Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


Soccer coaching drills and tips



Play with your head up

Passing

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.


The Perfect Penalty Kick and an English FA record

Brockenhurst and Andover Town set a new English FA record when they scored 29 consecutive penalties, until the unfortunate 20-year-old Andover Town player, Claudio Herbert, had his shot saved. The previous record was set when Dagenham and Redbridge beat Leyton Orient in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in 2011.

“I didn’t realise the magnitude, it was a bit of a blur, the keeper pulled off a great save,” Herbert said.

The record for the longest penalty shoot-out came in 2005 when the Namibian Cup had to be settled by a record-breaking 48 spot-kicks, with KK Palace holding their nerve to defeat the Civics 17-16 following a 2-2 draw in normal time.

Watch the video then follow my advice on how to take the perfect penalty

The Perfect Penalty Kick
davidscwnewWait for the keeper to move or hit it low and hard into the bottom corner without looking at the goalkeeper? Where should your players strike the perfect penalty?

Research carried out by Liverpool John Moores University in the UK came up with a solution, according to Professor Tom Riley “A well-placed ball, high to the corner, will not be stopped by the goalkeeper even if he anticipates it,” says Prof Riley. “There is not enough time to react, so a kick placed in this area would have a 100% strike rate. Some players blast the ball straight down the middle, assuming that the goalkeeper will move, but it’s not always successful.”.

But it’s an interesting alternative to the conventional theory that you will often hear from professionals, managers and commentators: “Hitting the inside of the side netting, low down just inside either post is often the target for a penalty taker.” According to Professor Riley this conventional approach has a greater chance of being saved but it’s an easier one to execute. Get your players to try hitting the top corner in training – it may work.



Goal shy? Try this…

davidscwnew

If your attackers are shy when they get the ball in front of goal and either just kick in hope in the vague direction of goal or try and pass it away quickly they need a boost in confidence.

This three-goal game is fantastic for giving every player in your team a chance to run at goal or shoot cleverly into the corners when they approach the goal at an angle.

Can they switch feet to fool the goalkeeper? Can they get into a better position to shoot? Can they win the 1v1s to set themselves up with a chance? Find out with this session:

How to set it up:

Play 3v3, in a 30-yard square area. There are three goals, two in each of the corners and one placed on the opposite side in the middle. One player from each team acts as goalkeeper.

Getting started:

  • The practice starts with one player from each team attacking the goal to their left – unopposed dribbling and shooting in turn.

  • Players must concentrate on controlling the ball and approaching each goal at an angle.

  • At the end of each attack, the attackers move clockwise around the playing area, ready to attack the next goal. Goalkeepers remain where they are.

  • To advance this, add defenders to the practice so your attackers have an additional obstacle.

  • Make sure you rotate players so that everyone gets a chance in each position.

  • You can also switch play by attacking each goal from the right-hand side.

The key elements:

  • The focus is on individual skills such as dribbling, shooting and 1v1 attacking and defending.

  • Highlight those players who are using good technique and creating space.

  • Don’t be afraid to stop the game, pointing out to your players what they are doing right and wrong in terms of technique and positioning.

Why this works:

Play is centred on a tight area that represents the compacted nature of the midfield so players are forced to make quick and efficient decisions in attack and defence.

Rather than undertake an exercise that encourages a player to pass, this is a great move whereby taking on an opponent can be shown to have a much more dynamic effect on the game, something that is good for players to recognise in a match situation.



Goalkeepers can counter attack

davidscwnew

Goalkeepers like nothing better than having the ball in their hands, running to the edge of their area, then blasting it into the sky.

But throw-outs can be better, not to mention more valuable, because the ability to throw the ball quickly and accurately is becoming an increasingly important skill for goalkeepers in the modern game.

Many of the world’s top keepers can throw the ball more than half the length of the pitch, and the distance and accuracy they can achieve is a big counter-attacking weapon for the team.

The overarm throw allows your goalkeeper to clear the ball over a long distance and at a great height. And it can be more accurate than kicking the ball.

Here’s my seven-step guide for goalkeepers looking to master the art of the long throw:

  1. Tell your goalkeeper to adopt a side-on position and put their weight on the back foot.
  2. Your goalkeeper’s throwing hand needs to be positioned under the ball, and their throwing arm kept straight.
  3. The non-throwing arm must point in the direction of the target.
  4. The goalkeeper can then bring this arm down as the throwing arm comes through in an arc over the top of their shoulder.
  5. The goalkeeper’s weight should be transferred forward as the ball is released.
  6. It is similar to a bowler’s action in cricket.
  7. Over long distances, get your player to concentrate on powering the arm downwards on the same line as the target spot. This will help with his accuracy.


Possession… dribble or pass

davidscwnew

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.

This session originally appeared in Soccer Coach Weekly.

Interested in more counter attacking exercises? Try these links:

2. Shake off and pass

3. Elite Soccer Issue 1 – Alex McLeish: Whole team attacking



Attack through the midfield

By David Clarkedavidscwnew

It’s understandable for some players to want to bypass the crowded, pressurised environment that is the centre of the pitch.

But hitting long balls forward or always targeting play to the wings makes teams predictable and boring.

This is a practice that will boost confidence and remind players that getting the ball into midfield and using it smartly can often be the best way to attack.

How to play it

  • You need balls, bibs, cones and goals.

  • Mark out a 50×30 yards area split into three zones.

  • There are two teams of six, each also has a keeper.

  • The team in possession is allowed up to 20 seconds unchallenged in the central (safe) zone. It can stay there for that time or break out, but if still in the zone when time elapses, the opposition can go in and try to win the ball.

  • If the team in possession loses the ball in any area of the pitch, its players must vacate the central zone.

  • The size of the central zone is key to the challenge and skill of the game as players will discover so, after six minutes, increase or decrease its size to see what effect it has on the game.

Developing the session

  • You can advance the session by allowing one opposition player to go in the central zone. This puts more pressure on midfielders.

Technique and tactics

  • The safe zone encourages play to go through midfield, with players getting used to receiving on the half-turn or practising controlling technique.

  • While doing this without the fear of being tackled, the option to survey options and pass the ball on is encouraged. However, the margin for error increases when the central zone is shortened.