Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


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.



Winning… without the ball – a Spanish malaise

David ClarkeBy David Clarke
After Spain had been held 1-1 in Paris against France in last October’s Brazil World Cup qualifying game the Spanish newspaper El Mundo ran this : “Without the ball problems arrive.”

Vicente del Bosque had played Sergio Busquets at centre back rather than in his usual place alongside Xabi Alonso in a holding midfield duo.

Without this midfield block France intercepted passes and broke into large spaces in midfield, causing lots of problems for Del Bosque’s team.

“We controlled the game well in the first half,” he told the post-match news conference.

“Afterwards we opened up, I don’t know if it was because we were tired. When it became an end-to-end game it was bad for us.”
The return game in Spain next March looks a little more daunting after Spain showed a rare vulnerability by losing control of possession and the game to draw 1-1 – they couldn’t win without the ball.

Winning without the ball is a vital part of a successful team both at international level and at youth level.

Young players should always be coached so they move before the ball is played. This session offers a number of additional coaching points within its structure and you can halt the session at any point to show players options and ideas.

How to set it up:

  • You need balls, bibs and cones.

  • Mark out an area measuring 40×30 yards.

  • In each corner, you need a square measuring 10×10 yards.

  • The session will work with six, nine or 12 players, divided into three teams – the example shown uses nine.

  • There are two balls on the pitch at any one time.

Getting started:

  • Two teams start with a ball. Each exchanges passes around the area, with the aim of scoring points. This is done when players run into the corner squares to receive the ball.

  • After doing this, they run out of the area with the ball and move on to another area.

  • The team without a ball must attempt to win possession from either of the other teams.

  • After 10 minutes, progress the session by stating that players cannot go into a square that is already occupied by a player from another team.

  • Play for an additional 10 minutes. The winning team is the one that has scored the most points by effectively making passes to team mates in scoring areas.

  • To advance the task further, make one of the teams defend. Rotate teams regularly so each has a go at blocking scoring runs as well as making them.

Why this works:

The focus should be on the team completing sequences that involve running without the ball, accurate passing, good weight on the pass and good control at the end of the sequence.

Look for players to mix short passes with longer balls that switch areas of play and search out team mates running into space.

This game works because the player in possession will always have a choice of two passing options providing his team mates are looking to attack space. Dummy runs and overlaps should be encouraged also.

These are all off-the-ball runs that mimic match play and, given the small playing area, you will have plenty of opportunities to freeze play and recommend to players where the more efficient passes might have gone.



Barcelona team playing basketball at training on Saturday



Simple practice to keep the ball – use the space

David ClarkeA lot of the basic exercises that teams work on in training involve passing to a team mate. So once players are proficient in that, it’s time to coach them in passing into space.

One of the great things about passing teams is that they know how to use space to maximum advantage, and the effects can be devastatingly good.

Even as individuals, the ability to anticipate where a team mate is moving to is an important part of player development – and one that initially takes a while to master. While this can be frustrating for coaches, rehearsing and practising using space will eventually work, so always persevere.

The size of the playing area is important in this practice, because the bigger that area the easier the task is. Therefore, start off in a space measuring 20×20 yards, then make it bigger or smaller depending on how your players cope.

 How to set it up:

• In your 20×20-yard area, mark a halfway line to create two boxes.

There are three attackers and two defenders.

• In one box it’s 1v1, while the other has two attackers and the remaining defender in it.

Getting started:

• The idea of the game is to have continuous 2v1s in each box. So for their team to retain possession, one of the attacking players has to move each time the ball changes boxes.

• Start the game in the box that contains two attackers. They must combine before passing to their team mate in the other box.

• As soon as the ball is passed, one of the two players must move into the other box to create a new 2v1 overload. All other players must remain in their designated box.

• While attackers must always be on the move, looking to create space for the pass, defenders are more cautious. They defend passively at first, so can only intercept or force an error, rather than tackle. If they do succeed in winning the ball, they simply put it out of play.

• Time to see how long the attackers can keep possession of the ball.

• Play for five minutes then swap teams around so each player has a go at both attacking and defending.

• Award extra points for feints or skills that create space for the pass.

 Developing the session:

• You can develop the session by instructing attackers to make three passes before sending the ball into the other box.

• Encourage attackers to produce a two-touch game so that they control and pass in one fluid movement.

• Allow defenders to tackle.

Why this works:

To retain possession of the ball, attackers must create space to pass into, at the same time sending the defender the wrong way. They need good skills and sound technique to prevent defenders from winning the ball. This is a skills workout that makes players think about moving, and how their movement creates space that the defender cannot defend. You should see signs of improvement in your players if this session is run over a handful of consecutive weeks.



Play like Spain’s Carles Puyol

David Clarke

By David Clarke

Barcelona’s captain Carles Puyol is known for his intense commitment and strength as a defender. According to Barcelona’s head doctor, Puyol is "the strongest, who has the quickest reactions, and who has the most explosive strength".

Love him or loathe him, he is the sort of player who gives everything for the cause, who prides himself on being alert to wave after wave of attacking threats in and around the box. He is also the sort of player who is not afraid to put his body in harm’s way. And he’ll grab you the odd goal or two.

Ensuring that your players are back on their feet after a good tackle or clearance and ready to combat a second wave of danger is essential.

To keep them alive and reactive, here’s a defensive move that asks for quick reactions and tireless commitment to the cause.

Who knows, maybe it’s this "British Bulldog" mentality that may one day see one of your lads emulate the onfield achievements of the England captain?

How to set it up:

  • Create a playing area measuring 10×10 yards.

  • The drill requires four servers and one designated defender.

  • Each server starts on a different side, with a ball.

  • Place your defender in the middle – his job is to react to a different serve from each player around the area. After each serve, his task is to keep the ball within the box.

Getting started:

  • Starting on the left-hand side, server 3 throws the ball up for server 1 to head into the middle. The defender tries to stop the ball from going out of bounds.

  • Immediately, server 2 passes a ball towards the opposite line. The defender must now react, running to slide and stop the ball from crossing the line.

  • Now server 3 dribbles onto the pitch and attempts to get to the line opposite. The defender tries to stop him.

  • Finally, server 4 throws the ball over the defender’s head and attempts to run around him to win it back. The defender’s task is to shield the ball, letting it run over the line. If the ball stops dead before the line, he can then kick it clear to the left or the right.

  • Now rotate so that a different player acts as the defender.

Why this works:

Adopting the mindset that a defender’s job is rarely complete is absolutely vital if players are to counter all of the threats on a match day. After each phase of this drill, the defender needs to be alert to a new test, reacting quickly to each ball and clearing the danger.

Each test offers a new skill, and provides you with a quick-fire snapshot of where the defender’s game can be improved.



An unopposed drill for Spanish success

David ClarkeA lot of coaches have been asking me “how can I make my team play like Spain”. Sometimes with youth players you need to let them have success at doing things before they get the belief in themselves that they can do it. Using unopposed exercises for build-up and combination play in attack is a good way of coaching your players to move the ball, and encourages movement to support the ball as play moves around the pitch. And because it is unopposed they will experience some of the moves that Spain or Barcelona create.

In this session, strikers and midfielders combine with a neat lay off and a precise threaded ball to set up a shot across the goalkeeper.

Set up a 40 yards by 30 yards playing area with four mannequins (poles or cones will do), two cones and two goals. You need eight outfield players and two goalkeepers.

How to play it

  1. The forwards move away from the mannequin to receive a pass.
  2. The forwards set the pass back to the supporting midfielders.
  3. The midfielders return the pass into space for the forwards to spin and run after. The forwards now shoot across the goal.


Olé, Olé, Olé

David ClarkeBy David Clarke

Spain can keep hold of the ball with passing and movement almost at will – and it is something youth teams can strive to emulate. But it’s not just Spain that are showing how player technique and fast passing can result in huge success for the team. Fast passing is a key element of Euro 2012.

But it’s not just a case of telling players to pass they need to practice until they have the technique, touch and composure to make it work.

Try this session to help create a good passing team.

Key factors:

  1. In order to be composed on the ball, players need to have a good first touch and passing ability.
  2.  When keeping the ball, communication is vital and helps make up the mind of the player in possession.
  3.  Passing the ball is not enough. Players need to follow this up by moving off to receive again or to create space for the player on the ball.

 

How to set it up

  • Use a 40 yards long by 30 yards wide area for the session.
  • Use a pitch 60 yards by 40 yards for the development.

How to play it

  • Split the group into two teams.
  • You pass to the black team and call the name of a white player to run into the other half to win the ball.
  • If the white player wins the ball, play transfers to the white team’s half and the black player who gave the ball away tries to win the ball back.
  • If a team makes five passes another opponent runs in to help his team mate.
  • If another five passes are completed, another opponent runs in to help and so the exercise continues.
  • The winning team is the one which forces the opposition to commit the most players into their half during 15 minutes.

How to develop it

  • Play a small-sided game with four neutral players playing outside the pitch as full backs and wide players.
  • Outside players are limited to two touches and cannot pass to each other (use cones to block the channels). T
  • he team in possession tries to build an attack and score by using the outside players.
  • This game ensures the team in possession is spreading out and using the whole of the wide pitch.



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