Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


Focus on the players… not the session

davidscwnewIt 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.



Robben and Ronaldo’s speed shooting

davidscwnew

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.

Getting started

  • 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.



Manchester United’s three-ball routine

By David Clarke

davidscwnewManchester 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.

Getting started

  • 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
    the middle.

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.

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A game of passing under pressure

By David Clarke

David Clarke

You can tell when players are under pressure – their first touch begins to go astray. It’s a tell-tale sign and one of the most costly mistakes that can be made in the game. For that reason, it’s important to try to recreate the pressure that players face in matches.

There is also tiredness. By the end of matches, players are often weary and stop thinking about what’s in front of them – they kick the ball wherever they can. In fact, building play with good passing is an afterthought.

So this exercise is great for two reasons – it tightens up concentration while helping to increase players’ stamina. Rehearse this well and you’ll find your players pushing themselves and team mates in pursuit of victory.

How to set it up:

  • The playing area for this session depends on the age of your squad. For any players above the age of 10, use the centre circle of an 11-a-side pitch, decreasing the diameter for younger children.

  • Split your squad into two teams – in the example shown, we are using two lots of six players.

  • Six cones are placed inside the circle in a zigzag formation as shown.

  • One team (in the inner circle) places a player on each cone.

  • The other team (outside the circle) stands in a line at any point on the centre circle.

Getting started:

  • The team inside the circle scores a point each time the ball goes along the zigzag, from the bottom man to the top, and back again.

  • The length of time they have to do this is determined by the outer circle players. This team takes it in turns to run around the circle until every member of the team has completed a circuit.

  • For the first run, the inner circle players throw the ball to each other up and down the zigzag making sure no player is missed out.

  • Next they do this two-touch with their feet so they are passing the ball and receiving under pressure.

  • Teams now switch positions with the running team now attempting to beat the number of points scored.

  • Run this through two or three times. While players running around the circle should generally experience the same drop-off of pace with each attempt, you should look for the points scored by the inner circle team are likely to increase as they gain more practice.

  • For an additional challenge, have the outer circle team dribble a ball around the outside of the circle on each circuit – this way both sides are rehearsing ball skills while under time pressure.

Why this works:

This is a great passing exercise. It is a really good way to work your players so they are passing quickly to defeat the other team.

It’s an unopposed game yet players are still aware of the pressure being placed on them, and this builds the logical awareness that at no place on a football pitch can a player truly relax.

Keep an eye out for good communication between players, and a determined work ethic in terms of passing, running and receiving.



When my players win the ball they can’t launch quick counter attacks

David Clarke

By David Clarke

Changing the dimensions of the field is a quick fix to a lot of problems.

  • Making the field larger gives the attackers and midfielders more space to show off their skills.

  • If a team is not scoring, increase the size of the pitch until they learn how to pass, shoot and score. Gradually reduce the pitch to the normal size and they will have learned what they have to do to score.

  • Making the field smaller helps the defending team by reducing the amount of space they have to cover.

The problem: Your team is not taking advantage when they win the ball to turn defence into attack.

The solution: Use a long narrow layout with small goals to force players into fast, direct attacks through the middle of the pitch. Attacking small goals needs swift passing to break the defence down and create opportunities to score. The shape of the pitch will force play to be quick and direct.

Set up a pitch that is 50 yards long x 10 yards wide, to create a tunnel effect where the players’ focus is narrowed like a racehorse wearing blinkers. Play games of 3v3 with small goals. No goalkeepers. Restart with a dribble or pass from in front of the team’s own goal.



Time limits work wonders

David Clarke

Children thrive on having a time limit to work to and nothing focuses them better than working against the clock.

I did an experiment recently with a squad of 12-year-old players. They did a basic passing exercise – running up a channel in groups of four passing along the line. There was no pressure and I stood back and watched.

After two minutes I noticed that none of the players were running on to the ball and taking it in their stride and the whole exercise lacked energy and accuracy.

So, I then set them a challenge: how many runs can you do in one minute? There were still one or two poor passes so players had to stop and go backwards to receive the ball, but the pace was up and you could see the concentration on their faces.

Their passing and receiving technique had also improved. Balls were being passed in front of players for them to run on to. When asked why there was such a big improvement, the overwhelming answer was that they all wanted to beat their previous score and that meant focusing so they didn’t have to wait for passes.

Dos and don’ts of timing

  • Do vary the amount of time you give the players depending on their age and the skill you are practising. Thirty seconds of work is more suitable for younger players.
  • Do tell them their score each time and challenge them to beat it.
  • Don’t worry if the skill level drops the first few times. This is normal as players are trying to do everything as quickly as possible. They will soon realise that the more accurate they are the faster they will be.
  • Don’t time everything. The novelty and effectiveness will soon wear off.


Why you should take the Coerver Coaching Youth Diploma

DC
I have worked with lots of coaches and coach educators and believe me, Alf Galustian is a very good coach. I watched Alf coach for two hours in torrential rain – conditions that would have had you or I scuttling for the safety of the changing rooms.

Alf not only took control of a dozen or so players he had never coached before, he talked everyone through his coaching style, his coaching points and the skills he was giving to the players.

I picked up so many ideas and tips during that first two hours that I was already planning my next coaching session. Alf is a co-founder of Coerver Coaching and a specialist skills adviser to the English Premier League.

The purpose of the Coerver Coaching Youth Diploma is to give attendees, whether they are a professional academy coach, junior coach, teacher or parent, a greater understanding of how to plan and execute more effective coaching sessions.

The course is held at Premier League team Fulham’s excellent training ground and with the presence of academy players and first teamers, you really feel you are in a pure coaching environment.

Then the slick Coerver team moves into gear and their ideas and values are brought to the fore by Alf who focuses on how the course develops you the coach and how you can deliver those ideas to develop the individual.

It’s all about touch, control, confidence, 1v1s, 2v1s, 5v3s, movement on and off the ball, feinting, beating your partner, keeping the ball, winning the ball back – and respect, confidence, fun.

It truly is food for thought on how you coach your team.

The Coerver Coaching concept concentrates on attacking, fast-flowing football and this style has been demonstrated during the past few years by teams such as Barcelona and Spain.

In Alf’s own words: “What Coerver brings is that individual component, the ability for a coach to improve his or her players’ individual skill. Increasingly it is individual skills that can make or break a match and win the game.”

The final session of the day is about how to build and deliver a session. It was run by Coerver’s excellent coaching director Scott Wright who coached Fulham U12s for the session. If you go along to the next Coerver Coaching Youth Diploma course, make sure you write it all down, you could run it with any age group and I lost count of the number of skills you work on.

It is great stuff. This course will make you a better coach. If you can’t go on the course then why not invest in the Coerver CD set, there’s lots of material on how to help you plan your sessions.

To order the CD in Europe:
http://www.coach-soccer.com/coerver/index.asp

To order the CD in the USA:
http://www.coach-soccer.com/coerver/indexusd.asp

There will be two further Diplomas in the summer, one at Manchester City on the 5th & 6th August & the second in Dublin, 13th & 14th August. www.coerver.co.uk/youthdiploma

Listen to Alf on this video below



Fit to last the whole match

I’ve had to work hard this season on getting my U10s to play their best right to the end. Tiredness in the last 10 minutes has been creating stressful ends to games with us letting in late goals. Endurance is as relevant to your match play as scoring goals because you want your team to perform at their best the whole game.

If your players are fit and up to speed they will be able to put even the best teams under pressure. Don’t waste the speed of your players by letting them stay unfit, you’ll be surprised how much quicker you can make a young player simply by getting them fit.

Working on fitness can be done in small bursts during your coaching session. You can use the warm up time to put players through their paces with a fitness.

Try this simple step jump with your players.

  • Stand beside a cone or soft object to be cleared.
  • Bring knees up and jump vertically but also laterally off ground and over the marker.
  • Land on both feet and jump back in the other direction.
  • Ground contact time should be minimal – don’t dip into a full squat position.
  • Repeat for 15 seconds and a total of 6 sets.
  • Rest 30 seconds between sets.



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