Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

Change of position, change of fortune

DCDuring a victory for my Under-10s side, one of my defenders got injured. This was not too much of a problem as I had another player who could move from midfield to fill that role. The solution worked fine for a while until he too limped out of the action, leaving me struggling to solve the problem.
We got to half-time without too much trouble and were winning 1-0, and at that point I managed to persuade another lad to change positions and slot back into defence. He halfheartedly accepted the offer, even creeping forward into his regular attacking role at times, thus leaving holes and gaps behind him.
I was therefore relieved when my left winger came across and said to me that he would play in defence because he’d operated there for his previous team. I was surprised because I had never considered him to be a natural defender – he is, after all, a strong attacking winger, and it had never even crossed my mind to use him in defence.
But he was an absolute revelation, with excellent positioning, plus strong support and marking skills. At one point he took the ball off the toes of the opposition attacker and ran the whole length of the pitch, unleashing a brilliant shot at the end of it. I am still reluctant to play him at the back because we have some good defenders, and he is a valuable left winger, but I know now he makes a great back-up if we ever need someone to fill the role.
It got me thinking about players and how they generally begin to ‘find’ their positions around nine or 10 years of age. And yet many will play for another few years before actually discovering where they are best. What we should be doing as coaches is constantly experimenting with their roles – maybe hiding inside a player who has been labeled a ‘defender’ is a strong attacking force just waiting to be unleashed on an unsuspecting opponent. It’s rare when it happens, but on the occasions that it does, it’s always a pleasant and useful surprise.


Every coach has one of these days … even Mourinho
October 22, 2011, 4:51 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Every coach has one of these days ... even Mourinho

Sometimes your players just don’t get the session… well it happens to all of us so don’t think you’re the only coach who has a headache from players not understanding what you mean!

Why defence is as important as attack

DCI received the following email from my ‘right hand man’ after the match on Saturday. (I’ve changed players’ names for obvious reasons).

“Dave – I keep questioning why we didn’t score more goals today. John has got to pass the ball earlier. Too many times he lost possession at the corner flag. Peter would be better on that side as he only has a right foot. If John went on the left would he have to cut in? Do we use both on that side, one at a time? Could we try Will in left midfield against league leaders Texas Eagles? Do we need a bit of speed at the back? If we don’t get the crosses in against better teams we won’t score at all – or am I being too negative?”

We won the game 3-0 and are second in the league, but the reason for the text was that we had scored our third goal after 20 minutes and then failed to find the net again in the rest of the game. One of the parents commented that he was surprised that we hadn’t “killed the game off in the second-half”.

Fresh from an 8-0 victory in the previous match everyone was hoping for more of the same. But soccer isn’t like that. I will have to convince the parents and my fellow coach that defence is just as important as attack. The truth is I was as pleased we had kept two clean sheets in a row as I was that we’d scored 11 goals in two games.

We are doing a lot of work on defensive positions with supporting play a priority. If a player commits there should always be a covering player blocking the route to goal should they fail to win the ball. In the text, the comment “could we try Will in left midfield?” was because this left-footed player had an outstanding match at left-back.
But what my helper failed to realise was that the reason for the two clean sheets is that the back two are playing really well together and I won’t be changing that to give us more weight in attack.

When you are coaching you must remember you cannot always score lots of goals, and never forget that keeping clean sheets is an excellent testament to your coaching just as much as scoring goals is. So you must use defensive exercises as much as attacking ones, no matter what everyone else is telling you.

Defensive drills and games

8 ways to get your coaching point across


Reinforcing your key coaching points helps players to understand and remember your message.


Make sure you are clear what your coaching goals are for the session. If necessary write them down. Many top level coaches carry notes in their pockets to refer to during sessions.


Limit yourself to three or four main coaching points in a session, and less if you are introducing a new skill or technique. Any more than this and your players won’t take the information in.


Introduce the coaching points at the start so players know what they are going to be doing. The most effective way to do this is through a practical demonstration either by yourself or using some of the players.


Keep repeating the points during the activity. Be positive, highlight good examples to the whole group and give individual assistance to any players who are struggling.


Sum up at the end. Go over the key points again, answer any questions and check the players have understood them.


Use questions throughout to check that players have understood you clearly. It often helps players to have the coaching points put into different terms by their peers and using slightly different language.


Revise previous points at the start of the next session. Check the players have remembered what you coached and start with an exercise where they are putting them into practice.

No ifs, no BUTs

DCThink about the word BUT.

“You did really well…” your player is on the up “BUT… you could do better” you’ve taken away all the good and they feel bad about themselves. You think you’ve been positive but you haven’t

Try using phrases without using BUT.

Here’s my top four:

“You should be proud of yourself” – get the player to think about their own performance. There’s nothing quite like patting yourself on the back after achieving something worthwhile.

“You were brilliant this week” – qualify when the player did well. He’ll realise you’re assessing him each week and will feel he has improved from the last session.

“I couldn’t have done that better myself” – never underestimate how much players look up to you. If you’re putting them on your level, that’s a huge confidence boost.

“Nothing can stop you now” – can there be any bigger plaudit? Today the local pitch, tomorrow the Premier League!

Why do kids love the game? Watch below:

Does your goalkeeper have trouble with kicks?

DCTo be good at goalkicks the keeper has to practice. With practise comes confidence, and with confidence comes consistency.

Start by getting defenders to come short so the goalkeeper doesn’t have to get the ball far out of the penalty area.

You don’t want your team to be penned in their own half, but doing this does mean that players have to be more inventive in constructing passing moves upfield, and it still allows for occasional longer kicks that may catch the opposition off guard.

Soccer coaching tips for goalkicks

Try the impossible… it may happen!