Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: coaching, david clarke, focus, shooting, speed, style, understanding
It all went horribly wrong last week – I coached a team of players and lost the focus of the session and the suitability of the challenges for the players who were doing it. It was my own fault. I had been asked to coach another team straight after my own session.
I hadn’t taken these players before but without giving it any thought, I decided to run the same session I had run earlier with one of my own teams. I had done no homework on the players and, as we started, I quickly realised I needed to change the focus of the session because they were finding it too difficult. Instead of adapting the same session, I whizzed through the library of sessions stored in my memory and started another one. It was far from ideal.
I should have just changed the dimensions of the exercise that I was using and made the session work for them. With my regular team the session had gone like a breeze because they were used to moving the ball around with speed and precision.
I have been working on getting them to pass like Spain, where defenders, midfielders and strikers link up with effortless ease thanks to some great combinational play. Short, sharp passing and clever movement was key to the session – the art of Spain’s wonderful play is dominating possession in this way. And my players coped well with the session, using intelligent passing and great teamwork.
However, when I tried the same session with the next group they weren’t able to use the same techniques or passing movement to make it a success and they weren’t getting the same fun out of it as my team had.
This caused one or two players to show their boredom in other ways so I had to go in and change the session. Rather than adapt it, I changed the session completely, but this just stripped away the focus and made the challenges I had set meaningless. I struggled on and forced the new session through but afterwards I was disappointed that I had ignored my own advice and tried to totally change the session rather than alter it to get their understanding.
I had been caught out because I took it for granted that the players would be able to cope with my session, even though I had never coached them before. It was a timely reminder that I should have focused on the players and their needs, rather than focus on the session – and that a session can be altered to make it work for different groups of players.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: control, goal, pass, robben, Ronaldo, shooting, shots, speed
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.
- 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.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: 1v1, accuracy, control, score, shooting, shot
This is a great game to end one of your sessions. I often use it with my U9s team when they have been training hard. Your players won’t know there’s a coaching element to this game and will be learning without realising it.
Expect to see lots of 1v1 situations in this game. But as the number of balls decrease, these will become more random because players can then link up to create 2v2 or 2v4 scenarios.
Players will learn how to attack and defend different goals. They will also have to use communication, decision making and teamwork skills as the game progresses from individual to multi-player situations.
Set this one up in a 30 yards by 30 yards square. You need six target goals (mini goals or cones will do), and a lot of balls.
How to play it
On your whistle, the attackers get a ball each and try to score in one of the goals. After each shot, the attackers return to the middle of the playing area to get another ball.
Once all the balls have been played, the number of balls in the goals should be counted and then the roles reversed. If you are using cones for goals, get a couple of parents or helpers to keep score.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: 1v1, 3v3, control, drills, exercises, goal, score, shooting, shot
If your attackers are shy when they get the ball in front of goal and either just kick in hope in the vague direction of goal or try and pass it away quickly they need a boost in confidence.
This three-goal game is fantastic for giving every player in your team a chance to run at goal or shoot cleverly into the corners when they approach the goal at an angle.
Can they switch feet to fool the goalkeeper? Can they get into a better position to shoot? Can they win the 1v1s to set themselves up with a chance? Find out with this session:
How to set it up:
Play 3v3, in a 30-yard square area. There are three goals, two in each of the corners and one placed on the opposite side in the middle. One player from each team acts as goalkeeper.
The practice starts with one player from each team attacking the goal to their left – unopposed dribbling and shooting in turn.
Players must concentrate on controlling the ball and approaching each goal at an angle.
At the end of each attack, the attackers move clockwise around the playing area, ready to attack the next goal. Goalkeepers remain where they are.
To advance this, add defenders to the practice so your attackers have an additional obstacle.
Make sure you rotate players so that everyone gets a chance in each position.
You can also switch play by attacking each goal from the right-hand side.
The key elements:
The focus is on individual skills such as dribbling, shooting and 1v1 attacking and defending.
Highlight those players who are using good technique and creating space.
Don’t be afraid to stop the game, pointing out to your players what they are doing right and wrong in terms of technique and positioning.
Why this works:
Play is centred on a tight area that represents the compacted nature of the midfield so players are forced to make quick and efficient decisions in attack and defence.
Rather than undertake an exercise that encourages a player to pass, this is a great move whereby taking on an opponent can be shown to have a much more dynamic effect on the game, something that is good for players to recognise in a match situation.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: attack, drills, midfield, passing, shooting
It’s understandable for some players to want to bypass the crowded, pressurised environment that is the centre of the pitch.
But hitting long balls forward or always targeting play to the wings makes teams predictable and boring.
This is a practice that will boost confidence and remind players that getting the ball into midfield and using it smartly can often be the best way to attack.
How to play it
You need balls, bibs, cones and goals.
Mark out a 50×30 yards area split into three zones.
There are two teams of six, each also has a keeper.
The team in possession is allowed up to 20 seconds unchallenged in the central (safe) zone. It can stay there for that time or break out, but if still in the zone when time elapses, the opposition can go in and try to win the ball.
If the team in possession loses the ball in any area of the pitch, its players must vacate the central zone.
The size of the central zone is key to the challenge and skill of the game as players will discover so, after six minutes, increase or decrease its size to see what effect it has on the game.
Developing the session
- You can advance the session by allowing one opposition player to go in the central zone. This puts more pressure on midfielders.
Technique and tactics
The safe zone encourages play to go through midfield, with players getting used to receiving on the half-turn or practising controlling technique.
While doing this without the fear of being tackled, the option to survey options and pass the ball on is encouraged. However, the margin for error increases when the central zone is shortened.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: control, first touch, movement, overloads, passing, shooting
It can be difficult at times to find a good workout for your players that replicates the vital first touch, good movement and quick passing of typical match day situations.
Players are generally relaxed in training – sometimes overly so – and there’s certainly less pressure on them performing a move well.
But with the right set-up, and providing you can instil the notion that a player’s team mates are depending on him (and him only) to perform a specific task, you can get your team working at a high tempo.
This activity, Touch And Go, ensures players remain physically and mentally alert at all times, always aware of the concept of using available space in order to make maximum use of the ball.
It is a fast session that rehearses overloads, shooting, passing and movement in the same manner that your players will encounter in a match – indeed, a shortened version of this is perfect as a pre-match practice, so ensure every player is getting the ball and thinking about moving to the pass.
How to set it up:
- Alter the size of the playing area depending on the ages of your players. For U9s, use the centre circle of an adult (11-a-side) pitch, or a circle 20 yards in diameter. For U10s and older, mark out a 30-yard circle as a playing area.
- You will need to create three small goals using cones at equal points around the playing area. These will each be two yards wide. There are six players on one team and three on the other, though you can alter the number of players and the size of the playing area depending on your squad size, providing one team has twice as many players as the other.
One player on the team of six starts with the ball at his feet.
He must release the ball to a team mate. His team aims to complete six consecutive passes.
The team with three players must attempt to overturn possession. If it does, it tries to score in one of the small goals.
Play this for 10 minutes.
The main move
Now they have warmed up, prepare your players to restart with the same 6v3 set-up.
This time though, the team of six must arrange themselves so that three players begin inside the circle and three outside.
The three inside must keep possession, always attempting to switch with players on the outside of the circle by passing the ball to them. When they do this, they swap places with their team mate.
They gain a point for each successful pass out and player switch.
As before, the team of three gain a point by winning the ball and scoring in one of the three goals.
Play for 10 minutes then rotate players.
Why this works:
This is a great overload game that never allows players to relax. Because it is performed in a playing area that most aren’t accustomed to, they should be constantly aware of situations developing around them.
In the second exercise, the playing numbers are still 6v3, but the overload is not as obvious with players inside the circle feeling as though they are involved in a 3v3 small-sided game.
On each occasion, look for players to adapt their style of play to the way in which they can score points. The team of six should be looking to play a controlled passing game, while the team of three must be bold and ambitious in their attacking play.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: awareness, look up, passing, see, shooting, vision, visual
This session from Kevin McGreskin is aimed at developing a player’s visual awareness by making them look up and know what their team mates are doing around them. In the session, players have to carry out a specific action in response to a visual cue which forces them to look before they pass or receive a pass.
How it works
In the picture above. Player 2 must only use three touches in the centre – one to control the ball, one to move it and one to pass.
Encourage players to call out the colour of the visual cue during the exercise. This is an important secondary task that increases the challenge for the players and gets them used to talking during play.
How to play it
You need three players, two balls and six markers.
Player 2 stands between two markers (one black, one white) approximately three yards apart.
Players 1 and 3 each have one black and one white marker.
Player 1 passes to player 2.
Player 2 must look around to "spot" the visual cue, held up by player 3.
Player 2 must then shift the ball around the same coloured marker as the visual cue.
Player 2 follows the ball and makes a return pass to player 1.
Player 2 turns and repeats with player 3. This time, player 1 will hold up the visual cue.
How to progress it
- Continue as above but player 2 must now "spot" a second visual cue, held up by player 3 in the picture, and call out the colour before making the return pass.
- Rotate players after they have had two turns.
Key coaching tips
Make sure players look over their shoulder before receiving a pass.
Players need a good touch to shift the ball out of their feet and beyond the cone.
Ensure players look up and correctly identify the second visual cue before making the return pass.
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: attack, awareness, Manchester United, shooting, speed, three ball routine, warm-up
By David Clarke
Manchester United’s first-team coach Rene Meulensteen developed what he called the three-ball routine to increase team speed and mental awareness. I saw it in action and it was a real flurry of movement and attacking action.
I created my own version of it to use with my youth teams.
It provides a very effective way of getting a side prepared for a forthcoming match because it improves the speed of defenders and the movement of attackers.
The routine starts with a shot from outside the box, then moves on to a cross that needs to be defended. As soon as the crossing element has finished, a third ball comes in from the other wing.
Meulensteen said: “It’s an exciting exercise – you’re looking at the quality of the passing and the variety from the wing, while watching runs at the near and far post. Can the players react to the ball?”
How to set it up:
- Player numbers can vary but we’ve used 10 in this instance.
- You need balls, cones and a goal, plus one keeper.
- Place a pole or cone just outside the D of the penalty area, plus two additional
cones on each wing – one to mark an early cross and the other a deep cross.
- Four central players stand so the cone just outside the D is between them
and the goalkeeper, with one player further forward than the others.
- Two players position themselves on each of the wings.
- There is one defender in the penalty area.
- Ensure the central group have a good supply of balls.
- The central players one-touch pass to each other. When the ball arrives at the
most advanced player, he turns on the cone and shoots first time at goal.
- As the central group lays a ball to the right wing, the shooter makes his way into
the penalty area to challenge 1v1 against the defender. Both players prepare for
the cross from the side.
- The right crosser then joins the action and the defender must defend 2v1 on a
cross from the right. The ball is again fed from the central group.
- The left crosser now joins to complete a maximum 3v1 in the middle.
Repeat the crossing scenario with the two remaining wingers, this time from the
deepest crossing cones.
Developing the session:
- Set up as before but have an attacker and two defenders in the penalty box.
- The advanced central player lays the ball back to a team mate
before joining the other attacker – he needs to head for the post not covered
by his team mate.
- The ball is switched to the wing and the subsequent cross challenged 2v2 in
Why this works:
This is a great workout for defenders because it’s very match realistic.
There is reward for good play from the attackers in the form of goals, and the growing number of attacking players creates a constantly changing proposition for the lone defender – who ends up defending against a 3v1 overload.
Finally, the variety of attacking angles mean both attackers and defenders need
to stay aware at all times.
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: cross into box, crossing, drill, exercise, meet the cross, scoring, shooting
Arriving in the box in the right place at the right time is a particular strength of the world’s top strikers and attacking midfielders. Giving your players this ability will add to the potency of your team’s attack.
During your training session work on these things:
- Are the attackers meeting the ball as it arrives or are they waiting for the cross? Perfect timing will make the defender’s job of marking almost impossible.
- Ask the wingers to supply a variety of crosses at different angles, heights and speeds to encourage the attackers to make different runs.
Good build up play will allow wingers to exploit width, putting them in a position to get the ball into the box for your forwards to attack. This session shows your players how to turn these opportunities into goals by getting players on the end of crosses.
- Use an area the size of two penalty areas.
- One goal either side.
- Wingers start at either corner on one side of the area, attackers on the opposite side.
In diagram 1 the first winger carries the ball the length of the playing area and crosses the ball. Attackers set off just after and try to get on the end of the cross and score. The players join the back of the queue and the exercise repeats in the opposite direction.
In diagram 2 you can advance the play from diagram 1 by adding a pair of defenders. This will increase the pressure on the attackers to find a yard of space and on the wingers to improve their crossing accuracy.
- The coach passes into the two attackers who combine to move the ball wide to the winger.
- The attackers must then try to lose the defenders and score from the winger’s cross.
- After attacking, you defend and the previous defenders break out to attack the opposite goal.