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.


Talking to a group of players and getting them to listen

By David Clarke

davidscwnewTalking to a group of children can be a huge challenge for many coaches, especially those who are used to working with groups of adults.

Before starting to talk you need to consider how to make sure your players are listening. Here are some “dos” of getting and keeping children’s attention.

Make sure you have all the players’ attention before you start talking. Off the cuff questions are a good way to gain attention. Once your players get into the routine and realise you are only going to talk for a short time before they will be off and active again, they will settle more quickly.

Following the ancient Chinese proverb “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand”, the more activity and the less talking the better. Also, remember the 30-second rule: you should never spend more than 30 seconds at a time talking to your players during training.

Keep your chats short and sharp. “Little and often” is an excellent motto. Tell the players one or two things at a time between activities. During a 10-minute exercise you might bring the players in for four 30-second chats which repeat variations of the same one or two points.

Whether in rain, wind or bright sunshine, make sure the players are protected from the weather conditions and can see you clearly. If necessary, that may mean you will have to talk to them facing into the weather.

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Match day and only 9 players turn up

davidscwnewAt the weekend everything was looking good – the weather had cleared up and our game was on. But then, as I was preparing to leave the house, I was informed that three players had gone away for the half-term holidays without bothering to tell me.

So I had a problem. And sure enough, within the hour I had only nine players present, and was being asked what time the others were turning up. “Well, this is it, lads, this is the team… we’ve been let down”, I replied.

We’d beaten our opponents 1-0 earlier in the season, but a repeat performance seemed unlikely… not that I told my players that.

We gathered for our team talk and I assured them that they could still perform with only nine men. It’s not the first time this sort of setback has happened, and in the past I’ve used different tactics – one being to tell them to pretend we’d had two players sent off. But nothing had worked because, simply, they wanted to be told that everything would be okay and they wouldn’t be easily beaten.

So this time I took a simple, honest approach, telling them that hard work would compensate for the loss of players, and how if everyone put in an extra bit of effort we could make up the difference.

The reality was that the three who had failed to show comprised two strong covering players and a speedy trickster. So how was I going to cover that tactically?

Well, the pitch seemed particularly narrow, so my first move was to sacrifice the left-back position and tell my defenders to cover left. The defenders were sure they could manage – great.

I wanted to leave my four-man midfield as it was, so that left a lone striker up front, but we’d give it a try. It was an exciting challenge.

And I’m pleased to say the formation worked well. The opposition didn’t really take advantage of our left defence problem – they had a fast winger but he continually attacked our right-back. The only thing that let us down was support in attack – we created more chances than them but couldn’t get shots away, and when we did, there was no-one to follow up.

The game finished 0-0 but the players were magnificent and it was a great lesson in how hard work can overcome a numerical disadvantage. In many ways, it was probably the best game we have played all season.

The moral is don’t be put off by what might appear to be a major setback. It’s from such events that we usually learn most about ourselves and our players

Why ALL your players should get equal playing time

David ClarkeBy David Clarke
Every player deserves equal time on the pitch in grass roots football and if you don’t believe me here’s the evidence.

Last month we took on a young player who has never played for a club before. He’s 11, and charges around the place without being able to control the ball or kick it very well.

I’ve started to coach him and he’s already improved, although some of his team mates have made it clear they don’t think he’s good enough to play for our team.
But I like to have players like this; players who can be allowed to develop and find themselves a role in the team.

The lad has been desperately keen to play in a match, and I spoke to him and his parents about when and where he can expect to play.

I planned to introduce him slowly to the pace of match play because I didn’t want him to have an experience that would put him off.

Well, the best laid plans and all that…

At the weekend I had three players call off sick at late notice. When we turned up on Saturday morning it was quite clear we were going to be a player short. And one of our 10 was my new player.

I got the usual moans and groans at our lack of numbers, but explained to my new player where I wanted him to position himself. Needless to say, he was really keen to get going. And with a couple of interventions by me – at one point to explain the offside rule! – he played well enough in the first half.

Sure, he wasn’t quite up to the pace of the game, but was beginning to show signs that he would be a good acquisition to the team. And this was confirmed when he made a surging run early in the second half – the only player alert to a through-ball. He got away beyond the defenders to go 1v1 against the goalkeeper, and fired the ball high into the net.

What a strike! To say I was surprised is an understatement! He was thrilled and so was his dad. Of course, this gave the player a new-found confidence.

As a result, he was looking for the ball all over the pitch – it also gave him boundless energy. It helped the team as well and they all congratulated him on a solid (goalscoring!) debut.

And so he has written his name into the history books. To think I was afraid of playing him straight away shows how wrong it can be of coaches to consider some players ‘not ready’.

Sure, you use your judgement based on what you see on the training pitch, but sometimes the only way to really tell if a player has what it takes is to give him the opportunity when it matters – on match day.

Change of position, change of fortune

DCDuring a victory for my Under-10s side, one of my defenders got injured. This was not too much of a problem as I had another player who could move from midfield to fill that role. The solution worked fine for a while until he too limped out of the action, leaving me struggling to solve the problem.
We got to half-time without too much trouble and were winning 1-0, and at that point I managed to persuade another lad to change positions and slot back into defence. He halfheartedly accepted the offer, even creeping forward into his regular attacking role at times, thus leaving holes and gaps behind him.
I was therefore relieved when my left winger came across and said to me that he would play in defence because he’d operated there for his previous team. I was surprised because I had never considered him to be a natural defender – he is, after all, a strong attacking winger, and it had never even crossed my mind to use him in defence.
But he was an absolute revelation, with excellent positioning, plus strong support and marking skills. At one point he took the ball off the toes of the opposition attacker and ran the whole length of the pitch, unleashing a brilliant shot at the end of it. I am still reluctant to play him at the back because we have some good defenders, and he is a valuable left winger, but I know now he makes a great back-up if we ever need someone to fill the role.
It got me thinking about players and how they generally begin to ‘find’ their positions around nine or 10 years of age. And yet many will play for another few years before actually discovering where they are best. What we should be doing as coaches is constantly experimenting with their roles – maybe hiding inside a player who has been labeled a ‘defender’ is a strong attacking force just waiting to be unleashed on an unsuspecting opponent. It’s rare when it happens, but on the occasions that it does, it’s always a pleasant and useful surprise.

You don’t always have to win to be a success

Winning is always important but not always an accurate measurement of how well a team played. It is better to ask key questions about your team:

  • Did they create chances?

  • Did they have a good shape defensively and cover the dangerous spaces?

  • Did the players make good decisions when in possession?

  • Did they play a mixed passing game?

  • Did they control the tempo of the game?

Jot down your thoughts straight after the game. Then write down what happened in the game an hour after your team has played and re-read what happened. Look for the positives to talk to your players about and then go to work on the negatives.

My team played a game recently where they started off easily
the best team. We totally outpassed the opposition and created twice as many chances as they did. We lost the game 3-2.

So I wrote down my answers to the questions…

  • Yes, we did create chances – praise the team.

  • No, we often left dangerous spaces when we didn’t get back quickly enough when attacks broke down – work on defensive positions and recovery movement.

  • Mixed, but on the whole we made good decisions.

  • Yes, passing was good, long and short – praise the team.

  • No, they allowed the opposition back in to the game when they had it won – work on closing the game out.

You can then see what to talk about, what to praise and what to work on at your next coaching session.

Hurray! Matches back on… then it snowed

I took a photo on Saturday just to show you that here in England we are once again playing matches… it’s been nearly two months since we played a proper game – and we beat the team above us 4-1.

It’s a great feeling although I have to say it was still very, very cold and the boys were pink by the end of the match.

One of our players got a clearance hit right on his ear, and had to sit out the rest of the match. It’s great to be back…


And then I woke up on Monday morning and realised that perhaps we hadn’t got our season going again. The amount of snow falling has been amazing – so I went to one of our home pitches to see how it was doing! Here it is and not a groundsman in sight…

 Soccer Skills and Drills