Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

Simple skittles – but very match relevant

davidscwnewHow 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.


Lethal finishers take their chances

As a striker if you only get one chance in a match you have to make the most of it. That means it is vital you get it on target. In the Champions League Round of 16 match between Chelsea and Inter Milan, there was little between the two teams over the two legs. But from the few chances on offer Inter scored three goals and Chelsea two. In the first leg in Milan Diego Milito gets one chance in the first half and scores in the second leg Samuel Eto’o gets one chance in the second half and scores. They both missed one good scoring opportunity but one out of two at this level is excellent. That’s what a striker must do.

I like to use simple exercises to get all my players hitting the targets with shots at goal. In the clip below is a simple exercise, with players passing and shooting at targets in the goal.

Hitting the targets either side of the goal makes it harder for the goalkeeper to get a hand on it. Players need to look up and see where the goalkeeper is so they can hit it where the goalkeeper has less chance to cover it.

You may find younger players kicking with the toe or side of the foot. Try to get them to use the instep which will be a more powerful shot – although perhaps not as accurate.

Shooting techniques
1. Head down, looking at the ball at the moment of contact.
2. Body over the ball to keep the shot under the crossbar.
3. To drive it low, place the non-kicking foot alongside the ball.
4. For power – follow through with the kicking foot after the ball has been struck.

Watch this simple exercise to get your players hitting the target. And below that watch Milito score his chance for Inter Milan against Chelsea.