20120)

Barcelona started the second half 2-1 up but Chelsea were down to 10 men. Messi had the chance to gain the psychological advantage but hit the bar and Chelsea went on win the game.

Denis Bergkamp, ARSENAL v Manchester Utd (FA Cup Semi-Final replay 1999)

Bergkamp could have won the game with a last minute penalty. The match was notable for a disallowed Arsenal goal, the sending-off of Manchester Utd’s Roy Keane for a second bookable offence, a last-minute penalty save by Peter Schmeichel, and finally and most memorably a winning goal by Ryan Giggs, intercepting a pass near the half way line, before taking the ball past five Arsenal defenders and scoring past goalkeeper David Seaman.

Ruud van Nistelrooy MANCHESTER UNITED v Arsenal (Premier League 2003/04)

With the scores level at 0-0, United were given a controversial penalty in injury-time after Patrick Vieira had earlier seen red for a kick-out at Van Nistelrooy, but the Dutch striker made it three consecutive misses from the spot after he rattled the underside of the crossbar.

Gareth Southgate, ENGLAND v Germany (Semi-Final Euro’ 96)

After Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle failed at Italia ’90, it fell to Southgate to end the hopes of the Three Lions on home soil six years later, as football ‘came home’ but then swiftly left for Germany on penalties.

Roberto Baggio, Brazil v ITALY (World Cup Final 1994)

The first World Cup final to be decided on penalties, it was a moment that would define Baggio’s career despite some of the great things he achieved for both club and country.

Hold player focus with a twist

David ClarkeYou know how we are taught that your players must focus on you during your pre-match team talk and not be chatting or pushing or playing with a ball?

Well try this instead. I get my players to concentrate on this core body strength warm up while they are listening to me talk about the game or training session they are about to take part in.

I think it works, let me know if you do…

How to do it

  • Start by sitting down, only your bottom will be touching the ground during the exercise.
  •  Lean back slightly.
  •  Feet off the ground with ankles crossed.
  •  Bend knees slightly.
  •  Touch ball to ground on each side.
  •  Keep arms straight.
  •  Ten touches each side then rest for 30 seconds.
  •  Do three sets.

How to advance it

  • Keep legs straight.
  • Try the same exercise using a medicine ball (if you have one, or try different sized balls).

Soccer workouts and exercises

David Clarke Interviews… KRISTINE LILLY exclusive

David ClarkeMy series of interviews on influential figures in the world of coaching continues with this exclusive interview with Kristine Lilly. Kristine was a member of the United States women’s national soccer team for 24 years. She is the most capped men’s or women’s soccer player in the history of the sport, gaining her 352nd and final cap against Mexico in a World Cup qualifier in November 2010. Kristine played in five World Cup Finals, winning two World Cups to add to her numerous other awards and honours.

Kristine LillyShe is now tasked with developing the next generation of female players and coaches in the USA. I caught up with her as she launched a skills partnership with Coerver coaching.

1. Can you give me a brief outline of what you will be doing in your link up with Coerver Coaching?
I have joined a partnership with Coerver Coaching to continue to make a difference in the game. We hope to promote and improve the Women’s game globally. We have an inspiring curriculum that really works; improving the player on the field and the person off it.

2. Why Coerver?
Well I have used the Coerver method throughout my career, and ever since I was a young girl. I believe in the Coerver system, the philosophy and the benefits it brings to players, coaches of any ability.
I am also hugely impressed at how the Coerver System and Brand has evolved and expanded globally, since Charlie Cooke and Alf Galustian (pictured) first started it almost 30 years ago.
Lastly Coerver works, players that go through this method improve, become better players and especially feel confident and comfortable on the ball.

3. The women’s game is huge in USA, what do you think players lack in terms of technique that your link up with Coerver can help players to step up a level?
I think US players are great athletes, wonderful competitors and have a winning mentality. However, I think we can be better with the ball; especially when and where we use it; make quicker decisions, but have the confidence if there are no passing options to keep the ball under pressure.

Also we can be more consistent, technique usually breaks down, as players get tired, so we need to continually work on improving our skills, which also has the added benefit of improving confidence. I am sure if you speak to top coaches and players they will put confidence (building) as a main priority. In a way Coerver does that by Mastery of Skills through repetition.

4. Having spent part of your career in Sweden do you think the women’s game in Europe can catch up with the USA? Are the skills/technique levels the same?
I think the level of play has advanced all over the world. I think the Europeans are improving quickly. I think they have become more technical than us in the past decade. I think the one thing that the USA has is a fighting mentality that edges out teams. However the technical side of the game has to be there to make that happen as well.

5. With regards to youth soccer in terms of both girls and boys I think repetition is one of the most vital coaching tools. But players can find doing the same old thing boring. How do you hide repetition when coaching?
As a young player I spent many hours kicking a ball against a wall practicing my shooting technique and passing. Yes I would agree doing this alone could get boring, but once you see improvement in your game all the practice, hard work makes sense; boring or not.

Also that is what is so great about the Coerver programme, you do basic drills that address the technical side of the game and then add pressure, and then make it a competitive atmosphere and it’s always challenging, progressively competitive and always fun!!!

6. You played in youth teams in the early 90s, which one factor would you say is the most important change in the way kids are coached today?
As in all countries there are excellent coaches who continually look for new, innovative ways of teaching and others who really don’t want to change from what they are used to. This is not a criticism, since in Grassroots Soccer all the coaches who give their time and effort mostly for free, need to be praised.

My main worry is that some Coaches are only interested in winning teams; winning is important, but in the formative ages Coerver and I believe the focus should be on development. If you are a young player, yes you want to win but at the same time you dream of improving to where one day you can a real difference!

We don’t have, in my opinion enough players like this. Abby Wambach (USA Women), Marta (Brazil Women, pictured), Messi (Argentina), Xavi (Spain) of course, but Soccer needs more of these Special Players. That’s another thing I learned from Alf and Coerver about teaching based on models of Great Players. It’s a great way to teach and motivate.

7. What are you coaching in your next session and how?
I like the Coerver theme sessions that Alf showed me at our last practice session together. Theme is Creating more Goal Chances individually; a session where you teach players how to can create goal chances (showing them different 1 v 1’s to create space either side of opponents to shoot, Improving Strikers first touch in the penalty box, so they have more time to shoot, Improving reaction speed for strikers.)

I pick games and drills that teach these topics.

How I would teach this or any other theme is by starting with a Coerver Ball Mastery exercise (as many touches of the ball both right and left foot. Lots of touches in 60 second bursts. I would then teach the 1 v 1 /First Touch technique in a group drill. No defenders, but just getting the technique correct, and finally I would finish with full pressure, defenders trying to win the ball

8. Can you explain one specific exercise you will coach that uses Coerver skills?
There is one drill I like a lot right now. Here is the diagram and action. This drill not only improves attackers but also defenders, defenders try and win the ball then they go for Goal; a great lesson for all defenders that once you win the ball you need to use it constructively.

Kristine pictured here with
Coerver’s Charlie Cooke.

PURPOSE: To Improve 1 v 1 & 2 v 2 under full pressure


  • Two small goals facing in opposite directions 18 yards apart.
  • Two teams one with a ball to each player facing the other across a 15 yard grid.


  • The Black Defender passes across the grid to the opponent and they play 1v1 to score on either small goal.
  • If the Defender wins the ball he can score.
  • Either player can only score from a shooting zone 4 yards from goal.


  • Play 2 v 2.
  • The receiver must pass 1st touch to his partner and overlap behind him to start the action.
  • Same scoring rules apply. Defenders can score if they win possession.

Match players evenly. Switch roles after each contest

First touch is crucial… players must go and meet the ball – don’t wait for it

Gary Speed memories…
November 27, 2011, 7:57 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized


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