Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


The Perfect Penalty Kick and an English FA record

Brockenhurst and Andover Town set a new English FA record when they scored 29 consecutive penalties, until the unfortunate 20-year-old Andover Town player, Claudio Herbert, had his shot saved. The previous record was set when Dagenham and Redbridge beat Leyton Orient in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in 2011.

“I didn’t realise the magnitude, it was a bit of a blur, the keeper pulled off a great save,” Herbert said.

The record for the longest penalty shoot-out came in 2005 when the Namibian Cup had to be settled by a record-breaking 48 spot-kicks, with KK Palace holding their nerve to defeat the Civics 17-16 following a 2-2 draw in normal time.

Watch the video then follow my advice on how to take the perfect penalty

The Perfect Penalty Kick
davidscwnewWait for the keeper to move or hit it low and hard into the bottom corner without looking at the goalkeeper? Where should your players strike the perfect penalty?

Research carried out by Liverpool John Moores University in the UK came up with a solution, according to Professor Tom Riley “A well-placed ball, high to the corner, will not be stopped by the goalkeeper even if he anticipates it,” says Prof Riley. “There is not enough time to react, so a kick placed in this area would have a 100% strike rate. Some players blast the ball straight down the middle, assuming that the goalkeeper will move, but it’s not always successful.”.

But it’s an interesting alternative to the conventional theory that you will often hear from professionals, managers and commentators: “Hitting the inside of the side netting, low down just inside either post is often the target for a penalty taker.” According to Professor Riley this conventional approach has a greater chance of being saved but it’s an easier one to execute. Get your players to try hitting the top corner in training – it may work.



Goal shy? Try this…

davidscwnew

If your attackers are shy when they get the ball in front of goal and either just kick in hope in the vague direction of goal or try and pass it away quickly they need a boost in confidence.

This three-goal game is fantastic for giving every player in your team a chance to run at goal or shoot cleverly into the corners when they approach the goal at an angle.

Can they switch feet to fool the goalkeeper? Can they get into a better position to shoot? Can they win the 1v1s to set themselves up with a chance? Find out with this session:

How to set it up:

Play 3v3, in a 30-yard square area. 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.

Getting started:

  • 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 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.

  • 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 so 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 match situation.



Goalkeepers can counter attack

davidscwnew

Goalkeepers like nothing better than having the ball in their hands, running to the edge of their area, then blasting it into the sky.

But throw-outs can be better, not to mention more valuable, because the ability to throw the ball quickly and accurately is becoming an increasingly important skill for goalkeepers in the modern game.

Many of the world’s top keepers can throw the ball more than half the length of the pitch, and the distance and accuracy they can achieve is a big counter-attacking weapon for the team.

The overarm throw allows your goalkeeper to clear the ball over a long distance and at a great height. And it can be more accurate than kicking the ball.

Here’s my seven-step guide for goalkeepers looking to master the art of the long throw:

  1. Tell your goalkeeper to adopt a side-on position and put their weight on the back foot.
  2. Your goalkeeper’s throwing hand needs to be positioned under the ball, and their throwing arm kept straight.
  3. The non-throwing arm must point in the direction of the target.
  4. The goalkeeper can then bring this arm down as the throwing arm comes through in an arc over the top of their shoulder.
  5. The goalkeeper’s weight should be transferred forward as the ball is released.
  6. It is similar to a bowler’s action in cricket.
  7. Over long distances, get your player to concentrate on powering the arm downwards on the same line as the target spot. This will help with his accuracy.


Possession… dribble or pass

davidscwnew

When players feel pressure in matches, it can often affect their ability to make decisions. You will undoubtedly have players who dribble brilliantly in training, yet "panic pass" in matches. Other players will hesitate when on the ball and a great opportunity to pass to a team mate is often lost.

Knowing when to surge into space with a dribble or when to switch play with a good pass comes from lots of practice – and you can’t expect players to learn this on their own.

Therefore, it’s a great idea to set up situations where they have the choice, because making that call can be vital to their development.

This session shows players where options present themselves, then develops into a small-sided game, in which the right decision will give their team the advantage.

How to set it up

  • Create a playing area measuring 30×25 yards.

  • For this session you’ll need bibs, cones and balls.

  • There are two teams of four players.

  • Set up three small goals – spaced equally apart – along the longest sides.

  • Each team must defend its goals while trying to score in the other three.

Getting started

  • Players score by dribbling or passing the ball through the poles.

  • Players must react quickly to situations around them, looking for areas on the pitch where there is space to exploit. They should look to mix dribbling with passes to team mates, but every decision is made with the aim of retaining team possession.

  • Play for 15 minutes.

Developing the session:

  • Develop the session by making the area 50×30 yards with two five-yard end zones.

  • The players must get the ball into the end zone by passing to a player who has run to meet the pass, or by dribbling into the end zone themselves.

  • Players are not allowed to stand in the end zone waiting for a pass – they must always be on the move.

  • You can award an extra "goal" if the attacking team makes five consecutive passes before scoring.

  • If players find the session easy, reduce the size of the scoring zone at each end by a yard. For younger players, increase the size.

Why this works:

This practice rehearses players in the logic that clever dribbling can move the ball into areas where there is space to be exploited. A final pass to a team mate should make the creation of goalscoring chances that much easier.

Players are also encouraged to score with a pass which represents a quicker route to goal than a dribble. The decisions depend on the player’s ability to read the space and that will come as they practise this session.

This session originally appeared in Soccer Coach Weekly.

Interested in more counter attacking exercises? Try these links:

2. Shake off and pass

3. Elite Soccer Issue 1 – Alex McLeish: Whole team attacking



Attack through the midfield

By David Clarkedavidscwnew

It’s understandable for some players to want to bypass the crowded, pressurised environment that is the centre of the pitch.

But hitting long balls forward or always targeting play to the wings makes teams predictable and boring.

This is a practice that will boost confidence and remind players that getting the ball into midfield and using it smartly can often be the best way to attack.

How to play it

  • You need balls, bibs, cones and goals.

  • Mark out a 50×30 yards area split into three zones.

  • There are two teams of six, each also has a keeper.

  • The team in possession is allowed up to 20 seconds unchallenged in the central (safe) zone. It can stay there for that time or break out, but if still in the zone when time elapses, the opposition can go in and try to win the ball.

  • If the team in possession loses the ball in any area of the pitch, its players must vacate the central zone.

  • The size of the central zone is key to the challenge and skill of the game as players will discover so, after six minutes, increase or decrease its size to see what effect it has on the game.

Developing the session

  • You can advance the session by allowing one opposition player to go in the central zone. This puts more pressure on midfielders.

Technique and tactics

  • The safe zone encourages play to go through midfield, with players getting used to receiving on the half-turn or practising controlling technique.

  • While doing this without the fear of being tackled, the option to survey options and pass the ball on is encouraged. However, the margin for error increases when the central zone is shortened.



The cure for a bad day’s training

davidscwnewI’m driving home after a coaching session in the rain – I’m wet through and so are the two players on the back seat.

Thanks to the performance of the car’s heater (which was better than mine at training), there’s an ever-growing musty smell, as sweaty bodies dry out. I can’t open the window because it’s pouring down… really pouring down.

The boys are hungry, but the traffic’s snarled because of the worst rainstorm of the summer, and I’m not going to be home in time for dinner. What an afternoon. Why do I do this?

And the training session? What a washout. No-one was doing what I wanted. The defenders were attacking, the attackers were defending – essentially the whole thing had been turned on its head, and not through instruction. I thought glumly about this as I looked at the trail of red lights ahead of me, as the wipers continued at full speed.

But once we had got home and were dry and warm and (finally) fed I looked back and went over the session, as I normally do. I use something called an achievement exercise when I think a session has gone badly. It’s where you simply write down up to five things you achieved in the session.

No matter how stressful or frustrating training was, as a whole, this is a pleasant reminder that some progress was made in some areas. Some achievements might appear minute in the grand scheme of things, but they are achievements nonetheless, and I write them down.

The defenders attacking, the attackers defending – it all has a place in coaching. It is a huge positive that these things came out of the session.

Even something as seemingly unimportant like my players all turning up despite the bad weather – that’s a positive too.

And I might not have enjoyed it, but I know most of them did. After all, what kid doesn’t get a thrill from getting muddy and battling against adverse conditions?

Then add in the fact that my relationship with the players became even stronger because we trained together in those appalling conditions. They saw my commitment and liked it.

It was a powerful exercise for me to snap out of my frustration and be grateful for what we, as a team, had achieved in that hour-and-a-half.

So, the next time you think you’ve had a bad session, reassess by writing down what you achieved. You’ll find that it’s often the little things we take for granted, and the relationships with others in our lives that bring the biggest smiles to our faces.



Turn defeat into victory

davidscwnewAs you can imagine, I receive a lot of emails from coaches who want to share their problems with me, and I do my best to answer them all, offering maybe a drill, an exercise, or simply a piece of advice.

But I’ll let you in on a little secret here… I try to read every one of those queries, not just because I feel a moral obligation, but also for selfish reasons… as a coach I learn a lot from my readers too!

Earlier this year I received an email from coach JD in Australia. He told me he’d had far too many peaks and troughs with his coaching and was at a low point where his team was not winning games and nothing was fun anymore. He’d been like this for a while, regularly brushing the problem under the carpet and blaming anything and everything, especially the standard of his players.

Then he read something I had written about not giving up and researched other similar pieces published through Soccer Coach Weekly. He told me he realised he was not training the team the way he should – he had not bothered to do things that needed to be done.

I was immediately struck by his willingness to tell me this and his desire for absolute honesty, not just with me but with himself too. The minute he did this he was on his way to turning around the culture of defeat within his team.

Admitting your mistakes is an important part of becoming a success – you learn by admitting and recognising your failures. I am still in touch with this coach and he has now turned the corner; indeed, his team has just won two games in a row for the first time in two seasons.

So if his email describes your situation, don’t despair. You can begin moving in the right direction straight away by admitting your mistakes and energising your training sessions. After all, there’s nothing quite like winning when the odds are stacked against you.

I will leave you to ponder a quote I read earlier this week by 19th century Scottish author Samuel Smiles: “The battle of life is, in most cases, fought uphill; and to win it without a struggle were perhaps to win it without honor. If there were no difficulties there would be no success; if there were nothing to struggle for, there would be nothing to be achieved.”



Winning without the ball

davidscwnew

Call me strange but I like watching my team when we haven’t got the ball. In one of the matches we played this week my U10 team was attacking – all the players were in advanced positions. The opposition defence won the ball and were moving quickly to counter attack.

What was great to see was my players moving to cover the space they had left. The nearest player went to the ball and the others moved to cover. It was a great example of getting into a good defensive position and it stopped the counter attack immediately.

By moving into this defensive block, they were playing a compact game making the pitch smaller for the opposition by covering the space behind them.

This is a great tactic for young teams, they can work hard and win the ball back when they have lost it – but remember it is hard work and needs committed players!

To practise this I use a warm-up and a small-sided game:

 

Warm-up

  • Lay out several rows of two cones, about six yards apart.

  • Split your squad into pairs.

  • Players pass to their partner, then follow behind the pass and try to slow the advancing player using a jockeying technique – blocking the player’s movement without contact.

Small-sided game

  • Play a small-sided game on a pitch 30 yards long by 20 yards wide. I’ve shown a 4v4 in the picture but depending on the size of your squad you can use 3v3 or 5v5.

  • The player with the ball takes three touches on the move before they can pass. Players cannot kick the ball three times quickly when they are stationary.

  • No tackling at first, only jockeying. Allow tackling once the game has been played a few times. Opponents must close down quickly before the three touches are taken.

  • Play first to five goals or time it for 10 to 15 minutes.



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.

Thus:

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 situationBefore 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?



Advance the pass

davidscwnew

This advanced passing and moving exercise gets players thinking about where they are moving as they control and pass the ball. It helps young players perfect the weight and accuracy of the pass while they are on the move and looking around them for the player to pass to.

How to set it up

  • Set up an area 30 yards long by 20 yards, with a cone at each corner. Have a queue of players at the first cone and one player on the next three cones.

  • The game is continuous but because there is a lot of passing and movement, it relies on your players to listen and then perform the tasks using good technique, running and passing skills.

What you want to see in your players

  • Follow the steps in the diagram. Your players will have to concentrate as you talk them through the steps. Read the diagram carefully so you can see how the ball is moving around the cones.

  • Make sure your players are concentrating on all the aspects of the exercise – passing, controlling, awareness and moving with ease around the cones. Explain to them that the weight of the pass and accuracy of the pass are vital to the exercise.

  • When you have run the exercise for 10 minutes (or less if you are only using a few players) have a drinks break then tell your players you want to see them do it again at full speed for five minutes. They will either be brilliant at it or have a great deal of fun and laugher trying to be brilliant at it!

  • End with a small-sided game where you want to see some of the aspects the players have learned in the session.




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