Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


Jose Mourinho? No scapegoats in a youth game but plenty of pressure on the volunteer coach

davidscwnewIt can be a scary moment when you face the first game of the season. It doesn’t matter whether you are a new coach or have coached the same team for a few years, that first game is so important.

Getting the momentum is one thing but getting the parents and players right behind you is another, so a good display is important.

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Last season our first match was away at a very impressive ground with lots of facilities, including a main pitch with stands and floodlights.

As it was the Under 11s that were playing we were not on the adult A team pitch but we were on a pretty impressive one surrounded by a clubhouse and tennis courts. We had been promoted the previous season so we were not sure how we would cope at this higher level, but I could see my players were not intimidated by the surroundings and were raring to feel the excitement of the kick off.

We were quickly into our warm ups and soon we had shaken hands with the opposition ready for the match. I can’t imagine how it must feel to be Uwe Rosler, the new manager of Leeds United, as he waits for the whistle to blow with the eyes of his trigger happy owner Massimo Cellino upon him. Or Claudio Ranieri at Leicester, back in the Premier League hoping he can have the success he had before.

Kick off came with great relief and my initial fears that the team wouldn’t be good enough were soon banished as we unleashed a flurry of attacks. Twice we were nearly caught out on the counter but our defensive training sessions paid off with some good covering and clearing. However, as half time approached all of our hard work was undone when a clumsy clearance went into our own net.

The boy involved was heartbroken, but at half time we all gathered around him and told him it wasn’t his fault and that we were all pleased with the way the team had played. We ran the game in the second half but failed to score and that one own goal had been the downfall of the team.

However, parents and players alike were in high spirits because we had all seen we could compete at this higher level and I was proud of the way they had all gathered around the player who had scored the own goal.

So a great start to your campaign doesn’t always mean a winning start but momentum comes from playing well and working as a team – we went on to have a great season in a very tough league.



Make use of the cold weather

Wow, the temperature just gets colder and colder. As a result, there was no way our match was going to be played at the weekend.

I very quickly get withdrawal symptoms from not playing matches, particularly when we’ve prepared well.

Take this week for example – I knew we had two tough games approaching, so had been training support play in defence. This is where the players cut down the space in and around the penalty area, all the time being ready to cover if the defence is breached.

So when I heard that our weekend game was off I went to look at the pitch to see if there was any way we could have a kickabout amongst ourselves.

Because only a couple of teams use our pitch – coupled with the fact we have an excellent groundsman – there were no spikes of frozen mud on the playing surface. Those peaks can be especially dangerous to youth players, so always watch out for them. But thankfully the pitch seemed just very flat and hard – a bit like playing on tarmac.

I called around the parents and most of their kids wanted to come along. The masses soon arrived, and I kept the players warm with hot chocolate from the local cafe – which is, by the way, a drink recommended for half time in cold weather.

I double-checked the pitch with three of the dads. The top layer had crusted, which made it fine to play on.

We played 8v8 in order to brush up on the defensive lessons we’d learnt in the previous session. And the conditions really did us a favour…The hardness of surface provided the best reason for the lads to stay on their feet at all times – a lesson that’s always worth re-learning. In addition, the responsiveness of the ground created the need for good passing accuracy from players.

And finally, by the time we’d summed up the session at the end with a biscuit and another hot chocolate, there was a togetherness in the team that we just wouldn’t have had from a normal training session; a camaraderie and joint spirit brought about by having to battle against unusual conditions.

Try to use adverse events as a spur for your side. See how players react – even introduce some artificial obstacles if you think the effect may be really positive. You may be surprised how your team responds to the challenge!




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