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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

FEEL THE WIDTH Three different types of cross

davidscwnewThis is a complex drill to help players develop three different kinds of cross.


The session aims to coach players to score more goals from crosses and to show that changing the pace of play and the angle of attack are key instruments in unlocking the opposition. Using wide areas is an important part of attacking play.


Create a playing area that is wider than long by using the width of the pitch you normally play on (mini, 9v9 or full size) and half that size for the length (so mini would be 30 wide x 15 deep and full size would be 60×30). Split it into six equal squares.

You need a goal, balls, bibs and cones. We’re using 17 players in a 9v8 overload.


Players are locked into areas, except for the full backs, who look to join the attack and create situations to cross the ball.


We’re looking for three different types of crosses here: the David Beckham cross, just entering the final third; the Ashley Young cross, cutting inside and swinging it across; and the Leighton Baines cross, running to the byline and whipping it in.

This session came from Soccer Coach Weekly.

Interested in more exercises? Try these links:

1. Pressing in key areas – Steve Kean

2. Defending when outnumbered

3. Tomb raiders

Simple shooting set up… goals from everywhere

Diamonds Add Sparkle

By David Clarke

If you want your players to score long range goals like Frank Lampard does from midfield, try this fun game that rewards anyone shooting from distance.


Shots from outside the penalty area are very effective at all age groups. They can go straight into the net past a bemused keeper or bounce back from a defender or keeper to give easy rebounds. It’s a great way to get your team scoring.


The pitch is diamond shaped to help draw the players towards goal. The number of players you use will determine the size of the pitch. We’ve used 12 players including keepers in a 40×30 yards area. You need cones, balls and a goal.


Play two attackers and three defenders in each of the two separate areas of the pitch. Players must stick to their areas as much as possible. The attackers are there for rebounds or shots from close range.


Players get points depending on how they score. The points system encourages players to shoot from their own half because the rewards are much greater: goals scored from a player’s own half are worth 5pts; from a rebound 3pts; scored in opposition half using a first-time shot 2pts; and any other goal 1pt.

This session came from Soccer Coach Weekly.

Interested in more exercises? Try these links:

1. Pressing in key areas – Steve Kean

2. Defending when outnumbered

3. Tomb raiders

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.

Get your players to shoot


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.

Tap-ins need practice too…

davidscwnewIt’s funny, when you’re watching a match and a goal is scored, how often do you hear someone say: “that was just a tap-in – I could have scored that”. But it’s important not to forget that it was the movement in the build up to the goal and the decision to stay with the attack that often creates simple tap-ins.

Talk to Lionel Messi about tap-ins. He scored a record-breaking 91 goals in 2012 and he would be the first to tell you that simple tap-ins count for just as much as his spectacular drives and dribbles. If the player wasn’t there to put the ball in the net, the team wouldn’t score.

Tap-ins or rebounds are like the last putt in golf – they’re just as important as a huge drive down the fairway.

messiA big part of a striker’s job is being in the right place at the right time, following up shots in order to put rebounds into the back of the net. In a youth game spectacular goals are a rarity but rebounds are plentiful. Young players can learn a lot from watching Messi – not just from his sublime skills but he also regularly demonstrates how important it is to be in the right place at the right time. You can always count on him to pop up and tap the ball into the net after it has been parried by a keeper. A good striker will always anticipate a rebound or be in the right place to finish off a move.

I like my strikers to follow any shots on goal, however feeble they are, because young keepers often push the ball away rather than risk catching it, giving predatory attackers a second chance to score. Supporting strikers should never stop running, as they may be the ones that get the rebound coming their way.

Having the ability to finish off moves is vital to the development of young footballers. A confident bunch of players makes for a much better team and increases the opportunities of success. There is nothing more disheartening for the whole team when chances are not taken. And it takes practice to get it right. Look at any of the top finishers in the world and behind their success you will find hours and hours of practice, both in training sessions and on their own.

You need your players to practice as often as possible, using sessions that will help them perfect their finishing technique. Otherwise you’ll end up standing on the touchline on match day with your head in your hands.


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