Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


If there’s one course you should go on…

davidscwnewI firmly believe that if you want to develop the skills of individual players you need to start young and you need to do so at grassroots level. So this summer I decided to attend a number of courses based on skills coaching and individual excellence that would add to my knowledge of youth coaching. And this was the pick of the bunch.

Coerver Coaching’s Alf Galustian was the star skills educator at his Play Like Spain course at the London Soccer Dome – and it was like being in Spain on one of the hottest weekends of the year.

DCAlfWillie+spanish players1

Coerver’s course is based on the Spain national side and the success they have had playing with Spanish style and the phases of play that make up that style. Alf coached sessions where the emphasis was on individual ball mastery and how the development of the individual creates a winning team.

Alf said: “I have worked in Spain as a coach educator several times throughout my career. It is common knowledge that Spain are the current leading developers of football talent and they have implemented a style of play that is the envy of world football”.

I found it very interesting because last year I spent a lot of time  working on the phases of play used by Barcelona and why they have had so much success in the last few years with their style of possession play – I broke Barcelona style down to Possession/Patience/Penetration and did a presentation for the NSCAA on the Barcelona phases of play.

Alf broke down the Spain style into four phases of play

Protecting

Protecting the ball individually by coaching shielding techniques and as a group moving the ball quickly to keep it away from opponents.

Pressing

Individually and as a team. This is the Spanish way, lose the ball win it back by pressing high up the pitch giving teams no time to settle on the ball.

Probing

Running with the ball into space or finding the killer pass, with drills to develop individual and team skills

Penetration

The creative end product from the combination of the other three parts of the course – ­including creativity in the final third (the one thing English players find hard to do).

Coerver have been over in Spain recently and Scott Wright the UK director of Coerver told me: “We have had coaches from all levels attend our courses in Spain including La Liga clubs Real Madrid, Getafe, Real Mallorca and Rayo Vallacano as well as other coaches and ex-players from across Spain and Europe.”

Dave Clarke with Manuel Ojalvo

Dave Clarke with Manuel Ojalvo

So I felt I was in good company on the course and that there was a real Spanish aspect to the sessions. Added to that Coerver had brought former Athletico Madrid youngster Manuel Ojalvo, and former professional Diego Camacho, who has amassed more than 400 appearances in La Liga.

Manuel has a background in youth coaching and gave some great insights into what it was like to be a youth player in Spain. Diego doesn’t have the command of the English language that Manuel has but he managed to get across the frustrations of being coached in one position for all his time in youth football – defensive midfield. He has played against the likes of Zinedine Zidane and Lionel Messi, asked how he stopped Messi he shrugged and gave a chopping motion… it was fascinating stuff.

Both players are convinced the Coerver system can help grassroots in Spain – and of course in England.

Diego said (with Manuel acting as interpreter): “Every ex-professional player, no matter the level, who is thinking about moving into coaching should definitely study the Coerver System; I wish it had been available to me when I was a young, it would have made me a better player”.

Dave Clarke and Diego Camacho

Dave Clarke and Diego Camacho

Alf also introduced former ManchesterCity and Scotland defender Willie Donachie who is now development coach at Newcastle United. Again the advice was very interesting because Coerver are very much an attack minded in their tactics. Willie talks defence and used the example of Ian Rush the former Liverpool and Wales striker as an example of a forward whose first thought on losing the ball was to win it back. Alf too had praise for an attacker who likes to win the ball back – Lionel Messi “he is the best defender in the world”, said Alf.

Dave Clarke and Willie Donachie

Dave Clarke and Willie Donachie

Some great course material to take away in the form of a book that included the sessions Alf had put on during the weekend added to the overall success of the course.

It was a great way to spend a weekend in the summer and a very valuable one for my own personal development adding to my knowledge of Spanish football, giving me lots to take back to the teams that I coach. I suggest if you get the chance you should go on the course – it is a great learning experience.



David Clarke interviews… ALF GALUSTIAN

David ClarkeAlf Galustian is a modern-day football coaching legend. He has worked with the likes of Jurgen Klinsmann, Vincente del Bosque, Gerard Houllier and Ossie Ardiles and is now the skills coach to the Premier League.

When he co-founded the Coerver Coaching programme in 1984 alongside former Chelsea and Scotland star Charlie Cooke, the principle was quite simply in focusing on and developing an individual player’s core skills.

The success of the philosophy led to a clamour for his expertise, and to this day, he has worked at AC Milan, Bayern Munich, Stoke City, Newcastle United and Arsenal, amongst others.

DC: A lot of coaches just starting out might not understand what core skills are. Can you define the term please?
AG: For us in Coerver Coaching, we define core skills as:
• Running with the ball
• 1v1
• First touch
• Passing/shooting
The foundation for all these core skills is Coerver Ball Mastery.

DC: How should grassroots coaches begin their season – what should they be focusing on for the first three months of the campaign?
AG: Players return to pre-season having not played for months and we recommend that coaches focus most of the early sessions on drills, helping their lads regain a feel for ball.
And we would suggest that at least 20% of the session is devoted to repetition exercises with the ball. Repetition can be boring so disguise it by incorporating the principles into competition scenarios between players and/or groups. The rest of the session should be a mix of passing and receiving drills, and small-sided games.

DC: How should this move on as the season advances, to ensure grassroots players are developing?
AG:
The goal of each session is fun and progress, not only as a team but as individuals. The Coerver method of improving players is what we call ‘step-by-step teaching’. We break down the core skills and then teach through repetition, before increasing difficulty. Finally, we look for the use of those skills in game situations.

DC: Most coaches at grassroots level will have players of wildly differing abilities – how would you cope with that?
AG:
This is a really good question and one that we have been asked a lot over Coerver Coaching’s 30-year history. Firstly, all players should do the same drills. A good tip is to split the group into threes and fours, putting players of similar abilities together. The only difference is that for the more skilled players, you make the conditions different (e.g. altering the number of touches, the distance or the speed). The players feel equal since the drill is exactly the same. Once you get to the small-sided games, pool your squad, making sure that no one team has all the best players.

DC: Should coaches continually use one-touch exercises or is that not as relevant as two touches?
AG:
One-touch is quite difficult for most grassroots players. We want our young players to experience success, which then builds up their confidence, interest and concentration. For those reasons we prefer two touch. Once the players improve then we suggest mixing one and two- touch drills.

DC: Most grassroots players might only train and play once a week. Is this enough?
AG:
Simply, no. However, it’s a difficult situation to change. I don’t think we can expect to increase practice times significantly, so we need to be smarter in what and how we teach.

DC: You’re a skills specialist coach and I’ve seen your ability to demonstrate the skill you are coaching. How do grassroots coaches who are not as skilled as you demonstrate difficult techniques to youth players?
AG:
The coach has two options. The first is to practise the skills every day, not as a player but as a teacher, slowly and deliberately. Charlie and I still do this after 30 years. The second option is to pick a player in your group to demonstrate. Just make sure any demonstration is done slowly.

DC: Why is it that players from Spain, Brazil and Argentina are so respected at the moment for the way they play the game?
AG:
I think this explanation would need to be a whole new article! Generally the football culture of these countries has a long tradition of focusing and admiring skills above all else. That culture has pushed coaches and teachers towards allowing young players to express themselves without fear of failure. I suppose Coerver Coaching, in many countries, is a replacement of what players learnt in the old days through street soccer. Times have changed and in relatively affluent societies, street soccer has disappeared.

DC: How much influence do you think the English Premier League has had on grassroots players?
AG:
The Premier League is the most exciting and certainly the most televised league in the world. In that regard, there is no doubt that grassroots players and coaches are influenced. I think the players and teams can be extremely positive influences when it comes to learning the game, fair play, and behavioural role models.



David Clarke Interviews… PETER BEARDSLEY exclusive

David ClarkeMy series of interviews on influential figures in the world of coaching continues with this exclusive interview with Peter Beardsley.

I remember Peter as a very skillful player, slight of build, operating just behind the front strikers at Newcastle, Liverpool and of course England.

His skills have proved devastating for creating and scoring goals, netting over 230 in his career. He was a player with lovely ball skills and fantastic vision, as well as tremendous stamina, enthusiasm and work-rate.

He was also able to score long range shots, or clever placement using timing and dribbling skills.

As a youth player Peter was discovered at the famous Wallsend Boys Club on Tyneside in the 70s – 
the club has a pedigree of bringing through great players including Alan Shearer, Michael Carrick, Lee Clark and Steve Bruce.

He is now football development manager at Newcastle United helping to drive forward the recruitment of talented youngsters for the club’s Academy and Development Squad, so what better person to answer questions on how to coach youth skills.

I caught up with Peter at Newcastle where he was coaching with the world famous coach Alf Galustian and asked him about youth coaching and what a coach learns from watching someone as experienced as Alf.

1. We all have favourite areas of coaching – as a former attacker do you find it easy to coach defending as well as attacking exercises?

I think all coaches need to learn how to coach both topics: the modern player especially as a youth player has to be both attacker and when they lose the ball win it back by pressing deep – defending from the front. Messi is probably the best example.

2. As a skillful striker you must have had a few tricks you used, which were your favourite and how did you practice them.

I learnt mostly by playing – we didn’t have a programme like Alf’s Coerver Coaching, so most of what I did was learnt in games. If I had had a programme like Coerver to follow, I am sure it would have made me a better player, especially for scoring goals!

3. Messi and Ronaldo both use skill in their play but appear to have one or two clever moves that they use a lot. How many skills should a youth player work on to use in match play?

I think young players should learn as many skills can they can so they can use them to beat players in as many different ways as possible; it will help their future game and it’s great fun to learn new skills.

4. 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 you know I have been close to Alf for many years – once I was exposed to Coerver (over 20 years ago) I realised that repetition was crucial for perfecting skills.

I follow Alf’s view that for young players you can hide repetition by playing fun games – for example simple relays where repetition is included.

Watching Alf coach today I can see so many possibilities to coach young players in using skills to win 1v1s and 2v1s where the repetition is hidden by the actual game they play.

5. You played in youth teams at Wallsend Boys in the 70s, which one factor would you say is the most important change in the way kids are coached today?

The quality of facilities and the improvement in coaches knowledge and understanding of what is best for the players and not what is best for the coaches

6 Can you explain one specific exercise you have been using with your team that my coaches can go out and use with their players?

While Alf has been here at Newcastle we have been concentrating on attacking principles. This is one of the sessions I have seen Alf coach and I am now using to help my players in their attacking role.

SESSION: To improve Shooting under pressure

How to set it up

  • 10 players plus a server or the coach
  • A 40x25yd area with a goal and goalkeeper at each end.
  • Two teams of four players and a server
  • Each player has a ball lined up by each goal.
  • Two cones 5 yards either side of the server
  • The coach or a designated player is stationed in the middle of the field as a wall passer.

How to play it

  • The first player in TEAM A passes to the server in the centre, then takes the return pass and after controlling and dribbling the ball shoots on the opposite goal.
  • As he shoots the first player in TEAM B passes to the server and sprints to take a return pass and take at least one touch before shooting.
  • As soon as the TEAM A player shoots he sprints around the cone to try to stop TEAM B from scoring.
  • When TEAM B shoots he must recover around his marker cone to defend again the second player in TEAM A who’s repeats the sequence.

COACH’S TIPS

  • At first the recovering player going around the marker cone will be too far and he will not be able to apply much pressure on the shooter.
  • But gradually move the markers towards the Coach so the distances of recovery is less and less and there’s increasing pressure on the shooters.
  • Eventually allow the recovering players to use the WP as their marker to go around.

PLAYER TIP

  • Be sure the first pass to the server is firm so there’s no lag time waiting for the return pass and the defender to get close.
  • Take your first touch from the server away from the approaching defender to set up your shot.
  • Head up before shooting.
  • Aim low far post the GKs toughest shot.


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

HOW TO SET IT UP

  • 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.


HOW TO PLAY IT

  • 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.

HOW TO ADVANCE IT

  • 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.

KRISTINE’S TIP
Match players evenly. Switch roles after each contest

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




Why you should take the Coerver Coaching Youth Diploma

DC
I have worked with lots of coaches and coach educators and believe me, Alf Galustian is a very good coach. I watched Alf coach for two hours in torrential rain – conditions that would have had you or I scuttling for the safety of the changing rooms.

Alf not only took control of a dozen or so players he had never coached before, he talked everyone through his coaching style, his coaching points and the skills he was giving to the players.

I picked up so many ideas and tips during that first two hours that I was already planning my next coaching session. Alf is a co-founder of Coerver Coaching and a specialist skills adviser to the English Premier League.

The purpose of the Coerver Coaching Youth Diploma is to give attendees, whether they are a professional academy coach, junior coach, teacher or parent, a greater understanding of how to plan and execute more effective coaching sessions.

The course is held at Premier League team Fulham’s excellent training ground and with the presence of academy players and first teamers, you really feel you are in a pure coaching environment.

Then the slick Coerver team moves into gear and their ideas and values are brought to the fore by Alf who focuses on how the course develops you the coach and how you can deliver those ideas to develop the individual.

It’s all about touch, control, confidence, 1v1s, 2v1s, 5v3s, movement on and off the ball, feinting, beating your partner, keeping the ball, winning the ball back – and respect, confidence, fun.

It truly is food for thought on how you coach your team.

The Coerver Coaching concept concentrates on attacking, fast-flowing football and this style has been demonstrated during the past few years by teams such as Barcelona and Spain.

In Alf’s own words: “What Coerver brings is that individual component, the ability for a coach to improve his or her players’ individual skill. Increasingly it is individual skills that can make or break a match and win the game.”

The final session of the day is about how to build and deliver a session. It was run by Coerver’s excellent coaching director Scott Wright who coached Fulham U12s for the session. If you go along to the next Coerver Coaching Youth Diploma course, make sure you write it all down, you could run it with any age group and I lost count of the number of skills you work on.

It is great stuff. This course will make you a better coach. If you can’t go on the course then why not invest in the Coerver CD set, there’s lots of material on how to help you plan your sessions.

To order the CD in Europe:
http://www.coach-soccer.com/coerver/index.asp

To order the CD in the USA:
http://www.coach-soccer.com/coerver/indexusd.asp

There will be two further Diplomas in the summer, one at Manchester City on the 5th & 6th August & the second in Dublin, 13th & 14th August. www.coerver.co.uk/youthdiploma

Listen to Alf on this video below




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