Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

Great passing movement warm up video

Why quality is better than quantity

By David Clarke
David ClarkeI am always being told by coaches they don’t have enough time to get things done because they only have one hour coaching a week. It’s tough for them and I genuinely sympathise. I know myself how hard it is to get enough time with my players.

I’ve had to pull out of coaching tomorrow night because there’s a great coach education session at the Premier League Academy I go to – you can’t fit everything in but what you do fit in should always be relevant.

I was taking the rubbish bins out last weekend at home when one of the coaches who works at our club pulled up in his car. ‘What are you doing on Tuesday afternoon?” he asked.

“I’ll have to check – what do you have in mind?”

“My team needs some coaching; we’re all over the place at the moment.”

I know his team because I’ve coached them at various stages in their development, and given the players they have on board, I was a bit surprised that he felt they needed help. So getting to the bottom of the issues he was having was undoubtedly the best starting point.

I found that he was getting the team together for two one-hour sessions a week – he led each session while another coach helped out. His players were getting a good quantity of coaching – two hours a week for training is good; about double the average – but was the quality there?

He told me that his focus had been weakened by work commitments, and that much of those two hours was spent on general play and fitness – players running around and a number of small-sided games. He hadn’t been coaching passages of play, for instance, because time hadn’t allowed him to get started on specific ideas.

This was resulting in players who used the width of the pitch well but took the wrong options when in key attacking situations.

“It just seems to fizzle out,” he said.

So I took one of his sessions with the aim of focusing the players on things they weren’t doing so well. After all, the season is still only halfway through and his team could still turn this into a memorable year. We worked on giving his players options and letting them see the different ways to solve problems. I then offered him additional sessions to build on coaching points – none of them requiring him to come home early from work!

And as for the second training session? “Scrap it”, I said. “Halve the time you’re with them but make the session driven and relevant for the entire 60 minutes.”

And using resources such as Soccer Coach Weekly really does help.

Surely it’s better to introduce an all-encompassing session rather than use a number of loose ideas that might take two hours to combine together? An hour a week is enough if you focus your sessions and squeeze every ounce out of whatever coaching point is being introduced… and there should always be one.

Overloads in circles

By David Clarke

David Clarke

It can be difficult at times to find a good workout for your players that replicates the vital first touch, good movement and quick passing of typical match day situations.

Players are generally relaxed in training – sometimes overly so – and there’s certainly less pressure on them performing a move well.

But with the right set-up, and providing you can instil the notion that a player’s team mates are depending on him (and him only) to perform a specific task, you can get your team working at a high tempo.

This activity ensures players remain physically and mentally alert at all times, always aware of the concept of using available space in order to make maximum use of the ball.

It is a fast session that rehearses overloads, shooting, passing and movement in the same manner that your players will encounter in a match – indeed, a shortened version of this is perfect as a pre-match practice, so ensure every player is getting the ball and thinking about moving to the pass.

How to set it up:

  • Alter the size of the playing area depending on the ages of your players. For U9s, use the centre circle of an adult (11-a-side) pitch, or a circle 20 yards in diameter. For U10s and older, mark out a 30-yard circle as a playing area.
  • You will need to create three small goals using cones at equal points around the playing area. These will each be two yards wide. There are six players on one team and three on the other, though you can alter the number of players and the size of the playing area depending on your squad size, providing one team has twice as many players as the other.

This is a great overload game that never allows players to relax. Because it is performed in a playing area that most aren’t accustomed to, they should be constantly aware of situations developing around them.

In the second exercise, the playing numbers are still 6v3, but the overload is not as obvious with players inside the circle feeling as though they are involved in a 3v3 small-sided game.

On each occasion, look for players to adapt their style of play to the way in which they can score points. The team of six should be looking to play a controlled passing game, while the team of three must be bold and ambitious in their attacking play.


The warm-up

  • One player on the team of six starts with the ball at his feet.

  • He must release the ball to a team mate. His team aims to complete six consecutive passes.

  • The team with three players must attempt to overturn possession. If it does, it tries to score in one of the small goals.

  • Play this for 10 minutes.

The main move

  • Now they have warmed up, prepare your players to restart with the same 6v3 set-up.

  • This time though, the team of six must arrange themselves so that three players begin inside the circle and three outside.

  • The three inside must keep possession, always attempting to switch with players on the outside of the circle by passing the ball to them. When they do this, they swap places with their team mate.

  • They gain a point for each successful pass out and player switch.

  • As before, the team of three gain a point by winning the ball and scoring in one of the three goals.

  • Play for 10 minutes then rotate players.