Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


Fun game to end your session … with excellent 1v1 skills

davidscwnewThis is a great game to end one of your sessions. I often use it with my U9s team when they have been training hard. Your players won’t know there’s a coaching element to this game and will be learning without realising it.

Expect to see lots of 1v1 situations in this game. But as the number of balls decrease, these will become more random because players can then link up to create 2v2 or 2v4 scenarios.

Players will learn how to attack and defend different goals. They will also have to use communication, decision making and teamwork skills as the game progresses from individual to multi-player situations.

Set this one up in a 30 yards by 30 yards square. You need six target goals (mini goals or cones will do), and a lot of balls.

How to play it

On your whistle, the attackers get a ball each and try to score in one of the goals. After each shot, the attackers return to the middle of the playing area to get another ball.

Once all the balls have been played, the number of balls in the goals should be counted and then the roles reversed. If you are using cones for goals, get a couple of parents or helpers to keep score.



Overloads in circles

By David Clarke

David Clarke

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 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.

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.

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.



Welbeck and Cleverley can hit the target every time

David Clarke

How 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 all parts of the penalty area 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 of the pitch.

How to set it up:

  • You will need six target cones and seven balls, plus additional cones to mark out a pitch. You’ll 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:

  • One team starts on the left, one on the right. Each defends the cones as they would do a goal in a normal match, although there is no keeper.

  • Players must try to knock the balls off the cones at their opponents’ end of the pitch while defenders need to ensure 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 that 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 that the side getting a strike knocks the opposing team out, and another comes into play. 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 knock-out, 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 that 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.



The chipping green – developing a soft touch

David Clarke

A great game to play at the end of your training session is chipping the balls into the bag! You’re coaching a skill and getting the players to clear up.

When golfers talk about getting a feel of the ball around the greens, they’re talking about a soft touch using their hands to chip the ball so it doesn’t go racing past the hole. Soccer players can get a feel for the ball with this chipping game and help them to realise it isn’t all about power.

It also means that when they are receiving the ball in a match they will find it much easier to manipulate because they won’t put their foot through the ball.

There are lots of reasons I use this exercise:

  • It takes seconds to set up.
  • A great game to play while waiting for players to turn up at the start of training – you can start with one player and end up with ten.
  • Or a great game for the end of training to put all the training balls back into the bag.
  • It develops soft touch and control of the ball.

How to play it

  • All you need is your ball bag, players and balls.
  • Players stand in a circle around three yards away.
  • One player starts with the ball on the ground and tries to chip it in to the bag.
  • Players take it in turns to hold the bag open and can chest the ball into the bag if the chipping player misses.
  • If it goes in they get 1 point and the next player goes.
  • If they miss the next player tries to put the same ball into the bag.
  • When a player misses, whoever reaches the ball first can take the next turn.

The game ends when the last ball is in the bag. Everyone’s a winner (including you, you don’t have to collect all the balls!).



Time limits work wonders

David Clarke

Children thrive on having a time limit to work to and nothing focuses them better than working against the clock.

I did an experiment recently with a squad of 12-year-old players. They did a basic passing exercise – running up a channel in groups of four passing along the line. There was no pressure and I stood back and watched.

After two minutes I noticed that none of the players were running on to the ball and taking it in their stride and the whole exercise lacked energy and accuracy.

So, I then set them a challenge: how many runs can you do in one minute? There were still one or two poor passes so players had to stop and go backwards to receive the ball, but the pace was up and you could see the concentration on their faces.

Their passing and receiving technique had also improved. Balls were being passed in front of players for them to run on to. When asked why there was such a big improvement, the overwhelming answer was that they all wanted to beat their previous score and that meant focusing so they didn’t have to wait for passes.

Dos and don’ts of timing

  • Do vary the amount of time you give the players depending on their age and the skill you are practising. Thirty seconds of work is more suitable for younger players.
  • Do tell them their score each time and challenge them to beat it.
  • Don’t worry if the skill level drops the first few times. This is normal as players are trying to do everything as quickly as possible. They will soon realise that the more accurate they are the faster they will be.
  • Don’t time everything. The novelty and effectiveness will soon wear off.



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