Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


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.



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.



How Oscar and Hazard fool recovering defenders

davidscwnewWhen Oscar or Eden Hazard are running with the ball watch how often they do a skill which fools the chasing player. They change direction or pace with simple movements like this reverse pass.

It is the speed of the initial reaction which makes all the difference when players lose the ball and the opposition counter-attacks. Running in counter attacking situations often means players are being chased by defenders. I get my players to prepare by playing this game. Not only does it get players to react quickly to a change in possession but it also involves a skill and a technique.

The skill is a reverse pass, followed by pressing the player on the ball – and the technique is both with and without pressure.

How to play it

  • Put down two cones 20 yards apart – further/closer depending on the physical fitness of your players.

  • You need players at each end of the exercise.

  • Play starts at one end with a player running with the ball.

  • When he reaches the far end, he passes to the player at that end with a reverse pass – he runs past the first player in the queue and use a backheel pass across the standing leg.

  • The receiving player starts running to the opposite end, the player who has made the reverse pass must turn and give chase.

  • When players get to the far end, the player with the ball reverse passes to a player at that end then turns and gives chase.

  • The original chasing player joins the back of the queue.

Key coaching points

  • When running with the ball, players should use the laces for each touch, making sure they run in a straight line.

  • Players run as fast as they can, complete the skill and turn to give chase.

  • Make sure your players put maximum effort into this exercise so they get all the benefits of fitness and skills.

Change the pass

  • If your players are having trouble with the reverse pass across the front of the standing leg get them to try a normal backheel (without crossing the legs). Even this may be hard with some young players, but keep pushing this skill – they will get it with practice.


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.



Make the most of possession play – dribble or pass?

davidscwnewBy David Clarke

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.

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Play sat nav football – so players know where they are on the pitch

davidscwnew

When young players are involved in fast, action-packed matches they often lose their position and don’t realise what is going on around them. You find that the pace of some matches they play in will be just that bit too fast for them and they lose their soccer sense.

What I do with my teams is to play a fast, constantly moving game where players must think about position, action and direction.

How to set up and coach it

You need a 30 yard x 20 yard pitch. Use two teams of four players, and four mini goals. Create a triangle in the centre. One team defends the triangle the other team defends the four mini goals.

The team defending the triangle goal must nominate a goalkeeper whilst the other three players try to pressure and win the ball.

Play for 15 minutes then reverse the roles.



Quick, easy centre circle warm-up

David Clarke

There are times when I have turned up to find the equipment not where I would expect it and all I am left with is a ball and a pitch. So while I wait for the cones, balls and bibs to turn up I play a game that uses a ball and the centre circle.

How to play it

  • Set up as shown in the diagram with players split into pairs. Two pairs start in the middle of the centre circle with others spread around the outside.
  • In the middle, one team is nominated as attackers and the other pair defenders.
  • The attacking pair must keep possession for 30 seconds in order to score a point. To help them do so, they can use players around the outside for one-twos.
  •  If the possession is lost, the other pair now attempts to retain the ball for 30 seconds.
  •  Rotate the pairs every 90 seconds.

CentreCircleWarmUp
Technique and tactics

  •  The central players need to work hard at all times – either in moving to support, or closing down opponents in possession.
  •  Outside players must be alert and ready to receive the ball at all times.



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