Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: attack, challenges, coaching, communication, defend, development
How do you get and keep your players’ attention in training? One way to ensure this is to ask questions of your players to check they are listening. And rather than just do this through verbal means, why not create challenges? Not only does this reveal to you how well certain elements have been understood, but practical play is a great way of cementing ideas in the minds of the players too.
1. The answer needs some thought from the respondent, allowing the questioner to effectively gauge their level of understanding
2. Asking a player ‘an open question’ helps to reinforce learning, and the learning of the other players around him. A ‘yes/no’ question requires virtually no effort from a player. He’ll brush it off and you’ll be left with nowhere to go!
3. And answers to open questions give you immediate feedback on the player’s understanding of a technique, skill or situation
Before you head to training, think about some of the situations that will crop up. By anticipating what may happen during the session it will help you plan in advance the challenges you want to set and the sort of questions you might ask.
Examples of challenges
- In a counter-attack session, develop a scoring chance within three passes of gaining possession.
- When running with the ball or dribbling, challenge a player to attack and shoot without using his team mates.
- In team sessions, instruct that the player who starts the attack must pass the ball on and receive it back before a goal can be scored
Examples of questions to follow
- What did you do as an individual (or group) to successfully penetrate the defence with three passes?
- What did you do as an individual to keep the ball and get past your opponents? What did you do if you lost the ball?
- In the team session, what factors influence your choice of action? How can you make sure you are successful?
The answers your players give you will provide you with opportunities to further explore their understanding. You can do this by asking supplementary questions.
And when listening to answers, replicate and use their words as a focus for different questions.
And of course, if a player comes up with a ‘wrong answer’, try saying, “I like your thinking. Can you think of an alternative?”
Great communication can make such a difference to how players take on board information. Why not try it for yourself?
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: aguero, attack, communication, heroes, manchester city, midfield, shoot, team bonding, team spirit
Isn’t it great when you hear players shouting the names of their heroes in the professional game? Twice this week I heard a pro’s name shouted by one of my players when they were bearing down on goal, as I’ll go on to explain…
To put it into context, my Under-11s were playing a really important end-of-season match last week. I was nervous for them, as were the cluster of parents gathered on the touchline, but how refreshing to see the kids just playing the game with so much relaxed spirit. It was a tight first period with relatively few chances, and with the scores level in the second half, a series of passes led the ball to my midfielder Marcus through on goal at an angle.
Before he shot, he shouted “AGUERO!” and tried to emulate the player he had seen in his living room score that fantastic title-winning goal for Manchester City . Needless to say the shot went high and wide – oh well! Even so, that didn’t stop his team mates appreciating at least the fact he had put himself in the right place as we drove forward looking for a goal.
“I heard you shout that!” one of his team mates said with a smile on his face. “That was brilliant!”
Another came over laughing and told him he too had thought of Aguero as the move developed. I find it heartening when I see my players inspired by great and memorable events on the pitch that they want to emulate.
Kids learn by watching and there is no better league for them to learn from than the English Premier League. Their appreciation for the game is a far cry from some people’s perception that kids are sometimes only taken in by some of the more unsavoury aspects of the modern game. I disagree with that notion. At the end of the day they take the positives, and this season has been full of them – great players, great skills, great goals, but also great stories.
And not always on the pitch – look at the reaction to Fabrice Muamba recovering from his heart attack and the draw of affection from the football family, for instance. I have started to realise there’s a lot in football to inspire those of us in the grass roots game. And if ever, as coaches, we’re unsure which of those influences are having an effect, just watch the kids!
Take out a 97p trial to Soccer Coach Weekly today.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: attack, awareness, Manchester United, shooting, speed, three ball routine, warm-up
By David Clarke
Manchester United’s first-team coach Rene Meulensteen developed what he called the three-ball routine to increase team speed and mental awareness. I saw it in action and it was a real flurry of movement and attacking action.
I created my own version of it to use with my youth teams.
It provides a very effective way of getting a side prepared for a forthcoming match because it improves the speed of defenders and the movement of attackers.
The routine starts with a shot from outside the box, then moves on to a cross that needs to be defended. As soon as the crossing element has finished, a third ball comes in from the other wing.
Meulensteen said: “It’s an exciting exercise – you’re looking at the quality of the passing and the variety from the wing, while watching runs at the near and far post. Can the players react to the ball?”
How to set it up:
- Player numbers can vary but we’ve used 10 in this instance.
- You need balls, cones and a goal, plus one keeper.
- Place a pole or cone just outside the D of the penalty area, plus two additional
cones on each wing – one to mark an early cross and the other a deep cross.
- Four central players stand so the cone just outside the D is between them
and the goalkeeper, with one player further forward than the others.
- Two players position themselves on each of the wings.
- There is one defender in the penalty area.
- Ensure the central group have a good supply of balls.
- The central players one-touch pass to each other. When the ball arrives at the
most advanced player, he turns on the cone and shoots first time at goal.
- As the central group lays a ball to the right wing, the shooter makes his way into
the penalty area to challenge 1v1 against the defender. Both players prepare for
the cross from the side.
- The right crosser then joins the action and the defender must defend 2v1 on a
cross from the right. The ball is again fed from the central group.
- The left crosser now joins to complete a maximum 3v1 in the middle.
Repeat the crossing scenario with the two remaining wingers, this time from the
deepest crossing cones.
Developing the session:
- Set up as before but have an attacker and two defenders in the penalty box.
- The advanced central player lays the ball back to a team mate
before joining the other attacker – he needs to head for the post not covered
by his team mate.
- The ball is switched to the wing and the subsequent cross challenged 2v2 in
Why this works:
This is a great workout for defenders because it’s very match realistic.
There is reward for good play from the attackers in the form of goals, and the growing number of attacking players creates a constantly changing proposition for the lone defender – who ends up defending against a 3v1 overload.
Finally, the variety of attacking angles mean both attackers and defenders need
to stay aware at all times.
Take out a 97p trial to Soccer Coach Weekly today.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: 3v2, attack, awareness, defend, drills, games, overloads, small-sided game
When playing matches the elements are constantly changing.
You can be attacking on your own one second, then have a team mate aor team mates in support to pass to pass to the next.
In your sessions it is a good idea to run exercises that are constantly changing so your players can prepare for this happening in matches. You can sometimes see players switching off when you do repetitive drills that have them doing A, B or C and they don’t have to think about it.
This exercise is a high intensity, near continuous game using five players. You can set up two or three of these depending on numbers at your training session.
How to set it up
Set up a few 15 x 30 yard pitches marking out with cones a couple of small goals at each end. You will need one pitch for every five players.
How to play it
- Choose 3 players who will be given the ball first against the remaining two. Decide which end the 3 are to attack. The attacking team start with the ball bringing it out from the goal line. They can choose to pass or dribble, but no direct goals are allowed on the first touch. The emphasis is on restarting quickly.
- The 3 play against the 2 until either: the two defenders win clear possession of the ball; they must have it under control; or the ball goes over the goal line last touched by an attacker.
- If either of these two things happen, the two players who were defenders become attackers trying to score at the opposite end in a game of 2v1 against whichever attacker last touched the ball, the player who lost possession or took a shot.
- The attackers retain possession on all balls that go out over the side lines.
- You will need a coach or knowledgeable soccer parent to act as referee…the point is to designate immediately which player stays on and which players go off (ignore the “it wasn’t me” shouts). The attackers who go off should quickly step well out of the way of this new 2v1 game and sit out until it is finished.
- The 2v1 game continues until it resolves in the same fashion as for the 3v2 game; the lone defender wins clear possession or the ball goes out off one of the two attackers.
- Now the 3 players who just played 2v1 immediately join together in a team of 3 attackers against the 2 who had to stand out, with the 3 now attacking, so we are back to step one.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: 2v2, attack, defend, drills, exercises, quick game, warm-up
There are times when I have turned up to find the equipment not where I would expect it and all I am left with is a ball and a pitch. So while I wait for the cones, balls and bibs to turn up I play a game that uses a ball and the centre circle.
How to play it
- Set up as shown in the diagram with players split into pairs. Two pairs start in the middle of the centre circle with others spread around the outside.
- In the middle, one team is nominated as attackers and the other pair defenders.
- The attacking pair must keep possession for 30 seconds in order to score a point. To help them do so, they can use players around the outside for one-twos.
- If the possession is lost, the other pair now attempts to retain the ball for 30 seconds.
- Rotate the pairs every 90 seconds.
- The central players need to work hard at all times – either in moving to support, or closing down opponents in possession.
- Outside players must be alert and ready to receive the ball at all times.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: 2v2, attack, create space, defence, drills, exercises, game, small-sided game
Young players often stand and wait for the ball to be passed to them, then wonder why they are either second to it or have nowhere to go once they have it.
I like to get my attackers moving around and thinking about where they can go to make it easier to receive a pass. In this tight 2v2 game tell them to behave like a ghost, appearing in a defender’s line of sight one second, then gone the next. It will give the defenders nightmares.
Use this exercise so your forwards ask questions of the defence. I like to make my practise sessions as game-like as possible so there is some form of soccer realism created.
Get your attackers to try and prise openings around the penalty area while your defenders are keenly marking and watching out for players dropping off and moving, creating 1v1, 2v1 and 3v2 situations.
Set up on the edge of your penalty area as in the diagram above. You need three attackers, two defenders, a goalkeeper and a few balls.
The middle attacker acts as server and plays the ball to attacker 1 who is marked by defender 1. Attacker 1 must break away from defender 1 and get the ball under control. He will be supported by the server, who is close by, and attacker 2 on the far side, who must try to lose his marker – defender 2.
The defenders must be aware of the attack building up around them. Defender 1 has two players to worry about – the server and attacker 1 – while defender 2 must stay with attacker 2 and not be drawn to the action.
There are a lot of situations developing here in a short space of time. The attackers need to move quickly to first take advantage of the developing 2v1 situation and then the 3v2 situation.
When you are coaching this, try to get attacker 2 to move inside defender 2 and not go wide. If he does go wide, it will create a difficult angle and allow defender 2 to get between him and the ball.
In the second diagram, both attackers must move quickly to the areas marked B and C to put distance between themselves and the defenders.
The server must quickly decide who to pass to – whichever attacker moves fastest – and then play develops from there. You want to see attackers moving quickly to areas B and C and away again, putting the defenders on the back foot.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: attack, Barcelona, Celtic, counter, drills, exercises, goals, how to score, shoot
But they did score two goals, and they used the counter attack to great effect.
In youth football, constructing a good counter-attack often comes down to one team being quicker than the other – a case of who can control the ball and combine before the opposing team has managed to recover its position. The quick counter-attack requires players in a team to react with speed and concentration, and often the most important man will be your striker, who receives the ball under pressure from a defender.
He must control it and either shoot at goal himself, or be aware enough to lay it off into the path of a supporting attacker. Speed is vital because the opposition players will be recovering their positions at pace as, often, a lone defender holds up play. Using this exercise, you can replicate counter-attacks in training, perfecting the process using recognised support and teamwork, rather than just raw pace.
Counter-attacking talent is as much about routine and teamwork as it is the ability to control and pass. By rehearsing this move, attackers become accustomed to knowing the right areas to run into, and when to make their move.
Defenders must also practise getting back at pace, watching all the time the movement of their lone team-mate in order to prevent the attack. Counter-attacking talent is as much about routine and teamwork as it is the ability to control and pass. By rehearsing this move, attackers become accustomed to knowing the right areas to run into, and when to make their move. Defenders must also practise getting back at pace, watching all the time the movement of their lone team-mate in order to prevent the attack.
Practice makes perfect, and although workmanlike in training, the counter-attacking move can prove hugely valuable and visually brilliant when played out in a match situation.
How to set it up:
• Set up a playing area measuring 30×20 yards.
• There is an 8-yard zone at each end of the pitch. At the near end this is marked by cones across the pitch, while at the far end it’s best to use a pitch marking or cones on either side to denote the line.
• There is one goal, with a goalkeeper in place.
• Put two teams of three players in the near end zone – one acts as attacking support, the other as defending support.
• Place a striker in the middle area of the pitch, and a defender in the zone near the goal.
• The coach serves the ball out to the striker.
• As soon as that pass is played, the attacking support can move.
• When the lone attacker controls the ball, the defending support can move, as can the defender in the far end zone.
• Attackers must work together to move the ball forward and finish with a shot on goal.
• Replay the move so that players become comfortable in their roles, but going forward, experiment with different conditions to keep the counter-attacks challenging.
For instance, change the time between defenders and attackers moving by calling out “attack go” and “defence go”. Also try varying the number of players in the near end zone in order to favour either defence or attack. This also means you can involve all members of your squad at once. • Rotate players often so that everyone samples the demands of each role.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: Arsenal, attack, Barcelona, creating space, drills, exercise, goal, passing, score, tight defence
By David Clarke
Modern day football formations make it essential that midfielders and attackers become accustomed to playing in congested areas. If they can display the skills needed to produce short, sharp interchanges of play, the rewards in the final third can be impressive.
This session replicates the free-flowing passing football of Arsenal and Barcelona.
It will provide a platform to help your team find a way through opponents with flooded backlines, as well as those who attempt to break up play by deploying one or two holding midfield players.
Why this works
The session requires speedy and decisive passing over short distances. Opposition defenders are used as solid obstacles meaning attackers are encouraged to sidestep their man so as to find an angle for a pass.
The move should prove that the fewer touches each player takes, the quicker and more accurate the pass is likely to be, and with two attacking outlets, the last two defenders will need to make quick decisions as to which player to track.
Try to repeat this move until the attacking players can produce the quick interchanges using only one touch each.
Starting with an attacking triangle, you can adapt the attacking elements of this move to show the freedom of space that players can move into.
How to set it up
Four attackers and four defenders are required for the session to work – in the picture above, the attackers are labelled A, B, C and D.
The activity is carried out in the final third of the field using the goal and a goalkeeper in position.
Players A, B, C and D form a triangular shape.
The four defenders are positioned in the shape of an upside-down letter "Y", spread apart from each other but close to attacking players. They must hold shape and allow the attackers to work the angles.
Player A starts with the ball. He must make an angle to evade the first defender and pass to player B, before making a run towards goal.
Player B lays a similar ball to player C, who after laying a pass to player D makes his own forward run.
Player D controls the ball and look for runs from A and C, then he lays a pass off to his chosen man.
In this instance, player A receives the pass. Making sure to stay onside, he fires at goal with a first-time shot.
Player C must continue his run in order to take advantage of any loose balls or rebounds.
Vary passing shapes but always ensure a centralised midfield move breaks out into a double-headed attack.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: attack, lose, parents, score, shoot, tactics, touchline tale, win
I’ve heard a lot of things shouted at soccer games in youth leagues, but something that I was confronted with at our game last weekend was a new one for me.
It was hot on the heels of a meeting I’d had the day before where the blueprint for youth soccer in England had filled my world with hope for the future of the game. But the positivity and fair-mindedness that I’d experienced was quickly stifled in the reality of an Under-11s match.
We were playing against a strong, tough-tackling, hard-kicking team who were hitting balls at our defence with alarming regularity. Supporting this extremely hard-working team were a group of parents intent on winning, and winning whatever it took.
We adjusted to the pressure and at half-time it was 0-0. We now had the slope of the pitch in our favour. Our slick passing and movement began to gain us the upper hand, and the through-ball exercises we had been working on earlier in the week were looking as though they might pay dividends.
It was at this point one of the opposition parents, obviously realising his son’s team were losing their edge, began shouting warnings. Nothing unusual in that, until a final instruction came: “Don’t let them play!” he screamed. “Stop them playing!” This ‘tactic’ was promptly followed up by other parents. They were trying to end this absorbing game as a contest.
I remarked to the parent how much the players were enjoying the tactical battle, and that shutting down and stifling the game was a real shame… but of course I was ignored and the bluntly shouted instructions continued. This tactic actually allowed us to switch play more easily, and as my players began to pick off the tiring opposition players we found better chances to score. Late on, we finally found the net.
We held on to win the game, and the post-match atmosphere between the two sets of players, if not the parents, was good. It was our opponents’ first loss of the season and those around the sides of the pitch took it badly.
But what they failed to see was that it was a good close game. And it might have been even closer had they let the players continue in the same manner with which they’d approached the first half.
At the end my players said they had enjoyed winning 1-0 much more than the previous week when they’d triumphed 8-0, but I think even they felt the spirit of the game had gone in those final phases. That was a shame, because up until then there had been two styles of play cancelling each other out, providing a platform for an abundance of skill all over the pitch.
If only the parents hadn’t got involved…
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: attack, box to box, defend, drills, exercise, game, how to, lampard, midfielder, pass, score, tackle
Combining pace and aggression going forward with the wherewithal to track back, this is a move inspired by one of the best in the game, Chelsea ‘s Frank Lampard. For over 10 years, the England man has proved a pivotal force in the centre of the park, so here’s an opportunity for your players to try out some of that classic Lampard box-to-box play.
How to set it up:
Play 3v3v3, in an area of 30×30 yards. There are three goals, two in each of the corners and one placed on the opposite side in the middle. One player from each team acts as goalkeeper.
The practice starts with one player from each team attacking the goal to their left – unopposed dribbling and shooting in turn.
Players must concentrate on controlling the ball and approaching each goal at an angle.
At the end of each attack, the two attackers move clockwise around the playing area, ready to attack the next goal. Goalkeepers remain where they are.
To advance this, add defenders to the practice so your attackers have an additional obstacle. l Make sure you rotate players so that everyone gets a chance in each position.
You can also switch play by attacking each goal from the right-hand side.
The key elements:
The focus is on individual skills such as dribbling, shooting and 1v1 attacking and defending.
Highlight those players who are using good technique and creating space.
Don’t be afraid to stop the game, pointing out to your players what they are doing right and wrong in terms of technique and positioning.
Why this works:
Play is centred on a tight area that represents the compacted nature of the midfield. Therefore players are forced to make quick and efficient decisions in attack and defence. Rather than undertake an exercise that encourages a player to pass, this is a great move whereby taking on an opponent can be shown to have a much more dynamic effect on the game, something that is good for players to recognise in a full match situation.