Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

Can national coaches see the problems at grassroots level?

Street soccer contains a lot of the attributes we write about every week at Better Soccer Coaching. I played it and I’m surenew-image-dave-clarke.jpg many of you did and wish it was still alive and kicking in streets around the world. It would help us all on a Saturday morning. So I was very interested this week to read a quote by the man who is charged with running England’s Under 18 team.

Talking about playground or street soccer, he wanted to see it replicated in a safe environment for 9, 10 and 11 year olds at local soccer clubs. An excellent idea. However he went on to say we – that is the youth soccer coaches at grass roots level – should not get them playing one or two touch soccer, instead we should let them run with the ball and should let them make all the decisions about when and if they should pass it themselves. He argues that that is the only way national teams will get players who are exciting and run with the ball and beat opponents and excite the fans of tomorrow.

I quite liked reading this but at the same time I was not comfortable with it. I have players at under 9 who will run up a blind alley and not look to play a wall pass to a team mate which would open up the tightest of defences. I have players who can run around every player on the pitch but won’t pass the ball and if he played quick one twos he would be through on goal. And after 10 minutes of the same player doing the same thing i.e. not passing the ball, the rest of his team get fed up and stop playing.

I think it’s quite a complex problem, and advice from coaches who work at national level is not always relevant at grassroots level. If all 9 and 10 year olds were able to run down the pitch with the ball, look up see the goal, beat another player then make a decision when to make the killer pass then there wouldn’t be much need for all the soccer coach advice I give every week in Better Soccer Coaching.

The boys that the academies at national level work with are the cream of youth soccer talent in the country. I’m still trying to get young Jonny to use his left foot and he’s already at Under 14.

It’s fantastic that grassroots soccer is beginning to be taken very seriously but maybe the national coaches who are keen to get boys into their academies that have come through coaches like you and I should spend some time with us and see the problems and the vast range of abilities we coach every week.

Dave Clarke, editor, Better Soccer Coaching


How to GROW as a soccer coach

As I’m sure you are aware, a soccer coach does more than just coach. He’s a manager, a taxi driver, motivator, nursemaid,andrew_griffiths.jpg father figure…I could go on. Oh, and he or she knows a bit about the game.

It’s quite a responsibility. But there’s more.

Coaching is probably the most powerful tool available for personal development. As a soccer coach you are perhaps the strongest influence on the future careers of the players you look after today. At whatever level they play throughout their life, and for how long, their enjoyment of the game is going to be determined to a large extent by their experiences with you as a leader and mentor.

In my last post I outlined some definitions of coaching from the Defence Leadership Centre passed on to me by Roger Jones, a coach at AFC Holmer Green, based at The Misbourne School in Great Missenden, England. Today I’d like to go a step further and explore a coaching technique used by the centre and in other organisations.

The technique gets players to learn for themselves, and is called the GROW model. The coach helps the player to think through the following steps: G = Goal, R = Reality, O = Options, and W = Wrapping Up.

I’ll explain what these mean.

Goal. The player decides what the goal of the coaching session will be. For example, a soccer player might express a desire to get into space more often.

Reality. The player explores reality from different perspectives to raise their awareness of the issue in hand. For example, the player might ask himself why he doesn’t already get into space and what’s stopping him. He might ask how others get into space or watch professionals in action to gain further insight.

Options. These are considered by the player and coach together along with the feasibility of meeting the goal. For example, the player might consider always making a run as a fellow player receives the ball, or always looking around for space as a pass is made by a fellow player. The player has to see the possibility of one of the options helping him or her towards the goal.

Wrapping-Up. The player decides or commits to taking an action. For example the player commits to always making a run when a team mate receives the ball.

The approach only works if first, the coach manages to remove interference (noise and interruptions) as well as self-generated distractions, and second, the player himself chooses to do something differently.

Here’s the upside.

By allowing the player to set the agenda, he or she has ownership of the issue and retains the motivation to solve the problem. In other words, the player becomes the driver for the change and the improvement.

The coach has raised the awareness of the issue by the player and helped to improve both learning and performance at the same time. And to some extent, both the coach and the player have “grown.”

Andrew Griffiths, Managing Director, Better Soccer Coaching

A weekend off…

What do you do when you’re faced with a weekend and no touchline to pace? “Fantastic – a free weekend,” my wifenew-image-dave-clarke.jpg exclaimed when I told her next weekend was soccer-free. But I’m beginning to get edgy just thinking about it.

“Arrange a friendly,” my colleagues at Better Soccer Coaching suggest. But I’ve been there before trying to arrange friendlies when only half the team want to play – or, in reality, only half the parents want to get out of bed early on a Saturday morning.

So I guess I’ll just hang around the kitchen drumming my fingers on the worktops, and end up taking my sons to the park to play a game between the three of us. Try out the latest drills I’ve been writing for Better Soccer Coaching, run around the pitch checking the lines have been drawn straight and the goalposts are in good condition.

In fact I’ve just found out, I’m on duty taking my five-year-old daughter to drama – “It’s about time you found out where I was”, much to my boys’ dismay. “What will we do?” Looks like it’s the park in the afternoon, get the Leeds Utd score then a bit of Sky Sports in the evening… Now where did I put my daughter’s pink soccer kit?

Dave Clarke, Better Soccer Coaching editor

Top ten soccer-isms on match day

I’m sitting in the Better Soccer Coaching offices thinking about the ten things you most like to see in a young soccer playernew-image-dave-clarke.jpg during a match. It’s one way of finding out whether your training sessions are achieving what you hope.

When I think up coaching drills to be published in Better Soccer Coaching I’m constantly making sure they can relate to match days. If you cannot see a benefit during a match from using exercises in training, either in the individual or in the team, then they are not much use.

So here are my top ten things I look for during a match in each individual player:

1. Making forward passes through the opposition defence
2. Taking chances in the attacking third – try a backheel
3. Passing the ball and moving in support
4. Working hard to win the ball back
5. Communication – calling out names; asking for the ball
6. Making runs off the ball
7. Forgetting mistakes and getting on with the game – keeping their heads up
8. Enjoying the game; having fun
9. Playing until the final whistle – winning or losing
10. Knowing their position on the field (especially for defenders) so they can recover quickly if the team lose the ball

Do you agree or disagree? Or do you have a better top ten? Let us know at Better Soccer Coaching by commenting below…

Dave Clarke, Better Soccer Coaching editor