Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


Big respect to the opposition

David ClarkeWe’ve all seen or heard about the team leading 15-0 whose coach says “play as if it’s 0-0”. And when the 16th goal goes in the team is celebrating as if it’s won the league. Never mind the fact that the losing team has given up long ago…

That said, I’m not a huge fan of the way some teams will hit double figures then put the goalkeeper up front or substitute half the team. That doesn’t make the opposition players or manager feel any better either – they just think the team is showing off.

It’s a difficult call to make, but there are other ways you can deal with the situation.

Last weekend, we were playing a team a couple of places below us who had won 7-1 the week before, so we were expecting a hard game. But we coasted into a 3-0 lead and I became a bit uneasy that things would get really bad for our opponents.

However, they had a really good spell and pulled it back to 3-2. This made for a much better game; my team had to think hard about how they were playing, and it was a lesson for them assuming the job was done so early.

By half-time though we were 5-2 up and I could see some of the opposition players’ heads had dropped. So for my team talk at the interval I challenged each of my players to touch the ball in the build-up to a goal. If they could do that, they’d get to choose what training we did the following week.

Of course, the opposition didn’t realise we were now playing this way – they could only see a switching, shielding, passing and movement process that offered more situations where they might, in theory, win the ball.

The parents of my players had something to concentrate on as well – watching players getting into good positions for the pass.

It became a much better game and really gave my players a good work out in the second half. The score in that half was 2-2 so both teams had played well. Neither of our goals came from every player touching the ball, but it’s something to aim at next week, or the week after.

This tactic led to a much happier conclusion to the match, although I know some of the parents on my team had been muttering that “nobody does this when we’re losing”!

That was a fair point, but if we can share ideas such as this, maybe that will change?



“Don’t let them play!”

David ClarkeI’ve heard a lot of things shouted at soccer games in youth leagues, but something that I was confronted with at our game last weekend was a new one for me.
It was hot on the heels of a meeting I’d had the day before where the blueprint for youth soccer in England had filled my world with hope for the future of the game. But the positivity and fair-mindedness that I’d experienced was quickly stifled in the reality of an Under-11s match.
We were playing against a strong, tough-tackling, hard-kicking team who were hitting balls at our defence with alarming regularity. Supporting this extremely hard-working team were a group of parents intent on winning, and winning whatever it took.
We adjusted to the pressure and at half-time it was 0-0. We now had the slope of the pitch in our favour. Our slick passing and movement began to gain us the upper hand, and the through-ball exercises we had been working on earlier in the week were looking as though they might pay dividends.
It was at this point one of the opposition parents, obviously realising his son’s team were losing their edge, began shouting warnings. Nothing unusual in that, until a final instruction came: “Don’t let them play!” he screamed. “Stop them playing!” This ‘tactic’ was promptly followed up by other parents. They were trying to end this absorbing game as a contest.
I remarked to the parent how much the players were enjoying the tactical battle, and that shutting down and stifling the game was a real shame… but of course I was ignored and the bluntly shouted instructions continued. This tactic actually allowed us to switch play more easily, and as my players began to pick off the tiring opposition players we found better chances to score. Late on, we finally found the net.
We held on to win the game, and the post-match atmosphere between the two sets of players, if not the parents, was good. It was our opponents’ first loss of the season and those around the sides of the pitch took it badly.
But what they failed to see was that it was a good close game. And it might have been even closer had they let the players continue in the same manner with which they’d approached the first half.
At the end my players said they had enjoyed winning 1-0 much more than the previous week when they’d triumphed 8-0, but I think even they felt the spirit of the game had gone in those final phases. That was a shame, because up until then there had been two styles of play cancelling each other out, providing a platform for an abundance of skill all over the pitch.
If only the parents hadn’t got involved…



The romance of youth – will Argentina change the way they play?

dave clarkeAfter the Argentinian side went out of the World Cup I have been watching with interest to see if they, like Brazil, will adopt a more European style or stick with its traditional style of attacking play.

At youth level, coaches are encouraged to play either 4-3-3 or 4-3-1-2 on the grounds those formations should ensure the continued production of attacking midfielders. In games you rarely see any pressing of the ball, so players can stroll around with all the time in the world to be creative.

On TV they like to highlight the best moments of skill from the weekend much like they do on Soccer AM but the skill is the highlighted whether it leads to any attacking or defending move or not.

I warm to the idea, its all about the fun element, and that is what I should be seeing up and down the country in the parks and grounds where youth soccer takes place – it’s the idea that playing the right way is more important than winning.

It gives young players the time to be creative and leads to very watchable matches. When did your U8 midfielder get time on the ball without someone shouting “pass it!” or worse “get rid of it!”

There is one problem with this romantic idea of how the game should be played – the only side Argentina has beaten in a World Cup knockout game without going to penalties in the past 20 years is Mexico.

What does that do for the beautiful game?

Take a look at the latest Argentina sensation Javier Pastore the future of Argentinian football – linked with a £40m move to Manchester City.




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