Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

10 Ways to become Mentally TOUGH

Screen shot 2017-03-23 at 17.32.55


Score goals for fun like Atleti’s Carrasco


Creating intelligent players


Intelligence on the pitch isn’t something that comes naturally to all players. Many will make good passes or strong tackles but won’t think about what follows. Smart players are those who learn there is more than one part to a move – they must link, support and anticipate.

It is through exercises such as this one that a player’s footballing intelligence can be enhanced – not just so they replicate moves well, but so they realise too that when they’ve made their contribution, the sequence continues to build.

How to set it up:

  • Set up as shown in the diagram, with two players by the first cone (A). Five yards on, place another cone (B), then at right and left diagonals, place two more cones (C and D) 10 yards away.

Getting started:

  • This part of the exercise is run without a ball.

  • Setting off side by side, players sprint from A to B. They touch the cone at B and sprint to the diagonal cone on their side, touch that cone, then race back to the start.

  • As soon as the outgoing player touches cone B, the next man in line begins his run.

Developing the session:

  • For the second part, a ball is added.

  • Two servers are placed two yards either side of cone B.

  • Now, one player advances to cone A, passes to either of the servers, then sprints past B, where he receives the ball back in his stride.

  • This working player dribbles to C or D before returning to the start.

  • Swap the servers so each player has a go at both roles, and encourage working players to change the direction they take around the circuit each time.

Further progression:

  • This time, we place a player on A and two on B, plus two men on C and D.

  • The player at A passes to B, follows his pass and stops at the cone.

  • The player at B turns to his right with the ball, dribbles for a short distance then passes to the player at C.

  • This man receives the pass, dribbles to cone A, and begins the move again from the start.

  • The player at B this time turns in the other direction and heads for D.

Why this works:

Research from Sport England has shown that the average number of times a youth player sprints during a match is 19. The average distance is 10 yards and the run is not in a straight line.

What is replicated in this exercise is passing and receiving, taking into account those sprint statistics for youth matches.

The formation of the exercise also mimics the attacking angles players will practise in matches. And the alternating between cones C and D ensures that players use both feet.

Olé, Olé, Olé

David ClarkeBy David Clarke

Spain can keep hold of the ball with passing and movement almost at will – and it is something youth teams can strive to emulate. But it’s not just Spain that are showing how player technique and fast passing can result in huge success for the team. Fast passing is a key element of Euro 2012.

But it’s not just a case of telling players to pass they need to practice until they have the technique, touch and composure to make it work.

Try this session to help create a good passing team.

Key factors:

  1. In order to be composed on the ball, players need to have a good first touch and passing ability.
  2.  When keeping the ball, communication is vital and helps make up the mind of the player in possession.
  3.  Passing the ball is not enough. Players need to follow this up by moving off to receive again or to create space for the player on the ball.


How to set it up

  • Use a 40 yards long by 30 yards wide area for the session.
  • Use a pitch 60 yards by 40 yards for the development.

How to play it

  • Split the group into two teams.
  • You pass to the black team and call the name of a white player to run into the other half to win the ball.
  • If the white player wins the ball, play transfers to the white team’s half and the black player who gave the ball away tries to win the ball back.
  • If a team makes five passes another opponent runs in to help his team mate.
  • If another five passes are completed, another opponent runs in to help and so the exercise continues.
  • The winning team is the one which forces the opposition to commit the most players into their half during 15 minutes.

How to develop it

  • Play a small-sided game with four neutral players playing outside the pitch as full backs and wide players.
  • Outside players are limited to two touches and cannot pass to each other (use cones to block the channels). T
  • he team in possession tries to build an attack and score by using the outside players.
  • This game ensures the team in possession is spreading out and using the whole of the wide pitch.

Why watching games helps your coaching… just like Benitez

David ClarkeI watch as much soccer as I dare… As a coach it really helps me to see situations that I can write about. Watching a team defending deep or seeing players caught out of position is a good way to test your technical ability in analysing games.

With so many leagues and cups being played in grass roots, pro and international levels it is a fantastic opportunity to watch top class games. I have always thought that being at a live game rather than watching on TV gives more opportunities to see what is going on in the game.

I will often watch one player when I am at a live game, say an attacker, and watch them for 10 minutes and jot down what they do during the game. Movement and position and what they do in attack and where they go when the team is defending.

I can learn a lot by watching clever players and their movement – then pass it on to my own players so they know what to do at every moment in a game. Being in the right place at the right time is one of the keys to success for a young player, it just makes everything that bit easier.

Last month I was listening to Rafael Benitez. Without a job since leaving Inter Milan in the final days of 2010, the Spaniard was talking about how he keeps up with the events in soccer.

This is what he does when he watches games, much like myself:

“I try to relax when I am watching a game but it is something you cannot change, you are analysing the game. You are watching what will happen and why it is happening. I’ll be watching with my wife and I’ll say ‘goal’ then two seconds later it’s a goal. Because you can see the positions of the defenders, the winger may be free or the full-back goes late or something like that. So without thinking too much, you are just analysing.”

Watch Benitez talking to former England and Arsenal legend Ian Wright, now working with Absolute Radio in London

The Future of Soccer Coaching

Last night I attended a lecture by Sir Trevor Brooking at the University of Surrey. This was the second annual Allan Wellsdwyer-2.jpg Sports Lecture and was hosted by former Tottenham and Crystal Palace player Gary O’Reilly.

I really enjoyed the lecture. Sir Trevor was there to talk about his role as Director of Football Development at the English FA. For those of you who don’t know, he took the role on in 2004 and was charged with the task of conducting a root-and-branch review of the structure of the game in England, from grassroots minis football through to the top level of the Premier League and the national team.

He identified the key issues in youth coaching as:

•    lack of core skills such as ball control
•    inadequate and inconsistent coaching
•    parental touchline interference
•    respect and behaviour of players towards each other and match officials.

I couldn’t agree more and I suspect that these views are shared by many people who read Better Soccer Coaching.

And he wasn’t exclusively towing the FA party line. He acknowledged that there is the potential for conflict of interest within the governance of the FA and the interests of professional clubs. This idea should not be dismissed and has concerned me for a few years. Any conflict of interest at this level has potential implications for how you and I operate as grassroots coaches.

For example, there are plans in place for dealing with ill-discipline at grassroots and youth level but these seem at odds with the approach to the same issue in the Premier League. There are many who believe that the behaviour of our high profile players should be addressed in the first instance, but the FA don’t seem quite so keen to take the same stance at that level. Anyway, that’s the subject of another blog.

Next week Sir Trevor launches the FA’s National Game Strategy which will apparently be a blueprint for the future to deal with these issues. I’ll report back on its contents then.

But he wasn’t there just to talk FA business. He recognized that a great many of the audience were lifelong West Ham Utd fans who consider him a near-deity.

He told a few stories of his playing days and talked with great warmth about how he learned to play as a boy. He talked about jumpers for goalposts on the grass behind the street where he was raised. He described how he taught himself to be two-footed by playing with a tennis ball and aiming between two drainpipes in the yard of the terraced-house where he lived.

And Arsenal supporters will be pleased to know that he finally admits that he knew very little about the header than won the 1980 FA Cup Final for West Ham Utd.

Dwyer Scullion, Publisher, Better Soccer Coaching