Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


Let the kids take the session

davidscwnewEvery so often at training I like to give my players the reins of the session and see how they create a game.

I know my players love to play games, and I love the fun they get out of it. Not only that but they learn much faster and retain more of what they learn from being actively and closely involved in the session.

So I involve my players in setting and changing the rules for the session. The more involved they feel, the more they’ll invest, and undoubtedly, the more they will enjoy it. So maybe try something new out at your next training session. For instance, before your players arrive, mark out a pitch and place a ball in the middle. Make sure there are no other balls available.

As your players arrive, stay away from the playing area and tell them to go out and get started on their own.

When there are enough players they will probably organise themselves into teams and will begin a game. Let them play for five minutes and then stop them. Find out what rules they were playing and why. Then set them a couple of challenges that they have to incorporate into the game, such as asking them to win the ball back within 20 seconds of losing it. Only give them a brief outline of the challenge and see how they work it into the game.

Getting them to think about what they can do to make the game more fun makes them feel part of a unit; it offers them a voice. It’s a great bonding element that goes a long way towards developing a team.

If it doesn’t happen the first time you try it don’t give up. Say to a couple of players as they head outside “Why don’t you get a game started?” You’ll probably notice the younger ones organising full-scale games, while the older kids may be perfecting the finer elements.

Let them play the session for a good 20 or 30 minutes, stopping every five minutes for a quick chat about the rules, seeing if your players want to change anything to make the game more fun.

I’d be willing to bet they don’t want the game to stop because they will see it as their own. And I’m sure that empowerment will mean they go home from training with smiles on their faces.



Why warm-ups are a good habit

Driving to a match at the beginning of the season I got stuck in some roadworks that made the journey take twice the time it usually does. I made it to the game just in time for a quick chat with the players before they went on.

There are two or three different ways to get to our home ground from where I live, and for years I’d gone the same way. But those roadworks were going nowhere fast – it would be months of holdups unless I changed the way I went.

So I started taking a new route to the ground. Yes, one week I forgot and went the old way and got snarled up in traffic, but gradually I got used to the new route.

I had a laugh to myself last weekend then when, even though the roadworks have gone, I set off the ‘new’ route, because I have become so used to going that way, and I trust it will deliver me to the ground on time.

Now there’s a thing – I’ve changed a habit. It’s something most people tell me is hard to do but I’ve done it. And when I think about why I want to get to the ground on time, it’s because of another habit I changed…

When I first started coaching, I had no time for warm-ups or doing the right things before a game. I arrived seconds before kick-off and regarded warm-ups as being for wimps – my team didn’t need them!

But gradually I learned more about young players and that they needed to stretch both mind and body in the lead-up to a game. I learned how much better they would perform when they were 100% ready to play. The more I studied the game the more I had to admit I was hindering my players by not doing those other things. So just like forcing myself to drive a new way to the match, I forced myself to change.

Along the way I had setbacks, but over time my players stopped letting in silly early goals and even started scoring early themselves. And there were no pulled muscles or players out of breath after a couple of minutes of running.I forced myself to be a better coach on match days.

And that’s why I hate getting to the ground late, because it reminds me of my old habits. Preparing yourself and your players for a game is so important – make sure you do it.



Barcelona team playing basketball at training on Saturday



Noughts and crosses – great game

By David clarke
David ClarkeI was on a coaching course recently with Surrey County FA coach educator Keith Boanas. One of the warm-up sessions from Keith really caught my eye and I have since used it with my team – it is tremendous fun and brings coordination, communication and teamwork to the fore.

Fun team games are one of the treasures in any coach’s chest of exercises and drills, and this combines some great elements of physical and mental awareness.

This opposed warm-up is fantastic for coordination, whilst rehearsing players in seeing and assessing what is in front of them.

They are looking to solve a strategic problem whilst also staying aware of the movement of opposition players, just as they would do in a match situation.

Adding in a ball provides an extra challenge, so try this with your team to see if they can develop dribbling ability and mental agility in one exercise.

 How to set it up:

  • This opposed warm-up is played 3v3.
  • You will need 11 cones and 12 bibs.
  • Set up three lines of three cones, each five yards apart horizontally and vertically. This is your noughts and crosses playing grid.
  • Add two additional cones at the bottom of the grid a further five yards back. This is from where each team will begin the exercise.
  • Each player has a bib of his team’s colour in both hands.

Getting started:

  • On your call the first player in each team runs and puts one of their bibs on a cone.
  • They must run back and tag the next player in the team.
  • Players must try to get three in a row horizontally, vertically or diagonally, whilst looking to prevent the opposition team from achieving the same feat.
  • Play three games making sure each player takes a turn being first in the line.

Developing the session:

  • Progress this opposed warm-up by giving both teams a ball. Each working player must now dribble to his chosen cone before placing the bib over it.
  • You can increase or decrease the distances between cones to alter the physical demands of the test – the greater the distance, the greater the challenge.


Watch senior goalkeepers train to get ideas to use with youth stoppers

DCThere’s a lot to be said for watching others coach if only to get ideas for your own coaching. When I go to professional matches I always watch the teams warm-up and often come away with a good idea for an exercise or drill that I can use with my team.

Often it is the simple ideas you see players doing that work the best when I get back to my club and try them out with my team.

One of the hardest ones is working with my goalkeeper pre-match or warming them up in training. There are a great variety of ways to get goalkeepers to dive and to catch and generally get in the right frame of mind for the game ahead.

One of the best goalkeeping exercises I like to use before matches is one that Barcelona use to warm their goalkeeper up.

Click here to go to my blog and watch a video clip of the Barcelona goalkeeper warming up and one of the Chelsea goalkeepers before a match.



Why non-stop games work indoors

dave clarkeOver the last month the UK has seen its fair share of bad weather and I’ve been forced indoors with my team. Even friendly matches which I have arranged around the squad have been called off due to the state of the pitches.

Indoors brings its own set of challenges, non more so than half my players arrive at the indoor arena and think they are going to a soccer party! The noise and the atmosphere is totally different to being outside so I come armed with a few exercises to get the players using up all that untapped energy.

Use this colour react exercise to channel players’ energy:

david clarke

Get brains and muscles into gear

  • Two groups of players on each side of a row of four different coloured cones fives yards away.
  • The players must react to your call and move to the appropriate cones.
  • The players must touch the cones in the order you call out, and then sprint out of the nearest end.
  • Players then join the opposite queue.
  • An example would be “White and Black” as shown in the diagram. Make sure you keep advancing the warm-up with combinations of colours so your players are thinking about what they are doing.
  • Mix the colours around so they do not become familiar with the position of the colours.

Indoor soccer drills



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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