Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


Van Gaal hugs Rooney in training – excellent man management

Louis van Gaal shows why he is such a good manager of players and gets the best out of them by showing a little love when Wayne Rooney does what he is told in training…



Get your players to shoot

davidscwnew

How often do you watch your striker reach great attacking positions only to then delay his shot, offering enough time for defenders to get back and put in a tackle? It’s a frustrating part of the game and something that’s certainly not exclusive to youth football!

It’s important to give players the confidence to shoot from anywhere on the pitch, rather than them trying to walk the ball into the net. So below I’ve put together a great practice that, quite simply, encourages players to shoot at the earliest opportunity from all areas.

How to set it up:

  • You will need six target cones and seven balls, plus additional cones to mark out a pitch. You will also require bibs and a goal.

  • Create a pitch measuring 35×25 yards.

  • Three yards in from each end touchline, and halfway up the area, place three cones in a triangular shape.

  • Each cone has a ball placed on top of it.

  • The game can be played either 3v3 or 4v4.

Getting started:

  • Each team defends its set of cones.

  • Players must try to knock the balls off the cones at their opponent’s end of the pitch while ensuring their own cones do not come under threat.

  • If a player shoots and gets a "strike" (knocks all three balls off with one shot) the team gets six points, otherwise it’s one point scored for each ball.

  • Should all three be dislodged, the balls are set up again before resuming.

  • Play for three games of six minutes, ensuring players are ambitious in their attacking play and do not hang back crowding around their cones as a defensive tactic.

Developing the session:

If you have three or four teams, play so the team that knock three balls off, then faces a different team. Teams waiting on the sidelines act as ball boys.

Note which teams are the best at winning a strike – undoubtedly this will be because of the frequency of shots and from all distances – and point out to the other teams why they are so successful.

How to advance it:

  • Put a goal and a keeper at one end and set up a bowling alley-style group of six cones with balls on at the other end.

  • This is a straight knockout, with one team trying to knock all the balls off the cones and the other trying to score three times past the keeper. Which team will fulfil its task first?

Why this works:

The initial practice encourages players to shoot at targets from all areas of the pitch. Teams defending cones will also be pushing forward trying to attack, so the scoring options should be plentiful.

Direction and power are, of course, vital to a team’s success, while the set-up ensures players are aware of the need to shoot quickly and positively. Should they not, a tackle could see the other team attack and complete their task first.



When more turn up for training than you expect

davidscwnewI had an email this week asking about how I cope when more players turn up at training than expected. It was a timely question as I had just coached a session of 15 players when I expected only nine or 10 to turn up.

We were training indoors for a quick passing session and I had created a plan accordingly. However, with a bit of clever tweaking, I was soon able to put the session into shape to accommodate the increased numbers. The indoor arena was probably only big enough to hold 12 players comfortably but the extra players meant I could go for a session about winning the ball and keeping it in crowded areas of the pitch.

So I split the group into three teams of five players. Rather than have a normal small-sided game I decided to play all three teams at once making the central areas tight and over-crowded. I had yellows defending one goal and oranges defending the other. The other team of five were ‘mavericks’, who could score in either goal.

This gave each team plenty to think about – which team were their true ‘opponents’, for a start.

At first, the set-up caused a lot of confusion as players were trying to work out who was doing what, particularly because this was in such a congested area. My response to this was to stop play after a couple of minutes. I asked each team to take a minute to work out between themselves who should pick up which opposition players when possession was lost.

Once they had a clear idea of a game plan it made matters a lot simpler, and the overcrowded pitch became much less of a consideration.

I was pleased with how the session turned out because the players were encouraged to make a lot of decisions outside of the basic necessity of keeping the ball with numerous opponents around them.

The point here was to show them that even with a huge number of distractions, if each player focused on the key elements that affected his own game, the proposition seemed a lot less complex.

For the final five minutes I went to two teams playing with the other resting. Sure enough, the freedom in this set-up (compared to three sides playing at once) saw players using space and being aware of their marking responsibilities with real clarity, which was a great result.

All in all, a great solution to the problem of an unexpectedly high turnout!



Why coaches need equipment

davidscwnewWe had a debate in Soccer Coach Weekly last year (issue 284) that asked whether the cost of boots and kit is turning players away from the game – 67% said it was, so I’m not taking costs lightly. And I know it can be even worse for those of you who have to buy stuff just so that your players can train.

A coach’s kit includes all the playing basics, but might also include cones, bibs, balls, target goals, and more. They’re not the cheapest of things, but largely essential.

In my early days of coaching I went through a season where I thought I could cope without costly equipment. How wrong I was. The environment for coaching was bad and the players picked up on this. I was limited to using the same selection of drills and playing similar games on the same sized pitch each week because we only had a few balls.

Success as a coach depends not only on what you do but also on what you don’t do. An important part of that success is the environment in which you coach your players. It needs to be safe and sound to make the players feel secure but it also needs to give them decisions to make, must be fun, and most certainly needs to develop their playing skills.

I spoke to a coach this week who, like myself all those years ago, was trying to get by without budgeting for cones, balls or bibs. He’d got into the bad habit of splitting his players into two teams depending on what colour shirt they were wearing, and playing a game for the majority of the training session.

There was nothing in the environment to help him coach – he could have been down the local park for all the good it was doing his team. Of course, there will be times when you’re thrown into an environment when you don’t have the right equipment for some reason – maybe there’s no key to the sports shed, or you’ve rushed home from work and forgotten your bags. I have strategies for those days that help you continue, but that’s a lesson for another day.

As for the coach I was speaking to, he’s going to rethink the way he approaches coaching and, on my advice, will invest in some cones and bibs as a first step. If you’re serious about your coaching then you have to be equipped, and very often parents will chip in because, after all, it’s for the good of their own kids.

Also look around for any deals through local associations that could save you money or bulk buying with another team.

I guess the message to take away from all this is ‘you’re not alone’!



7 tips to get the most out of your coaching sessions

davidscwnewCoaching isn’t just a matter of turning up and running a session – anyone can do that. You need to think about how you are going to deliver the session so the learning experience is heightened for your players.

These four questions will help you decide how you coach your sessions:

  1. Know your players – which ones need what, and when do they need your help?
  2. Talk to/listen to your players – are they enjoying the sessions?
  3. Do they understand what they are doing?
  4. Ask yourself… did my intervention have a positive impact on their learning?

Here are my seven tips on how to get the most out of coaching your sessions:

1. What is the problem?
Picture in your mind what it is that your team is doing wrong. Think about the type of session you need to help the team.

2. What is available to me? What resources do you have that relate to the problem? Soccer Coach Weekly issues are a great place to start.

3. Have I used a session in the past to cover the topic?
Think about what you have done before when you have come across this problem. Did you solve it? Can you use it again?

4. How will individuals react to the session?
Some of your players will respond negatively to certain sessions you run. If you know your players well you should be able to spot problems before they arise.

5. Is it simple or complex?
How much guidance do you need to give your players? Sometimes simple is best. If it is complex make sure you explain it carefully before the players have to go and do it.

6. Are you reviewing work already covered?
If you are revisiting work, you need to quickly get the session going and work your players at the level you worked at when you last ran the session – they know the topic so the understanding should already be there.

7. During the session does it feel right?
Your gut feeling is often a good indicator as to whether or not the session is working. If it is, great, make a note of what went right. If not, don’t despair. Write down what went wrong and change it next time.

Take out a 97p trial to Soccer Coach Weekly today.

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Talking to a group of players and getting them to listen

By David Clarke

davidscwnewTalking to a group of children can be a huge challenge for many coaches, especially those who are used to working with groups of adults.

Before starting to talk you need to consider how to make sure your players are listening. Here are some “dos” of getting and keeping children’s attention.

Make sure you have all the players’ attention before you start talking. Off the cuff questions are a good way to gain attention. Once your players get into the routine and realise you are only going to talk for a short time before they will be off and active again, they will settle more quickly.

Following the ancient Chinese proverb “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand”, the more activity and the less talking the better. Also, remember the 30-second rule: you should never spend more than 30 seconds at a time talking to your players during training.

Keep your chats short and sharp. “Little and often” is an excellent motto. Tell the players one or two things at a time between activities. During a 10-minute exercise you might bring the players in for four 30-second chats which repeat variations of the same one or two points.

Whether in rain, wind or bright sunshine, make sure the players are protected from the weather conditions and can see you clearly. If necessary, that may mean you will have to talk to them facing into the weather.

Take out a 97p trial to Soccer Coach Weekly today.

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Make use of the cold weather

Wow, the temperature just gets colder and colder. As a result, there was no way our match was going to be played at the weekend.

I very quickly get withdrawal symptoms from not playing matches, particularly when we’ve prepared well.

Take this week for example – I knew we had two tough games approaching, so had been training support play in defence. This is where the players cut down the space in and around the penalty area, all the time being ready to cover if the defence is breached.

So when I heard that our weekend game was off I went to look at the pitch to see if there was any way we could have a kickabout amongst ourselves.

Because only a couple of teams use our pitch – coupled with the fact we have an excellent groundsman – there were no spikes of frozen mud on the playing surface. Those peaks can be especially dangerous to youth players, so always watch out for them. But thankfully the pitch seemed just very flat and hard – a bit like playing on tarmac.

I called around the parents and most of their kids wanted to come along. The masses soon arrived, and I kept the players warm with hot chocolate from the local cafe – which is, by the way, a drink recommended for half time in cold weather.

I double-checked the pitch with three of the dads. The top layer had crusted, which made it fine to play on.

We played 8v8 in order to brush up on the defensive lessons we’d learnt in the previous session. And the conditions really did us a favour…The hardness of surface provided the best reason for the lads to stay on their feet at all times – a lesson that’s always worth re-learning. In addition, the responsiveness of the ground created the need for good passing accuracy from players.

And finally, by the time we’d summed up the session at the end with a biscuit and another hot chocolate, there was a togetherness in the team that we just wouldn’t have had from a normal training session; a camaraderie and joint spirit brought about by having to battle against unusual conditions.

Try to use adverse events as a spur for your side. See how players react – even introduce some artificial obstacles if you think the effect may be really positive. You may be surprised how your team responds to the challenge!




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