Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

Get your players to look up and look around

davidscwnewI run this session to get my players looking around when they have the ball. It means they’re aware of where their team mates are and where there’s space on the pitch that can be exploited.

For the session to really work, players that are not in possession need to look to see where opposition players are so they can see where they are able to receive a pass.

I usually run a handball session first so players get a feel for the positional elements without worrying about ball control with their feet.


  • Set up a 25×15 yards area as shown in the top picture, with flags (or bibs) of the same colour on the corner poles.
  • The game is 6v6, with players in a 2-3-1 formation.
  • When a player passes the ball, he must shout out the flag colour. The team gains a point after making five consecutive passes. Passes must be from the chest and cannot go above head height.
  • If a player is tagged with the ball in his hands, or a pass is misplaced, the other team takes possession.
  • Make sure players stay on the move and are at match pace, and change the flag colour throughout the game.
  • Play for five minutes.


  • For the second part, use a 40×30 yards area, as shown in the middle picture, with small goals.
  • In a 2-3-1 formation, players must defend the goal while trying to score in the opponent’s goal, but before they pass the ball, they must call out the two flag colours.
  • Each team must make four passes and call out colours correctly before it can score.
  • Change colours at regular intervals, as shown in the bottom picture, to keep players on their toes.
  • Play for five minutes.

Technique and tactics

  • Players adopting a side-on body position for receiving and moving forward will be able to see both ends of the pitch, and more flags. It’s easier to tell young players they need to see both flags rather than expecting them to understand the technique behind opening their body to play.
  • Players also need to concentrate on good passing and control, in all areas of the pitch.

Let the players speak

davidscwnewI work at a number of clubs coaching kids of all ages, as well as running my own team. One of the interesting things that I notice is the differing attitudes shown by head coaches towards the way the players behave. I’m not talking about disruptive behaviour here, it’s more the receptive behaviour.

As an example, let me tell you about an incident last week when I was coaching a team of talented Under-12s for the first time. The head coach and parents were interested to see what I was going to do with the players – I’m sure you’ve experienced the same scrutiny. I ran a session on passing and movement, calling the players over at regular intervals to talk to them about what we were doing and why.

The boys were very on the ball, answered the questions well and really got into the spirit, even if there was a certain ‘we know what we’re doing’ bravado towards what they saw as the new coach. In essence, they were out to impress.

At the end of the session we wrapped up and I went over to talk to the head coach. He was suitably pleased with how things had gone but he raised a couple of objections.

“Why didn’t you get the players to sit up straight and focus on you when you gave the talks throughout the session,” he asked? “There was a point when they were all shouting out their ideas – how could that work?” Well I’m not one for enforcing that style of receptive behaviour from my players. I want them to be comfortable; and as I had just run a fairly fast session I allowed them to lay on the grass rather than sit up straight. After all, this wasn’t a maths lesson!

And if players shout out ideas, great. I want them to express themselves; I want them to feel they can say what they want, when they want. I prefer this more casual style of sitting around and discussing the session rather than me being the teacher and them the obedient pupils. I want a relaxed atmosphere where every single player feels comfortable in that situation and wants to speak up about what we are doing.

I have no problem if the head coach would rather see players sitting neatly in rows all cross legged with straight backs – that’s how he gets his ideas across to his players and if that works for him that’s fine. But always remember, if you start with rules about sitting up straight and only speaking when spoken to, you may not get out of your players what they really want to say.