Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

Pride in your team’s colours – the top five worst kits

Who is in charge of choosing the kits for your team? Hopefully it isn’t the one that chose the Newcastle United Away kit for next season – 2009/10.

I feel it is very important for young players to want to wear the kit they play in, much the same as they would want to wear the kit of the team they support. It is all part of taking pride in your team. Look good, play good.

It is also something that gives a team the initial advantage when you get to a match. Much like doing some good warm-ups the opposition will look across and weigh your team up. How come they have a full Nike kit? Wow they look like Brazil!

Kits are a massive boost to the revenues of professional teams. The launch of new kits is now a huge event. The latest England kit has matching jackets, all part of the image of the team.

Here’s my top five worst kits

1. Newcastle Utd Away shirt (2009) Oh dear relegated from the Premiership the final insult for Steven Taylor – has he looked in the mirror yet?

man-utd-grey-away-kit-19962.Man Utd Grey shirt (1996) 
 Worn only once, Sir Alex Ferguson demanded his players change into a new kit at half-time against Southampton as they “couldn’t see” each other on the park and this was why they found themselves 3-0 down at the interval. Worst excuse as well.

athletic-bilbao-home-shirt3. Athletic Bilbao home shirt (2004)
 Basque side Athletico Bilbao are one of the few clubs who do not have the logo of an official sponsor emblazoned on their kit. Now I wonder why…

1997Deshamps_ma_e4. Juventus (1997) In an attempt to hark back to its very first strip in 1899 Juventus decided it would be a great idea to ditch their iconic black and white strip and make their stars prance around in this delightful pink one. They quickly changed back.

mexico-campos-keeper-shirt-19965. Mexico Jorge Campos Goalkeeper shirt (USA World Cup 1994). Eccentic in goal, eccentic in kit.

 Soccer Skills and Drills


Don’t cheer when technique slips up on the penalty spot

dc1Missing penalties because the player slips always bring a huge cheer from the opposition. Whenever my teams play I always tell them we don’t cheer missed penalties when the player slips or misses the goal.

Yes, we cheer a good save from the penalty kick, but not the miss itself.

I’ve seen a lot of missed penalties this season – the pressure on the players taking the penalty is huge and is something that the player involved will think about for a long time afterwards.

If your player misses, have a quick chat with them and tell them it doesn’t matter. Don’t show your disappointment and don’t let the rest of the team see your disappointment. Hopefully your team’s spirit will help the player get over it.

You must get over it quickly too.

In the U21 European Championships last month the England U21 team beat Sweden on penalties – surely one of the biggest pressure points in a football match – James Milner took England’s first penalty and slipped kicking the ball high and wide of the goal.

He must have felt terrible listening to the jeering crowd, but by the end the English spirit shone through and even though Joe Hart the England goalkeeper would miss the final the team celebrated as one.

Consider also David Beckham’s slip for England against Portugal in the European Championships in 2004. His mistake led to the team losing in the quarter-finals of Europe’s biggest International tournament.

John Terry missed for Chelsea when he slipped against Manchester United in Europe’s biggest club tournament in the final of the Champions League in 2008. He only had to score the penalty for Chelsea to win, he missed. Chelsea went on to lose.

It happens to the best players in the world so expect it to happen to your players, and be there for them when it does.

Here are the clips of the two slip ups for England and John Terry’s miss for Chelsea.

 Soccer Skills and Drills

Motivate your team with this great speech before a match

DavidClarke1Good coaches are good motivators. American football coach Vince Lombardi was one of the best and he was good at getting his team prepared for matches by sending them out with a great speech.

It is a brilliant way to get your team really geared up for the game ahead by making a big motivational speech.

Listen to this one and use it next time your team plays.

Click here to watch a video featuring the speech by Vince Lombardi

 Soccer Skills and Drills

Coach loses temper and punches the referee

DavidClarke1I’ve just been to a tournament today and seen all sorts of behaviour. Last week I was pleasantly surprised by how competitive but happy the tournament was. This week I was brought back down to earth by the behaviour of some of the coaches towards the referees.

It’s easy to criticize them – I was left dumbfounded over the match we played where the tournament organizers were playing against us and they hit a shot that hit the post and went past the goal but the referee said it had gone through the net. We bit our tongues.

Referees are human – they get it wrong sometimes and you have to accept it but today there were three occasions where the manager of the teams playing the tournaments went crazy for something really simple like the referee awarding throw-ins against their teams.

There are some coaches out there who ruin it for the likes of you and I.

Watch this clip of Brazilian coach Pedro Santilli losing his temper and punching the referee. Make sure you don’t resort to this kind of behaviour!

 Soccer Skills and Drills

Games can bring innovation into your coaching

DavidClarke1I can remember going along to training when I was young and all we did was run laps around a field or wait in lines to dribble through some conesbefore shooting and being shouted out by a coach hassled by a bunch of bored kids.

One of the best ways to get children to learn soccer is to use games that they find fun and creative. It is a simple fun way to improve skills and to make sure the children come back to your training sessions again and again.

You and the children are getting a higher level of energy, focus and attention – in other words they are learning the game without realizing it.

You probably know the game soccer golf because I’ve featured it in my Better Soccer Coaching newsletter, but I found an another version! Okay I know soccer players are on the golf course all the time but not like this. Watching this clip of FC Dallas players on a proper golf course using a soccer ball made me realize that games are not just for the very young.

We all love a bit of innovation and the challenge that games throw up.

Now I wonder if I could take a bunch of kids to my local golf course and get permission to boot a few balls down the fairway….

 Soccer Skills and Drills

The ups and downs of the beautiful game

dc1It was refreshing to see that Celtic has chosen a manager not on the latest results his team produced but on the way they play the game.

Relegated from the Premiership at the first attempt, Tony Mowbray’s West Brom have been praised for the way they play. When they won promotion in 2007 from the Championship against teams who played with one up front and nine men behind the ball – Mowbray remained true to his ideals. Much as he has this last season only to see his team fail. But Celtic have recognized in his team the core of something special, something that will excite the fans and bring more trophys.

The words he spoke at the time reminded me of my own experience a couple of seasons ago when I took over an U14s team that hadn’t won a single game for two seasons. Eventually the team was turned around and I can look back on the first 5 or 6 games when we played well but lost every one in the same way that Mowbray does:

“It hasn’t always been easy. There have been times I have been sitting in other managers’ offices having a beer after games and they have been drooling about our style, telling me how great it is and what good footballers I have almost to a sycophantic extent… on the back of them beating us 2-0. That is hard to accept, but you don’t change what you do, you just try to become better at it,” said Mowbray.

I remember well after losing 2-1 the manager and his coaches coming over and expressing surprise we had lost considering how well we had played. We hadn’t won a game all season and their words made us even more determined to play the way I was coaching them, and if you cannot retain possession, master the football, attack on the flanks and in expansive fashion, your team will never progress.

At West Brom Tony Mobray has introduced a culture right through the club that is based on skills, technique and the ability to hold onto the ball. Here is the Academy team at the Soccer AM Skills School:

 Soccer Skills and Drills

Praise gives your players confidence – just ask Guus Hiddink

dc1Rewards for soccer players are enormous if you’re playing at the top. Ronaldo, Kaka and David Villa all having millions spent on them and are reaping the benefits of their skills. Of course very few players make it to the top but usually the ones that do have a tale to tell of when they didn’t think they would make it – and usually the person that helps them is the coach.

In Manchester United player Ji-Sung Park’s autobiography he tells of how praise from Guus Hiddink helped him believe in himself. Here’s an extract from his autobiography:

‘Sitting alone in an empty locker room, I look at my injured left leg. I was crestfallen because I missed out my opportunity to prove my worth in these crucial moments.

Then, Coach Hiddink appeared out of nowhere with an interpretor and spoke to me. Wondering what he had just said, I looked at the interpretor.
“He said you have great mentality. With that kind of mental strength, you will become a great player.”

I was astonished. Before I could say anything, he was already out of the locker room. My heart was pounding, I felt a new strength rousing inside me. Coach always seemed like an distant person but coming up to me and saying that I have great mentality have boosted up my confidence… I have nothing else to boast but mentality. I may not have great skills or technique, but one thing I can do is never give up.

Coach took notice of that. Those words gave me great strength and courage, it felt ten time better than someone saying I am a football genius.

Within a minute, Coach Hiddink had changed my life forever. Without Coach Hiddink I would have not been able to become who I am right now. I owe him everything and I won’t be able to repay it in my lifetime.’

As a coach it is important you reward your players with personal interaction and praise, earned for many things during the course of a season.

To be like Guus Hiddink you need to do little other than give them verbal praise for the good things they do. So how should you do it?

Here are a few tips on praise:

I usually shake a player’s hand.
Make good eye contact with the player.
Go to the player, do not wait for him to come to you.
Lean slightly forward to your players when shaking hands and talking to them.

Use my 10 ways to say well done to a player blog to get some tips on what to say.

This clip is an animation of the meeting between Hiddink and Park, I think you’ll agree it is a really heartwarming story in these days of 80m Euros transfers.

 Soccer Skills and Drills