Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


Five fantastic volleys

My top five cup volleys

Marco van Basten: Holland v USSR Euro 1988 final

David Platt: England v Belgium World Cup 1990

Zinedine Zidane: Real Madrid v Bayer Leverkusen 2002 Champions League final

Joe Cole: England v Sweden World Cup 2006

Zlatan Ibrahimovic: Sweden v France Euro 2012



Look to the left and salute Falcoa

David ClarkeIt’s been a remarkable season for 26-year-old Radamel Falcao Atletico Madrid’s Colombian attacker.

Spain is indeed blessed with some great players in La Liga – Barcelona’s Argentinian Lionel Messi and Real Madrid’s Portuguese attacker Ronaldo, but the man making the headlines in the Europa League final was Falcao. He also finished as the tournament’s top scorer for the second year running, hitting the back of the net on 12 occasions.

Atletico beat Athletic Bilbao 3-0 with two first half goals from Falcao.

The two goals were both of wonderful quality after receiving a pass from Diego down the right flank, he cut inside and curled a delightful effort into the top left-hand corner of the Bilbao net. proved it was no fluke 28 minutes later, collecting a low cross, skilfully dragging the ball back to rid himself of his marker and smashing it past Athletic goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz from close range

But even more amazing both goals were score with what he regards as his weaker foot: Falcao explained: “I don’t know what to say; I hit both with my left foot. My right was just there to support my weight.”

Europe is indeed watching.

See the goals below:



Ramires v Barcelona: My top six goals scored from an angle

David ClarkeBy David Clarke

Champions League Semi-Final 2012: Barcelona v Chelsea

Ramires is the king of technique. His goal for Chelsea against Barcelona when his team was 2-0 down with John Terry sent off was as good as you will see. An impossible situation, but the through ball to him from Frank Lampard just before half time putting him into the penalty area at an angle to the goal was perfect. His finish was sheer class.

Here’s my top six goals scored from tight angles:

Ramires, Barcelona v CHELSEA (2012)

Marco van Basten, HOLLAND v Russia (1988)

Gabriel Batistuta, FIORENTINA V Arsenal (1999)

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, CHELSEA v Manchester United (2001)

Ronaldo, REAL MADRID v LA Galaxy (2011)

Robin van Persie, ARSENAL v Barcelona (2011)



Why balance is the key to Messi

David ClarkeWatching a player like Lionel Messi slaloming through Real Madrid’s solid defence shows how important balance is for a football player – and it is true for any sport.

During growth and development our balance improves through practice. From learning to sit to walking and running does not just happen; it needs to be learnt and developed.

Think about how you learn to balance on a wall or the branch of a tree – first time you are awkward and slow until you can use your balance to speed up.

So too in sport. Lionel Messi has a low sense of balance because of his height and has learnt that he can lean and weave and stop quickly or speed up without losing his balance. This makes him an ideal machine for dribbling a ball past players. Dropping his shoulder to fool the defender into which side he will go to.

Balance is dependent on feedback and feeding of information from sensory receptors so repetition of movement, like walking along a wall, is vital to being balanced in sport especially at speed.

The optimum learning ages are between 5 and 11 but all coaches should do some training that involves specific balance related exercises.

Wobble boards and balance cushions are great to use if your club has them but if not I use this exercise below to help players with balance. I will add a ball once they can do it without falling over to make it more difficult.

How it works

  • This exercise is done by a player and three cones.
  •  It helps young players with balance, and is great fun to do as well with players trying to keep balance on one leg.
  •  The player balances on one leg then touches the top of each of the three cones with the foot of their other leg without it touching the ground.
  •  Touches should be light and quick.
  •  After three touches change the standing leg so the other foot is touching the cones.
  •  Players should do the it three times with each foot.


Ball skills help youth and professional players – watch Ronaldo take on a youth player



Puyol, we love your labour

David Clarke

Carles Puyol is the type of player every team would like. He is the classic old-fashioned captain. Quick and powerful, committed almost to the point of comedy, he is an inspiration to team-mates and an idol for the fans.

His intense commitment to Barcelona runs deep – he often stays behind to train and reportedly comes in on his days off to put in some extra work.

He makes a good roll model for youth players because he has made himself great even though he does not have the reputation of some of his team mates. Puyol has played for Barcelona since 1999 and been club captain since 2004. In his early years as captain before Iniesta, Messi and Xavi came on the scene he said of his team mates: “I don’t have Romário’s technique, [Marc] Overmars’ pace or [Patrick] Kluivert’s strength. But I work harder than the others. I’m like the student who is not as clever, but revises for his exams and does OK in the end.”

“Puyol is the key,” says Xavi, the Barcelona midfielder, “not just because he is one of the best defenders in the world but because of his character. He never lets up. If he sees you relax at all, he’s suddenly at your side demanding more.”

He has starred in more than 500 official games for the team, winning 18 major titles, notably five La Liga and three UEFA Champions League championships. At international level he has won the Euro 2008and the 2010 World Cup tournaments with Spain.

Team mate at Barcelona Gerard Piqu&eacute said: “He’s someone who, even if you’re winning 3–0 and there’s a few seconds left in the game will shout at the top of his voice at you if he thinks your concentration is going.”

More recently said, “Even four goals down he thinks we can still win.”

“The fans appreciate that I work my hardest all the time,” Puyol explains. “I need no encouragement because I’ve always been a cule – I’ve never hidden that fact. I am living the dream playing football for Barça and it is my dream to retire playing here. I know someday that I will have to leave and I am not looking forward to that day. I will work hard to realise my dream but if I can’t then I would like to play in another country. I wouldn’t want to play in Spain. I would go to England or Italy.”



Tactics at short goal kicks can free up a congested midfield

David Clarke

Temperatures have plummeted over the past few weeks and the result has been that a number of games have been called off. My side couldn’t dodge a frozen pitch, but one of our younger teams managed to get their match on, so I went along to watch them.

They are a good team and have a clever coach who is always ready to try things out during matches if he sees a problem. During the match, his goalkeeper was not having much luck from goal kicks.

Every time he kicked the ball it was going into a packed midfield and the opposition’s physical advantage in the centre meant they were often emerging with the ball. In fact, the opening goal had come as a direct result of a goal kick coming straight back from midfield. With his team losing 2-0 at half-time, it was clear the coach had to change something.

The first thing he did was alter the routine of the goal kicks to give his keeper more options.

He got two defenders to drop short left and right of the goal so the keeper could play a simple pass to ensure that his team retained possession. When this happened, the opposition players moved forward to close down, something that freed up space in the midfield area. As you might expect, this made a huge difference straight away, and having previously been overrun in the middle third, the team were now finding it easier to build attacking moves.

His mobile defenders also utilised space down the line, with attacking midfielders able to take the ball forward further, frequently sending dangerous crosses in towards the near post. After his team had won a succession of corner kicks they scored to pull the scoreline back to 2-1. In working harder to win the ball from goal kicks, the opposition lost a lot of their attacking speed and were less able to get the ball forward.

The match had effectively been turned on its head, all because of a change in the goal kick routine. The team had a number of chances to equalise but couldn’t take them, but that’s football. Nonetheless, they had won the second half 1-0, and learned a great lesson in tactics at the same time.

I love to see goalkeepers playing short balls to the wide defenders. If watch the video clip below of Victor Valdes the Barcelona goalkeeper continually playing short balls against Real Madrid. Even after he makes a mistake he continues to pass the ball short.

I could watch this all day!



Learning from losing

David Clarke

Learning to lose graciously is one of the hardest lessons any young sports person has to take on board. Young players learn a lot from losing, providing they can accept it, analyse why they lost and know what they can do to improve next time.

It’s okay to show some emotion…
Many psychologists believe you shouldn’t deny children the opportunity to show their emotions when they lose. It’s okay to feel upset but they need to know where the boundaries are in terms of displaying emotion. Set standards of behaviour for your players and have sanctions if they don’t follow them. For example, showing dissent towards a team-mate or the referee means they start on the bench for the next game. They will soon learn to control their emotions better. Always acknowledge your players’ disappointment and show sympathy but emphasise the positive elements of the performance. It is important that players go home after a game with a positive mindset.

They should know that, despite the result, they have achieved and learned something.

Win as a team, lose as a team…
Football is the ultimate team sport and no one individual is ever responsible for a win or a loss. Create a team sprit where players encourage their team-mates rather than point blame at individuals. Good teams have been ripped apart over the course of a season by one or two ‘blamers’. If you have any of these types identify them quickly and speak to them about their attitude and the effect it is having on the team. Try giving them responsibility within the team as ‘motivators’ instead. It is then their job to go straight over to a player who has made a mistake and get them back in the game.

Remember you’re the role model… You cannot expect your players to accept losing if you don’t. You need to keep your emotions under wraps especially in front of the players. It is often easy after a game to look for excuses, but is a lot harder to look at yourself and your players and ask, ‘What could we have done better?’. Despite what many armchair critics think, referees are very rarely responsible for the results of matches. Develop a ‘never blame the referee’ culture in your squad and lead by example. Encourage players to shake the referee’s hand after games and thank him for doing his job.

Focus on performance… If you are going through a bad patch of results, one way of keeping players motivated and focused is to de-emphasise winning and focus on improving skills. Set realistic goals within the game – for example, “This week I want us to make eight out of 10 first-time tackles”. This means if the team achieves its goal the players win, regardless of the result.

Watch players show their emotions after losing:



Patience is key to beating the Barcelona of your league

David Clarke

How do you beat Barcelona? Real Madrid, Valencia and Manchester United have all tried to do it by getting more possession of the ball and none of them have managed it.

If you find you’re playing a team like Barcelona who won’t allow you to have the ball don’t try to stop them playing – you end up not being able to stop them and ruining your own game plan.

Sure your players will be thinking that it’s time they had the ball because all teams want the ball but if they hold their positions and when they do win it hit quickly on the break they can make the game theirs.

When teams lose patience they often lose the game because they become easy to pick off with one-two passing and 1v1 skills.

If you jump in like Nani does on Lionel Messi you will easily be beaten. Watch the video clip below of Messi beating Nani.



Shoot like Higuain

Argentina and Real Madrid striker striker Gonzalo Higuain shooting tips:

  1. Use positive touches to beat defenders
  2. Shoot across goal
  3. Hit hard with instep

Ten of the best soccer shooting drills




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