Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

David Clarke Interviews… KRISTINE LILLY exclusive

David ClarkeMy series of interviews on influential figures in the world of coaching continues with this exclusive interview with Kristine Lilly. Kristine was a member of the United States women’s national soccer team for 24 years. She is the most capped men’s or women’s soccer player in the history of the sport, gaining her 352nd and final cap against Mexico in a World Cup qualifier in November 2010. Kristine played in five World Cup Finals, winning two World Cups to add to her numerous other awards and honours.

Kristine LillyShe is now tasked with developing the next generation of female players and coaches in the USA. I caught up with her as she launched a skills partnership with Coerver coaching.

1. Can you give me a brief outline of what you will be doing in your link up with Coerver Coaching?
I have joined a partnership with Coerver Coaching to continue to make a difference in the game. We hope to promote and improve the Women’s game globally. We have an inspiring curriculum that really works; improving the player on the field and the person off it.

2. Why Coerver?
Well I have used the Coerver method throughout my career, and ever since I was a young girl. I believe in the Coerver system, the philosophy and the benefits it brings to players, coaches of any ability.
I am also hugely impressed at how the Coerver System and Brand has evolved and expanded globally, since Charlie Cooke and Alf Galustian (pictured) first started it almost 30 years ago.
Lastly Coerver works, players that go through this method improve, become better players and especially feel confident and comfortable on the ball.

3. The women’s game is huge in USA, what do you think players lack in terms of technique that your link up with Coerver can help players to step up a level?
I think US players are great athletes, wonderful competitors and have a winning mentality. However, I think we can be better with the ball; especially when and where we use it; make quicker decisions, but have the confidence if there are no passing options to keep the ball under pressure.

Also we can be more consistent, technique usually breaks down, as players get tired, so we need to continually work on improving our skills, which also has the added benefit of improving confidence. I am sure if you speak to top coaches and players they will put confidence (building) as a main priority. In a way Coerver does that by Mastery of Skills through repetition.

4. Having spent part of your career in Sweden do you think the women’s game in Europe can catch up with the USA? Are the skills/technique levels the same?
I think the level of play has advanced all over the world. I think the Europeans are improving quickly. I think they have become more technical than us in the past decade. I think the one thing that the USA has is a fighting mentality that edges out teams. However the technical side of the game has to be there to make that happen as well.

5. With regards to youth soccer in terms of both girls and boys I think repetition is one of the most vital coaching tools. But players can find doing the same old thing boring. How do you hide repetition when coaching?
As a young player I spent many hours kicking a ball against a wall practicing my shooting technique and passing. Yes I would agree doing this alone could get boring, but once you see improvement in your game all the practice, hard work makes sense; boring or not.

Also that is what is so great about the Coerver programme, you do basic drills that address the technical side of the game and then add pressure, and then make it a competitive atmosphere and it’s always challenging, progressively competitive and always fun!!!

6. You played in youth teams in the early 90s, which one factor would you say is the most important change in the way kids are coached today?
As in all countries there are excellent coaches who continually look for new, innovative ways of teaching and others who really don’t want to change from what they are used to. This is not a criticism, since in Grassroots Soccer all the coaches who give their time and effort mostly for free, need to be praised.

My main worry is that some Coaches are only interested in winning teams; winning is important, but in the formative ages Coerver and I believe the focus should be on development. If you are a young player, yes you want to win but at the same time you dream of improving to where one day you can a real difference!

We don’t have, in my opinion enough players like this. Abby Wambach (USA Women), Marta (Brazil Women, pictured), Messi (Argentina), Xavi (Spain) of course, but Soccer needs more of these Special Players. That’s another thing I learned from Alf and Coerver about teaching based on models of Great Players. It’s a great way to teach and motivate.

7. What are you coaching in your next session and how?
I like the Coerver theme sessions that Alf showed me at our last practice session together. Theme is Creating more Goal Chances individually; a session where you teach players how to can create goal chances (showing them different 1 v 1’s to create space either side of opponents to shoot, Improving Strikers first touch in the penalty box, so they have more time to shoot, Improving reaction speed for strikers.)

I pick games and drills that teach these topics.

How I would teach this or any other theme is by starting with a Coerver Ball Mastery exercise (as many touches of the ball both right and left foot. Lots of touches in 60 second bursts. I would then teach the 1 v 1 /First Touch technique in a group drill. No defenders, but just getting the technique correct, and finally I would finish with full pressure, defenders trying to win the ball

8. Can you explain one specific exercise you will coach that uses Coerver skills?
There is one drill I like a lot right now. Here is the diagram and action. This drill not only improves attackers but also defenders, defenders try and win the ball then they go for Goal; a great lesson for all defenders that once you win the ball you need to use it constructively.

Kristine pictured here with
Coerver’s Charlie Cooke.

PURPOSE: To Improve 1 v 1 & 2 v 2 under full pressure


  • Two small goals facing in opposite directions 18 yards apart.
  • Two teams one with a ball to each player facing the other across a 15 yard grid.


  • The Black Defender passes across the grid to the opponent and they play 1v1 to score on either small goal.
  • If the Defender wins the ball he can score.
  • Either player can only score from a shooting zone 4 yards from goal.


  • Play 2 v 2.
  • The receiver must pass 1st touch to his partner and overlap behind him to start the action.
  • Same scoring rules apply. Defenders can score if they win possession.

Match players evenly. Switch roles after each contest

First touch is crucial… players must go and meet the ball – don’t wait for it


Practice whereever and whenever you can

Just like Hope Solo and Alex Morgan…. and the Miami Dolphins mascot

Dempsey – a player always likely to get you a goal


Dave Clarke

Clint Dempsey became Fulham’s top scorer in their Premier League history this season – the 28-year-old, a 2007 signing from New England Revolution has impressed his manager Mark Hughes who said he hates taking Dempsey off because he feels that “he will always get you a goal”.

I never really took much notice of Dempsey until he scored that goal against Juventus in the Europe league. One of the fantastic things about that strike is that he doesn’t even look at the goal — he drops back out of the area five or six seconds before taking the shot and at no point in between does he even glance toward the keeper. He flights the ball into the top corner – and that’s class.

And then I noticed him again in the World Cup against England when England’s goalkeeper Robert Green fumbled the ball in the net. A hit and hope but like Hughes says he gets you goals.

Finding a player that gets you goals is not always easy and Fulham is a case in point. After four years Dempsey has scored 33 goals, a lot less than a lot of goal scorers in the Premier League. But Fulham have struggled to find goalscorers so Dempsey is one to hang on to.

Over the years I’ve beem coaching my juniors I have found good goalscorers and I too find it difficult to take them off during a match because of their ability to score goals. I get a lot of the other players saying its not fair because they are better players and want to play up front.

Of course every player gets a chance to play up front but as we all know scoring goals isn’t as easy as it looks.

Watch this clever goal from Dempsey and the one fumbled by Green

Strong midfielders hit teams on the break like the USA did to Brazil

By Dave Clarke

If you haven’t got the ball or you keep losing it, the best way to get it back is to have a strong midfielder whose job it is to tackle the opposition, win the ball and get your team passing again.

If you are playing possession soccer, one of the things you have to take into account is winning the ball back. Sure, all your players know how to tackle but do they know what to do when they win the ball?

What you have to do is take your best tackler and show them how to stop attacks and then hit the opposition hard with some good passing.

When the opposition loses the ball they will be at their most vulnerable and your midfielder will be able to put them on the back foot with a good pass.

This will become a key tactic for match days – a player the rest of the team rely on to win the ball back.

The midfield ball winner

Tell your player to play in the hole in front of the central defenders.

Get them to close down any player running at the defence and stop them in their tracks.

You’ve seen games where the opposition kick off and runs right through your team to score. This player stops that by targeting the player with the ball and making the tackle.

And when they do get the ball,they need to be off running, passing, opening up the opposition defence.

The rest of the team have to be ready to support this role and be open for the pass.

It’s not always a great tackle that wins the ball in midfield. When USA played Brazil in the Confederations Cup Final it was an interception just outside the USA penalty area that led to a breakaway goal by Landon Donovan to put USA ahead 2-0 of Brazil.

It was a fantastic move. Landon Donovan takes possession, finds Charlie Davies and races forward, collects Davies’ return pass, takes a brilliant touch to create room on the edge of the Brazil box and fire left-footed into the far corner past Julio Cesar.

Passing and movement at its best. Watch out England.

Watch the position of the covering midfield players and the pass out of defence that set up the perfect counter attack:

 Soccer Skills and Drills

Players should motivate themselves like Clint Dempsey

As a youth coach you have a lot to think about, and that’s why I am always being asked questions about how to do this or do that and I’m quite happy to answer them.

One question that I’m often asked is how to give players that self motivation when they are on the pitch and the team has just lost a goal, Why do some players sulk or cry or just give up?

On Saturday my U9s went 1-0 up, but just before half time went 4-1 down. But they never gave up and late in the game scored to go ahead by 5 goals to 4. They have self belief but we all have to work hard for that.

Personal motivation is a hard part of coaching. Once a player is on the pitch how do you go about getting them to put 100 per cent in when the going gets tough?

Personal motivation starts at your coaching sessions by you giving players targets to meet, by giving them targets at the beginning of the season that are about them, rather than targets like winning a game, tell them you want to see them make 4 or 5 tackles in one half of a game or to have five shots at goal. In this way they will learn that a lot of their performance is down to wht they do on the pitch rather than winning or losing.

You can also give players rewards like the football (soccer) patches we use that gets players striving to be better so they can win their badge.

Talk to your players about how they should be thinking about the game and their role in it. Explain how they must strive to meet their targets so they can go on to become better players.

Check out this clip of Clint Dempsey of Fulham and the USA men’s national team, talking about self motivation and how hard he works to keep himself at the top level.

 Soccer Skills and Drills

The threat of USA at the World Cup – serious? just watch this…

England will take the threat of the USA MNT very seriously, you only have to watch this video to see what the team has accomplished lately.

Me, I just can’t wait for the game. England v USA, bring it on!

 Soccer Skills and Drills

You’ve got to see this – FIFA Futsal World Cup

The 2008 FIFA Futsal World Cup in Brazil is compulsive viewing – I can’t drag myself away from the highlights that have been on Sky all day.

You should watch it and try and get your players to watch it too. Tell them it’s a bit like PlayStation 3 soccer matches – the matches run until October 19th the date of the final.

If you’ve never seen futsal before let me assure you it’s very exciting. It’s basically five a side football, on a small, hard-surface court with a smaller, heavier ball that has a very low bounce and there are kick-ins instead of throw-ins. It is such a fast, skilful game that I’m sure it will gain hugely in popularity.

The big name to watch at the 2008 tournament is Brazil’s legendary Falcao. He’s widely recognized as the best futsal player in the world, but has yet to win the Futsal World Cup.

Spain however has been setting the tournament alight so watch out for them. The skills on display are outstanding and there are some great goals. If I could have youth soccer look like anything on a Saturday morning it would be this.

You can watch it live on the FIFA website or see highlights on Sky.

The teams involved include: USA, Italy, Brazil, Russia, Spain, Argentina, Portugal, China, and the Czech Republic so there’s a lot of traditional soccer countries there.

Take a look for youself with this clip: