Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

Fun game to end your session … with excellent 1v1 skills

davidscwnewThis is a great game to end one of your sessions. I often use it with my U9s team when they have been training hard. Your players won’t know there’s a coaching element to this game and will be learning without realising it.

Expect to see lots of 1v1 situations in this game. But as the number of balls decrease, these will become more random because players can then link up to create 2v2 or 2v4 scenarios.

Players will learn how to attack and defend different goals. They will also have to use communication, decision making and teamwork skills as the game progresses from individual to multi-player situations.

Set this one up in a 30 yards by 30 yards square. You need six target goals (mini goals or cones will do), and a lot of balls.

How to play it

On your whistle, the attackers get a ball each and try to score in one of the goals. After each shot, the attackers return to the middle of the playing area to get another ball.

Once all the balls have been played, the number of balls in the goals should be counted and then the roles reversed. If you are using cones for goals, get a couple of parents or helpers to keep score.


If there’s one course you should go on…

davidscwnewI firmly believe that if you want to develop the skills of individual players you need to start young and you need to do so at grassroots level. So this summer I decided to attend a number of courses based on skills coaching and individual excellence that would add to my knowledge of youth coaching. And this was the pick of the bunch.

Coerver Coaching’s Alf Galustian was the star skills educator at his Play Like Spain course at the London Soccer Dome – and it was like being in Spain on one of the hottest weekends of the year.

DCAlfWillie+spanish players1

Coerver’s course is based on the Spain national side and the success they have had playing with Spanish style and the phases of play that make up that style. Alf coached sessions where the emphasis was on individual ball mastery and how the development of the individual creates a winning team.

Alf said: “I have worked in Spain as a coach educator several times throughout my career. It is common knowledge that Spain are the current leading developers of football talent and they have implemented a style of play that is the envy of world football”.

I found it very interesting because last year I spent a lot of time  working on the phases of play used by Barcelona and why they have had so much success in the last few years with their style of possession play – I broke Barcelona style down to Possession/Patience/Penetration and did a presentation for the NSCAA on the Barcelona phases of play.

Alf broke down the Spain style into four phases of play


Protecting the ball individually by coaching shielding techniques and as a group moving the ball quickly to keep it away from opponents.


Individually and as a team. This is the Spanish way, lose the ball win it back by pressing high up the pitch giving teams no time to settle on the ball.


Running with the ball into space or finding the killer pass, with drills to develop individual and team skills


The creative end product from the combination of the other three parts of the course – ­including creativity in the final third (the one thing English players find hard to do).

Coerver have been over in Spain recently and Scott Wright the UK director of Coerver told me: “We have had coaches from all levels attend our courses in Spain including La Liga clubs Real Madrid, Getafe, Real Mallorca and Rayo Vallacano as well as other coaches and ex-players from across Spain and Europe.”

Dave Clarke with Manuel Ojalvo

Dave Clarke with Manuel Ojalvo

So I felt I was in good company on the course and that there was a real Spanish aspect to the sessions. Added to that Coerver had brought former Athletico Madrid youngster Manuel Ojalvo, and former professional Diego Camacho, who has amassed more than 400 appearances in La Liga.

Manuel has a background in youth coaching and gave some great insights into what it was like to be a youth player in Spain. Diego doesn’t have the command of the English language that Manuel has but he managed to get across the frustrations of being coached in one position for all his time in youth football – defensive midfield. He has played against the likes of Zinedine Zidane and Lionel Messi, asked how he stopped Messi he shrugged and gave a chopping motion… it was fascinating stuff.

Both players are convinced the Coerver system can help grassroots in Spain – and of course in England.

Diego said (with Manuel acting as interpreter): “Every ex-professional player, no matter the level, who is thinking about moving into coaching should definitely study the Coerver System; I wish it had been available to me when I was a young, it would have made me a better player”.

Dave Clarke and Diego Camacho

Dave Clarke and Diego Camacho

Alf also introduced former ManchesterCity and Scotland defender Willie Donachie who is now development coach at Newcastle United. Again the advice was very interesting because Coerver are very much an attack minded in their tactics. Willie talks defence and used the example of Ian Rush the former Liverpool and Wales striker as an example of a forward whose first thought on losing the ball was to win it back. Alf too had praise for an attacker who likes to win the ball back – Lionel Messi “he is the best defender in the world”, said Alf.

Dave Clarke and Willie Donachie

Dave Clarke and Willie Donachie

Some great course material to take away in the form of a book that included the sessions Alf had put on during the weekend added to the overall success of the course.

It was a great way to spend a weekend in the summer and a very valuable one for my own personal development adding to my knowledge of Spanish football, giving me lots to take back to the teams that I coach. I suggest if you get the chance you should go on the course – it is a great learning experience.

GUEST BLOG: Fighting back after serious injury
Manisha Tailor (photo: Kajal Nisha Patel)

Manisha Tailor (photo: Kajal Nisha Patel)

By Manisha Tailor

One tackle can cause loss of form, one tackle can lead to mental breakdown, and just one tackle can end the career of a professional footballer. Perhaps this was thought in November 2010 when one horrific tackle broke the leg of Arsenal and Welsh International, Aaron Ramsey, in a manner which caused onlookers to wince and look away in disgust. “The determination and professionalism that you need, it’s quite tough”.

A feeling shared by one former Arsenal player who has experienced various levels of the football pyramid after suffering two serious injuries which saw him drop down from the football league to non-league. A player who has most recently been compared to football greats such as ‘Pele’ and tipped as scoring the best FA Cup goal ever. That player is Rene Steer: Injury, setback, to current form that has attracted much interest across the globe.

Steer spent 6 years at Arsenal seeing him make numerous appearances for the reserves in addition to graduating to the first team in 2007 before departing on loan to Gillingham in 2009. Since then he has played for clubs including: Oldham Athletic, Staines Town and Woking, having left last season following a serious injury. “I personally believe that I’ve been unlucky with 2 serious injuries at the wrong time which has stopped me showing clubs what I’m all about”. He started this season with St. Neot’s Town but has most recently joined Boston United who play in the Conference North Premier League.

From the heights of the Arsenal to playing non-league, such difference can potentially impact players psychologically with a difference in status, money and fan base. Now to add injury, ruling a player out of something that he loves and has a passion for, ruling a player out of something he lives to do – playing the game. Steer, having experienced the two, illustrates that mental toughness is paramount to help overcome such challenging circumstances. It is his resilience, determination and focus that is admirable, and tells us much about his strong character. This season we see the form that saw him lauded so early in his career.
His left-footed 40-yard wonder goal in St Neot’s FA Cup game (see video clip below) has lead him to become an internet sensation with over 400,000 views and fans commenting: “it’s truly ridiculous”….. “goal of the season”. Manager Iain Parr is positive about Steer’s current form: “The last two or three games he’s showing what he’s all about defensively”.


Rene, Norwich City FC scout in addition to a highly regarded football coach at The Rachel Yankey Football Programme, has received words of support and encouragement from the most capped England International, Yankey, who stated in a tweet: “very proud of one of my coaches after coming back from injury. Step aside Leighton Baines!”

Steer’s journey through his injury was most certainly an emotional one hence why the ‘wonder goal’ is that much more special and significant. “When Rene scored that goal I was happy and emotional because I said to him that goal had a meaning, it was meant to be. The year he had out in football due to his injury was probably the worst thing that happened to him, and to watch him come back fighting and putting in so much work to get fit and reach his top form again has been inspirational to me and our friends. That goal made up that year of him missing football and now he’s reaping from it. I’ve watched him reach his all time low to picking himself up and reach is high, watching his journey has been amazing” (Ola Williams, Wingate and Finchley FC).

Having the courage and confidence to bounce back after a serious injury that takes you away from what you yearn to do is tough and without the will power and determination, along with a supportive network can be an extremely long road. Rene Steer is a real example of someone who has strength in mind, but most importantly a real willingness to want to do well. “My aim is to try to get back playing league football and for the rest of the season, to keep playing and maybe chip in with a few more goals.”

As stated by Williams, an inspiration to those who may also have suffered from a set back within the game. A humble, funny, down to earth, well grounded and genuinely lovely person. This combined with his strength in character is most certainly a recipe for success. Focus, and possibilities are endless. I look forward to seeing Steer playing in the Football League in the not so distant future.
Contact details:

Watch the goal below:

7v7 formations: How to play 2-3-1

davidscwnewSetting up your team in a formation when they first start playing matches is as much a learning curve for you as it is for your players.

When I coach a team that hasn’t played matches or worked on formations before, I always find it best to start by looking at individual players and writing down the strong and weak parts of their game.

You will often see coaches put their weakest players in defence and their strongest players up front. This is wrong. You need balance throughout the team and, with U10s and below, you really need to be letting all your players try all the positions.

The 2-3-1 is an ideal formation to coach positions and give your players a good idea of what is expected when they move up to 11-a-side. This is because the responsibilities of each player are similar to the ones they will advance to.


  • You will ideally have at least one fast defender because you always need one covering player when your team has corners, free kicks and throw-ins in the opposition half.
  • One of the defenders needs to push up into the space created when the central midfielder attacks.
  • The defenders need to learn how far they can advance and talk to each other covering each other.
  • They will learn together as they play matches and grow into their roles.


  • The two wide midfielders can play as wing backs.
  • They need to get used to pushing forward using the wings to support the central attacker and dropping back to protect the defenders when they lose the ball.
  • Your central midfielder has to support the attacker and protect the defence. He pushes into the hole behind the attacker when the team is going forward, but drops deep when defending.
  • Midfielders are pivotal to the team and usually see a lot of the ball. The central midfielder is an ideal position for your captain or most advanced player in the team.


  • In seven-a-side, you are looking for a player who can finish moves off. Because of the pitch size and support from the three midfielders, your attacker does not have to be especially good at holding the ball. The central midfielder will do that.
  • Also, if it is not possible to get the ball across to the attacker from the wing, the advancing defenders will offer the wing backs a way out. Your players may be passing back but, in doing so, they are keeping possession and the ball can be recycled through the central midfielder.

Interested in more tactics? Try these links:

1. Elite Soccer – Jim Bentley, defending in a 3-5-2 formation

2. Elite Soccer – Carlo Ancelotti, attacking movement in a 4-3-2-1 formation

The Perfect Penalty Kick and an English FA record

Brockenhurst and Andover Town set a new English FA record when they scored 29 consecutive penalties, until the unfortunate 20-year-old Andover Town player, Claudio Herbert, had his shot saved. The previous record was set when Dagenham and Redbridge beat Leyton Orient in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in 2011.

“I didn’t realise the magnitude, it was a bit of a blur, the keeper pulled off a great save,” Herbert said.

The record for the longest penalty shoot-out came in 2005 when the Namibian Cup had to be settled by a record-breaking 48 spot-kicks, with KK Palace holding their nerve to defeat the Civics 17-16 following a 2-2 draw in normal time.

Watch the video then follow my advice on how to take the perfect penalty

The Perfect Penalty Kick
davidscwnewWait for the keeper to move or hit it low and hard into the bottom corner without looking at the goalkeeper? Where should your players strike the perfect penalty?

Research carried out by Liverpool John Moores University in the UK came up with a solution, according to Professor Tom Riley “A well-placed ball, high to the corner, will not be stopped by the goalkeeper even if he anticipates it,” says Prof Riley. “There is not enough time to react, so a kick placed in this area would have a 100% strike rate. Some players blast the ball straight down the middle, assuming that the goalkeeper will move, but it’s not always successful.”.

But it’s an interesting alternative to the conventional theory that you will often hear from professionals, managers and commentators: “Hitting the inside of the side netting, low down just inside either post is often the target for a penalty taker.” According to Professor Riley this conventional approach has a greater chance of being saved but it’s an easier one to execute. Get your players to try hitting the top corner in training – it may work.

GUEST BLOG: Ways Parents Can Help Their Kids Have a Good Player-Coach Relationship


Nancy Parker

Respect is at the center of the player-coach relationship. With a setting that is based on respectful behavior, all members of a team can thrive. A parent’s role in helping a child to have a good relationship with a coach is one of instruction, encouragement and support. Unless you, the parent, are the one doing the coaching, it’s not possible to control how the coaching is handled. However, you can work to provide positive support that will enable a child to have a good experience.


Age-Appropriate Expectations
Although children at different levels have different physical and behavioral abilities, it’s always possible to teach respect. Important aspects of respectful behavior include paying attention when the coach speaks or models a skill, listening without interrupting, following directions, trying new skills and asking questions in a polite manner. Additionally, respectful behavior involves not being distracted by other kids. Simple use of polite words and behaviors can also help form a positive relationship. Teach your child to thank the coach for his time at the end of practice.

A young child can stray off task easily, and distractions are common in early league levels. However, coaches working with young children are generally trained to keep activities shorter to accommodate age-related needs. As children grow older, more attentive behavior can be expected as longer drills and activities are provided. Help a child to enjoy a good relationship with coaches at any level by reinforcing respectful behavior with encouraging words. Correct your child when inappropriate behavior is observed, and be sure to praise positive behavior.

Model Respectful Behavior
Your child doesn’t have control over his arrival time. Being late to practices and games can create problems for the coach, and it’s on you to make sure your child arrives on time. The team can also suffer if multiple kids are late or absent. Good communication from a parent can help. Let your child’s coach know if he will be absent or late. Make it a point to be on time for official activities. Follow through on commitments to the team, especially those involving things like after-game snacks or important forms.

A parent who expects a child to show respect for an authority figure like a coach must also model such behavior. If you bad-mouth the coach’s style, decisions or other actions, your child may assimilate some of these same sentiments into his own behavior. If he perceives negativity on the part of Mom or Dad, he may feel that he is justified in acting out or criticizing on his own.

No coach is perfect, and parents often disagree about a coach’s decisions. However, helping a child to have a positive experience means that it’s important to avoid attacking his coach publicly or privately. This can be tough, especially if there is a perception that the coach hasn’t treated a child fairly. However, it’s important to remember the power you have as a role model.

Act in a Supporting Role
Coaches often appreciate the availability of parents during practices and games. Having a parent available makes it possible to quickly deal with serious behavioral issues. Additionally, having a few parents help out can lighten the duties of the coach by making it easier to manage drills and other administrative tasks. Consider volunteering as a team parent and assisting a coach in coordinating distribution of team notices, uniforms or fundraising materials. Demonstrate a willingness to help set an example for a child while supporting the coach. Parental support can do a lot to keep a child’s relationship with the coach positive.

Dealing with Differences
It’s important to realize that no matter how attentive and cooperative a child is, the player-coach relationship is two-sided. There will be times when a parent may not agree with how a play is handled, where a child is positioned, or when a child has to sit out for a play (or longer). An unintended slight can lead to a negative relationship between parents, players and coaches. It’s important to address concerns directly with the coach. Similarly, teach a child to ask questions respectfully if he disagrees with how a situation has been handled. Help your youngster understand that the coach is the leader and has the responsibility for decision-making. It’s important not to over-exaggerate small issues. At the same time, a pattern of oversights may require some private discussion.

Ongoing Development
Your child will have many coaches over time. Every coach will be unique in his approach to team discipline, drills and game strategies. It’s important to help your child understand that respect is an ongoing priority. Encourage him with positive points at the beginning of a season, and continue to model support and cooperation in order to facilitate a pleasant player-coach relationship.

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Goal shy? Try this…


If your attackers are shy when they get the ball in front of goal and either just kick in hope in the vague direction of goal or try and pass it away quickly they need a boost in confidence.

This three-goal game is fantastic for giving every player in your team a chance to run at goal or shoot cleverly into the corners when they approach the goal at an angle.

Can they switch feet to fool the goalkeeper? Can they get into a better position to shoot? Can they win the 1v1s to set themselves up with a chance? Find out with this session:

How to set it up:

Play 3v3, in a 30-yard square area. There are three goals, two in each of the corners and one placed on the opposite side in the middle. One player from each team acts as goalkeeper.

Getting started:

  • The practice starts with one player from each team attacking the goal to their left – unopposed dribbling and shooting in turn.

  • Players must concentrate on controlling the ball and approaching each goal at an angle.

  • At the end of each attack, the attackers move clockwise around the playing area, ready to attack the next goal. Goalkeepers remain where they are.

  • To advance this, add defenders to the practice so your attackers have an additional obstacle.

  • Make sure you rotate players so that everyone gets a chance in each position.

  • You can also switch play by attacking each goal from the right-hand side.

The key elements:

  • The focus is on individual skills such as dribbling, shooting and 1v1 attacking and defending.

  • Highlight those players who are using good technique and creating space.

  • Don’t be afraid to stop the game, pointing out to your players what they are doing right and wrong in terms of technique and positioning.

Why this works:

Play is centred on a tight area that represents the compacted nature of the midfield so players are forced to make quick and efficient decisions in attack and defence.

Rather than undertake an exercise that encourages a player to pass, this is a great move whereby taking on an opponent can be shown to have a much more dynamic effect on the game, something that is good for players to recognise in a match situation.