Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


Hit the target man and score

By David Clarkedavidscwnew

This is a great game to practise with all ages. It is all about using target men to set up attacks. Neither team can score without utilising the target man, so this is a great game to teach link-up play in the final third and reminds players not to be greedy.

It also rehearses the art of playing through opponents, and only positive and well-organised supporting runs will be rewarded with goalscoring opportunities.

How to set it up:

  • Create a playing area measuring 35×25 yards.

  • Within that, create two end zones, each 10 yards in from the goal lines.

  • There are two goals – one at each end – and keepers in place.

  • This game is best played with two teams of four outfield players.

Getting started:

  • This game has no offsides, and if the ball leaves play, you have a few different restart options:

1. You pass a new ball onto the pitch.

2. Players take a roll-in.

3. Players take a throw-in.

4. Players make a pass-in.

5. Players dribble the ball in.

  • Each team selects one player to be the "target man". This player stands in the attacking end zone.

  • The aim of the game is to make a pass to the target man, and then for a supporting player to receive a lay-off pass to shoot at goal.

  • When the target man receives the ball, only one defender can come back to attempt to break up play.

  • After a shot is made, the shooting player swaps position with the target man.

  • If a tackle is made before the ball goes through to the target man, the other team can attack in the opposite direction.

  • Restart after a goal or if the ball goes out of play.

  • The game is played for a set time period of 15 minutes.



Turn crosses into goals

davidscwnew

Arriving in the box in the right place at the right time is a particular strength of the world’s top strikers and attacking midfielders. Giving your players this ability will add to the potency of your team’s attack.

During your training session work on these things:

  • Are the attackers meeting the ball as it arrives or are they waiting for the cross? Perfect timing will make the defender’s job of marking almost impossible.
  • Ask the wingers to supply a variety of crosses at different angles, heights and speeds to encourage the attackers to make different runs.

Good build up play will allow wingers to exploit width, putting them in a position to get the ball into the box for your forwards to attack. This session shows your players how to turn these opportunities into goals by getting players on the end of crosses.

  1. Use an area the size of two penalty areas.
  2. One goal either side.
  3. Wingers start at either corner on one side of the area, attackers on the opposite side.

In diagram 1 the first winger carries the ball the length of the playing area and crosses the ball. Attackers set off just after and try to get on the end of the cross and score. The players join the back of the queue and the exercise repeats in the opposite direction.

In diagram 2 you can advance the play from diagram 1 by adding a pair of defenders. This will increase the pressure on the attackers to find a yard of space and on the wingers to improve their crossing accuracy.

  • The coach passes into the two attackers who combine to move the ball wide to the winger.
  • The attackers must then try to lose the defenders and score from the winger’s cross.
  • After attacking, you defend and the previous defenders break out to attack the opposite goal.


Simple practice to keep the ball – use the space

David ClarkeA lot of the basic exercises that teams work on in training involve passing to a team mate. So once players are proficient in that, it’s time to coach them in passing into space.

One of the great things about passing teams is that they know how to use space to maximum advantage, and the effects can be devastatingly good.

Even as individuals, the ability to anticipate where a team mate is moving to is an important part of player development – and one that initially takes a while to master. While this can be frustrating for coaches, rehearsing and practising using space will eventually work, so always persevere.

The size of the playing area is important in this practice, because the bigger that area the easier the task is. Therefore, start off in a space measuring 20×20 yards, then make it bigger or smaller depending on how your players cope.

 How to set it up:

• In your 20×20-yard area, mark a halfway line to create two boxes.

There are three attackers and two defenders.

• In one box it’s 1v1, while the other has two attackers and the remaining defender in it.

Getting started:

• The idea of the game is to have continuous 2v1s in each box. So for their team to retain possession, one of the attacking players has to move each time the ball changes boxes.

• Start the game in the box that contains two attackers. They must combine before passing to their team mate in the other box.

• As soon as the ball is passed, one of the two players must move into the other box to create a new 2v1 overload. All other players must remain in their designated box.

• While attackers must always be on the move, looking to create space for the pass, defenders are more cautious. They defend passively at first, so can only intercept or force an error, rather than tackle. If they do succeed in winning the ball, they simply put it out of play.

• Time to see how long the attackers can keep possession of the ball.

• Play for five minutes then swap teams around so each player has a go at both attacking and defending.

• Award extra points for feints or skills that create space for the pass.

 Developing the session:

• You can develop the session by instructing attackers to make three passes before sending the ball into the other box.

• Encourage attackers to produce a two-touch game so that they control and pass in one fluid movement.

• Allow defenders to tackle.

Why this works:

To retain possession of the ball, attackers must create space to pass into, at the same time sending the defender the wrong way. They need good skills and sound technique to prevent defenders from winning the ball. This is a skills workout that makes players think about moving, and how their movement creates space that the defender cannot defend. You should see signs of improvement in your players if this session is run over a handful of consecutive weeks.



Overloads in circles

By David Clarke

David Clarke

It can be difficult at times to find a good workout for your players that replicates the vital first touch, good movement and quick passing of typical match day situations.

Players are generally relaxed in training – sometimes overly so – and there’s certainly less pressure on them performing a move well.

But with the right set-up, and providing you can instil the notion that a player’s team mates are depending on him (and him only) to perform a specific task, you can get your team working at a high tempo.

This activity ensures players remain physically and mentally alert at all times, always aware of the concept of using available space in order to make maximum use of the ball.

It is a fast session that rehearses overloads, shooting, passing and movement in the same manner that your players will encounter in a match – indeed, a shortened version of this is perfect as a pre-match practice, so ensure every player is getting the ball and thinking about moving to the pass.

How to set it up:

  • Alter the size of the playing area depending on the ages of your players. For U9s, use the centre circle of an adult (11-a-side) pitch, or a circle 20 yards in diameter. For U10s and older, mark out a 30-yard circle as a playing area.
  • You will need to create three small goals using cones at equal points around the playing area. These will each be two yards wide. There are six players on one team and three on the other, though you can alter the number of players and the size of the playing area depending on your squad size, providing one team has twice as many players as the other.

This is a great overload game that never allows players to relax. Because it is performed in a playing area that most aren’t accustomed to, they should be constantly aware of situations developing around them.

In the second exercise, the playing numbers are still 6v3, but the overload is not as obvious with players inside the circle feeling as though they are involved in a 3v3 small-sided game.

On each occasion, look for players to adapt their style of play to the way in which they can score points. The team of six should be looking to play a controlled passing game, while the team of three must be bold and ambitious in their attacking play.

GETTING STARTED

The warm-up

  • One player on the team of six starts with the ball at his feet.

  • He must release the ball to a team mate. His team aims to complete six consecutive passes.

  • The team with three players must attempt to overturn possession. If it does, it tries to score in one of the small goals.

  • Play this for 10 minutes.

The main move

  • Now they have warmed up, prepare your players to restart with the same 6v3 set-up.

  • This time though, the team of six must arrange themselves so that three players begin inside the circle and three outside.

  • The three inside must keep possession, always attempting to switch with players on the outside of the circle by passing the ball to them. When they do this, they swap places with their team mate.

  • They gain a point for each successful pass out and player switch.

  • As before, the team of three gain a point by winning the ball and scoring in one of the three goals.

  • Play for 10 minutes then rotate players.



Creating a stylish strike force the Italian way

David Clarke

I started my coaching session this week with an attacking drill inspired by the game between Palermo and Inter Milan last season in Italy. The two main men were Diego Milito and Fabrizio Miccoli – an M&M exhibition.

It creates situations that will keep a frontman’s mind active – switching between measured approach play and first-time shooting.

How to set it up

  • Create an area measuring 30 yards long by 20 yards wide. Use two goals,
    two goalkeepers, a striker, four servers and plenty of balls.

  • Position the four servers, one on each corner of the square,
    numbering them 1 to 4, anti-clockwise from the top left.

  • Place a cone in the centre – this is the starting point.

Getting started

  • Server 1 plays the ball into the centre where the striker
    controls with his first touch then shoots with his second.

  • The striker then turns and moves quickly to a pass from the
    opposite side of the area and repeats the task, as in the top picture.

  • He then returns to the centre for a pass from server 2, but this
    time the striker must dribble and go 1v1 with the goalkeeper. He
    then quickly turns for a pass from server 1, controls and shoots in the opposite goal, as in the middle picture.

  • In the final test the striker must shoot first time from passes by
    servers 3 and 4. No controlling touch is allowed as in the bottom picture.

  • At the end of the sequence, rotate all players.



The chipping green – developing a soft touch

David Clarke

A great game to play at the end of your training session is chipping the balls into the bag! You’re coaching a skill and getting the players to clear up.

When golfers talk about getting a feel of the ball around the greens, they’re talking about a soft touch using their hands to chip the ball so it doesn’t go racing past the hole. Soccer players can get a feel for the ball with this chipping game and help them to realise it isn’t all about power.

It also means that when they are receiving the ball in a match they will find it much easier to manipulate because they won’t put their foot through the ball.

There are lots of reasons I use this exercise:

  • It takes seconds to set up.
  • A great game to play while waiting for players to turn up at the start of training – you can start with one player and end up with ten.
  • Or a great game for the end of training to put all the training balls back into the bag.
  • It develops soft touch and control of the ball.

How to play it

  • All you need is your ball bag, players and balls.
  • Players stand in a circle around three yards away.
  • One player starts with the ball on the ground and tries to chip it in to the bag.
  • Players take it in turns to hold the bag open and can chest the ball into the bag if the chipping player misses.
  • If it goes in they get 1 point and the next player goes.
  • If they miss the next player tries to put the same ball into the bag.
  • When a player misses, whoever reaches the ball first can take the next turn.

The game ends when the last ball is in the bag. Everyone’s a winner (including you, you don’t have to collect all the balls!).



Keepy uppies helps kids master the ball

David Clarke

Juggling is a great way to improve mastery of the ball, which will help your players during matches and give their confidence a boost. Three things come out of juggling:

  • Improving ball control and touch.

  • Improving coordination.

  • Improving reactions.

All age groups can do juggling and they should eventually be able to use all parts of their body – thighs, head, chest – to keep the ball in the air. But for young or inexperienced players it is best to start off with simple kicks so they get the feel of it. It is also best to do it on firmer surfaces because the ball will not bounce off muddy ones.

The technique is to use the laces of the boot, keep toes pointing up and tap directly under the ball.

  • Hold the ball with both hands and it let drop to the ground. After one bounce, tap the ball back up and catch (bounce-foot-catch).

  • Next, rather than catch the ball, let it bounce, tap it again, then catch (bounce-foot-bounce-foot-catch).

  • Try increasing the number of bounces and taps before catching the ball to 3, then 4 etc.

  • Now try tapping the ball twice before it bounces (bounce-foot-foot-catch), then 3 times etc.

  • Repeat all progressions several times with each foot. Hold the ball, release it so it falls, but tap it back into hands before it hits the ground. Increase the difficulty by tapping the ball two, three, four times etc before catching. Now, try moving the ball from one foot to the other and back again. (right-left-right etc).

How to develop the session

When players reach a certain number of kick ups you can get them to do more advance juggling. In this session they can start on their thigh, and catch it. Then move to incorporating their feet and head.

So if you look at the diagram you go thigh, dropping it onto the foot then high in the air to head it. Players should try to keep this sequence going for as long as possible.




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