Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

Noughts and crosses – great game

By David clarke
David ClarkeI was on a coaching course recently with Surrey County FA coach educator Keith Boanas. One of the warm-up sessions from Keith really caught my eye and I have since used it with my team – it is tremendous fun and brings coordination, communication and teamwork to the fore.

Fun team games are one of the treasures in any coach’s chest of exercises and drills, and this combines some great elements of physical and mental awareness.

This opposed warm-up is fantastic for coordination, whilst rehearsing players in seeing and assessing what is in front of them.

They are looking to solve a strategic problem whilst also staying aware of the movement of opposition players, just as they would do in a match situation.

Adding in a ball provides an extra challenge, so try this with your team to see if they can develop dribbling ability and mental agility in one exercise.

 How to set it up:

  • This opposed warm-up is played 3v3.
  • You will need 11 cones and 12 bibs.
  • Set up three lines of three cones, each five yards apart horizontally and vertically. This is your noughts and crosses playing grid.
  • Add two additional cones at the bottom of the grid a further five yards back. This is from where each team will begin the exercise.
  • Each player has a bib of his team’s colour in both hands.

Getting started:

  • On your call the first player in each team runs and puts one of their bibs on a cone.
  • They must run back and tag the next player in the team.
  • Players must try to get three in a row horizontally, vertically or diagonally, whilst looking to prevent the opposition team from achieving the same feat.
  • Play three games making sure each player takes a turn being first in the line.

Developing the session:

  • Progress this opposed warm-up by giving both teams a ball. Each working player must now dribble to his chosen cone before placing the bib over it.
  • You can increase or decrease the distances between cones to alter the physical demands of the test – the greater the distance, the greater the challenge.

Time to put a youth specialist in charge of the England kids

DCThe elimination of a poor England U21 side from the European Championships made me wonder whether it was time to put a specialist youth manager in charge. Where was the flair that was expected of a team that had qualified for the tournament when teams like Italy and Germany had not? And if that’s down to the manager why is it being rubber-stamped by the FA with another contract for Stuart Pearce to coach these young lads?

To see a team that could absorb pressure and hit on the break was a throw back to the senior team and very disappointing to watch.

Sir Trevor Brooking, reckoned England’s display exposed the flawed coaching system in England. “Before the tournament we said the challenge would be to score goals. Creativity and subtlety in the final third is probably something neglected in all the age groups. That is something we have to transform in academies.

“You have to be doing those things at 12-13 and one of the key areas is playing in-between opposing players, looking forward or diagonally. I think we look at the safety pass too early.”

Coaching is something the England hierarchy must look at. There are in the country a number of managers with excellent records of nurturing young talent like Tony Carr, Keith Boanas and Michael Beale. Perhaps the time has come to trust the kids to the youth specialists.

Join in the debate here

Watching the players in a training game perhaps it’s not the coaching but the way the manager set up the team and how the players responded to him. Watch the game for yourselves on my blog – some of you may recognise it from coaching courses you have been on.