Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

SWITCHED ON: Move the ball into space

By David Clarke

davidscwnewThis session will give players the confidence to use their craft and vision to be able to switch play from one side of the pitch to the other

Why use it

It is crucial for young players to know how to switch play so they can exploit space by moving the ball from one side of the pitch to the other. They can do this either by using a long pass or a series of quick, short passes.

Set up

Create a 30×15-yard area split into three 10-yard zones. Mark out three gates along the two lines that create the centre zone – the gates should be one yard wide and evenly spaced along the line. We’re using three teams of four, one in each zone. You will need balls, bibs and cones.

How to play

In their groups of four, get the players to work out how many ways they can get the ball from one side to the other: one long pass; three short; one short, one long etc. After five minutes split the middle team in two – one pair defends the three gates on one side and one pair defends the gates on the other side. The two outside teams must try to pass quickly in order to find a chance to get the ball through one of the gates. Rotate teams every five minutes.


Having three goals and only two defenders means attackers will be keen to hunt out space to score.

Soccer Coach Weekly


Score with both feet


The best attackers can shoot with either foot… is this true? Well attackers that can shoot with either foot have more opportunities to score so the individual will be much better placed if they can score with the foot that naturally takes the ball towards goal.

The complete attacker should be able to at least direct the ball on target with both feet even if one has a more powerful shot than the other.

Young players instinctively go for their preferred foot so you need to get them shooting with both of them or they will come to rely on one foot rather than the other.

I often see attackers, even professional attackers, making awkward shapes with their bodies so they can use one foot rather than the one they should use. Once again it’s down to the amount of practice they do and how they practise.

I like this great exercise  to get my players shooting with both feet:

How to set it up

Use an area 40 yards by 30 yards with two goals and two goalkeepers.

How to play it

  1. The shooter makes a long pass to the coach and runs to receive the ball back.
  2. The player now shoots with one foot.
  3. After shooting, the player reacts and runs to receive a second ball from another server and shoots with the other foot.

How to rotate it

After completing the circuit, the player becomes a server for the next shooter.

Robben and Ronaldo’s speed shooting


It must be a close call as to who is the faster player, Bayern Munich’s Dutch star Arjen Robben or Portugal and Real Madrid hero Cristiano Ronaldo. Both can run and change direction at speed, and both possess a potentially devastating end product to boot.

Many people assume that speed is in-built, but it can certainly be taught and improved. Control, meanwhile, is something that even more easily, over time, can be fine-tuned. So here is an exercise that combines both.

How to set it up

  • Make sure your players are warmed up before they try this.
  • You need 10 cones, a ball, a goal, a stopwatch and a timesheet.
  • Create a five-yard square around the penalty spot.
  • You need two gates, each two yards wide, each side of the penalty “D”, and 20 yards from the goal line.
  • Make another gate in the centre of the pitch 24 yards from the goal line, and place the ball here.

Getting started

  • Players initially face the goal. On your whistle, players turn around and sprint towards the ball. Start the clock.
  • They must then dribble it around the course as fast as they can. The choice of direction is yours.
  • When they return to the starting area, they shoot into either corner of the goal.
  • The clock stops when the ball hits the net.

Why this drill works

Fast, focused, and in control. These are the things you want your striker to be. This drill demands the use of both feet and lightning quick movement, agility, co-ordination, the necessity to change direction and, ultimately, the ability to shoot at goal.

Get your young players to train in this way and they will replicate the positive benefits of this in match day situations.

4v4 ice hockey style


I love setting up new challenges in small-sided games for my players – the emphasis in this game is on positive passing and determined movement. And while quite basic, this is a clever set-up that tests players’ ability to think "outside the box", or rather "inside it"!

Goals are no longer fixed to the touchlines, which means that scoring opportunities can be manufactured using unconventional routes. If players can replicate this thinking in a standard game, you may find them producing goalscoring chances out of unpredictable actions.

How to set it up:

  • Create a playing area that measures 35×25 yards.

  • There are two teams of four players.

  • Two goals are made using cones or poles, and are placed five yards in from each end of the pitch.

  • Add a keeper in each goal.

The rules:

  • The players can score in the front or back of the goal.

  • The game is played for a set period of time – 20 minutes.

  • Tell your players that if they are blocked when in front of the goal they need to look to play quickly to the other side and try to score in the back.

Receive, control, turn, dribble

This move is designed to get players focused on receiving the ball and moving off. It relies on a good first touch and develops into a passage of play that can open up space for your team to exploit.

How to set it up

  • You need three players for this exercise, plus a good number of balls and cones. Create a two-yard square control box.

  • From each of the two left-hand cones of the box, walk diagonally for 12 yards and create two more identical coned squares.

  • From each of the two right-hand cones of the box, measure five yards at a slight angle, placing two cones at these points.

Getting started

  • Two players in the left-hand boxes take it in turns to play balls to the player in the control box.

  • Get the serving players to pass balls at different heights so the player gets used to controlling it with different parts of his body.

  • The receiving player must control the ball with one touch, ensuring he keeps it within the square.

  • He turns after controlling the ball and dribbles it to the top cone, then sprints to the second cone.

  • He leaves the ball at the second cone and sprints back to his control box, ready to receive a pass from the other server.

Why this works

This is a fast-paced move that combines instant control with the need to get the ball and the player on the move quickly.

Making your player vary his turning direction once he has received the ball will shape his mindset so that he is always aware he may need to turn away from tackles coming in during a normal game.

Advance the pass


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.

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.

Take out a 97p trial to Soccer Coach Weekly today.

Don’t delay! Click here to find out how you can subscribe to Soccer Coach Weekly.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,971 other followers