Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

Jose Mourinho? No scapegoats in a youth game but plenty of pressure on the volunteer coach

davidscwnewIt can be a scary moment when you face the first game of the season. It doesn’t matter whether you are a new coach or have coached the same team for a few years, that first game is so important.

Getting the momentum is one thing but getting the parents and players right behind you is another, so a good display is important.

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Last season our first match was away at a very impressive ground with lots of facilities, including a main pitch with stands and floodlights.

As it was the Under 11s that were playing we were not on the adult A team pitch but we were on a pretty impressive one surrounded by a clubhouse and tennis courts. We had been promoted the previous season so we were not sure how we would cope at this higher level, but I could see my players were not intimidated by the surroundings and were raring to feel the excitement of the kick off.

We were quickly into our warm ups and soon we had shaken hands with the opposition ready for the match. I can’t imagine how it must feel to be Uwe Rosler, the new manager of Leeds United, as he waits for the whistle to blow with the eyes of his trigger happy owner Massimo Cellino upon him. Or Claudio Ranieri at Leicester, back in the Premier League hoping he can have the success he had before.

Kick off came with great relief and my initial fears that the team wouldn’t be good enough were soon banished as we unleashed a flurry of attacks. Twice we were nearly caught out on the counter but our defensive training sessions paid off with some good covering and clearing. However, as half time approached all of our hard work was undone when a clumsy clearance went into our own net.

The boy involved was heartbroken, but at half time we all gathered around him and told him it wasn’t his fault and that we were all pleased with the way the team had played. We ran the game in the second half but failed to score and that one own goal had been the downfall of the team.

However, parents and players alike were in high spirits because we had all seen we could compete at this higher level and I was proud of the way they had all gathered around the player who had scored the own goal.

So a great start to your campaign doesn’t always mean a winning start but momentum comes from playing well and working as a team – we went on to have a great season in a very tough league.


Missing an easy chance isn’t always a bad thing

davidscwnewSometimes you stand and look on aghast as one of your players misses a simple chance in front of goal – and it happened to one of my players at the weekend. Of course you cannot legislate for a player using his right foot and pushing the ball past the post when he should have just used his left. I’ve seen it happen many times in youth soccer and often it can stick with the player for the whole game.

Even though I have drummed it into my team that we don’t blame each other for mistakes it is the easy misses that leave players feeling glum. And you know as well as I do that a depressed player is going to be no good on the pitch.

I always try to give my players examples of professional players who make similar mistakes, yet who recover quickly.

Watching the Capital One Cup game last season between Leeds United and Southampton, I saw a fantastic example of this. Early in the first half, and with the game at 0-0, Leeds’ El Hadji Diouf beat defenders and goalkeeper with a ball across the six-yard box.

The ball came to the back post where Luke Varney was unmarked with a simple tap in. But everyone was left stunned when Varney somehow turned the ball back across the face of the open goal and wide from just a yard out. Look it up on YouTube!

However, Varney didn’t retreat into his shell. Instead, he took responsibility for the miss, dusted himself down, and subsequently ran the game, including setting up a goal. It was a fantastic comeback and a Man of the Match performance on many fronts.

His manager Neil Warnock praised what was a massive contribution in the end. He said: ‘I thought Luke epitomised our performance. He came up with the miss of the century yet was still Man of the Match for me. He wasn’t feeling well and was sick at half-time. I asked him for another 15 minutes and he gave me 40. That’s his attitude through and through.’

And that is the attitude we all need to try to get from our youth players. If you make them afraid of making mistakes you won’t get that Man of the Match performance out of them you so badly desire, because getting the best out of your players means they must be able to find a way past their mistakes, and quickly.

Forssell shows how players and coaches need to practice

DCEveryone talks about how important it is to practice skills on your own at home or at your club – even if you’re a coach you have to practice.

I spend time practicing my skills that I then have to demonstrate to my players – if I can’t do it should I expect them to?

Watch this training video of how Mikael Forssell practices his skills so that when he gets called up to play for club or country he has quick feet to fool defenders and create goal scoring chances for himself or his team mates.

If you don’t shoot you won’t score

DCLast weekend saw my one of the teams I coach take part in a 6-a-side tournament which was very competitive. There was a broad range of teams in both size and ability playing and we had been put in a very strong group.

There was some fabulous football played by all the teams in our group, and I couldn’t help but admire the amount of work that had been put in by all the coaches that were there.

It made me feel that the future of the game was in good hands when I saw a lot of clever one touch play – and there was a fair share of spectacular goals.

One thing about playing 6-a-side on small pitches is that there are lots of chances to shoot and this was something I tried to encourage my team to do. We scored two spectacular goals from outside the area but for most of the games we tried to walk the ball into the net – something that may have worked but the speed of the movement bamboozled even their own team mates and a couple of taps in sped by.

But it did prove exhilarating to watch and players, parents and coaches came away with a great feeling from the experience.

As a culmination of a fantastic season in both Youth Alliance and Academy Leagues, the League Football Education (LFE) is running a Youth Goal of the Season, you can see the top goals by following the link below, and you can vote for the one you like best.


Even the professionals make mistakes

dave clarkeWatching Leeds United play Cardiff City in the English Championship last month what stood out was the mix up between the sons of two Manchester United greats managed between them to gift a goal to Cardiff.

The sons of Peter Schmeichel and Steve Bruce both play for Leeds. Kasper Schmeichel in goal and Alex Bruce at centre-back much like their fathers. Between they they let the Cardiff centre forward Jay Boothroyd take the ball when the two Leeds players should between them have easily cleared it – no communication and yet they played together in the changing rooms at Old Trafford while waiting for their dads – you can see a clip of them playing together aged 6 below.

But there are always mistakes during the course of a season in every division in every league. I’m sure you see them all the time in youth matches – it’s something that happens.

So next time your players make a mistake don’t let them dwell on it and don’t dwell on it your self because someone somewhere will be making a mistake too.

And the mistakes by their fathers in this clip below:

An Englishman all young players should aspire to be

One of the names which could be making headlines at the 2010 World Cup in June is England’s James Milner. And this is a player who makes the headlines for the right reasons – his footballing abiity.

He is someone all young players can take inspiration from. Before the English Carling Cup final where his team Aston Villa play Manchester United, Milner spoke about playing for Leeds United U11s when beating Manchester United was the highlight of his young career. He made the first team at Leeds when he was just 16. Now the 24-year-old has the manager of England singing his praises.

Milner’s story is one of hard work and hours spent on the training ground. According to Eddie Gray who was Milner’s coach at Leeds, “his one aim in life has always been to be the best footballer he can. His right foot was initially stronger but he just worked hard on his left and made himself two-footed.”

By working on his weaknesses he has made himself a player who can play in any position, winger, midfield and he has even played at left back for his club, which has seen some experts suggest he could solve the problem caused by Ashley Cole’s injury.

His manager at England U21 level, Peter Taylor saw Milner as his favourite player. “If all players were like him the job would be pure joy!”

“James listened to my advice and acted on it. His crossing improved immensely.”

He can also read the game better as he has played more games, constantly improving his technique. He is now the penalty taker at Aston Villa opening the scoring in the match with a penalty in the first few minutes.

When he goes home to his family he goes down to the local park and plays with the kids there, challenging them to a game of keepy-uppy.

A young man truly in love with the game and someone for all young players to aspire to be like.

Watch these two clips of Milner, one at the start of his career at Leeds aged 16 and now at Aston Villa aged 24:

 Soccer Skills and Drills

Local rec frozen? Go train in Dubai…

It’s been a frustrating time in England trying to play matches and take training session with deep snow all around the place. It was interesting to hear how difficult lots of professional teams have found it to train this last couple of weeks because most outside pitches have been frozen solid.

It’s not just problems with pitches though it’s also a problem getting to the grounds.

I got my U9s up to training to clear the astro turf pitch we can use. Six turned up. I slipped on ice and could barely walk. The parents faced a gruelling drive home. They won’t do that again in a hurry.

Wycombe Wanderers have found the same problem. Because they were playing Leeds United who have undersoil heating and an army of people to clear snow off the pitch, they had to travel all the way up north to their match.

They haven’t trained all week, whereas Leeds have a plastic training pitch which they can use in conditions like this.

Most clubs have to train indoors if they can find somewhere open.

When you hear that a big club like Manchester United with all their facilities are finding it difficult to train even though they have undersoil heated training pitches you know there is a problem. Your local rec isn’t going to be much use.

Manchester Utd have penciled in a trip to Dubai to train – now there’s a thought. Wonder if my local club would stump up the cash for a little trip like that.

But there are things you can do if you can sort out a flat bit of snow to pass the ball around on. Get everyone to bring flasks of hot drinks and do half an hour of simple passing. As long as its daylight your players should be okay.

I’ve been asking around to see what players have been up to and thought I’d put up a couple of clips for you to see:

And remember in the 70s when games went ahead with an orange ball?

 Soccer Skills and Drills