Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

The dad on the touchline isn’t happy…

This is exactly the kind of thing that happens more often than it should in youth sport. Get the parents of your players to watch it and make them realise how awful they can appear…

David Clarke interviews… OSSIE ARDILES exclusive

davidscwnewAs a young player Ossie Ardiles was smaller than the other boys around him so he wouldn’t pass the ball much – he would just dribble and dribble and dribble. Much like Maradona and Lionel Messi. His brother called him Piton, the snake. In this exclusive interview Soccer Coach Weekly’s David Clarke spoke to him about youth soccer, Argentina legends and Japanese success

Most recently Ossie Ardiles was the coach of Machida Zelvia in the second tier of the Japanese J-League, but a 23-year coaching career has taken the Argentinian World Cup winner around the world. As player-manager he introduced a flamboyant style of football to Swindon Town in his first coaching job, achieving promotion to the top flight in 1990 (only for the FA to strip the club of this honour for off-the-field irregularities).

Three years later he took West Brom to Division One and later made headlines in the Premier League with a cavalier Spurs side notable for fielding five forwards. After relocating to Japan he was named J-League Manager Of The Year in 1998 for his work with Shimizu S-Pulse. He won the first stage of the J-League with Yokohama F Marinos in 2000 and the Emperor’s Cup with Tokyo Verdy five years later.

He has also enjoyed spells managing clubs in Mexico, Argentina, Paraguay, Croatia, Israel and Saudi Arabia, giving him a truly global view of the game – but wherever he has coached, he has always brought a certain Ossie style to the job.

DAVID Having coached four clubs in England, is the Premier League the best in the world?
OSSIE“The Premier League is certainly the most watched and the richest – and it attracts the best players in the world because of these reasons. Yes, I would imagine it’s the best league in the world.”

ardiles2You have enjoyed several stints in Japan. What is it about the Japanese game that attracts you?
“The J-League started in 1993 and I came soon after. I think the J-League is and was the model of how professional football should be marketed for the fans. In Japan I have won the League and The Emperors Cup and I have been told that I also have more victories than any other foreign coach in the league’s history.”

Who have been the coaches that have impressed you the most in Japan?
“There have been some great coaches in Japan: the Brazilian legend Zico, Hans Ooft from Holland, and of course Arsene Wenger. Wenger to me was special – you knew his teams would play football, the beautiful game as Pelé called it. I know his time in Japan influenced him and like me he loved the culture. Since leaving Japan I am not surprised to see he stuck with all his beliefs about the way the game should be played and the way to behave civilly and with respect – the Japanese way.”

Japanese women are world champs and the men are champions of Asia. Why has their game been so successful?
“You need to understand the Japanese culture. Like every aspect of their lives, great attention and care is spent on detail, studying whatever they want to establish and then replicating and improving it. Football was no different. The professional league was marketed to perfection, so the fans supported the game. The Japanese also think long term so youth development was always a priority for the Japanese Football Association. The success of Japanese players and teams today is a result of their youth development programmes.”

As a long-standing champion of youth development and the education of coaches, what programmes have impressed you in Japan?
“In my 17 years here, the programme that has impressed me most, and the one that has dominated nationally, has been the Coerver programme. I remember in the early years they started with a few schools and today they have over 100 schools all over the country. I am a close friend with Alf Galustian, who is a co-founder of the programme and the driving force behind it, so I have always kept a close interest.”

alf2What is so special about the contribution of Alf Galustian and Coerver to football in Japan?
“Alf is without doubt a global pioneer in youth coaching. I am still amazed with the new drills, games and concepts he continually comes up with. His contribution to Japanese football development is without question. “Over these past 20 years he has influenced the way football is taught in Japan and the subsequent success of the game here. “Currently more than 17,000 young players go through the Coerver programme each week, and in the past 20 years over 300 players have gone into J-League clubs and some to the various national teams – that’s an amazing contribution to the game in Japan.”

After winning the 1978 World Cup, was it difficult to adjust to playing your football in England?

“It took me a while. In those days the long ball game – getting the ball into opposition’s third, often bypassing midfield – was strange to me. But at Spurs we had Glenn Hoddle, and Ricky Villa came with me too, so Spurs always tried to play passing football and that suited me.”

Would you say there is an Ossie Ardiles way of playing soccer?

“Yes. I have always believed in the passing game. My style is about possession but also always trying for the forward pass. I have always believed in attacking, as a player and as a manager – I have often been sacked for these beliefs but I will never change. Football is a technical game and that’s where its beauty is.”

messiOssie’s Verdict Maradona or Messi?
“It’s very close and they’re both fellow Argentinians. I think it would be Messi, but I have to qualify that. Maradona was the best player I played with by a mile. I have never seen such a skilled player. He could control the ball on any surface, in any space, and whatever the pressure he was put under. But Messi is playing in an era when there is improved knowledge in sports science about what you eat, drink, and how you prepare. Today the boots and the ball are superior. Today the fields are all unbelievable. So when people speak about comparisons between players like Maradona and Messi, all these factors should be taken into consideration.”

Ossie’s Coaching Career
1989–91: Swindon Town (England)
1991–92: Newcastle United (England)
1992–93: West Brom (England)
1993–94: Tottenham Hotspur (England)
1995: Guadalajara (Mexico)
1996–98: Shimizu S-Pulse (Japan)
1999: Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia)
2000–01: Yokohama F Marinos (Japan)
2001: Al-Ittihad (Saudi Arabia)
2002–03: Racing Club (Argentina)
2003–05: Tokyo Verdy (Japan)
2006–07: Beitar Jerusalem (Israel)
2007: Huracán (Argentina)
2008: Cerro Porteño (Paraguay)
2012: Machida Zelvia (Japan)

Top 10 mistakes parents make about sport

David ClarkeBy David Clarke

Parents have a big influence on the type of player their child becomes. Parents have powerful emotions generated through their involvement with their children, which can be both positive enablers and negative barriers.

These will have wide-ranging and long-lasting influences on those young players. Parents need to look at the “big picture” issues and responsibilities, and not fall into making the common mistakes which abuse this power.

Top 10 mistakes

  1. Taking their child’s sport experience too seriously, and not mixing in the appropriate levels of fun and recreation.
  2. Expecting perfection in their child.
  3. Living vicariously – as though they were taking part themselves – through their child’s sport experiences.
  4. Making negative comments about other children, parents or coaches.
  5. Having an unrealistically overblown assessment of their child’s talent.
  6. Contradicting the advice and guidance of their child’s teachers, trainers and coaches, leading to the child being confused and torn in loyalties.
  7. Failing to realise when their child is developing their skills rather than being competitive.
  8. Failing to see the value of sports lessons as preparation for life itself.
  9. Not realising that their child can learn valuable sport and life lessons even when they lose.
  10. Labelling their child a choker or other name.

Tactics at short goal kicks can free up a congested midfield

David Clarke

Temperatures have plummeted over the past few weeks and the result has been that a number of games have been called off. My side couldn’t dodge a frozen pitch, but one of our younger teams managed to get their match on, so I went along to watch them.

They are a good team and have a clever coach who is always ready to try things out during matches if he sees a problem. During the match, his goalkeeper was not having much luck from goal kicks.

Every time he kicked the ball it was going into a packed midfield and the opposition’s physical advantage in the centre meant they were often emerging with the ball. In fact, the opening goal had come as a direct result of a goal kick coming straight back from midfield. With his team losing 2-0 at half-time, it was clear the coach had to change something.

The first thing he did was alter the routine of the goal kicks to give his keeper more options.

He got two defenders to drop short left and right of the goal so the keeper could play a simple pass to ensure that his team retained possession. When this happened, the opposition players moved forward to close down, something that freed up space in the midfield area. As you might expect, this made a huge difference straight away, and having previously been overrun in the middle third, the team were now finding it easier to build attacking moves.

His mobile defenders also utilised space down the line, with attacking midfielders able to take the ball forward further, frequently sending dangerous crosses in towards the near post. After his team had won a succession of corner kicks they scored to pull the scoreline back to 2-1. In working harder to win the ball from goal kicks, the opposition lost a lot of their attacking speed and were less able to get the ball forward.

The match had effectively been turned on its head, all because of a change in the goal kick routine. The team had a number of chances to equalise but couldn’t take them, but that’s football. Nonetheless, they had won the second half 1-0, and learned a great lesson in tactics at the same time.

I love to see goalkeepers playing short balls to the wide defenders. If watch the video clip below of Victor Valdes the Barcelona goalkeeper continually playing short balls against Real Madrid. Even after he makes a mistake he continues to pass the ball short.

I could watch this all day!

Soccer AM showboat clips

Size Matters

new-image-dave-clarke.jpgI was watching my two sons playing soccer in the garden last night. It’s great to watch them, and it’s also a good lesson in problems in soccer teams, so it gives me plenty to talk about with the team at Better Soccer Coaching.

Both of them are good players, they use skill to get past each other, and it’s a continual game of 1v1. But size plays an important part in 1v1 and so does the position they play in the team.

My eldest wins every time. As an older, bigger player – he’s 14 and my youngest is 11 – he can not only use his skills but also his size. The extra height and weight mean in a tussle he wins the ball. This highlights one of the huge problems in youth teams. In your Under 10 team you can have players born in September of one year and a boy born in July nearly a year later.

With this difference in size and age the older boys nearly always get picked for the team. What we as coaches have to look out for and encourage are the younger skilful boys who get bulldozed out of the way in matches. You have to keep helping them and they will blossom as they get older. It may not be your team that benefits from this but a coach further on down the line when he is older.

I had one fantastic player who from Under 7 through Under 10 had the best kick – so he scored a lot of free-kicks – was a strong runner – so he went past the smaller players with ease – and played rugby – so he was strong in the tackle. But at Under 11 the others caught him up, and caught him out. He slowly went down the ‘best player’ rankings and then left us for rugby where he was still king.

At Better Soccer Coaching I am always trying to get across how important it is to nurture all your players, good, bad, big or small, they change so much at this level, you are sometimes surprised at how suddenly some players blossom.

Position is also important in 1v1. My youngest son feeds off good passes into the box, he scores goals for fun, and can run from midfield and hit defence splitting passes left or right. My eldest on the other hand, is a strong, fantastic tackler, winning the ball in midfield and setting up attacks. He is also full of tricks. So it’s a no brainer in 1v1. The skills of a good tackling, engine room running midfielder has much more going for him here than the goal poacher, good passer.

On a very simple level then, what 1v1 does is show you that you need those that are good at it in the centre of your midfield or defence. And what 1v1 teaches your attackers and wingers is that you don’t want to get in a close tussle with the midfielders or defenders, what they need to do is run at them and get past them quickly.

I’m glad the weather in England is warming up so I can get outside and be the link player for one of them!

David Clarke, editor, Better Soccer Coaching

Can national coaches see the problems at grassroots level?

Street soccer contains a lot of the attributes we write about every week at Better Soccer Coaching. I played it and I’m surenew-image-dave-clarke.jpg many of you did and wish it was still alive and kicking in streets around the world. It would help us all on a Saturday morning. So I was very interested this week to read a quote by the man who is charged with running England’s Under 18 team.

Talking about playground or street soccer, he wanted to see it replicated in a safe environment for 9, 10 and 11 year olds at local soccer clubs. An excellent idea. However he went on to say we – that is the youth soccer coaches at grass roots level – should not get them playing one or two touch soccer, instead we should let them run with the ball and should let them make all the decisions about when and if they should pass it themselves. He argues that that is the only way national teams will get players who are exciting and run with the ball and beat opponents and excite the fans of tomorrow.

I quite liked reading this but at the same time I was not comfortable with it. I have players at under 9 who will run up a blind alley and not look to play a wall pass to a team mate which would open up the tightest of defences. I have players who can run around every player on the pitch but won’t pass the ball and if he played quick one twos he would be through on goal. And after 10 minutes of the same player doing the same thing i.e. not passing the ball, the rest of his team get fed up and stop playing.

I think it’s quite a complex problem, and advice from coaches who work at national level is not always relevant at grassroots level. If all 9 and 10 year olds were able to run down the pitch with the ball, look up see the goal, beat another player then make a decision when to make the killer pass then there wouldn’t be much need for all the soccer coach advice I give every week in Better Soccer Coaching.

The boys that the academies at national level work with are the cream of youth soccer talent in the country. I’m still trying to get young Jonny to use his left foot and he’s already at Under 14.

It’s fantastic that grassroots soccer is beginning to be taken very seriously but maybe the national coaches who are keen to get boys into their academies that have come through coaches like you and I should spend some time with us and see the problems and the vast range of abilities we coach every week.

Dave Clarke, editor, Better Soccer Coaching

Soccer teams – one big family

Michael Ballack has put Chelsea’s recent resurgence since their Carling Cup final defeat to Tottenham down to skipper John Terry’s insistence on a team bonding paint-ball trip the following week. And I for one am a great believer in team bonding trips.

One of the wonderful things about grassroots football is the spirit and friendships it produces between the players. When I first started writing for Better Soccer Coaching it was because I felt such an affinity with the players and the sport that I wanted to put in words what I had experienced in reality.

With my first team that I set up so my son was playing from the age of 5, we had such camaraderie among the players and the parents that we went away for a soccer trip to Devon. We stayed in converted stables that had houses for each family and an indoor pool so we could all interact together as families and as a team.

The matches we played after that weekend away together were so much more intense from a team point of view, because we had got to know each other from a different angle. We had run through the woods together, gone out at midnight to find the headless horseman of local legend. We had played volleyball in the hot indoor pool that none of the kids wanted to get out of. We had for a weekend been one big family.

We made it an annual experience, something to look forward to in the cold winter months when soccer takes on a different aspect, a grit-your-teeth-and-keep-the-cold-out aspect, but we were going to Devon so we had a lot to look forward to.

I saw one of my players from that time the other day and it reminded me of those Devon weekends. He’s now much older but still remembers and still thinks about those trips away with his friends, his team mates and his coach.

You should try it with your team. Build them up into one big family, creating memories as they go.

Dave Clarke, editor, Better Soccer Coaching


What Does Better Soccer Coaching Do?

What we’re all about?dwyer-2.jpg

You’ll have noticed a great many references to Better Soccer Coaching in the posts on this blog site. Better Soccer Coaching is the name of the free weekly coaching guide published by the company we all work for.

If you’ve been wondering what Better Soccer Coaching is all about, I’ve included a recent article below. This one is about the core skills of passing and receiving. We also cover areas such as tactics, fitness, communication, running a good session and lots more.

We like to think we’re good at taking these tips from our panel of expert coaches and presenting them in a way which makes it easy to take on to the training pitch.

Head on over to Better Soccer Coaching and have a look at our archive of over 100 tips and maybe sign up to receive a new issue each week. Either way, I’d love to hear what you think of how we do things.

Dwyer Scullion, publisher and youth team coach

A Great Way to Coach Passing and Receiving

Constant passing using match-like situations and a bit of competition to give it an edge is the best way to coach your players to be ready for soccer matches. And it should be fun too, says David Clarke.

Great for passing, agility and building fitness.

We’ve covered passing and first touch a lot in Soccer Coach Weekly, and it is indeed one of the most important things you can teach a young soccer player. I came across a little exercise recently that I just had to share with you. It is great for passing and agility but it also has a little bit of fitness in there too.


Run, pass, receive, control, pass

Use two players and four cones. In the diagram the player at the bottom runs left to right and gives a square pass to the player on the opposite side. The top player does the same thing from right to left. Both players must keep up with play to receive, then pass. So it is a constantly moving exercise with first touch and good passing vital to its effectiveness.

It has proper soccer-like situations

If your player makes a bad touch, he will have to work a little bit harder to get it back which is exactly what he would have to do in a game.

Making the exercise competitive

You can move this exercise on by bringing a bit of competition into it by combining skills with fitness and whenever you can do that in an exercise it adds to its value.

After 10 touches get your players to sprint to the 18 yard line and see who can get back to their positions first.

You will see that by adding a little bit of competitiveness to it, the pace picks up and the skill level goes up a notch because they are doing it in competition with each other, so you’ve created a skill building exercise.

Key coaching tip: First touch is vital coupled with a good inside foot pass.

Is there anything worse than being linesman?

How popular are you when you walk over with the linesman flag and look for a willing dad to run the line? Funny how thedavidclarke1.gif mobile phones start ringing, the pulled muscles start playing up, the dogs need walking, all in the desperate urge to escape having to run the line. It’s something we’ve never covered in Better Soccer Coaching, the skills of being linesman, but perhaps we should.

As a coach of course you don’t have to do it, I’ve always had a right hand man who runs the line every week come rain or shine. The one who can stand up to the shouting and ridicule, not just from the opponents parents but from his friends and other parents who he normally stands with and moans about… well you guessed it the linesman. You’re right there in front of everyone, not even the pitch to hide on like the referee. Tripping over the siblings that are sitting by the pitch tutting as you knock over their bottles of diet coke.

I ran the line last week as a favour at a boys under 14 game. The referee was chairman of the club and pretty well qualified having been a ref for 15 years. I raised the flag twice in the first ten minutes both times he failed to spot me so I sheepishly put it down. “Does he know you’re there?” quipped one of the opposition parents. Up my arm went again as the opposition started another attack. “NEVER!” shouted their manager who was standing half way down the pitch obviously in a better position than myself.

In the second half during an attack – with at least three “phases” as the experts call them – the ball was put in the net by a boy standing clearly offside. “I’ve given it,” shouted the referee to much cheering from the opposition players and parents. “Are you blind?” one of the 13-year-olds shouted. I was adamant he was offside and strode over to the referee. “Look,” he said, “I’ve given it, you were too slow.” Too slow! I am not a professional linesman, I was about to say, but the game was going on around me and the players were running past gesticulating.

Two minutes later I had slipped and went crashing to the floor. Imagine the commotion on the opposition side of the pitch, the cheering, the whooping.

I might start a section in Better Soccer Coaching so you can send in photos of the linesman in action. Come to think of it I will do a ten point guide to being the linesman for Better Soccer Coaching. One point will be to wear non-slip shoes. I don’t mind be a coach or a referee, but do me a favour, don’t ever ask me to run the line again.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,172 other followers