Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


Great way to switch play

davidscwnewSwitching play (moving the ball from one side of the pitch to the other) will allow teams to create significantly more space on a football pitch. And that, in turn, can lead to better goalscoring situations.

Changing this angle of an attack requires intelligence and reasonable passing ability, but get it right and it’s a potent weapon for your team.

Here’s how to do it.

How to set it up:

  • Set up a 45×20 yards playing area.
  • On both long sides, position three goals using poles or cones, each five yards wide. Each team protects three goals.
  • In the area, a 4v3 takes place. The overload is designed to help one team achieve the coaching focus.

Getting started:

  • Teams must maintain possession, use quick switching of play to find space – with both short and long passes – and score in any of the goals.

Progressing the session:

  • After 10 minutes, add two players in sweeper roles behind the goals their team is defending. The opposition cannot score in a goal the sweeper is protecting.
  • Rotate players regularly.

Game situation:

  • Set up a 50×40 yards area with a full-size goal at one end and three small goals at the other. Play 5v4 (including the keeper), use normal rules. The team with the overload attacks the three goals. Here, look for switches from deep and quick breaks forward.

Why this works:

The session encourages forward angled passing, one-twos and through balls, and rehearses offensive as well as defensive principles. Teams that can hold onto the ball and make use of the space will create lots of scoring chances.

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Let your players be creative: Switching play

davidscwnewThis session is a fantastic opportunity for your players to be creative in opening up different sides of the pitch – if you let them. Get them together ask them how you would use the six-goal area to create space and get them to try out their ideas. Fun? Yes. Educational? Yes. Match realistic? Yes.

Point the kids in the right direction, give them a few challenges to solve, and you’ll be amazed at what they can achieve.

Sometimes the pressure of feeling you have to tell your players everything you want them to learn can stop the learning experience happening.

If someone was standing over you telling you how to work your computer every time you turned it on, you probably wouldn’t bother thinking about what you are doing. Which means it’s going to take you a lot longer to remember to push the right keys to get to where you want. It’s the same for your players.

Switching play (moving the ball from one side of the pitch to the other) will allow teams to create significantly more space on a football pitch. And that, in turn, can lead to better goalscoring situations.

Changing this angle of an attack requires intelligence and reasonable passing ability, but get it right and it’s a potent weapon for your team.

Here’s how to do it.

How to set it up:

  • Set up a 45×20 yards playing area.
  • On both long sides, position three goals using poles or cones, each five yards wide. Each team protects three goals.
  • In the area, a 4v3 takes place. The overload is designed to help one team achieve the coaching focus.

Getting started:

  • Teams must maintain possession, use quick switching of play to find space – with both short and long passes – and score in any of the goals.

Progressing the session:

  • After 10 minutes, add two players in sweeper roles behind the goals their team is defending. The opposition cannot score in a goal the sweeper is protecting.
  • Rotate players regularly.

Game situation:

  • Set up a 50×40 yards area with a full-size goal at one end and three small goals at the other. Play 5v4 (including the keeper), use normal rules. The team with the overload attacks the three goals. Here, look for switches from deep and quick breaks forward.

Why this works:

The session encourages forward angled passing, one-twos and through balls, and rehearses offensive as well as defensive principles. Teams that can hold onto the ball and make use of the space will create lots of scoring chances.



My best switching play session

By David Clarke

David Clarke

I keep this session in my little black book of ‘must-have tactics and how to coach them’. It is a great way to show young players how to move the ball to find space.

When their team is on the attack, young players need to be alert to the possibilities of switching play from one side of the pitch to the other.

It’s a tactic relied upon by every professional football team and takes craft, vision and confidence.

It works so well because of the need for defending teams to play a pressing, compact line in the modern game. That makes them susceptible to the switch and the potential of being caught out.

That’s why it’s crucial for attacking players to know when and how to switch – either by a long pass or a series or quick, short balls from one side of the pitch to the other.

In this exercise your players first have to work out how many ways they can get the ball from one end man to another. They will then move on to put that technique into practice to score points.

How to set it up:

  • For this practice, you will need bibs, balls and cones. The session uses three teams of four players.
  • Create a 30 yards long by 15 yards wide area, split into three equal zones.
  • In the middle zone, mark out three cone gate goals along each line across the pitch.
    These should be one yard wide and evenly spaced along the line.

Getting started:

  • Start by getting the teams to work out all the combinations of play that can ensure the ball moves from one side of the pitch to the other in their groups… so either a long ball across, passes to each man individually, etc.
  • Get them to switch positions.
  • Practise this for five minutes.
  • Then split the middle row of players into two teams of two.
  • One team defends the three gates towards the top of the area, while the other team defends the other three gates towards the bottom.
  • The outside teams must pass the ball within their area and score points by putting it through an empty gate, but any scoring effort must be passed through the gate, not struck hard.
  • Rotate teams every five minutes and play for a total of 15 minutes, seeing how well attackers switch play and defenders cope with the demands of a versatile strikeforce.

Developing the session:

  • In a 36 yards long by 20 yards wide area, use a goal and goalkeeper at each ends. Play 4v4 with two neutral players who run the lines but cannot go onto the pitch.
  • Teams play a standard game but must involve a neutral player in every attack.
  • Play for 10 minutes.

Why this works:

Getting players used to switching play encourages them to use the technique in matches, and in this session, you are showing them how and when to make the correct decision.

In the main game, having three goals protected by only two defenders means attackers will always be keen to hunt out space in which they can score.



8v4 game – Get your coaching point across with overloads

David Clarke

Playing with overloads is a great way to get achieve your coaching focus. I often play games achieve success for players in certain aspects of the game. In this 8v4 game for instance, the overloads created and the set up means I can see switching play, short passing, long passing, good control and technique for the team of 8 and the team of 4 needs quick thinking and shooting to win the session

This game gets players practising different aspects of possession play and movement. When shooting at the targets, the scoring team must combine to goalscoring effect, while for the in-circle passing team the aim is to find a way past the opposition. The passing team outside the circle must be mobile and able to position themselves in the best way so as to receive the ball.

dave clarke

How to set it up:

  • Mark out a 30-yard diameter circular pitch (with markers or cones if necessary).

  • Place four goals at four equal points around the edge of the circle.

  • There is one team of eight players, the passing team.

  • The other team has four players, the scoring team.

  • The passing team starts with four on the pitch and four off the pitch.

  • The scoring team starts with all four players on the pitch.

The rules:

  • The passing team must attempt to keep possession at all times, playing out to their team-mates positioned outside the circle.

  • The player passing the ball must go to the outside whilst the receiving player dribbles into the playing area.

  • The scoring team must get the ball into the target goals.

  • The passing team get a point for each successful switch.

  • Play for a time period to be designated by the coach, then gradually rotate groups of four players so that each team gets the opportunity to perform in each role.




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