Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

Come and meet me at the Grass Roots Football Show


Dave Clarke

The Grass Roots Football Show is taking place this weekend and I for one am not going to miss it. You can come and see me on the Elite Soccer stand C29a and ask me questions about youth coaching.
It’s a great place to pick up some coaching tips to take home with you and there will be some famous names running technical coaching sessions from set pieces and warm-ups to attacking, defending and finishing.
Michael Beale will be there on Friday and Saturday and it will be me on Sunday so don’t miss it.
You can also look out for sessions from managers like Peter Taylor, Iain Dowie, Chris Hughton, Graham Taylor and Chris Coleman.

The top coaches will be on hand to showcase exciting new drills, deliver top coaching tips and make sure that whether you coach an U10’s or adults team, there will be loads of great sessions to motivate and inspire you.

Here’s the type of thing you can expect: Robbie Savage talking about discipline when he was a Manchester Utd youth player:

And this is what happened last year:


Ashley Cole makes the right decisions

One of the world’s best defenders with or without the ball in 1v1 situations must be England and Chelsea superstar Ashley Cole. Most of the time he makes the right decision when faced with this situation.
Decision making is an important part of any young soccer player’s make-up. Every time they play a match, whether it’s for a team or for fun in the playground, there is a decision to be made when they get the ball.
Often they are faced with situations where there is an easy route where their team keeps the ball – a simple pass or sideways movement into space to slowly build up play – or a more difficult route with more to gain – attempting to dribble past a defender for example.
By playing this game you can help your players to see the results of their decisions. Because they keep the ball when points are scored they could quickly build up points by going to one of the easy cones. Or, if they find they are a lot of points down with only a few minutes left, they must go for the harder cone to quickly score points.
All your players – defenders, midfielders, attackers – should take part in this game. It can be used for any age group.

How to coach it

  • Tell your attackers to keep the ball moving.
  • They need to use moves and turns like stepovers, dragbacks and dummies to lose the defender.
  • Tell them to take every opportunity to score points.
  • The way to do it is to keep the ball close to their body.
  • When a player scores a point they return to the starting cone and try to score another point. They keep possession of the ball until it goes out of play or they lose the ball to the defender.

There’s more to it than what you do with the ball


Dave Clarke

One of the qualities of a good team is the ability to think and react when they are playing in matches. And I don’t just mean how they react to the ball. There are some players who can be captains on the pitch and help their team mates by communicating and showing leadership qualities.

You should encourage these players to come to the fore during matches because if they can talk to each other and encourage each other they will help the team to get through difficult periods in games and to give 100% effort and skill.

Gareth Southgate the former English international footballer and manager of Middlesborough, now is the English FA head of elite development, believes leadership and strong communication are vital at the top level of youth football. Listen to what he has to say to a group of young players in the video clip below.

How do you celebrate victory?


Dave Clarke

When my team wins cups or leagues we always celebrate with a get together where any of them or their parents can stand up and say something about how well they have done during the season.

Last season one of my players was the lead role in Billy Elliot: The Musical at our local theatre and he stood up and sang one of the songs from it. It made it a special occasion and one that everyone enjoyed. Hopefully this season someone will be able to do something similar.

I was reminded of this when I saw that AC Milan’s Kevin Prince-Boateng had kept a promise to do a Michael Jackson routine if his side won the Serie A title in Italy.

The Italian giants won their first league championship in seven years with a 0-0 draw at Roma last week, and they celebrated their title with a resounding 4-1 thrashing of Cagliari in front of their home fans on Saturday.

After the game Boateng, in his first season with the Rossoneri, stole the show by dressing up and performing Jackson’s dance moves, including the moonwalk.

what a great way to be part of a team experience and take winning in the spirit it should be taken – players showing their human side.

The best coaches know what to say at half-time

Dave Clarke

Two managers under pressure met in the semi-finals of this season’s Carling Cup. Birmingham city managed by Alex McLeish and West Ham United managed by Avram Grant showed how managers can have a profound effect on the performance of a team.

With Birmingham 3-1 ahead on aggregate at half time in the second of the two leg semi-final it was likely that Birmingham were out. McLeish had to motivate his team if he wanted to have any chance of winning the game. This is what he said to the team: "We are out… but it’s not official yet. It’s up to you if you want to come in at the end of 90 minutes and say you have regrets or you didn’t give it your all."

His talk resulted in Birmingham coming back from 3-1 to win the game in injury time 4-3. An amazing turnaround.

On the other hand Grant was quiet in the West Ham dressing room. He later confessed: "I didn’t know what to say to them at half-time."

While McLeish used a motivational approach to revive a team that looked beaten, Grant seemed to shrink from the challenge because he couldn’t cope with the pressure of winning.

This illustrates how the half time team talk is important – however you choose to do it – to inspire your team to victory.

Here are my half-time tips:

  • As soon as the first half is over, move to your players. Don’t make them move for you. Unless there is an obvious alternative, such as some shade or cover in sunny or adverse weather.

  • Be clear from obvious distractions such as the opposition.

  • Ask the players to sit down. This way communication is easier, the players are still and they are in the best position for recovery and hydration.

  • A key tip is to get players to drink moderate amounts of water at a continual rate. This means having as many water bottles available as possible. Successful recovery and hydration allows the team to absorb feedback quicker.

For the most constructive feedback time:

  • Get or wait until you know that you have everyone’s attention.

  • Provide two or three major points.

  • Be clear, positive and constructive.

  • Colourful language doesn’t necessarily motivate players.

Plan for the second half

  • Pinpoint the areas for improvement.

  • Highlight opposition weaknesses and how to take advantage of them.

  • Re-emphasise the positives and the skills from the first half and the need to stick to the game plan, particularly for the first 10 minutes of second half.

  • Before you leave the field, have a quick final word with the captain before the final huddle is formed.

Half-time summary

  • Don’t talk until everyone is listening.

  • Don’t concentrate on negatives.

  • Don’t spring any surprises.

  • Don’t allow too much player input all at once.

Top five best headers of a ball

Alan Shearer – Newcastle Utd and England

Alan Clarke – Leeds Utd and England

Cristiano Ronaldo – Real Madrid and Portugal

Didier Drogba – Chelsea and Ivory Coast

Miroslav Klose – Bayern Munich and Germany

Soccer heading drills

Running the game without the ball

I am always going on to other coaches about coaching teams to think about how they set up when they haven’t got the ball. I don’t mind the oppposition having the ball as long as my team are in control of the positions they are playing in.

If we can identify a player low on confidence on the opposition team then my players can position themselves so the ball goes to this player. IF that player has the ball they may be forced into an error that will benefit my team.

In the match between Manchester United and Chelsea that decided the Premier League Champions the United manager Sir Alex Ferguson always plays his left winger narrow when Chelsea play Branislav Ivanovic at right-back. Ivanovic was given all ;the time on the ball he wanted because the United coaches were sure he couldn’t harm them when he had the ball.

In this case it was Ji-Sung Park on the left and he created the opening goal after only 40 seconds by sitting narrow and catching Ivanovic off his guard. The pattern of the game was shaped here with Ji-Sung Park staying narrow allowing Ryan Giggs to run at Ivanovic.

It also gave Wayne Rooney space to work in, and the Chelsea midfield were overrun for much of the game.