Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: coaching, development, games, organise, rules, sessions, warm ups
I know my players love to play games, and I love the fun they get out of it. Not only that but they learn much faster and retain more of what they learn from being actively and closely involved in the session.
So I involve my players in setting and changing the rules for the session. The more involved they feel, the more they’ll invest, and undoubtedly, the more they will enjoy it. So maybe try something new out at your next training session. For instance, before your players arrive, mark out a pitch and place a ball in the middle. Make sure there are no other balls available.
As your players arrive, stay away from the playing area and tell them to go out and get started on their own.
When there are enough players they will probably organise themselves into teams and will begin a game. Let them play for five minutes and then stop them. Find out what rules they were playing and why. Then set them a couple of challenges that they have to incorporate into the game, such as asking them to win the ball back within 20 seconds of losing it. Only give them a brief outline of the challenge and see how they work it into the game.
Getting them to think about what they can do to make the game more fun makes them feel part of a unit; it offers them a voice. It’s a great bonding element that goes a long way towards developing a team.
If it doesn’t happen the first time you try it don’t give up. Say to a couple of players as they head outside “Why don’t you get a game started?” You’ll probably notice the younger ones organising full-scale games, while the older kids may be perfecting the finer elements.
Let them play the session for a good 20 or 30 minutes, stopping every five minutes for a quick chat about the rules, seeing if your players want to change anything to make the game more fun.
I’d be willing to bet they don’t want the game to stop because they will see it as their own. And I’m sure that empowerment will mean they go home from training with smiles on their faces.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: numbers, passing, pressure, sessions, training
I had an email this week asking about how I cope when more players turn up at training than expected. It was a timely question as I had just coached a session of 15 players when I expected only nine or 10 to turn up.
We were training indoors for a quick passing session and I had created a plan accordingly. However, with a bit of clever tweaking, I was soon able to put the session into shape to accommodate the increased numbers. The indoor arena was probably only big enough to hold 12 players comfortably but the extra players meant I could go for a session about winning the ball and keeping it in crowded areas of the pitch.
So I split the group into three teams of five players. Rather than have a normal small-sided game I decided to play all three teams at once making the central areas tight and over-crowded. I had yellows defending one goal and oranges defending the other. The other team of five were ‘mavericks’, who could score in either goal.
This gave each team plenty to think about – which team were their true ‘opponents’, for a start.
At first, the set-up caused a lot of confusion as players were trying to work out who was doing what, particularly because this was in such a congested area. My response to this was to stop play after a couple of minutes. I asked each team to take a minute to work out between themselves who should pick up which opposition players when possession was lost.
Once they had a clear idea of a game plan it made matters a lot simpler, and the overcrowded pitch became much less of a consideration.
I was pleased with how the session turned out because the players were encouraged to make a lot of decisions outside of the basic necessity of keeping the ball with numerous opponents around them.
The point here was to show them that even with a huge number of distractions, if each player focused on the key elements that affected his own game, the proposition seemed a lot less complex.
For the final five minutes I went to two teams playing with the other resting. Sure enough, the freedom in this set-up (compared to three sides playing at once) saw players using space and being aware of their marking responsibilities with real clarity, which was a great result.
All in all, a great solution to the problem of an unexpectedly high turnout!
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: coerver, drills, futsal, sessions, skills, technique, turning
How to play it
• Set up an area measuring 20×5 yards, as shown, with two cones marking the midway length point.
• The player in the middle receives a pass from the front player in the top line – this man then follows his pass.
• The middle player must make a turn, pass out, then follow his pass to join the group at the bottom.
• The player who originally passed from the top line now becomes the new middle player.
• For the next part, a pass is fed in from the bottom line.
• The process continues with the player in the middle receiving the pass, but his ‘turn and move’ must be different to the one used by the player before him.
• There are many ‘turn and move’ choices, including:
- An open body turn
- Opening legs and flicking the ball in between
- Open legs and dummying Making a Cruyff turn
• The practice continues until all players are suitably warmed up in passing, controlling, turning and moving on.
Technique and tactics
• Players must be on their toes at all times.
• You’re looking for imagination in terms of how they turn.
• The quality of passing to and from the middle man is essential if this warm-up is to maintain its momentum.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: coaching, Courses, how to be a coach, practice, sessions, training
Coaching isn’t just a matter of turning up and running a session – anyone can do that. You need to think about how you are going to deliver the session so the learning experience is heightened for your players.
These four questions will help you decide how you coach your sessions:
- Know your players – which ones need what, and when do they need your help?
- Talk to/listen to your players – are they enjoying the sessions?
- Do they understand what they are doing?
- Ask yourself… did my intervention have a positive impact on their learning?
Here are my seven tips on how to get the most out of coaching your sessions:
1. What is the problem?
Picture in your mind what it is that your team is doing wrong. Think about the type of session you need to help the team.
2. What is available to me? What resources do you have that relate to the problem? Soccer Coach Weekly issues are a great place to start.
3. Have I used a session in the past to cover the topic?
Think about what you have done before when you have come across this problem. Did you solve it? Can you use it again?
4. How will individuals react to the session?
Some of your players will respond negatively to certain sessions you run. If you know your players well you should be able to spot problems before they arise.
5. Is it simple or complex?
How much guidance do you need to give your players? Sometimes simple is best. If it is complex make sure you explain it carefully before the players have to go and do it.
6. Are you reviewing work already covered?
If you are revisiting work, you need to quickly get the session going and work your players at the level you worked at when you last ran the session – they know the topic so the understanding should already be there.
7. During the session does it feel right?
Your gut feeling is often a good indicator as to whether or not the session is working. If it is, great, make a note of what went right. If not, don’t despair. Write down what went wrong and change it next time.
Take out a 97p trial to Soccer Coach Weekly today.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: Bristol City, david James, England, goalkeeper, Portsmouth, sessions
Watching one of the Under-12s goalkeepers at my local club this week picking the ball out of the net seven times I was reminded me of an article I had read by David James, the former England stopper who is now at English Championship club Bristol City.
When the 41-year-old was playing in the Premier League with Portsmouth, he once suffered the humiliation of conceding 10 goals in two games. Recalling that and other similar events, he said: “I try to get on with it; I take the dogs out for a walk. I try to move on and prepare for the next game. I have a debrief with my psychologist…” Psychologist?
Now that is where the similarities end…!Coaches of youth teams don’t have psychologists at hand when they lose a game, and neither does the poor lad whose goal has been under constant bombardment. More likely is that said keeper will be in the car home getting a pasting from his dad, your words of comfort a distant and fading memory!
But that’s the problem for keepers… their errors are highlighted every time the ball goes in the net; they have nowhere to hide. That’s why you must not let your keeper take the blame because, trust me, if you do, he won’t be your keeper for much longer! Protect him and nurture him so he wants to play in goal no matter what the score is.
At training nights make sure he joins in with all the fun bits – the match, skills, fitness – before you move him between the sticks for some designated keeper practice. It is important for you and the team that he feels part of it all. You can also get him to be vocal at training – to shout at his defenders and order them around, if necessary. Not only will this give him a unique status, but it will cement his value to the rest of the team as a leader and organiser on match day – someone who can survey all that’s in front of him with ease.
And encouraging him when he makes a mistake rather than criticising means that most of his team mates will do likewise.
At the end of the day keepers are vital to your team and their influence is stronger than you may realise. Let’s make sure they don’t go home crying.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: back four, back three, defending, depth, positions, pressure, sessions, support
Teaching defenders technique and the ability to move into the right places at the right time can be done on the training ground.
Here though, we combine the teaching with an immediate attack versus defence scenario, so players are straight away putting into practice what they have learnt.
So they must ensure they react to the call well, adopt the right shape, then be ready to defend immediately.
How to set it up:
Create a 25-yard square with 10 x 5 yards end zones.
In front of one end zone, place three cones across the width of the area, plus a mini goal just in front of the central cone.
Three defenders start behind the cones and three attackers start at the opposite end.
- Stand halfway up the area on the touchline.
The three defenders will need to move as per your instructions, so teamwork and unity is essential in maintaining a solid backline. So you will call either:
“Left” – the left defender pressures and shows inside, the central defender supports and stops the forward pass, the defender farthest away supports the central player and provides depth.
“Centre” – the central defender pressures the ball while the two wide defenders take up supporting positions behind, and to either side to stop the forward pass.
“Right” – the right defender pressures and shows inside, the central defender supports and stops the forward pass, the defender farthest away supports the central player and provides depth.
On your call, the defending team completes the defending technique task.
You then pass a ball to the attacking team at the opposite end.
Immediately, the defenders must run onto the pitch and use the group defending technique to stop their opponents from scoring in their target goal.
Each team has six run-throughs before the roles are reversed. The winning team is the one to have scored most times in the goal.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: coaching, girls, goalkeepers, sessions
USSF D Cert Youth Coach
I currently coach at the U10 level for a girls club team. I have had most of this group for five seasons now. Up to this age, I have found it extremely difficult to effectively incorporate keeper training into my regular training sessions.
So this year I decided to stop trying to fold it into regular field type trainings. There will be a few exceptions where the keeper position can train during a field session effectively, depending on the lesson plan but most of the time they are doing a lot of standing and that isn’t good. Instead, I hold an additional training session each week for keepers. I do invite all of the players to attend. If they want to play keeper in a game, they have to attend a keeper training that week and participate as a keeper.
The non-keeper players that want to participate in the training session can and I have some fun drills for those non-keeper attendees. I use the non-keeper players to help play the attacking player, the servers, etc., so that I can spend more time helping the keeper work on technique, instead of acting as the server myself. The plus is that they are size and skill comparable to what the keeper will see in a game. I also use the non-keeper player to be the ball retriever during keeper throw, punt and kick drills.
When retrieving balls we use it to help the non-keeper player to work on their power and accuracy of their driven kicks by giving them a target to drive the ball into, which is near our supply of balls. It has worked very well so far.
I used this method last spring with a U18 Girls club team that I coached at the USSF select level. The success I saw there is what made me try it with the younger team too. I did find that I could incorporate keeper training into the older group’s sessions easier but I think it was due to having a very capable assistant that could take charge of the field player coaching points while I concentrated on the keepers, during the same combined drills.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: boanas, coordination, fun games, games, mind games, sessions, solving problems, thinking, warm ups
By David clarke
I was on a coaching course recently with Surrey County FA coach educator Keith Boanas. One of the warm-up sessions from Keith really caught my eye and I have since used it with my team – it is tremendous fun and brings coordination, communication and teamwork to the fore.
Fun team games are one of the treasures in any coach’s chest of exercises and drills, and this combines some great elements of physical and mental awareness.
This opposed warm-up is fantastic for coordination, whilst rehearsing players in seeing and assessing what is in front of them.
They are looking to solve a strategic problem whilst also staying aware of the movement of opposition players, just as they would do in a match situation.
Adding in a ball provides an extra challenge, so try this with your team to see if they can develop dribbling ability and mental agility in one exercise.
How to set it up:
- This opposed warm-up is played 3v3.
- You will need 11 cones and 12 bibs.
- Set up three lines of three cones, each five yards apart horizontally and vertically. This is your noughts and crosses playing grid.
- Add two additional cones at the bottom of the grid a further five yards back. This is from where each team will begin the exercise.
- Each player has a bib of his team’s colour in both hands.
- On your call the first player in each team runs and puts one of their bibs on a cone.
- They must run back and tag the next player in the team.
- Players must try to get three in a row horizontally, vertically or diagonally, whilst looking to prevent the opposition team from achieving the same feat.
- Play three games making sure each player takes a turn being first in the line.
Developing the session:
- Progress this opposed warm-up by giving both teams a ball. Each working player must now dribble to his chosen cone before placing the bib over it.
- You can increase or decrease the distances between cones to alter the physical demands of the test – the greater the distance, the greater the challenge.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: coaching style, drills, how to coach, player independence, sessions, target
There has been much debate recently about player-centred coaching and the benefits it has for young footballers. Player-centred coaching is about focusing and targeting soccer to the ages and skills of your players.
But in addition, it supports players’ independence by giving them a controlling influence over the session. They feel the session is theirs, which improves communication with the coach, increases motivation and accelerates understanding and appreciation of what’s being taught. From that, a player’s ability to solve tactical problems within the game is enhanced.
This does not mean that the coach has no control – far from it. The role of the coach is to set a challenge that’s centred on their skills, and he’ll still need to guide the players through the process of solving problems. But there is created an environment in which players share responsibility for individual and team performance.
So, for example, I will mark out the playing area, but within that area give the players cones to create boxes or gates that are going to be used. I will guide my players if they make squares or gates too big or small, but they can alter the parameters as the session commences.
I will present them with questions related to what they’ve laid out and might recommend a set challenge, but am looking for them to correct any mistakes made. For instance, the challenge might be to dribble a ball through four gates. If a player misses a gate, I’ll watch him to see if he makes amends for the error without me pointing it out.
The challenge is the same, but the player is in control. For a scenario that is less game-like, I might look to work on technique and skills… such as players having a choice over which channel they go down in 1v1s – a long, thin one, or a short and narrow one. Or I might move to a setting with four coned off parts of an area where players cannot be tackled – wing channels on either side of the pitch, for instance, where a player can run without opposition before putting a cross in. I’m always interested to see what effect player-centred coaching can have – from those 1v1s to 4v4s for general all-round choices, or even 8v8s to offer experience in more specified roles.
Whatever the task in hand is, I will always guide players so they experience every position, but by and large they’re fashioning the challenges themselves. The crucial thing for me is, of course, getting the challenge as relevant as possible to my players. But it’s also about identifying the point at which guiding a player turns into interfering with the process.
Player-centred coaching, and empowering the footballers who play under you, is certainly something that develops gradually, but players love the freedom and, as a coach, I believe I am beginning to see real rewards.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: andre merelle, clairefontaine, development, french, french academy, left foot, right foot, sessions, skills, two footed
Coaches often ask me about getting grass roots players to use both feet – and I have to admit it is hard. The best way is to try and make sure you practice with your players so they get used to using both of them. But it is something you have to work on all the time because they can easily stop doing it in matches.
I have two ways for you to work with your players. The first is from Andre Merelle the technical director of French Football Federation (FFF’s) National Technical Centre at Clairefontaine, arguably the best youth soccer development center in the world.
It is a simple exercise but very effective – plus you get to watch him explain it in the clip below.
He has helped develop players like Jean-Pierre Papin, Thierry Henry, Louis Saha, William Gallas and Nicholas Anelka.
The French focus a great deal on technique……The players must play with the ball as much as possible from an early age, the younger the better.
Check out his simple way to coach two-footed strikers in the video clip below and set it up and try it out with your players. Then move on to my session below it:
Close to goal, strikers can guide the ball into the net, they don’t need to rifle it home. So this exercise is all about coaching your players to be comfortable in front of goal with both feet.
Set this up like the diagram below on a small pitch with two teams of four players. You, or a helper, act as the server by standing on the halfway line at the side.
In the diagram the white shirted players dribble and then pass (1) to the coach. The coach makes a return pass (2) for a first time shot with the right foot (3).
Immediately the player moves across the penalty area and reacts to a pass from a team mate at the side of the goal by shooting with his left foot (5). He then takes the place of his team mate next to the goal.
The dark shirted players do the same thing in the opposite direction. This time the left-foot shot is further out but here just look for direction from the player. Tell him you want to see him hit the target not necessarily score past the goalkeeper.