Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


Get The Better Of Cheats In Six Steps

BY Alistair Phillips GUEST BLOGGER

Despite the best efforts of football’s governing bodies, some teams bend or even break the rules to give themselves an advantage. Here are some handy hints to help you get
the better of match day cheats…

STEP 1 RUN A CLEAN TEAM

Make sure your own team is squeaky clean and that all players understand the rules of the game and the expectations of players as stipulated in your FA’s Code of Conduct. If you have to take any form of action against a team that does turn out to be cheating, it will be taken much more seriously if you and your own players have a reputation for fair play.

STEP 2 STICK BY THE RULES

Prior to kick off present the opposing coach with your list of your registered players. By doing this you should encourage them to do the same thing and you will be able to check they are using only properly registered players. It also sets out your stall as a stickler for doing things the right way and as someone who holds the rules of the game in high esteem.

STEP 3 REMAIN DISCIPLINED

If a team you are due to face has a bit of a reputation or you have experienced problems when playing them in the past, remind your players of the need to remain disciplined at all times. Tell them not react to any heavy challenges or verbal provocation during the game but to inform you of any problems they have at half-time and at the end of the game.

STEP 4 CHECK WITH THE REF

When the referee arrives, make sure you introduce yourself and go through a few points briefly before the game. Ask that he punishes bad behaviour and foul play, perhaps letting slip you have had some problems with this in previous games. Then go to your opposing coach and relay the contents of your chat, making sure they are happy with this in advance.

STEP 5 DON’T INFLAME THINGS

Be vocal if you see any cheating during a game but in a way that will not inflame the situation. Remind your team to play to the whistle if a decision goes against you and try and establish eye contact with the referee when you do this. If things have got really bad, speak to the ref at half-time but remember to invite your opposite number into the conversation if you do so.

STEP 6 ALWAYS SHAKE HANDS

At the end of the game make sure your players shake hands with all opposing players. Listen out for any ‘under-thebreath’ remarks and, if you hear any, act on it by reporting what you hear to your opposing coach first. The match may be over but your opponents will remember this before you play them next time. Remember to congratulate your team for playing by the rules.



Focus on the players… not the session

davidscwnewIt all went horribly wrong last week – I coached a team of players and lost the focus of the session and the suitability of the challenges for the players who were doing it. It was my own fault. I had been asked to coach another team straight after my own session.

I hadn’t taken these players before but without giving it any thought, I decided to run the same session I had run earlier with one of my own teams. I had done no homework on the players and, as we started, I quickly realised I needed to change the focus of the session because they were finding it too difficult. Instead of adapting the same session, I whizzed through the library of sessions stored in my memory and started another one. It was far from ideal.

I should have just changed the dimensions of the exercise that I was using and made the session work for them. With my regular team the session had gone like a breeze because they were used to moving the ball around with speed and precision.

I have been working on getting them to pass like Spain, where defenders, midfielders and strikers link up with effortless ease thanks to some great combinational play. Short, sharp passing and clever movement was key to the session – the art of Spain’s wonderful play is dominating possession in this way. And my players coped well with the session, using intelligent passing and great teamwork.

However, when I tried the same session with the next group they weren’t able to use the same techniques or passing movement to make it a success and they weren’t getting the same fun out of it as my team had.

This caused one or two players to show their boredom in other ways so I had to go in and change the session. Rather than adapt it, I changed the session completely, but this just stripped away the focus and made the challenges I had set meaningless. I struggled on and forced the new session through but afterwards I was disappointed that I had ignored my own advice and tried to totally change the session rather than alter it to get their understanding.

I had been caught out because I took it for granted that the players would be able to cope with my session, even though I had never coached them before. It was a timely reminder that I should have focused on the players and their needs, rather than focus on the session – and that a session can be altered to make it work for different groups of players.



Control the game without the ball

davidscwnew

An important characteristic of modern teams is their ability to control the game even when they haven’t got the ball. The whole team plays a part in this tactic with the intention of forcing the opposition into awkward situations.

The formation succeeds by covering all avenues of opposition attack, meaning that play is stifled. It relies on pressing as soon as the opposition has the ball. The defending team always keeps the action in front of them and tries to stop any balls through the centre or in behind.

This tactic requires good fitness from players because it is hard work. And for pressing to work, the team must prevent any switches of play as this will give overload initiatives to attackers. But performed well, the game rewards are significant.

How to set it up:

  • Set up an area measuring 30×20 yards. Make three 10-yard zones across the width of the pitch.

  • You will need bibs, cones, balls and goals.

  • The players in the middle zone must prevent other teams passing through them.

  • This featured session uses nine players split into groups of three (one group in each area), but it will work with any equal denominations.

  • No balls are allowed over head height.

  • Players are restricted to two touches.

Getting started:

  • Play starts with either end zone team. Players pass amongst themselves before threading a ball through to the team in the opposite end zone.

  • For the first two minutes, the middle team is not allowed to move any player out of its zone.

  • After two minutes, allow one player from the middle zone to go forward into the an end zone to press the ball. Play this for three minutes.

  • If the ball is intercepted, play restarts at the other end.

  • Rotate play so that each team fulfils defensive duties in the middle.

Now try this:

  • Remove the zones and add two goals, with a keeper in each. Also add a halfway line.

  • Keep the teams in threes but this time the middle team attacks one end, then turns and attacks the other.

  • The outer two teams must defend the area and clear the ball using the pressing technique.

  • If a goal is scored, play restarts with the middle group and they attack in the opposite direction. If a tackle is made, the defenders’ reward is to now switch places with the middle group, thus becoming the attackers.

Why this works:

Pressing the ball is a great tactic for winning back possession. This activity shows the value in doing that, compared to standing off waiting to intercept. Pressing means opposition players rarely settle on the ball and mistakes can be forced, either through poor control or a rushed pass.



Running from deep – whole-part-whole session

davidscwnew

Many defenders and midfielders think that once the ball has been fed to a striker, their job is done. But they should be supporting the front men by running past them and into unmarked attacking areas.

So here’s a session that helps players understand the value of supporting play and passing into dangerous areas of the pitch. It uses "whole-part-whole" coaching – namely going straight into a game, then breaking things down to show players coaching detail, then back to the game.

How to play it

  • Set up as shown in the pictures above – this is a 6v6 game (including keepers).

  • One player from each team stays in the zone in front of the goal – the target man, who can only use one or two-touch. He cannot score and can only assist others.

Whole

  • The game starts with teams looking to score in the opponent’s goal.

  • Using peeled, overlapping or blindside runs, players must create space to receive the ball then shoot at goal.

  • Play for 10 minutes to allow players to get a feel for the game.

Part

  • Change the game now to focus on the movement from deep of the supporting players.

  • Now all players start in the same half, with the defending team’s target man moved back to the halfway line.

  • The attacking team combines to feed a pass to its target man before attacking the goal.

  • If the defending team turns over possession, it can attack the other goal by passing to its target player on the halfway line. Players have only three touches before they must shoot but their players cannot be tackled.

  • Play for five attacks then switch teams over so both teams experience the same conditions.

Whole

  • Replay the first part again. This time, you will find players automatically making more runs from deep.

Technique and tactics

  • Players have to make supporting runs because the target man can only play the ball back to a team mate to create goalscoring chances.

  • Runs from deep involve movement to lose a player, to reach a position for the target player to pas to them, to use good technique in order to control or shoot at goal.

  • Players should use different types of passes to find the target player and must support from deep with a wide variety of well-timed and well-angled runs.



Solve your coaching problems

davidscwnewA couple of seasons ago I was asked to take over a team that the club said were underachieving – they wanted the side to get more success than they were having. So I went along to watch them. It seemed that for the first half of matches they were very successful and were often winning at half-time, but they always seemed to capitulate in the second half. I found it slightly puzzling that it happened so often, but I soon realised exactly why.

The team had a player who was an outstanding defender. He read the game well and was the type of footballer anyone would want in their team – commanding, fearless, always in the right place at the right time and joined in with attacks.

But this last point was the reason for the team’s second-half horrors. It transpired this young man had come to a deal with the old manager to play in defence for one half but attack for the second. With the player gone from defence the team were soon in trouble – and I cant for the life of me think why he wanted to play up front. He rarely saw the ball, and when he did it was usually from a panic clearance that he struggled to control. As his frustrations got the better of him, the coach took him off to calm him down.

I’m all for players moving around in different positions, but this just wasn’t working and the team were throwing away excellent first-half performances to accommodate this deal. I spoke to the player and his parents and I gave them an idea about what I wanted. I saw him as a fantastic centre half running the game from defence, but I also accepted that he should get the chance to play in attack.

However, rather than change at half-time, I explained that I would target games when he was most needed in defence, and for other games he could move up the pitch, allowing his team-mates to gain valuable experience at the back. As a result, he was still getting to play up front but we were getting full games out of him playing in defence.

I also made him captain, which gave him a huge boost. Having him at the back for full games made a huge difference to the next few games and the team began to be much more successful, built on the shoulders of a great player who excelled at the fundamentals of defending.

The manager had been doing the right things but he needed to think more about the problems he was having and come up with a solution like mine. Sometimes it takes another pair of eyes to see where a coach is falling down and a simple solution will often fix it.



Why grassroots coaches matter

davidscwnewOne of the positives to have come out of the opening of St George’s Park in England is the recognition being given to the thousands of coaches up and down the country that make grassroots football tick. St Georges will hopefully be putting coaches at the forefront of football in England, much like the situation is in Europe and America.

Without coaches there wouldn’t be matches taking place every weekend. The hours you coaches spend getting the right advice and the right sessions not only helps to create a development culture at your club but is also vitally important to the children you coach.

I know how hard it is for all of you because I’ve started clubs too, and have stood in front of parents wondering how on earth I was going to fulfil their wishes. Like you, I’ve stood at the end of a game when my team has lost, wondering if we would ever win again. Yes, it can be hard sometimes, but coaching is also a wonderful experience, with some amazing highs.

I spoke to a coach this week who has set up his own team because the side his son played for no longer saw the boy as part of their future. His son sat on the bench most matches and when he was allowed on, he was screamed at and told what to do. That’s not being a coach – coaches make football fun.

To rescue his son he created a team and set about learning what he should be coaching and how to manage. He hadn’t realised all the things he would have to do: the amount of emails to players, the collection of subs, the payment of referees, coping with training, getting a kit and buying the right equipment.

But I went to one of his matches and it was great to see him doing everything the right way, encouraging his players and making sure they all got a game. And at the end, when his team had won, he was bubbling over with delight. By doing it all himself he is learning the hard way that coaching is a huge responsibility.

As Head Coach of Soccer Coach Weekly I want to recognise all the hard work that goes into the role of the coach by shining a light on some of you who do the job. In our Coach Of The Month feature, the magazine recognises grassroots coaches with all kinds of experience, whether it be for putting so much into the game every week or maybe just for making the kids happy.

If you want to nominate someone, or even yourself, to be Coach Of The Month, please tell us why and you could be featured in the magazine. Email your nominations to editor@soccercoachweekly.net



Let the kids take the session

davidscwnewEvery so often at training I like to give my players the reins of the session and see how they create a game.

I know my players love to play games, and I love the fun they get out of it. Not only that but they learn much faster and retain more of what they learn from being actively and closely involved in the session.

So I involve my players in setting and changing the rules for the session. The more involved they feel, the more they’ll invest, and undoubtedly, the more they will enjoy it. So maybe try something new out at your next training session. For instance, before your players arrive, mark out a pitch and place a ball in the middle. Make sure there are no other balls available.

As your players arrive, stay away from the playing area and tell them to go out and get started on their own.

When there are enough players they will probably organise themselves into teams and will begin a game. Let them play for five minutes and then stop them. Find out what rules they were playing and why. Then set them a couple of challenges that they have to incorporate into the game, such as asking them to win the ball back within 20 seconds of losing it. Only give them a brief outline of the challenge and see how they work it into the game.

Getting them to think about what they can do to make the game more fun makes them feel part of a unit; it offers them a voice. It’s a great bonding element that goes a long way towards developing a team.

If it doesn’t happen the first time you try it don’t give up. Say to a couple of players as they head outside “Why don’t you get a game started?” You’ll probably notice the younger ones organising full-scale games, while the older kids may be perfecting the finer elements.

Let them play the session for a good 20 or 30 minutes, stopping every five minutes for a quick chat about the rules, seeing if your players want to change anything to make the game more fun.

I’d be willing to bet they don’t want the game to stop because they will see it as their own. And I’m sure that empowerment will mean they go home from training with smiles on their faces.



Why warm-ups are a good habit

Driving to a match at the beginning of the season I got stuck in some roadworks that made the journey take twice the time it usually does. I made it to the game just in time for a quick chat with the players before they went on.

There are two or three different ways to get to our home ground from where I live, and for years I’d gone the same way. But those roadworks were going nowhere fast – it would be months of holdups unless I changed the way I went.

So I started taking a new route to the ground. Yes, one week I forgot and went the old way and got snarled up in traffic, but gradually I got used to the new route.

I had a laugh to myself last weekend then when, even though the roadworks have gone, I set off the ‘new’ route, because I have become so used to going that way, and I trust it will deliver me to the ground on time.

Now there’s a thing – I’ve changed a habit. It’s something most people tell me is hard to do but I’ve done it. And when I think about why I want to get to the ground on time, it’s because of another habit I changed…

When I first started coaching, I had no time for warm-ups or doing the right things before a game. I arrived seconds before kick-off and regarded warm-ups as being for wimps – my team didn’t need them!

But gradually I learned more about young players and that they needed to stretch both mind and body in the lead-up to a game. I learned how much better they would perform when they were 100% ready to play. The more I studied the game the more I had to admit I was hindering my players by not doing those other things. So just like forcing myself to drive a new way to the match, I forced myself to change.

Along the way I had setbacks, but over time my players stopped letting in silly early goals and even started scoring early themselves. And there were no pulled muscles or players out of breath after a couple of minutes of running.I forced myself to be a better coach on match days.

And that’s why I hate getting to the ground late, because it reminds me of my old habits. Preparing yourself and your players for a game is so important – make sure you do it.



Communicate with your players through challenges

davidscwnewHow 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.

Why challenge?
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?



Matches are NOT coaching sessions

davidscwnewSome of my fellow coaches have been labelling me as a stuck record, of late. But if you’ll indulge me in the same way that I ask them to, I’ll explain why I’m so passionate about allowing kids to play the game without them being told what to do – to make their own decisions.

The truth is you should only be coaching your players when you are running sessions, or when they are playing a game in training. Basically, it’s only at a time when you can stop the game and make observations and suggestions. During a match – whether it is a friendly or league game – you should only be reminding players of their responsibilities, because the most important thing in this situation is for players to try out what you have been coaching; it’s the best environment for them in which to make mistakes… and learn from them. That way the experience gets logged in their brains through experience.

This week I observed a coach who constantly told his players what to do. A ball in the air, and he shouted “head it, head it”… a ball coming towards a player, “kick it hard”… a player running with the ball “pass it, PASS IT”. You get the picture. When I asked the coach if he thought this was the best approach, he responded: “I never tell them what to do – I’m just shouting to get them thinking.”

But they don’t need to think because they’re being instructed by the coach at every turn.

Interestingly, when the coach turned his back for a few seconds his players were looking around for him, shrugging their shoulders unsure what to do. He smiled at me and said, “See, if I don’t tell them what they should be doing they’re stuck.”

He’d missed the point completely.

I have told you this little tale because even the best coaches dictate things to their players when they should really just be letting them get on with it – I’m guilty of it myself.

At the end of the day, players who make decisions for themselves are developing every time they have to do it – even when they choose the wrong option. If we continue to instruct our players at every turn they’ll never develop the instinctive elements of play that all good sportsmen have.

Try to hold back this coming weekend and see if your players surprise you – I bet they do.




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