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If there’s one course you should go on…

davidscwnewI firmly believe that if you want to develop the skills of individual players you need to start young and you need to do so at grassroots level. So this summer I decided to attend a number of courses based on skills coaching and individual excellence that would add to my knowledge of youth coaching. And this was the pick of the bunch.

Coerver Coaching’s Alf Galustian was the star skills educator at his Play Like Spain course at the London Soccer Dome – and it was like being in Spain on one of the hottest weekends of the year.

DCAlfWillie+spanish players1

Coerver’s course is based on the Spain national side and the success they have had playing with Spanish style and the phases of play that make up that style. Alf coached sessions where the emphasis was on individual ball mastery and how the development of the individual creates a winning team.

Alf said: “I have worked in Spain as a coach educator several times throughout my career. It is common knowledge that Spain are the current leading developers of football talent and they have implemented a style of play that is the envy of world football”.

I found it very interesting because last year I spent a lot of time  working on the phases of play used by Barcelona and why they have had so much success in the last few years with their style of possession play – I broke Barcelona style down to Possession/Patience/Penetration and did a presentation for the NSCAA on the Barcelona phases of play.

Alf broke down the Spain style into four phases of play

Protecting

Protecting the ball individually by coaching shielding techniques and as a group moving the ball quickly to keep it away from opponents.

Pressing

Individually and as a team. This is the Spanish way, lose the ball win it back by pressing high up the pitch giving teams no time to settle on the ball.

Probing

Running with the ball into space or finding the killer pass, with drills to develop individual and team skills

Penetration

The creative end product from the combination of the other three parts of the course – ­including creativity in the final third (the one thing English players find hard to do).

Coerver have been over in Spain recently and Scott Wright the UK director of Coerver told me: “We have had coaches from all levels attend our courses in Spain including La Liga clubs Real Madrid, Getafe, Real Mallorca and Rayo Vallacano as well as other coaches and ex-players from across Spain and Europe.”

Dave Clarke with Manuel Ojalvo

Dave Clarke with Manuel Ojalvo

So I felt I was in good company on the course and that there was a real Spanish aspect to the sessions. Added to that Coerver had brought former Athletico Madrid youngster Manuel Ojalvo, and former professional Diego Camacho, who has amassed more than 400 appearances in La Liga.

Manuel has a background in youth coaching and gave some great insights into what it was like to be a youth player in Spain. Diego doesn’t have the command of the English language that Manuel has but he managed to get across the frustrations of being coached in one position for all his time in youth football – defensive midfield. He has played against the likes of Zinedine Zidane and Lionel Messi, asked how he stopped Messi he shrugged and gave a chopping motion… it was fascinating stuff.

Both players are convinced the Coerver system can help grassroots in Spain – and of course in England.

Diego said (with Manuel acting as interpreter): “Every ex-professional player, no matter the level, who is thinking about moving into coaching should definitely study the Coerver System; I wish it had been available to me when I was a young, it would have made me a better player”.

Dave Clarke and Diego Camacho

Dave Clarke and Diego Camacho

Alf also introduced former ManchesterCity and Scotland defender Willie Donachie who is now development coach at Newcastle United. Again the advice was very interesting because Coerver are very much an attack minded in their tactics. Willie talks defence and used the example of Ian Rush the former Liverpool and Wales striker as an example of a forward whose first thought on losing the ball was to win it back. Alf too had praise for an attacker who likes to win the ball back – Lionel Messi “he is the best defender in the world”, said Alf.

Dave Clarke and Willie Donachie

Dave Clarke and Willie Donachie

Some great course material to take away in the form of a book that included the sessions Alf had put on during the weekend added to the overall success of the course.

It was a great way to spend a weekend in the summer and a very valuable one for my own personal development adding to my knowledge of Spanish football, giving me lots to take back to the teams that I coach. I suggest if you get the chance you should go on the course – it is a great learning experience.



Receive, control, turn, dribble

This move is designed to get players focused on receiving the ball and moving off. It relies on a good first touch and develops into a passage of play that can open up space for your team to exploit.

How to set it up

  • You need three players for this exercise, plus a good number of balls and cones. Create a two-yard square control box.

  • From each of the two left-hand cones of the box, walk diagonally for 12 yards and create two more identical coned squares.

  • From each of the two right-hand cones of the box, measure five yards at a slight angle, placing two cones at these points.

Getting started

  • Two players in the left-hand boxes take it in turns to play balls to the player in the control box.

  • Get the serving players to pass balls at different heights so the player gets used to controlling it with different parts of his body.

  • The receiving player must control the ball with one touch, ensuring he keeps it within the square.

  • He turns after controlling the ball and dribbles it to the top cone, then sprints to the second cone.

  • He leaves the ball at the second cone and sprints back to his control box, ready to receive a pass from the other server.

Why this works

This is a fast-paced move that combines instant control with the need to get the ball and the player on the move quickly.

Making your player vary his turning direction once he has received the ball will shape his mindset so that he is always aware he may need to turn away from tackles coming in during a normal game.



Winning the 1v1s

davidscwnewIn 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.



12 –point plan for technical top marks

davidscwnewI’m starting some extra coaching this season which means I’m going to be looking at developing a team of eight-year-olds through to the age of 12. A couple of the parents asked how I’d kick things off, and I thought I’d share with you what my plan will be. My immediate thoughts are that I want my players to be technically good. I’ll then mix that in with a few speed of movement skills. Initially I will use unopposed sessions until my players are up to speed. I can then put in opposition to make the task harder.

Here’s my 12-point technical plan.

I will tell players to:
1. Use side of the foot and instep to kick the ball both along the ground and through the air with accuracy.
2. Use all parts of the body to keep the ball in the air… apart from the arms!
3. Control the ball with all parts of the body… apart from arms!
4. Concentrate on accuracy of passing when on the move.
5. Shoot at goal with accuracy, which takes priority over power.
6. Concentrate on crossing accuracy to near and far posts. This will take some time with the younger ones and therefore crossing will be initially about direction rather than power.
7. Try to gain confidence in defensive and attacking heading using the right technique.
8 Take on board 1v1 skills that give them the ability to get past an opponent using feints and stepovers.
9. Practise quick passing tactics to get past opponents with skills like wall passes.
10. Practise individual techniques like shielding, recovering, tackling.
11. Take notice of the correct technique and tactics for throw-ins.
12. Appreciate the art of set pieces, freekicks, corners and penalties. This is my initial technical blueprint.

Of course, we have tactics, positional play and a code of conduct that comes outside of this, but as a pretty thorough technical game plan, I can’t wait to get it started. I’ll let you know how you get on; feel free to use with on your team..



Skills session: coach players to turn with the ball

davidscwnewGreat way to coach turning with this simple session you can use to coach your players – it also makes a good warm up.

skillsblog

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:

  1. An open body turn
  2. Opening legs and flicking the ball in between
  3. 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.



Why quick throws work for youth teams

David ClarkeLast weekend, we were lucky to find our game was on given that most of the country was under water – we played on astro turf as our usual pitch was too wet. It was a fast game, requiring player reactions to be somewhat quicker than normal.

But whether on a fast surface or not, I always ask my players to think about performing quick, instinctive actions all the time anyway. Sure enough, on Saturday, we scored an opportunist goal thanks to one of my players taking a quick throw-in while the opposition was still getting set up to defend the set play. After the ball went dead, my winger ran over, picked it up and threw it first time into the path of one of our attackers. Two touches later, and the ball was in the back of the net before the keeper had even realised what was happening.

Something like a quick throw-in can make a huge difference in matches, and particularly in youth football where players are not as ‘tuned in’ and alert as they are in the pro game. Of course, players need to show good technique if they are to take advantage of the situation. In fact, after we had used the quick throw-in successfully, another one of my players repeatedly tried to replicate the tactic, and on each occasion he was penalised for lifting one of his feet off the ground.

I know he felt frustrated about it – he was trying to perform the throw quickly, but as a result lost sight of the action itself. You could say he was quick, but couldn’t keep to the rules!

But it’s still worth using quick throw-ins at every opportunity in your coaching sessions. Get players to try it under timed pressure – each time there’s a throw-in they have only 10 seconds to get into position and perform the action.

Of course, to make the most of this in game situations you’ll need for each player to excel at the technique. A lot of teams will have one or two players who are specialists, but if you want quick throw-ins, they’ll need to be performed by the player nearest the ball.

Tell your players to remember:

  •  To take the throw-in from where the ball went out of play
  • That their team mates can’t be offside from a throw-in
  • That another player has to touch the ball before the thrower can touch it again
  • That a goal cannot be scored directly from a throw-in
  • And that opponents must stand more than two yards from the thrower

Try it out! It’s a great feeling the first time your team proves that something as basic as a throw-in can be utilised to such devastating effect!



Get your strikers using both feet in two easy lessons

David ClarkeCoaches 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.



David Clarke interviews… ALF GALUSTIAN

David ClarkeAlf Galustian is a modern-day football coaching legend. He has worked with the likes of Jurgen Klinsmann, Vincente del Bosque, Gerard Houllier and Ossie Ardiles and is now the skills coach to the Premier League.

When he co-founded the Coerver Coaching programme in 1984 alongside former Chelsea and Scotland star Charlie Cooke, the principle was quite simply in focusing on and developing an individual player’s core skills.

The success of the philosophy led to a clamour for his expertise, and to this day, he has worked at AC Milan, Bayern Munich, Stoke City, Newcastle United and Arsenal, amongst others.

DC: A lot of coaches just starting out might not understand what core skills are. Can you define the term please?
AG: For us in Coerver Coaching, we define core skills as:
• Running with the ball
• 1v1
• First touch
• Passing/shooting
The foundation for all these core skills is Coerver Ball Mastery.

DC: How should grassroots coaches begin their season – what should they be focusing on for the first three months of the campaign?
AG: Players return to pre-season having not played for months and we recommend that coaches focus most of the early sessions on drills, helping their lads regain a feel for ball.
And we would suggest that at least 20% of the session is devoted to repetition exercises with the ball. Repetition can be boring so disguise it by incorporating the principles into competition scenarios between players and/or groups. The rest of the session should be a mix of passing and receiving drills, and small-sided games.

DC: How should this move on as the season advances, to ensure grassroots players are developing?
AG:
The goal of each session is fun and progress, not only as a team but as individuals. The Coerver method of improving players is what we call ‘step-by-step teaching’. We break down the core skills and then teach through repetition, before increasing difficulty. Finally, we look for the use of those skills in game situations.

DC: Most coaches at grassroots level will have players of wildly differing abilities – how would you cope with that?
AG:
This is a really good question and one that we have been asked a lot over Coerver Coaching’s 30-year history. Firstly, all players should do the same drills. A good tip is to split the group into threes and fours, putting players of similar abilities together. The only difference is that for the more skilled players, you make the conditions different (e.g. altering the number of touches, the distance or the speed). The players feel equal since the drill is exactly the same. Once you get to the small-sided games, pool your squad, making sure that no one team has all the best players.

DC: Should coaches continually use one-touch exercises or is that not as relevant as two touches?
AG:
One-touch is quite difficult for most grassroots players. We want our young players to experience success, which then builds up their confidence, interest and concentration. For those reasons we prefer two touch. Once the players improve then we suggest mixing one and two- touch drills.

DC: Most grassroots players might only train and play once a week. Is this enough?
AG:
Simply, no. However, it’s a difficult situation to change. I don’t think we can expect to increase practice times significantly, so we need to be smarter in what and how we teach.

DC: You’re a skills specialist coach and I’ve seen your ability to demonstrate the skill you are coaching. How do grassroots coaches who are not as skilled as you demonstrate difficult techniques to youth players?
AG:
The coach has two options. The first is to practise the skills every day, not as a player but as a teacher, slowly and deliberately. Charlie and I still do this after 30 years. The second option is to pick a player in your group to demonstrate. Just make sure any demonstration is done slowly.

DC: Why is it that players from Spain, Brazil and Argentina are so respected at the moment for the way they play the game?
AG:
I think this explanation would need to be a whole new article! Generally the football culture of these countries has a long tradition of focusing and admiring skills above all else. That culture has pushed coaches and teachers towards allowing young players to express themselves without fear of failure. I suppose Coerver Coaching, in many countries, is a replacement of what players learnt in the old days through street soccer. Times have changed and in relatively affluent societies, street soccer has disappeared.

DC: How much influence do you think the English Premier League has had on grassroots players?
AG:
The Premier League is the most exciting and certainly the most televised league in the world. In that regard, there is no doubt that grassroots players and coaches are influenced. I think the players and teams can be extremely positive influences when it comes to learning the game, fair play, and behavioural role models.



The greatest one-touch, two-touch passing moves.. at Under-11
July 11, 2012, 3:50 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

David ClarkeIt has been discussed for years and finally the FA are doing something about it.Englandare pushing to close the gap at youth level withSpainandGermany. Doing that should boost the futureEnglandteam…

Well we may be finally putting things in place to do it but I was surprised by how advanced some teams are across the pond inAmerica. They sure are building for the future.

An U11 team inCaliforniahas created its own little area ofSpaintaking their inpiration from the masters of tiki taka,Barcelona. They’ve called their team Barcelona-USA, and play in the same strips as the Catalan giants.

The video that got everyone purring was Barcelona-USA’s U11 Cal South State Cup semi-final against Arsenal FC – no slouches themselves at this level.

But in an epic 13 minutes of football, these young players executed some of the greatest one-touch, two-touch passing moves that you’ll see anywhere, anytime.

According to their coach: “These performances are no accident. It takes meticulous training, studying, and artistry — a craftsman. You can not just throw 11 players on the field and ‘talk’ about possession. That’s just talking. And anybody can do that… you should be asking yourself: ‘Do I really care, or am I just a talker?’”

Are you watching England?

See the video everyone’s talking about below:



Volley like Zlatan Ibrahimovic

David ClarkeIbrahimovic did not have a great Euro 2012 but in Sweden’s final game against France the Milan forward scored a stunning volley. From16 yards in the 54th minute Ibrahimovic arced into the air and his falling volley flew off his laces and into the net as he swept his right foot through the ball to connect with Seb Larsson’s deep cross.

Lots of your players will have seen the goal since, and all will be keen to do something similar. But it isn’t easy. It requires great technique just like Wayne Rooney’s overhead kick against Manchester City last season.

Here’s my guide to helping players pull off the perfect volley

  • Tell your players to keep their eyes focused on the ball and to get into the line of flight
  • Get them to use their arms for balance
  • Tell them to imagine a strike zone in front of them and to keep their head still
  • They should plant their non-kicking foot on the ground, and leading with the knee, bring the kicking leg through
  • The leg should be slightly bent, with the toes pointing down and the ankle held firm
  •  They should strike the centre or top half of the ball with the instep and keep their head over the ball to keep the volley down
  • As with most aspects of the game, practice makes perfect, so regularly build volleying technique into your training sessions as it is a skill that can be effective in any area of the pitch, and by any player.

Here’s a great game to get your players volleying:

How to set it up

  • Arrange your players into two teams.
  • They should stand 10 yards from three cones, which are placed side by side, two yards between each.
  • You and a helper act as servers stood a further three yards back behind the cones.

Getting started

  • You and your helper continually throw balls to your allocated team. Each player, in turn, must try to volley the ball towards any of the three cones, knocking the ball off the top.
  • The first team to knock all three balls off is the winner.
  • As the players become more proficient at the skill, get them to experiment with half volleys and chest volleys.
  • The same set-up can be adapted for headers.

Why this works

This fun warm-up game develops volleying ability. It’s a tough art to, but the ability to bring the ball down is crucial in helping a team move back into a passing game. This warm-up also encourages players to keep their eyes on the ball, directing it downwards towards the floor.




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