Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

Make free-kicks work for your team

davidscwnewEvery team needs to be able to score from a dead-ball situation, so get your players to try this game to develop the perfect free-kick
Every game seems to involve a goal scored from a set piece. This shows how important free-kicks are to the final outcome of matches. Therefore it’s vital that your players spend adequate time developing an unstoppable free-kick in their training sessions.

SET UP Mark out an area 40×30 yards with a goal at each end. Select two even teams. You need balls, bibs, cones and goals.

Play a small-sided game. While the game is being played you should carry a second ball under your arm. On your call place the ball and award a free-kick to a team of your choice. Immediately the players must react to this situation. You can place the ball in different areas for players to practice angled kicks and straight ones.

Practice is crucial. It’s not just about mastering technique; it gives you confidence. This session gives plenty of realistic match situations for practising free-kicks around the penalty area. Players should also be practising at home. Every player needs to be alert during this game. It is a good idea to give the free-kick a name that can be called out so everyone moves. The kicker could shout ‘Usain Bolt’ so your players know it’s a quick free-kick.


Midfield magic – play like Frank Lampard

By David ClarkeDavid Clarke

Combining pace and aggression going forward with the wherewithal to track back, this is a move inspired by one of the best in the game, Chelsea ‘s Frank Lampard. For over 10 years, the England man has proved a pivotal force in the centre of the park, so here’s an opportunity for your players to try out some of that classic Lampard box-to-box play.

How to set it up:

Play 3v3v3, in an area of 30×30 yards. 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 two 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. l 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. Therefore 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 full match situation.

Using a “plan, do, observe, review” cycle in your training sessions

David Clarke

To improve as a coach and pass on that improvement to your players, you need to reflect on your coaching and look for ways to enhance it.

I work in three-week blocks and have a particular focus for the sessions in these weeks. For instance it might be that we need to improve our defensive organisation around free kicks or corners.

I write down the key points I need to put across to my players over these three weeks. I then break it down into the objectives for each individual session and the key message for the players to take away from the session.

From that I decide which games and exercises will best introduce and reinforce the message.

Do and observe
As I coach the session, I analyse key aspects of my coaching. I focus on one or two elements of the session such as my demonstrations and questioning or organisation and work/rest ratio. I make mental notes about them and how effective they are in the session.

I am very critical of my own coaching and always striving to improve it. Immediately after the session I ask myself how well the session went. Were the elements I was focusing on as effective as I had wanted?

I always write brief notes on my session plan to remind me what went well and what could be improved upon in the next session. I also review the session within my three-week block. Did I cover everything I wanted to? Are there areas where the players need more reinforcement?

Keep to the cycle
I coach to improve my players. To improve them I need to improve myself. This is why I keep to the cycle of “plan, do, observe, review” and I keep detailed plans on which I also write my reflections.

My six tips for better skills demos

DCDemonstrations are a very powerful way of giving information to young players. Here are six steps to ensure your demonstrations have the effect you want.

Step 1: Set the scene
Establish exactly what you want to achieve from the demonstration. Tell your players what you are showing them and exactly what they should be looking at. Outline the criteria for success.

Step 2: Get the level right
If it’s a new technique or skill you will need to go right back to basics. If it’s a skill you have been working on for a while you can focus on the more advanced aspects. Always highlight the basics though even if your players are good at them.

Don’t overload your players with information. If it is a complex skill, break it down into steps and work through them during a period of time.

Step 3: Know your stuff
You should be clear on what you are about to demonstrate. Make a note of the key factors you want to put across to your players so you don’t forget any of them. Practise the demonstration beforehand so you are confident in your own ability and can talk through each part of it.

Step 4: Check for understanding
Ask your players questions to check they have understood what they have been watching. You can even ask a couple of players to come out and demonstrate after you so you can check they have understood. Allow your players time to ask questions regarding the demonstration.

Step 5: Hands on
After your demonstration make sure your players are given an immediate opportunity to try out the skill. Keep reinforcing the key factors and correcting any faults you see.

Step 6: Assess the results
At the end of your session, gather your players and check they have remembered the key factors you were trying to put across. Answer any questions they have regarding the session and tell them what the next steps will be in terms of developing the new skill

Does your goalkeeper have trouble with kicks?

DCTo be good at goalkicks the keeper has to practice. With practise comes confidence, and with confidence comes consistency.

Start by getting defenders to come short so the goalkeeper doesn’t have to get the ball far out of the penalty area.

You don’t want your team to be penned in their own half, but doing this does mean that players have to be more inventive in constructing passing moves upfield, and it still allows for occasional longer kicks that may catch the opposition off guard.

Soccer coaching tips for goalkicks