Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: goals, pass, score, shoot, small-sided games, tactics
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 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.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: 1v1s, attack, defend, score, shoot, skills, technique, win
In the game my U10s B team played on Saturday they were involved in a lot of 1v1 duels both in defence and in attack, which had a big effect on the game. By winning the majority of these battles, my team held a huge advantage by having possession of the ball much more than their opponents.
Fortunately in the session before the game I’d been using this session designed to improve 1v1s in the midfield. Players are forced to continually attack and defend 1v1 in order to forge a chance to score a goal.
These are the kind of duels they would face in a real game. Remember to also alert your players to the fact that beating an opponent in a 1v1 will remove them from the game, allowing more space to attack.
How to set it up
Use an area 50 yards by 30 yards with a 10 yards by 10 yards area in the centre of the larger area.
How to play it
Pass a ball into the smaller area where two players must compete for it. The player successful at taking the ball outside of the area has the chance to run and take a shot at goal.
How to develop it
The player that wins teh initial batlle in the centre area has take on the defender in 1v1.
However, if the defender wins the ball from the attacker then they can pass the ball back to their team mate in the centre square.
The team mate can now go 1v1 at the opposite end.
Now when winning the 1v1 duel, your player attacks as he would in a game with the attackers outnumbering the defenders (the picture showing 3v2 can be changed to suit the players available in your session).
Play it in a game
The objective is to show the players in your team the benefits of competing and winning the duel against their immediate opponent in the game.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: attacker, drill, exercise, hit target, score, shoot, striker, target man
This is a great game to practise with all ages. It is all about using target men to set up attacks. Neither team can score without utilising the target man, so this is a great game to teach link-up play in the final third and reminds players not to be greedy.
It also rehearses the art of playing through opponents, and only positive and well-organised supporting runs will be rewarded with goalscoring opportunities.
How to set it up:
Create a playing area measuring 35×25 yards.
Within that, create two end zones, each 10 yards in from the goal lines.
There are two goals – one at each end – and keepers in place.
This game is best played with two teams of four outfield players.
- This game has no offsides, and if the ball leaves play, you have a few different restart options:
1. You pass a new ball onto the pitch.
2. Players take a roll-in.
3. Players take a throw-in.
4. Players make a pass-in.
5. Players dribble the ball in.
Each team selects one player to be the "target man". This player stands in the attacking end zone.
The aim of the game is to make a pass to the target man, and then for a supporting player to receive a lay-off pass to shoot at goal.
When the target man receives the ball, only one defender can come back to attempt to break up play.
After a shot is made, the shooting player swaps position with the target man.
If a tackle is made before the ball goes through to the target man, the other team can attack in the opposite direction.
Restart after a goal or if the ball goes out of play.
The game is played for a set time period of 15 minutes.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: aguero, attack, communication, heroes, manchester city, midfield, shoot, team bonding, team spirit
Isn’t it great when you hear players shouting the names of their heroes in the professional game? Twice this week I heard a pro’s name shouted by one of my players when they were bearing down on goal, as I’ll go on to explain…
To put it into context, my Under-11s were playing a really important end-of-season match last week. I was nervous for them, as were the cluster of parents gathered on the touchline, but how refreshing to see the kids just playing the game with so much relaxed spirit. It was a tight first period with relatively few chances, and with the scores level in the second half, a series of passes led the ball to my midfielder Marcus through on goal at an angle.
Before he shot, he shouted “AGUERO!” and tried to emulate the player he had seen in his living room score that fantastic title-winning goal for Manchester City . Needless to say the shot went high and wide – oh well! Even so, that didn’t stop his team mates appreciating at least the fact he had put himself in the right place as we drove forward looking for a goal.
“I heard you shout that!” one of his team mates said with a smile on his face. “That was brilliant!”
Another came over laughing and told him he too had thought of Aguero as the move developed. I find it heartening when I see my players inspired by great and memorable events on the pitch that they want to emulate.
Kids learn by watching and there is no better league for them to learn from than the English Premier League. Their appreciation for the game is a far cry from some people’s perception that kids are sometimes only taken in by some of the more unsavoury aspects of the modern game. I disagree with that notion. At the end of the day they take the positives, and this season has been full of them – great players, great skills, great goals, but also great stories.
And not always on the pitch – look at the reaction to Fabrice Muamba recovering from his heart attack and the draw of affection from the football family, for instance. I have started to realise there’s a lot in football to inspire those of us in the grass roots game. And if ever, as coaches, we’re unsure which of those influences are having an effect, just watch the kids!
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: dribble, drills, exercises, messi, pass, passing, Ronaldo, shoot
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.
- 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.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: create space, defend, game, shield, shoot, shooting drill, tackle
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.
- 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.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: attack, Barcelona, Celtic, counter, drills, exercises, goals, how to score, shoot
But they did score two goals, and they used the counter attack to great effect.
In youth football, constructing a good counter-attack often comes down to one team being quicker than the other – a case of who can control the ball and combine before the opposing team has managed to recover its position. The quick counter-attack requires players in a team to react with speed and concentration, and often the most important man will be your striker, who receives the ball under pressure from a defender.
He must control it and either shoot at goal himself, or be aware enough to lay it off into the path of a supporting attacker. Speed is vital because the opposition players will be recovering their positions at pace as, often, a lone defender holds up play. Using this exercise, you can replicate counter-attacks in training, perfecting the process using recognised support and teamwork, rather than just raw pace.
Counter-attacking talent is as much about routine and teamwork as it is the ability to control and pass. By rehearsing this move, attackers become accustomed to knowing the right areas to run into, and when to make their move.
Defenders must also practise getting back at pace, watching all the time the movement of their lone team-mate in order to prevent the attack. Counter-attacking talent is as much about routine and teamwork as it is the ability to control and pass. By rehearsing this move, attackers become accustomed to knowing the right areas to run into, and when to make their move. Defenders must also practise getting back at pace, watching all the time the movement of their lone team-mate in order to prevent the attack.
Practice makes perfect, and although workmanlike in training, the counter-attacking move can prove hugely valuable and visually brilliant when played out in a match situation.
How to set it up:
• Set up a playing area measuring 30×20 yards.
• There is an 8-yard zone at each end of the pitch. At the near end this is marked by cones across the pitch, while at the far end it’s best to use a pitch marking or cones on either side to denote the line.
• There is one goal, with a goalkeeper in place.
• Put two teams of three players in the near end zone – one acts as attacking support, the other as defending support.
• Place a striker in the middle area of the pitch, and a defender in the zone near the goal.
• The coach serves the ball out to the striker.
• As soon as that pass is played, the attacking support can move.
• When the lone attacker controls the ball, the defending support can move, as can the defender in the far end zone.
• Attackers must work together to move the ball forward and finish with a shot on goal.
• Replay the move so that players become comfortable in their roles, but going forward, experiment with different conditions to keep the counter-attacks challenging.
For instance, change the time between defenders and attackers moving by calling out “attack go” and “defence go”. Also try varying the number of players in the near end zone in order to favour either defence or attack. This also means you can involve all members of your squad at once. • Rotate players often so that everyone samples the demands of each role.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: development, losing, miss, mistakes, shoot
Going into our game last weekend, my Under-11s were playing on the back of a seven-match winning streak. That run has been built on a good passing game and the idea that every single player is involved as the ball is moved up the pitch. In the match, we were up against a physically big side… not that my players were put off by that challenge.
And it was the best game of passing football I had ever seen us play, even if our winning sequence came to an abrupt and unexpected end.
Essentially, all our training, practice and repetition of movement has started to pay off. Yet we lost 4-0. But who cares? Some of the one-twos and link-up play were mouth-watering… I counted five back-heels that beat a player and put one of my players into a great position to create a goal.
And yes, we created a lot of chances, but the opposition were very strong at the back and the goalkeeper showed excellent awareness coming off his line to sweep up any through-balls. The opposition themselves played some great football and the match was an excellent advertisement for grass roots soccer.
We gave away a goal on the stroke of half-time, but that didn’t change my team-talk at the interval. I told them they were playing superbly. Sure, they were more concerned about leaking a goal, but even they admitted that the manner of the performance had been very encouraging.
The second period followed much the same pattern – both teams created chances. They took theirs, but we didn’t. That is sometimes how it goes in a match. I was buzzing afterwards because we had performed so well, and so much of what I had coached them had come through.
Sometimes that’s enough in soccer, because while things didn’t come off on Saturday, I know that if the players continue to play like that, they’ll win many more than they lose. And that’s the point – if they go out thinking they have a chance of winning, we have won together as a team – coach and players learning from each other.
The result should never be the main thing. It’s much more important that your team plays to the best of its ability – remind them that for as long as they do that they’re developing and growing, and you’ll find they’ll keep responding, no matter what the scoreline is.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: Aguera, goals, how to score, manchester city, Premier League, shoot, shooting skills
By David Clarke
The Sergio Aguero challenge
I’ve named this after the Manchester City striker who shoots from all over the pitch – long range, short range and every angle you can image. He has been successful for club and country, and provided some memorable moments in his career – like his last second goal to win the Premier League title for his team last season.
How to set it up
- You will need six poles (or cones), a stopwatch and timesheet.
- Starting on the 18-yard line, place three poles two yards apartlined up with the goalposts. Repeat in line with the other post.
- Put three balls on the 18-yard line, one in the middle, one tothe left and one to the right.
- Starting in the middle, the player flicks the ball into the air,keeping it up twice. On the third kick, he volleys at goal,trying to achieve the highest score he can.
- He then runs to the ball on the right, passing it toward thegoal with a good weight so they can weave through the polesto get on the end of his pass.
- He should shoot across goal with his right foot aiming forthe far corner.
- The player then runs back to the remaining ball, repeatingthe process on the left side.
- He should end with a left-footed shot into the
How to score
- Back of the net = one point
- Side netting inside the goal = two points
- Top corner = three points
How to advance the session
- To keep this move fresh, move the poles further away from goal so that players can shoot from greater distances.
- Later, add a goalkeeper into the equation. Can your players still find the high-scoring areas of the goal?
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: attack, lose, parents, score, shoot, tactics, touchline tale, win
I’ve heard a lot of things shouted at soccer games in youth leagues, but something that I was confronted with at our game last weekend was a new one for me.
It was hot on the heels of a meeting I’d had the day before where the blueprint for youth soccer in England had filled my world with hope for the future of the game. But the positivity and fair-mindedness that I’d experienced was quickly stifled in the reality of an Under-11s match.
We were playing against a strong, tough-tackling, hard-kicking team who were hitting balls at our defence with alarming regularity. Supporting this extremely hard-working team were a group of parents intent on winning, and winning whatever it took.
We adjusted to the pressure and at half-time it was 0-0. We now had the slope of the pitch in our favour. Our slick passing and movement began to gain us the upper hand, and the through-ball exercises we had been working on earlier in the week were looking as though they might pay dividends.
It was at this point one of the opposition parents, obviously realising his son’s team were losing their edge, began shouting warnings. Nothing unusual in that, until a final instruction came: “Don’t let them play!” he screamed. “Stop them playing!” This ‘tactic’ was promptly followed up by other parents. They were trying to end this absorbing game as a contest.
I remarked to the parent how much the players were enjoying the tactical battle, and that shutting down and stifling the game was a real shame… but of course I was ignored and the bluntly shouted instructions continued. This tactic actually allowed us to switch play more easily, and as my players began to pick off the tiring opposition players we found better chances to score. Late on, we finally found the net.
We held on to win the game, and the post-match atmosphere between the two sets of players, if not the parents, was good. It was our opponents’ first loss of the season and those around the sides of the pitch took it badly.
But what they failed to see was that it was a good close game. And it might have been even closer had they let the players continue in the same manner with which they’d approached the first half.
At the end my players said they had enjoyed winning 1-0 much more than the previous week when they’d triumphed 8-0, but I think even they felt the spirit of the game had gone in those final phases. That was a shame, because up until then there had been two styles of play cancelling each other out, providing a platform for an abundance of skill all over the pitch.
If only the parents hadn’t got involved…