Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


12 –point plan for technical top marks

davidscwnewI’m starting some extra coaching this season which means I’m going to be looking at developing a team of eight-year-olds through to the age of 12. A couple of the parents asked how I’d kick things off, and I thought I’d share with you what my plan will be. My immediate thoughts are that I want my players to be technically good. I’ll then mix that in with a few speed of movement skills. Initially I will use unopposed sessions until my players are up to speed. I can then put in opposition to make the task harder.

Here’s my 12-point technical plan.

I will tell players to:
1. Use side of the foot and instep to kick the ball both along the ground and through the air with accuracy.
2. Use all parts of the body to keep the ball in the air… apart from the arms!
3. Control the ball with all parts of the body… apart from arms!
4. Concentrate on accuracy of passing when on the move.
5. Shoot at goal with accuracy, which takes priority over power.
6. Concentrate on crossing accuracy to near and far posts. This will take some time with the younger ones and therefore crossing will be initially about direction rather than power.
7. Try to gain confidence in defensive and attacking heading using the right technique.
8 Take on board 1v1 skills that give them the ability to get past an opponent using feints and stepovers.
9. Practise quick passing tactics to get past opponents with skills like wall passes.
10. Practise individual techniques like shielding, recovering, tackling.
11. Take notice of the correct technique and tactics for throw-ins.
12. Appreciate the art of set pieces, freekicks, corners and penalties. This is my initial technical blueprint.

Of course, we have tactics, positional play and a code of conduct that comes outside of this, but as a pretty thorough technical game plan, I can’t wait to get it started. I’ll let you know how you get on; feel free to use with on your team..



Make use of the cold weather

Wow, the temperature just gets colder and colder. As a result, there was no way our match was going to be played at the weekend.

I very quickly get withdrawal symptoms from not playing matches, particularly when we’ve prepared well.

Take this week for example – I knew we had two tough games approaching, so had been training support play in defence. This is where the players cut down the space in and around the penalty area, all the time being ready to cover if the defence is breached.

So when I heard that our weekend game was off I went to look at the pitch to see if there was any way we could have a kickabout amongst ourselves.

Because only a couple of teams use our pitch – coupled with the fact we have an excellent groundsman – there were no spikes of frozen mud on the playing surface. Those peaks can be especially dangerous to youth players, so always watch out for them. But thankfully the pitch seemed just very flat and hard – a bit like playing on tarmac.

I called around the parents and most of their kids wanted to come along. The masses soon arrived, and I kept the players warm with hot chocolate from the local cafe – which is, by the way, a drink recommended for half time in cold weather.

I double-checked the pitch with three of the dads. The top layer had crusted, which made it fine to play on.

We played 8v8 in order to brush up on the defensive lessons we’d learnt in the previous session. And the conditions really did us a favour…The hardness of surface provided the best reason for the lads to stay on their feet at all times – a lesson that’s always worth re-learning. In addition, the responsiveness of the ground created the need for good passing accuracy from players.

And finally, by the time we’d summed up the session at the end with a biscuit and another hot chocolate, there was a togetherness in the team that we just wouldn’t have had from a normal training session; a camaraderie and joint spirit brought about by having to battle against unusual conditions.

Try to use adverse events as a spur for your side. See how players react – even introduce some artificial obstacles if you think the effect may be really positive. You may be surprised how your team responds to the challenge!



Ghost attackers can be the real deal

David Clarke

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.



Why defence is as important as attack

DCI received the following email from my ‘right hand man’ after the match on Saturday. (I’ve changed players’ names for obvious reasons).

“Dave – I keep questioning why we didn’t score more goals today. John has got to pass the ball earlier. Too many times he lost possession at the corner flag. Peter would be better on that side as he only has a right foot. If John went on the left would he have to cut in? Do we use both on that side, one at a time? Could we try Will in left midfield against league leaders Texas Eagles? Do we need a bit of speed at the back? If we don’t get the crosses in against better teams we won’t score at all – or am I being too negative?”

We won the game 3-0 and are second in the league, but the reason for the text was that we had scored our third goal after 20 minutes and then failed to find the net again in the rest of the game. One of the parents commented that he was surprised that we hadn’t “killed the game off in the second-half”.

Fresh from an 8-0 victory in the previous match everyone was hoping for more of the same. But soccer isn’t like that. I will have to convince the parents and my fellow coach that defence is just as important as attack. The truth is I was as pleased we had kept two clean sheets in a row as I was that we’d scored 11 goals in two games.

We are doing a lot of work on defensive positions with supporting play a priority. If a player commits there should always be a covering player blocking the route to goal should they fail to win the ball. In the text, the comment “could we try Will in left midfield?” was because this left-footed player had an outstanding match at left-back.
But what my helper failed to realise was that the reason for the two clean sheets is that the back two are playing really well together and I won’t be changing that to give us more weight in attack.

When you are coaching you must remember you cannot always score lots of goals, and never forget that keeping clean sheets is an excellent testament to your coaching just as much as scoring goals is. So you must use defensive exercises as much as attacking ones, no matter what everyone else is telling you.

Defensive drills and games




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