Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: coaching, development, games, organise, rules, sessions, warm ups
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.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: coach, coaching, habits, match days, tactics, time keeping, warm ups
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.
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: coaching, coaching sessions, decisions, develop, drills, exercises, how to coach, style
Some 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.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: coaching, Courses, how to be a coach, practice, sessions, training
Coaching isn’t just a matter of turning up and running a session – anyone can do that. You need to think about how you are going to deliver the session so the learning experience is heightened for your players.
These four questions will help you decide how you coach your sessions:
- Know your players – which ones need what, and when do they need your help?
- Talk to/listen to your players – are they enjoying the sessions?
- Do they understand what they are doing?
- Ask yourself… did my intervention have a positive impact on their learning?
Here are my seven tips on how to get the most out of coaching your sessions:
1. What is the problem?
Picture in your mind what it is that your team is doing wrong. Think about the type of session you need to help the team.
2. What is available to me? What resources do you have that relate to the problem? Soccer Coach Weekly issues are a great place to start.
3. Have I used a session in the past to cover the topic?
Think about what you have done before when you have come across this problem. Did you solve it? Can you use it again?
4. How will individuals react to the session?
Some of your players will respond negatively to certain sessions you run. If you know your players well you should be able to spot problems before they arise.
5. Is it simple or complex?
How much guidance do you need to give your players? Sometimes simple is best. If it is complex make sure you explain it carefully before the players have to go and do it.
6. Are you reviewing work already covered?
If you are revisiting work, you need to quickly get the session going and work your players at the level you worked at when you last ran the session – they know the topic so the understanding should already be there.
7. During the session does it feel right?
Your gut feeling is often a good indicator as to whether or not the session is working. If it is, great, make a note of what went right. If not, don’t despair. Write down what went wrong and change it next time.
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: coaching, linesman, offside, referee, roles, teams, youth
You might, like me, have also found it strange how mobile phones start apparently ringing, pulled muscles come into the conversation and urgent dog walking needs to be taken care of… any excuse so as not to have to run the line!
As coach of the team, I haven’t had to run the line for a couple of years… that was, until this week, when I’d gone to watch one of my boys play. Over came the coach, and before I knew it, I was the one preparing to stand up to the shouting and ridicule!
So off I went tripping over the siblings sat too close to the pitch whilst trying to avoid the potholed parts of the touchline.
The referee was chairman of the club and pretty well qualified, with 15 years’ experience as the man in black. But twice in the first 10 minutes I raised the flag and wasn’t spotted. On the third occasion, I stood waving away trying to get the attention of the referee to a chorus of “you must be joking!” from opposition players and parents alike.
“Does he know you’re there?” quipped one of comedians. Up my arm went again as the opposition started another attack. “NEVER!” shouted their manager who was standing half way down the pitch obviously in a better position than myself. I wondered why I was bothering!
During an attack in the second half the ball was put in the net by a boy clearly standing in an offside position. “I’ve given it,” shouted the referee to much cheering from the opposition players and parents.
I asked him if he’d again failed to spot my flag waving. “Look,” he said, “I’ve given it; you were too slow.”
“Too slow?! I am not a professional linesman,” I was about to say – but the moment was gone and I still had a job to do… not that I was enjoying it much!Needless to say I was glad when the final whistle blew and I could give the flag back to the referee.
“Thanks”, he said, with a smile.
In fact that was the only thing that prevented this from being a completely thankless task.
The point of all this – youth soccer coaching may come with many pitfalls and frustrations, but the rewards are plentiful, and real, and when you do things correctly, it really does get noticed.
There are many worse roles in soccer – running the line being one of them!
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: coaching, coaching style, communication, exercises, physical, player centric, players, verbal, visual
I went to a demonstration this week by a couple of highly respected youth coaches to see examples of the different ways you can coach young players. There were some really good coaching and session ideas that I was privileged to take away from the get together.
However, one thing that was clear to me was that the players were having a hard time understanding exactly what was expected of them.
Both sessions were player- and activity-centric – but, because this was a meet-up designed for coaching knowledge, the players at times were clearly unsure of what they were doing and what was expected of them. In that respect, the experiment failed on all levels, bar one – namely in reminding me that one of the most important things you must do with players is ensure they are ‘with you’ at every step along the path of learning. It’s the whole purpose of what we do, after all.
If you notice that players are not doing what they are supposed to or are looking around to see how others perform the task, either they were not listening or you failed to get instructions across well enough.
Remember, players understand things in three different ways:
It is important that for each demonstration a coach must:
- Perform and show the technique that is being learnt, or recreate the scenario for tactical feedback (the visual part).
- Use explanations and key coaching points through the stages of the demonstration (the verbal part).
- Let the players perform the technique or replay the situation (the physical part).
This way, you can be sure your players know what they are doing. And it will ensure you make the most of every session you take.
Filed under: Dave Clarke | Tags: christmas, coaching, exercises, jose mourinho, presents, soccer gifts
SOCCER COACH WEEKLY £47 This is the best subscription product on the market for grass roots coaches anywhere in the world – I know the experience and effort that goes into bringing the most up to date coaching advice it is possible to get.
COERVER COACHING – MAKE YOUR MOVE £55.99 This series features skills for players to practise step-by-step on their own, as well as drills and games for coaches and teachers to use in their practice sessions. Learn the skills and how to coach them – such as the reverse drag push, scissors step over and fake inside cut.
A must for any aspiring player or coach to watch and learn from.
ELITE SOCCER – JOSE MOURINHO SESSION £27
The session focuses on defensive organization and there is no coach in the world who is more meticulous in setting up his side properly than José.
Take this chance to coach like José and for your players to train like Real Madrid.
RED CARD ROY – ROY MCDONOUGH £8.95 The jaw-dropping story of terrace cult hero Roy McDonough. Featuring a who’s who cast from football in the 70s, 80s and 90s – from his unlikely friendship with the late, great Bobby Moore to his run-ins with current Premier League managers David Moyes, Martin O’Neill and Tony Pulis (who he kung-fu kicked to the floor after five minutes of an FA Cup tie).
Read my review here
This is my favourite manual of this year… and it works if you use the sessions and allow your players to get into the spirit of the Barcelona way.
It gives your players the ability to grasp that match winning opportunity. Have they got the skill and confidence to make the right play when it matters most?
The manual will help your team develop the technical ability to manoeuvre opponents out of position and create more goalscoring chances.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: coaching, girls, goalkeepers, sessions
USSF D Cert Youth Coach
I currently coach at the U10 level for a girls club team. I have had most of this group for five seasons now. Up to this age, I have found it extremely difficult to effectively incorporate keeper training into my regular training sessions.
So this year I decided to stop trying to fold it into regular field type trainings. There will be a few exceptions where the keeper position can train during a field session effectively, depending on the lesson plan but most of the time they are doing a lot of standing and that isn’t good. Instead, I hold an additional training session each week for keepers. I do invite all of the players to attend. If they want to play keeper in a game, they have to attend a keeper training that week and participate as a keeper.
The non-keeper players that want to participate in the training session can and I have some fun drills for those non-keeper attendees. I use the non-keeper players to help play the attacking player, the servers, etc., so that I can spend more time helping the keeper work on technique, instead of acting as the server myself. The plus is that they are size and skill comparable to what the keeper will see in a game. I also use the non-keeper player to be the ball retriever during keeper throw, punt and kick drills.
When retrieving balls we use it to help the non-keeper player to work on their power and accuracy of their driven kicks by giving them a target to drive the ball into, which is near our supply of balls. It has worked very well so far.
I used this method last spring with a U18 Girls club team that I coached at the USSF select level. The success I saw there is what made me try it with the younger team too. I did find that I could incorporate keeper training into the older group’s sessions easier but I think it was due to having a very capable assistant that could take charge of the field player coaching points while I concentrated on the keepers, during the same combined drills.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: coach educator, coaching, drills, exercises, one hour, session content, session planning
By David Clarke
I am always being told by coaches they don’t have enough time to get things done because they only have one hour coaching a week. It’s tough for them and I genuinely sympathise. I know myself how hard it is to get enough time with my players.
I’ve had to pull out of coaching tomorrow night because there’s a great coach education session at the Premier League Academy I go to – you can’t fit everything in but what you do fit in should always be relevant.
I was taking the rubbish bins out last weekend at home when one of the coaches who works at our club pulled up in his car. ‘What are you doing on Tuesday afternoon?” he asked.
“I’ll have to check – what do you have in mind?”
“My team needs some coaching; we’re all over the place at the moment.”
I know his team because I’ve coached them at various stages in their development, and given the players they have on board, I was a bit surprised that he felt they needed help. So getting to the bottom of the issues he was having was undoubtedly the best starting point.
I found that he was getting the team together for two one-hour sessions a week – he led each session while another coach helped out. His players were getting a good quantity of coaching – two hours a week for training is good; about double the average – but was the quality there?
He told me that his focus had been weakened by work commitments, and that much of those two hours was spent on general play and fitness – players running around and a number of small-sided games. He hadn’t been coaching passages of play, for instance, because time hadn’t allowed him to get started on specific ideas.
This was resulting in players who used the width of the pitch well but took the wrong options when in key attacking situations.
“It just seems to fizzle out,” he said.
So I took one of his sessions with the aim of focusing the players on things they weren’t doing so well. After all, the season is still only halfway through and his team could still turn this into a memorable year. We worked on giving his players options and letting them see the different ways to solve problems. I then offered him additional sessions to build on coaching points – none of them requiring him to come home early from work!
And as for the second training session? “Scrap it”, I said. “Halve the time you’re with them but make the session driven and relevant for the entire 60 minutes.”
And using resources such as Soccer Coach Weekly really does help.
Surely it’s better to introduce an all-encompassing session rather than use a number of loose ideas that might take two hours to combine together? An hour a week is enough if you focus your sessions and squeeze every ounce out of whatever coaching point is being introduced… and there should always be one.