Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

U11s dribble and shoot session

davidscwnewTaken from my Soccer Skills Curriculum this session has great match day attacking skills for 11-year-olds with ball movement, turning with the ball, running with the ball and dribbling the ball ending up with a positive shot at the end of the sequence.

U11s dribble with the ball and shoot

1. Set up a 15 x 15 yards area split into a dribbling area of 7 yards and a shooting area of 8 yards. You need a normal goal and two target goals at one end.

2. Split your players into pairs. When you say “go”, the first player in each pair dribbles to the line, turns using a stop turn, dribbles back to the start line then turns again and dribbles back to the line.

3. The second part of the continues from the line – players run on and shoot at the main goal. Give them two touches and 10 seconds to hit the goal.

4. Give 5 points for scoring and 5 points for scoring in the main goal. If it goes in one of the side cone goals give 1 point, and no points for a miss.

5. Once players are confident, turn the activity into a race to see which of the three groups can score the most points in 1 minute.

This activity is taken from my coaching curriculum – EasiCoach Soccer Skills ActivitiesClick here to learn more.


Make the most of possession play – dribble or pass?

davidscwnewBy David Clarke

When players feel pressure in matches, it can often affect their ability to make decisions. You will undoubtedly have players who dribble brilliantly in training, yet “panic pass” in matches. Other players will hesitate when on the ball and a great opportunity to pass to a team mate is often lost.

Knowing when to surge into space with a dribble or when to switch play with a good pass comes from lots of practice – and you can’t expect players to learn this on their own.

Therefore, it’s a great idea to set up situations where they have the choice, because making that call can be vital to their development.

This session shows players where options present themselves, then develops into a small-sided game, in which the right decision will give their team the advantage.

How to set it up

  • Create a playing area measuring 30×25 yards.
  • For this session you’ll need bibs, cones and balls.
  • There are two teams of four players.
  • Set up three small goals – spaced equally apart – along the longest sides.
  • Each team must defend its goals while trying to score in the other three.

Getting started

  • Players score by dribbling or passing the ball through the poles.
  • Players must react quickly to situations around them, looking for areas on the pitch where there is space to exploit. They should look to mix dribbling with passes to team mates, but every decision is made with the aim of retaining team possession.
  • Play for 15 minutes.

Developing the session:

  • Develop the session by making the area 50×30 yards with two five-yard end zones.
  • The players must get the ball into the end zone by passing to a player who has run to meet the pass, or by dribbling into the end zone themselves.
  • Players are not allowed to stand in the end zone waiting for a pass – they must always be on the move.
  • You can award an extra “goal” if the attacking team makes five consecutive passes before scoring.
  • If players find the session easy, reduce the size of the scoring zone at each end by a yard. For younger players, increase the size.

Why this works:

This practice rehearses players in the logic that clever dribbling can move the ball into areas where there is space to be exploited. A final pass to a team mate should make the creation of goalscoring chances that much easier.

Players are also encouraged to score with a pass which represents a quicker route to goal than a dribble. The decisions depend on the player’s ability to read the space and that will come as they practise this session.

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Space Invaders gets young players fit

Many coaches believe that getting children fit to play football is a stealth exercise. Running up and down the pitch and sprint training may be all very well in some sports, but playing games is undoubtedly the best way to keep kids entertained, whilst subtly building fitness at the same time.

Benefits of games

Kids become so absorbed in the game they don’t realise how much running they are doing. And because they are practising technical attributes at the same time, this also allows you to focus on developing other football skills under pressure so you are not wasting precious training time on fitness. For the best fitness results from games follow these guidelines:

• Use small-sided games – players have nowhere to hide and have to be involved all the time. Four- or five-a-side is ideal.

• Take a break – have rest periods in between intense periods of work. Two teams play for three minutes while another team rests. By swapping the teams round, each team works for six of every nine minutes.

A change is as good as a break – keep football fresh by changing the game or adding new rules. This means players constantly have to adjust mentally whilst still working hard physically.

• Use games like the one below to give players a change from normal exercises and really take their minds off exercise.


Main Objectives

Dribbling and close control, passing accuracy and pace, and one touch passing.

Set Up

Create a 30 yards by 10 yards playing area with cones spread 5 yards apart along the length. Use 16 players split in to four teams of four, with 10 footballs.


Introduce timing so the quickest team to reach the safety zone wins, or stipulate a maximum amount of time. Alternatively, allow the passers an extra touch so they can be more accurate when firing the “laser”.


Keep an eye out for cheating in this game. If an invader’s ball is touched, they’re out. Make sure the passers are only using one touch to begin with.

How to play it

In pairs, players from three of the teams stand on either side of the channel. On your call, they play one touch passing back and forth. This represents the laser to shoot down invaders.

The fourth team – the invaders – has to dribble through the channel, one player per zone at a time, avoiding having their ball hit by the lasers. If an invader’s ball is hit by a laser, they have been destroyed and leave the channel in that zone.

The invaders must aim to reach the safety zone at the end of the channel. The team with the most invaders reaching the safety zone wins.

If no team reaches the safety zone, the team that progress the farthest along the channel wins.

Get 24 more games like this in  Fun Soccer Games for 5 to 8 Year Olds. But don’t be put off by the title. I used the game above with players as old as 16.

The simple way to dribble with both feet
September 11, 2009, 8:40 am
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Skills | Tags: , , ,

David ClarkeI have watched some great matches over the last couple of weeks, including England beating Croatia 5-1 in the World Cup 2010 and the Women’s Euro 2009 final England 2 Germany 6. What I noticed was the number of players who dribble using one foot and use their other foot to control the ball back into the path of their main foot. They don’t use their secondary foot for crossing, long passing or shooting.

Not many players are great with both feet, but if you can get your players to use their secondary foot to help them control the ball, they will be able to dribble better and quicker than if they just use one foot. Iin effect what they have to do is to move it back into the path of the foot they are going to shoot with or pass with.

You find in youth soccer that players don’t want to use their secondary foot at all and will go into the most tortuous shapes to get the ball with their main foot. So when you put into practice two footed exercises what you want to see from your players is accuracy with their secondary foot not power.

I prefer simple two footed exercises like dribbling around a cone passing the ball between each foot with every step – left-right-left-right. This gets both feet working on accuracy and gives players an insight into how professional players keep control of the ball when running at speed.

Watch this clip which show the simple two footed dribbling exercise in action.

Get your players to be like Barcelona’s Messi
January 19, 2009, 8:20 pm
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Skills | Tags: , , ,

dc1I think in the future when they talk about the greatest players in the world they will talk about Lionel Messi at Barcelona.

At the moment the world has gone mad for Kaka with cash in the region of €130m being spoken of. But what about Messi. He is outstanding and when you look at the clip below you will see what I mean. So what is he worth?

Messi attacks the space that opens up around him. He drives into it with the ball at his mercy. He is all power and skill bursting into areas that defenders cannot protect.

If you want to create the next Messi your players must have the ball stuck to their feet for every waking hour.

They need to dribble the ball with each step of the foot when you’re walking, jogging, or sprinting with the ball. This way they develop close control and can cut the ball away from defenders when you need to.

His change of pace is outstanding. And that is one of his secrets, he starts slowly and then he bursts past them with speed. And he will cut the ball in either direction, to the inside or to the outside.

To get your players like Messi you have to get them to:

Run and run with the ball in the garden, the park, on the way to school or along the pavement when they are going to the shops.

Touch the ball with each step when they dribble.

Practice changing pace from slow to quick and back to slow.

Play one and two touch they don’t always need to dribble.

Keep their body between the ball and opponent.

Don’t give up if they lose the ball – win it back.

 Soccer Skills and Drills

Players Coaching Each Other

My Under 8s side have been doing extremely well lately, but regular readers of Better Soccer Coaching will know that wedwyerscullion.jpg started our season back in September with humble ambitions.

We didn’t have any outstanding players. You know, the kind that you can rely on to score regularly. As a coach I simply wanted to do what I could to help them progress as players and to have as much fun as is humanly possible on a freezing cold English Saturday morning. My stated ambition was for the team to score a goal before Christmas, and maybe push on to win a match by the end of the season.

Well, as things panned out, we actually got our first few goals in October but we were still a long way off winning a game. However, our fortunes took a dramatic turn when we managed to acquire the registration of a local boy who started training with us in the new year.

Now, this boy is really something special. He’s fast, skillful, smart, he looks up, and he has a left foot that Liverpool FC could certainly be doing with at the moment. Best of all, he is an absolutely delightful young boy. He supports his team mates at every opportunity. He’s always smiling. He’s never rude and he’s keen to learn as much as he can about the game.

Now we can’t stop winning. We’ve beaten the two strongest teams in our local area 4-0 and 6-0. We’re in danger of actually winning the Cup! Talk about Bad News Bears done good!

But here’s the thing. This weekend just gone by we had to make do without our star player, and quite a few others, and our squad was down to bare bones. We lost 2-0 but the message to the boys who played was that it was far and away our best ever performance. I saw cute little drag-backs, step-overs, passing into space, one-twos. I heard players pointing to each other to cover different areas of the pitch. I saw real determination to play “proper” passing, attractive football – not the kick-and-rush style that so many of us were brought up on.

So where did this all come from? I think our new star player has had an immeasurable influence on his peers, and not just in the way he plays. Sure, they all want to be able to dribble and shoot like young Ben and that aspiration has clearly raised their individual skill levels.

But I think it’s as much to do with the way he supports his team mates. I think they see him being attentive and respectful to the coaches. They respond to his encouragement and the fact that he never berates his team mates. They hear they way he communicates with the other players and, because, he’s such a great player, they can’t help but want to copy him.

In that regard he’s possibly a more effective coach than I could ever be.

Dwyer Scullion, Better Soccer Coaching publisher

Who’s the female in the black?

How appropriate is it on Valentine’s Day to talk about referees? Not at all you say… well not according to our under 12s.davidclarke1.gif The team has been hosting a referee that has got them all in a spin. They all take great note of what the referee says and never answer back. Even the dads on the touchline have been quiet of late. The referee is 19 and female. She has refereed the last three home games and is likely to referee more of them. The thing is I don’t think she has made one single bad decision in any game. But maybe I’ve got that wrong because one of the mums told me she thought the ref was hopeless. Then she said her son had a crush on her and talked more about the referee on the way home than the match, something to do with knee length socks and black shorts… or was it one of the dads that said that.

Anyway that got me thinking. Maybe here at Better Soccer Coaching we should be championing female referees to keep the shouting at youth soccer games to a minimum rather than the Don’t Cross The Line campaign.

Imagine it. Women in uniform running the game, mums running the line. Who would start shouting about offsides and cheats when the rather alarming mum with sunglasses perched on her head, lipstick clad mouth wide open “OFFSIDE REF” has the flag held high in her hand even though there were two defenders between the opposition striker and the goal. Dads watching the referee rather than the game. No swearing or shouting, no one threatening to “deck that cheating referee”. Just the odd wolf whistle.

There is a serious point in all this. Saturday mornings have been much better without the usual shouts at the referee and that’s not just because my head is heavy from the Guinness of the night before. You can think clearer, you can get your message across to the boys better and the whole general atmosphere is a lot more friendly. And the boys have shown the confidence to run and dribble with the ball more. Is it coincidence? Has anyone else experienced this phenomenon?

It might not work for the Manchester Uniteds or Real Madrids but at grass roots level there might be something in it.