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.

The five telltale signs that your kids are enjoying what you offer them

DC1. They keep coming back!
Absence is the biggest indicator that players are not enjoying training and that it might be time for a change. If players don’t turn up, ask why when you next see them, and reinforce the fact that their team-mates need them back. Don’t be too pushy though, this puts a lot of young players off and you might lose them for good.

2. Players are well behaved at training
Poor behaviour is a good indicator that players are not enjoying training. If your kids are always productively engaged and challenged then there is no time or energy left over to misbehave. Excessive downtime, repetitive exercises or moves that are too challenging will provoke boredom, or worse, frustration.

3. Players smile and laugh at training
A smile is an obvious but important indicator that your players are having fun and enjoying training. Remember, it’s not school, so you can relax and have a few jokes with them too. That said, a lot of young boys can be quite insecure, so it’s always best to start by poking fun at yourself or a fellow coach to show that there is no harm intended.

4. Players are happy to talk to you and feel safe asking questions
A fun environment is a safe environment in a young player’s mind. If they are happy, they are far more likely to take risks, and a young player asking questions in front of their peers can be seen by them as a risk. Make sure you are approachable at all times. You can start your answers with “That’s an excellent question, I’m sure other people are thinking the same thing”. This sets the player’s mind at rest and lets them all know that anything they ask will be taken seriously.

5. Players buy into the ‘team’ and genuinely feel part of the squad
Always be on the lookout for players who are at the periphery of the squad. Often they will be doing their own thing while the others are enjoying themselves before or after training. Make an extra effort to include them in everything you do. Always pick teams yourself rather than letting players do it. This gives you an opportunity to split up cliques and integrate everyone. With that in mind, encourage players to buy into the team by wearing team kit to training and games. It’s the little things that really work in terms of bonding a team together. Players will always be drawn to their mates, but if you can draw the whole team into liking and respecting you, then you have the complete.