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Ronaldo Skills

What advice would you give about coaching your own child


I understand you coach your sons’ teams… I am now coaching my own child… what advice would you give?


davidscwnew1There are a number of things you need to do to try and find the right balance when coaching your son’s team…

Don’t favour them

Don’t build your team around your child. You might truly believe they are among the more talented and intelligent members of the team but resist the temptation to make them the main striker, captain, penalty-taker and free-kick specialist all rolled into one.

Don’t forget them

If you’ve taken on the challenge of managing a team with one of your children in it, there’s a strong possibility they could be among the better players, but while you can’t favour them, don’t go too far the other way and leave them with no responsibilities.

Don’t get angry with them

Don’t vent your frustrations on your child publicly. It’s much easier to do this with your own offspring rather than with other people’s kids because, unless you have the perfect child, you will have told them off in public before. But you mustn’t do this at training or at matches, as it will make them feel like they are being singled out unfairly.

Talk to them after soccer

Do talk to your child after games and training and specifically focus on the football. Let them know why you have made some of the decisions you have and remind them that you have to be fair to the team as a whole and treat them simply as another squad member during soccer sessions.

Don’t tell them too much

Don’t let your child become more than just another player. They may be party to some of your tactics and formations before anyone else, but make sure they don’t start imparting this to the rest of the team and certainly don’t talk to them about the other players. Resist the temptation to turn them into your assistant manager.

Don’t let soccer take over

Do make sure that the team doesn’t take over your relationship with your child. It’s easy to get very involved in youth soccer and you are bound to talk about the game a fair bit with your child as a result, but make an effort to compartmentalise it so you still have a normal parent/child relationship outside of football.

Don’t push too hard

Don’t push your child too hard. It’s great when everyone can see they are a good player because their inclusion in the team justifies itself but, if they have a bad run of form, gently encourage them – do a bit of one-to-one work or rest them for a while.

Encourage other activities

Do encourage your child to play for other teams and to participate in different sports. Not only does this keep their fitness levels up (as long as it’s not overdone) but they will be subject to a different coaching perspective and they may even come back with a greater appreciation of the job you are doing as coach.

Make sure they are happy

Don’t forget why you got involved in the first place. Your child may not be the only reason why you are a youth soccer coach any more, but it will have been the first reason you got involved. So always make sure your child is comfortable with your involvement generally.

Be able to take a step back

Do remember that everyone in your team is someone else’s child and therefore observed by someone through rose-tinted glasses. Every so often try to take a step back and ask yourself the question: are you being as fair and as even-handed as you possibly can to everyone in your team, including your child.


Play with your head up


Many young players look at the ball when they should be scouring the pitch for opportunities of where they can pass it. If you can get their heads up for twice as long as they are at the moment, that’s twice as many signals, runs and goalscoring opportunities they can spot.And here’s the perfect session to test it:

How to play it

  • You need cones, bibs, balls and two pop-up goals.
  • Use the centre circle of your pitch and place the goals back to back in the middle.
  • I’ve used three teams of three, but vary player numbers to suit.
  • Two teams start in the circle, while the other – a neutral team that plays for the team in possession – runs around the outside.
  • Opposing teams can score in either goal but a player in possession must play a one-two with an outside player before he can shoot.
  • Play for five minutes then teams swap roles.
  • Progress to two or even one-touch if you want to make the challenge harder.

Technique and tactics

  • The team in possession must look up and be alert to opportunities, passing to team mates but also using outside players to control the game, while working overloads that create space for players to run into.
  • The defending team needs to quickly decide on a tactic to protect the two goals or they will be overrun.
  • As well as vision, you’re looking for players to use their imagination, with individual as well as team skills.

Score goals from midfield


If you want your players to create goal scoring chances like the midfield players at Barcelona, try this exciting and fast-moving game and you’ll soon see the benefits.

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Why use it

A session aimed at getting players to create and utilise space in midfield. With quick passing and movement, it should help open up the opposition and make goal scoring chances.

Set up

Create a playing area 40x20yards, with two goals back to back across the middle, but just one goalkeeper. We’re using eight players and a keeper for this session, plus a server who can be the coach. You need bibs, cones, balls and two small goals.

How to play

Start by serving a ball into the game. Players can score in either of the two back-to-back goals. If the keeper gains possession or the ball leaves the area, serve a new ball in. The keeper puts any balls he gathers into the net behind him. When a goal is scored, immediately serve another ball into the game.


Creating space in a match situation with fast and accurate passing will open up the room for midfielders to exploit. In this game a quick switch of play allows players to take advantage of one of the goals being unguarded – they must be aware of the position of the keeper at all times.

Messi Talks To Barca Youth Team Captains U10-U17

Great video of Lionel Messi answering questions from the youth team captains about his fifth Ballon d’Or

If there’s one course you should go on…

davidscwnewI firmly believe that if you want to develop the skills of individual players you need to start young and you need to do so at grassroots level. So this summer I decided to attend a number of courses based on skills coaching and individual excellence that would add to my knowledge of youth coaching. And this was the pick of the bunch.

Coerver Coaching’s Alf Galustian was the star skills educator at his Play Like Spain course at the London Soccer Dome – and it was like being in Spain on one of the hottest weekends of the year.

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Coerver’s course is based on the Spain national side and the success they have had playing with Spanish style and the phases of play that make up that style. Alf coached sessions where the emphasis was on individual ball mastery and how the development of the individual creates a winning team.

Alf said: “I have worked in Spain as a coach educator several times throughout my career. It is common knowledge that Spain are the current leading developers of football talent and they have implemented a style of play that is the envy of world football”.

I found it very interesting because last year I spent a lot of time  working on the phases of play used by Barcelona and why they have had so much success in the last few years with their style of possession play – I broke Barcelona style down to Possession/Patience/Penetration and did a presentation for the NSCAA on the Barcelona phases of play.

Alf broke down the Spain style into four phases of play


Protecting the ball individually by coaching shielding techniques and as a group moving the ball quickly to keep it away from opponents.


Individually and as a team. This is the Spanish way, lose the ball win it back by pressing high up the pitch giving teams no time to settle on the ball.


Running with the ball into space or finding the killer pass, with drills to develop individual and team skills


The creative end product from the combination of the other three parts of the course – ­including creativity in the final third (the one thing English players find hard to do).

Coerver have been over in Spain recently and Scott Wright the UK director of Coerver told me: “We have had coaches from all levels attend our courses in Spain including La Liga clubs Real Madrid, Getafe, Real Mallorca and Rayo Vallacano as well as other coaches and ex-players from across Spain and Europe.”

Dave Clarke with Manuel Ojalvo

Dave Clarke with Manuel Ojalvo

So I felt I was in good company on the course and that there was a real Spanish aspect to the sessions. Added to that Coerver had brought former Athletico Madrid youngster Manuel Ojalvo, and former professional Diego Camacho, who has amassed more than 400 appearances in La Liga.

Manuel has a background in youth coaching and gave some great insights into what it was like to be a youth player in Spain. Diego doesn’t have the command of the English language that Manuel has but he managed to get across the frustrations of being coached in one position for all his time in youth football – defensive midfield. He has played against the likes of Zinedine Zidane and Lionel Messi, asked how he stopped Messi he shrugged and gave a chopping motion… it was fascinating stuff.

Both players are convinced the Coerver system can help grassroots in Spain – and of course in England.

Diego said (with Manuel acting as interpreter): “Every ex-professional player, no matter the level, who is thinking about moving into coaching should definitely study the Coerver System; I wish it had been available to me when I was a young, it would have made me a better player”.

Dave Clarke and Diego Camacho

Dave Clarke and Diego Camacho

Alf also introduced former ManchesterCity and Scotland defender Willie Donachie who is now development coach at Newcastle United. Again the advice was very interesting because Coerver are very much an attack minded in their tactics. Willie talks defence and used the example of Ian Rush the former Liverpool and Wales striker as an example of a forward whose first thought on losing the ball was to win it back. Alf too had praise for an attacker who likes to win the ball back – Lionel Messi “he is the best defender in the world”, said Alf.

Dave Clarke and Willie Donachie

Dave Clarke and Willie Donachie

Some great course material to take away in the form of a book that included the sessions Alf had put on during the weekend added to the overall success of the course.

It was a great way to spend a weekend in the summer and a very valuable one for my own personal development adding to my knowledge of Spanish football, giving me lots to take back to the teams that I coach. I suggest if you get the chance you should go on the course – it is a great learning experience.

Receive, control, turn, dribble

This move is designed to get players focused on receiving the ball and moving off. It relies on a good first touch and develops into a passage of play that can open up space for your team to exploit.

How to set it up

  • You need three players for this exercise, plus a good number of balls and cones. Create a two-yard square control box.

  • From each of the two left-hand cones of the box, walk diagonally for 12 yards and create two more identical coned squares.

  • From each of the two right-hand cones of the box, measure five yards at a slight angle, placing two cones at these points.

Getting started

  • Two players in the left-hand boxes take it in turns to play balls to the player in the control box.

  • Get the serving players to pass balls at different heights so the player gets used to controlling it with different parts of his body.

  • The receiving player must control the ball with one touch, ensuring he keeps it within the square.

  • He turns after controlling the ball and dribbles it to the top cone, then sprints to the second cone.

  • He leaves the ball at the second cone and sprints back to his control box, ready to receive a pass from the other server.

Why this works

This is a fast-paced move that combines instant control with the need to get the ball and the player on the move quickly.

Making your player vary his turning direction once he has received the ball will shape his mindset so that he is always aware he may need to turn away from tackles coming in during a normal game.