Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


Make free-kicks work for your team

davidscwnewEvery team needs to be able to score from a dead-ball situation, so get your players to try this game to develop the perfect free-kick
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WHY USE IT
Every game seems to involve a goal scored from a set piece. This shows how important free-kicks are to the final outcome of matches. Therefore it’s vital that your players spend adequate time developing an unstoppable free-kick in their training sessions.

SET UP Mark out an area 40×30 yards with a goal at each end. Select two even teams. You need balls, bibs, cones and goals.

HOW TO PLAY
Play a small-sided game. While the game is being played you should carry a second ball under your arm. On your call place the ball and award a free-kick to a team of your choice. Immediately the players must react to this situation. You can place the ball in different areas for players to practice angled kicks and straight ones.

TECHNIQUE
Practice is crucial. It’s not just about mastering technique; it gives you confidence. This session gives plenty of realistic match situations for practising free-kicks around the penalty area. Players should also be practising at home. Every player needs to be alert during this game. It is a good idea to give the free-kick a name that can be called out so everyone moves. The kicker could shout ‘Usain Bolt’ so your players know it’s a quick free-kick.



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.

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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.



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.



David Clarke Interviews… PETER BEARDSLEY exclusive

David ClarkeMy series of interviews on influential figures in the world of coaching continues with this exclusive interview with Peter Beardsley.

I remember Peter as a very skillful player, slight of build, operating just behind the front strikers at Newcastle, Liverpool and of course England.

His skills have proved devastating for creating and scoring goals, netting over 230 in his career. He was a player with lovely ball skills and fantastic vision, as well as tremendous stamina, enthusiasm and work-rate.

He was also able to score long range shots, or clever placement using timing and dribbling skills.

As a youth player Peter was discovered at the famous Wallsend Boys Club on Tyneside in the 70s – 
the club has a pedigree of bringing through great players including Alan Shearer, Michael Carrick, Lee Clark and Steve Bruce.

He is now football development manager at Newcastle United helping to drive forward the recruitment of talented youngsters for the club’s Academy and Development Squad, so what better person to answer questions on how to coach youth skills.

I caught up with Peter at Newcastle where he was coaching with the world famous coach Alf Galustian and asked him about youth coaching and what a coach learns from watching someone as experienced as Alf.

1. We all have favourite areas of coaching – as a former attacker do you find it easy to coach defending as well as attacking exercises?

I think all coaches need to learn how to coach both topics: the modern player especially as a youth player has to be both attacker and when they lose the ball win it back by pressing deep – defending from the front. Messi is probably the best example.

2. As a skillful striker you must have had a few tricks you used, which were your favourite and how did you practice them.

I learnt mostly by playing – we didn’t have a programme like Alf’s Coerver Coaching, so most of what I did was learnt in games. If I had had a programme like Coerver to follow, I am sure it would have made me a better player, especially for scoring goals!

3. Messi and Ronaldo both use skill in their play but appear to have one or two clever moves that they use a lot. How many skills should a youth player work on to use in match play?

I think young players should learn as many skills can they can so they can use them to beat players in as many different ways as possible; it will help their future game and it’s great fun to learn new skills.

4. I think repetition is one of the most vital coaching tools. But players can find doing the same old thing boring. How do you hide repetition when coaching?

As you know I have been close to Alf for many years – once I was exposed to Coerver (over 20 years ago) I realised that repetition was crucial for perfecting skills.

I follow Alf’s view that for young players you can hide repetition by playing fun games – for example simple relays where repetition is included.

Watching Alf coach today I can see so many possibilities to coach young players in using skills to win 1v1s and 2v1s where the repetition is hidden by the actual game they play.

5. You played in youth teams at Wallsend Boys in the 70s, which one factor would you say is the most important change in the way kids are coached today?

The quality of facilities and the improvement in coaches knowledge and understanding of what is best for the players and not what is best for the coaches

6 Can you explain one specific exercise you have been using with your team that my coaches can go out and use with their players?

While Alf has been here at Newcastle we have been concentrating on attacking principles. This is one of the sessions I have seen Alf coach and I am now using to help my players in their attacking role.

SESSION: To improve Shooting under pressure

How to set it up

  • 10 players plus a server or the coach
  • A 40x25yd area with a goal and goalkeeper at each end.
  • Two teams of four players and a server
  • Each player has a ball lined up by each goal.
  • Two cones 5 yards either side of the server
  • The coach or a designated player is stationed in the middle of the field as a wall passer.

How to play it

  • The first player in TEAM A passes to the server in the centre, then takes the return pass and after controlling and dribbling the ball shoots on the opposite goal.
  • As he shoots the first player in TEAM B passes to the server and sprints to take a return pass and take at least one touch before shooting.
  • As soon as the TEAM A player shoots he sprints around the cone to try to stop TEAM B from scoring.
  • When TEAM B shoots he must recover around his marker cone to defend again the second player in TEAM A who’s repeats the sequence.

COACH’S TIPS

  • At first the recovering player going around the marker cone will be too far and he will not be able to apply much pressure on the shooter.
  • But gradually move the markers towards the Coach so the distances of recovery is less and less and there’s increasing pressure on the shooters.
  • Eventually allow the recovering players to use the WP as their marker to go around.

PLAYER TIP

  • Be sure the first pass to the server is firm so there’s no lag time waiting for the return pass and the defender to get close.
  • Take your first touch from the server away from the approaching defender to set up your shot.
  • Head up before shooting.
  • Aim low far post the GKs toughest shot.


Don’t punish mistakes

One thing the world’s best young players have in common is an ability to show great technique on the ball and they all do something to create space for themselves and to make it harder for the opposition to win the ball off them.

Add that to the fact that they all have the ability to make a fabulous end product be it a shot or a pass and you can see why they are recognised as the top young talent. But your players can have their own admirers if you work on their technique and skills.

In my U11s team I have players with different skills that complement each other and create an excellent team between them. One is a great dribbler, another has great vision to switch play, one is great at making runs for through balls.

They have all learned these skills during the sessions I have run for them.

The best way to let this happen is to run sessions that let your players express themselves in an atmosphere of learning and not one where making mistakes is punished.

Watch this video of some of the world’s best young players below:

More team management advice




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