Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

Play with your head up


Many young players look at the ball when they should be scouring the pitch for opportunities of where they can pass it. If you can get their heads up for twice as long as they are at the moment, that’s twice as many signals, runs and goalscoring opportunities they can spot.And here’s the perfect session to test it:

How to play it

  • You need cones, bibs, balls and two pop-up goals.
  • Use the centre circle of your pitch and place the goals back to back in the middle.
  • I’ve used three teams of three, but vary player numbers to suit.
  • Two teams start in the circle, while the other – a neutral team that plays for the team in possession – runs around the outside.
  • Opposing teams can score in either goal but a player in possession must play a one-two with an outside player before he can shoot.
  • Play for five minutes then teams swap roles.
  • Progress to two or even one-touch if you want to make the challenge harder.

Technique and tactics

  • The team in possession must look up and be alert to opportunities, passing to team mates but also using outside players to control the game, while working overloads that create space for players to run into.
  • The defending team needs to quickly decide on a tactic to protect the two goals or they will be overrun.
  • As well as vision, you’re looking for players to use their imagination, with individual as well as team skills.

Score goals from midfield


If you want your players to create goal scoring chances like the midfield players at Barcelona, try this exciting and fast-moving game and you’ll soon see the benefits.

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Why use it

A session aimed at getting players to create and utilise space in midfield. With quick passing and movement, it should help open up the opposition and make goal scoring chances.

Set up

Create a playing area 40x20yards, with two goals back to back across the middle, but just one goalkeeper. We’re using eight players and a keeper for this session, plus a server who can be the coach. You need bibs, cones, balls and two small goals.

How to play

Start by serving a ball into the game. Players can score in either of the two back-to-back goals. If the keeper gains possession or the ball leaves the area, serve a new ball in. The keeper puts any balls he gathers into the net behind him. When a goal is scored, immediately serve another ball into the game.


Creating space in a match situation with fast and accurate passing will open up the room for midfielders to exploit. In this game a quick switch of play allows players to take advantage of one of the goals being unguarded – they must be aware of the position of the keeper at all times.

Tackling bullying in your team

davidscwnewYouth  coaches need to look out for signs of bullying and be prepared to take quick, positive action to nip any problems in the bud. It’s our duty as the temporary guardian of children in our charge to know what bullying is, how to recognise it and how to prevent it, preferably before it happens.

What is bullying?

Bullying manifests itself in a variety of forms. It ranges from teasing and spreading rumours to pushing someone around and causing physical harm. It usually happens in front of other people. Name calling, mocking, kicking, taking or messing about with personal belongings, writing or drawing offensive graffiti, gossiping, excluding people from groups and threatening physical violence, are all forms of bullying. And don’t rule out cyber-bullying either – this is a growing form of bullying and equally hurtful for victims.

The effects of bullying

Screen shot 2016-08-18 at 11.51.03Bullying makes the lives of its victims miserable. It undermines their confidence and destroys their sense of security. It can cause sadness, loneliness, low self-esteem, fear, anxiety, poor concentration and lead to self-harm, depression, suicidal thoughts and, in some cases, suicide. Bullying will certainly result in players leaving a club. And not just the ones who are being bullied. A football field where bullying is allowed is an unpleasant place for everyone, not just the victims.

Who are the bullies?

The bully can be any person. For example, a bully could be…

  • A parent who pushes too hard.
  • A coach who adopts a win-at-all-costs philosophy.
  • A player who intimidates other players or officials.
  • An official who places unfair pressure on a person.


How do you know if children on your team are being bullied?

There are several tell-tale signs of bullying and, as a coach, you are in a good position to spot them. If one or more of your players…

  • Suddenly decides they don’t want to take part in activities they used to enjoy.
  • Becomes anxious or lacking in confidence.
  • Appears distressed.
  • Has bruises, cuts or scratches, and gives improbable reasons for them.
  • Has possessions regularly damaged, lost or go missing.
  • Appears nervous of walking to or from training.
  • Appears frightened of a particular individual or group.
  • Becomes aggressive, disruptive or unreasonable.
  • Starts bullying other children.
  • Is frightened to say what’s wrong… …you should find out if they have become a victim of bullying.

What can you do about bullying?

Ensure your players know what bullying is and that it will not be tolerated. Tell them that it’s okay to complain if they are being badly treated by one of their team mates, or anyone else for that matter. And, just as important, they should tell you if they see someone else being bullied.

After all, you don’t have eyes in the back of your head, and bullies can be very secretive. If you spot behaviour that can be classified as bullying, you should take prompt action but don’t dive in

Take the victim to one side (but not out of sight of everyone else) and ask the child to tell you about the incident. You then have to discuss the incident with the bullies and their parents. This will probably be difficult, but it has to be done. It will be a lot easier to talk about bullying with an ‘offender’ and parents if your club has an up-to-date and well communicated anti-bullying policy.

How to coach fullbacks

A good fullback will force flashy wingers wide in order to stop them from putting your goal under threat.

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Why use it

The aim of this game is to force play wide and into the outside squares of the grid, teaching young defenders how to make tricky wingers run away from goal and to stop them getting in a cross or switching play.

Set up

Set up an area of 30×40 yards split into three zones. The two outer zones are 15 yards wide and the center zone is 10 yards wide. The target goals go on each end of the lines between the zones. We’ve used 12 players in this session. You need bibs, balls, cones and four goals.

How to play

Play 6v6. The team with the ball are the attackers and they can go in any zone. The defending team (the team out of possession) must have players in two touching zones but can’t be in three zones, so the far zone will always be left open. The idea is to lock the ball in these zones and stop attackers opening up the defense by crossing into the far zone and switching play.


Your defenders must try to slide play wide and keep it there, making play predictable until they force a mistake and win the ball back. There will be enough numbers with the six players to force play wide but they must keep tricky wingers under control.

Dominate midfield with this session

Use this session to turn your midfielders into a well-oiled attacking machine and teach them the benefits of bringing strikers into the game with some exciting one touch play.

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Why use it

davidscwnew1A session aimed at getting midfielders to play off each other in order to bring attackers into the game and provide support in attack, taking shooting chances when they are created. It also sets up good opportunities to coach counter attacking from midfield.

Set up

Mark out a tight playing area 30×15 yards with two mini goals at both ends of the area. We’re using six players in the session and you will need balls, bibs and cones,plus the four mini goals.

How to play

Play a 2v2 game with a target player at each end of the pitch positioned between the two goals. The midfielders attack the opposition goals but the attack must involve the target player at the attacking end of the pitch.


One of the most attacking football formations uses a three-man midfield behind three attackers. This session shows midfielder show to make the most of the midfield by playing off each other to set up attacks and make use of counter attacks.


Coaching a growth mindset

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Latest issue: Focus on Pep

Screen shot 2016-08-03 at 11.40.09Spain were outmuscled by an aggressive, speedy Italy at the Euros and as the technical gap between Spain and everyone else has diminished, attributes like speed, acceleration and brute strength have come to the fore.

The counter attack has been one of the game’s central tactics for more than a century. But what has changed is the speed of these lightning raids and the number of players involved.

It isn’t just speedy forwards racing through on goal, but midfielders and even fullbacks in a coordinated jet engined attack.

Use the sessions in this issue to fire up your counter attacks.

Plus how to attack like Diego Simeone’s team, 10 ways to get a sponsor and find out what Thierry Henry learned from having Pep Guardiola as his coach at Barcelona.