Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


Create goals from midfield session

davidscwnewIf you want your players to create goalscoring chances, try this exciting and fast-moving game and you’ll soon see the benefits.

WHY USE IT

This is a session aimed at getting players to create and utilise space in midfield. With quick passing and movement, it will help open up the opposition and make goalscoring chances.

SET UP

Create a playing area 40×20 yards, with two goals back to back across the middle, but just one goalkeeper. We’re using eight players and a keeper for this session, plus a server who can be the coach. You need bibs, cones, balls and two small goals.

HOW TO PLAY

Start by serving a ball into the game. Players can score in either of the two back-to-back goals. If the keeper gains possession or the ball leaves the area, serve a new ball in. The keeper puts any balls he gathers into the net behind him. When a goal is scored, immediately serve another ball into the game.

TECHNIQUE

Creating space in a match situation with fast and accurate passing will open up the room for midfielders to exploit. In this game, a quick switch of play allows players to take advantage of one of the goals being unguarded – they must be aware of the position of the keeper at all times.



Get your players to shoot

davidscwnew

How often do you watch your striker reach great attacking positions only to then delay his shot, offering enough time for defenders to get back and put in a tackle? It’s a frustrating part of the game and something that’s certainly not exclusive to youth football!

It’s important to give players the confidence to shoot from anywhere on the pitch, rather than them trying to walk the ball into the net. So below I’ve put together a great practice that, quite simply, encourages players to shoot at the earliest opportunity from all areas.

How to set it up:

  • You will need six target cones and seven balls, plus additional cones to mark out a pitch. You will also require bibs and a goal.

  • Create a pitch measuring 35×25 yards.

  • Three yards in from each end touchline, and halfway up the area, place three cones in a triangular shape.

  • Each cone has a ball placed on top of it.

  • The game can be played either 3v3 or 4v4.

Getting started:

  • Each team defends its set of cones.

  • Players must try to knock the balls off the cones at their opponent’s end of the pitch while ensuring their own cones do not come under threat.

  • If a player shoots and gets a "strike" (knocks all three balls off with one shot) the team gets six points, otherwise it’s one point scored for each ball.

  • Should all three be dislodged, the balls are set up again before resuming.

  • Play for three games of six minutes, ensuring players are ambitious in their attacking play and do not hang back crowding around their cones as a defensive tactic.

Developing the session:

If you have three or four teams, play so the team that knock three balls off, then faces a different team. Teams waiting on the sidelines act as ball boys.

Note which teams are the best at winning a strike – undoubtedly this will be because of the frequency of shots and from all distances – and point out to the other teams why they are so successful.

How to advance it:

  • Put a goal and a keeper at one end and set up a bowling alley-style group of six cones with balls on at the other end.

  • This is a straight knockout, with one team trying to knock all the balls off the cones and the other trying to score three times past the keeper. Which team will fulfil its task first?

Why this works:

The initial practice encourages players to shoot at targets from all areas of the pitch. Teams defending cones will also be pushing forward trying to attack, so the scoring options should be plentiful.

Direction and power are, of course, vital to a team’s success, while the set-up ensures players are aware of the need to shoot quickly and positively. Should they not, a tackle could see the other team attack and complete their task first.



Simple crossbar heading challenge… remove the fear factor

davidscwnewOne of the things I always like to do when my team is having a game day training session is our own version of the crossbar challenge.

It is set up using the penalty area of whichever size pitch you use but the goals and penalty area of an 11-a-side pitch work best for U9s and upwards.

I line my players up in two rows with the first player in each row behind the 18 yard line of the penalty area either side of the penalty arc.

A helper and I throw balls in line with the penalty spot that the two teams have to head and try and hit the crossbar of the goal.

I set a time limit and see which team can hit the bar the most times in that time limit. It’s a great fun game for the players which also gets them used to heading the ball and to stop being afraid of it.



Simple skittles – but very match relevant

davidscwnewHow often do you watch your striker reach great attacking positions only to then delay his shot, offering enough time for defenders to get back and put in a tackle? It’s a frustrating part of the game and something that’s certainly not exclusive to youth football!

It’s important to give players the confidence to shoot from anywhere on the pitch, rather than them trying to walk the ball into the net. So below I’ve put together a great practice that, quite simply, encourages players to shoot at the earliest opportunity from all areas.

How to set it up:

  • You will need six target cones and seven balls, plus additional cones to mark out a pitch. You will also require bibs and a goal.
  • Create a pitch measuring 35×25 yards.
  • Three yards in from each end touchline, and halfway up the area, place three cones in a triangular shape.
  • Each cone has a ball placed on top of it.
  • The game can be played either 3v3 or 4v4.

Getting started:

  • Each team defends its set of cones.
  • Players must try to knock the balls off the cones at their opponent’s end of the pitch while ensuring their own cones do not come under threat.
  • If a player shoots and gets a “strike” (knocks all three balls off with one shot) the team gets six points, otherwise it’s one point scored for each ball.
  • Should all three be dislodged, the balls are set up again before resuming.
  • Play for three games of six minutes, ensuring players are ambitious in their attacking play and do not hang back crowding around their cones as a defensive tactic.

Developing the session:

If you have three or four teams, play so the team that knock three balls off, then faces a different team. Teams waiting on the sidelines act as ball boys.

Note which teams are the best at winning a strike – undoubtedly this will be because of the frequency of shots and from all distances – and point out to the other teams why they are so successful.

How to advance it:

  • Put a goal and a keeper at one end and set up a bowling alley-style group of six cones with balls on at the other end.
  • This is a straight knockout, with one team trying to knock all the balls off the cones and the other trying to score three times past the keeper. Which team will fulfil its task first?

Why this works:

The initial practice encourages players to shoot at targets from all areas of the pitch. Teams defending cones will also be pushing forward trying to attack, so the scoring options should be plentiful.

Direction and power are, of course, vital to a team’s success, while the set-up ensures players are aware of the need to shoot quickly and positively. Should they not, a tackle could see the other team attack and complete their task first.



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.



A game of passing under pressure

By David Clarke

David Clarke

You can tell when players are under pressure – their first touch begins to go astray. It’s a tell-tale sign and one of the most costly mistakes that can be made in the game. For that reason, it’s important to try to recreate the pressure that players face in matches.

There is also tiredness. By the end of matches, players are often weary and stop thinking about what’s in front of them – they kick the ball wherever they can. In fact, building play with good passing is an afterthought.

So this exercise is great for two reasons – it tightens up concentration while helping to increase players’ stamina. Rehearse this well and you’ll find your players pushing themselves and team mates in pursuit of victory.

How to set it up:

  • The playing area for this session depends on the age of your squad. For any players above the age of 10, use the centre circle of an 11-a-side pitch, decreasing the diameter for younger children.

  • Split your squad into two teams – in the example shown, we are using two lots of six players.

  • Six cones are placed inside the circle in a zigzag formation as shown.

  • One team (in the inner circle) places a player on each cone.

  • The other team (outside the circle) stands in a line at any point on the centre circle.

Getting started:

  • The team inside the circle scores a point each time the ball goes along the zigzag, from the bottom man to the top, and back again.

  • The length of time they have to do this is determined by the outer circle players. This team takes it in turns to run around the circle until every member of the team has completed a circuit.

  • For the first run, the inner circle players throw the ball to each other up and down the zigzag making sure no player is missed out.

  • Next they do this two-touch with their feet so they are passing the ball and receiving under pressure.

  • Teams now switch positions with the running team now attempting to beat the number of points scored.

  • Run this through two or three times. While players running around the circle should generally experience the same drop-off of pace with each attempt, you should look for the points scored by the inner circle team are likely to increase as they gain more practice.

  • For an additional challenge, have the outer circle team dribble a ball around the outside of the circle on each circuit – this way both sides are rehearsing ball skills while under time pressure.

Why this works:

This is a great passing exercise. It is a really good way to work your players so they are passing quickly to defeat the other team.

It’s an unopposed game yet players are still aware of the pressure being placed on them, and this builds the logical awareness that at no place on a football pitch can a player truly relax.

Keep an eye out for good communication between players, and a determined work ethic in terms of passing, running and receiving.



Midfield magic – play like Frank Lampard

By David ClarkeDavid Clarke

Combining pace and aggression going forward with the wherewithal to track back, this is a move inspired by one of the best in the game, Chelsea ‘s Frank Lampard. For over 10 years, the England man has proved a pivotal force in the centre of the park, so here’s an opportunity for your players to try out some of that classic Lampard box-to-box play.

How to set it up:

Play 3v3v3, in an area of 30×30 yards. 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 two 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. l 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. Therefore 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 full match situation.




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