Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

Get your players to shoot


How often do you watch your striker reach great attacking positions only to then delay his shot, offering enough time for defenders to get back and put in a tackle? It’s a frustrating part of the game and something that’s certainly not exclusive to youth football!

It’s important to give players the confidence to shoot from anywhere on the pitch, rather than them trying to walk the ball into the net. So below I’ve put together a great practice that, quite simply, encourages players to shoot at the earliest opportunity from all areas.

How to set it up:

  • You will need six target cones and seven balls, plus additional cones to mark out a pitch. You will also require bibs and a goal.

  • Create a pitch measuring 35×25 yards.

  • Three yards in from each end touchline, and halfway up the area, place three cones in a triangular shape.

  • Each cone has a ball placed on top of it.

  • The game can be played either 3v3 or 4v4.

Getting started:

  • Each team defends its set of cones.

  • Players must try to knock the balls off the cones at their opponent’s end of the pitch while ensuring their own cones do not come under threat.

  • If a player shoots and gets a "strike" (knocks all three balls off with one shot) the team gets six points, otherwise it’s one point scored for each ball.

  • Should all three be dislodged, the balls are set up again before resuming.

  • Play for three games of six minutes, ensuring players are ambitious in their attacking play and do not hang back crowding around their cones as a defensive tactic.

Developing the session:

If you have three or four teams, play so the team that knock three balls off, then faces a different team. Teams waiting on the sidelines act as ball boys.

Note which teams are the best at winning a strike – undoubtedly this will be because of the frequency of shots and from all distances – and point out to the other teams why they are so successful.

How to advance it:

  • Put a goal and a keeper at one end and set up a bowling alley-style group of six cones with balls on at the other end.

  • This is a straight knockout, with one team trying to knock all the balls off the cones and the other trying to score three times past the keeper. Which team will fulfil its task first?

Why this works:

The initial practice encourages players to shoot at targets from all areas of the pitch. Teams defending cones will also be pushing forward trying to attack, so the scoring options should be plentiful.

Direction and power are, of course, vital to a team’s success, while the set-up ensures players are aware of the need to shoot quickly and positively. Should they not, a tackle could see the other team attack and complete their task first.


All you need is speed and a good first touch…

dave clarkeOne of the sensations in the English leagues at the moment is another product of the Southampton youth system – Alex Chamberlain. Fast, furious and a fabulous touch this boy looks the real thing.

I’ve always been a bit envious of the teams I play that can just launch a long ball to their winger who with a bit of speed and a good first touch can score goals at will. But in youth matches the fast players can look really good without actually be a good player. First touch and speed make a huge difference at this level.

As a coach you can allow yourself to get caught out once by this sort of tactic but you shouldn’t let it happen once you’ve identified the tactic. Getting players to sit deep to counter the tactic is one way of stopping the player running through unchallenged to the goal.

A player running at speed is highly dangerous to both your team and your health! It can frighten the life out of your goalkeeper so the rest of the team have to make sure there is no room to run through the team and towards the goal.

On my blog I have posted a compilation of some of Chamberlain’s goals, check them out and think about how you would play against a player like this

A soccer coaching ladder to success

I’ve been discussing the use of speed ladders on my Soccer Coach Weekly forum. It seems a lot of you use speed ladders but would like more exercises to use with them. In Soccer Coach Weekly I run fitness drills, but I am never sure how many coaches have access to them.

You can use flat cones for speed ladders placed so your players have space to put both feet down quickly and move through them in the same way you would a speed ladder – like one of the forum members suggests.

Early on in my coaching career I was given a speed ladder when I bought a full kit for my team. So I did a bit of research into using them – and I think most sports should use them and will get the benefits of speed and coordination that they promise. And for a pre-season it’s a very good way

Here’s two drills which I use with my young players to help with their coordination:

Sideways double feet

  • Stand side on to the ladder, feet in the first square
  • Running action, moving sideways through the ladder
  • Each foot contacts each square once
  • Ground contacts on balls of feet
  • Emphasise upright posture & coordinated arm action
  • Repeat 5 times. Rest 60 seconds between repetitions.

Forward hops – 3 in 1 out

  • Hop forward on one leg
  • One hop in each square
  • Every 3 hops step once out of the ladder onto the other leg
  • Continue this sequence until ladder is complete
  • Ground contact on balls of feet
    Strength & powerHow of pass / shot12
  • Repeat 5 times.
  • Rest 60 seconds between repetitions.