All posts by Tom Mura

Combination Play

By Gregg Gillies –

Set Up: 20 yds x 10 yds up to 30 x 20 depending on age, skill level, etc.

The Drill:

  • Players 1 and 4 stand at opposite ends of the 20 yard rectangle. Player 5 stands in front of Player 1 as a passive defender. Player 2 stands on the side, off the shoulder of Player 5 (the defender). Player 3 is on the other side, diagonal from Player 2.
  • If you have more than 5 players, you can have lines where player 1 and player 4 begin.
  • Players 2 and 4 stay in their positions for the entire drill, so swap them out every few minuts so eveyone gets a chance at those positions.
  • Player 1 starts with the ball.

Diagram 1

Diagram 2

Player 1 passes to Player 2 and makes run around Player 5 to receive a return pass from Player 2.

Player 2 should receive the initial pass with an open body shape, letting the ball roll across their body to play a one touch return pass to player 1 with the outside foot (in this diagram that would be the left foot). Initially, especially with younger players, allow for a first touch to control the ball before the return pass but eventually make it one touch only.

Diagram 3

Player 1 takes the return pass with a directional touch toward Player 3 waiting on the other end line and passes Player 3 the ball.

Player 5, the intial defender moves toward the endline where player 1 started (essentially replacing player 1).

Player 1 follows their pass to player 3 and stops in front of player 3 to become a passive defender.

 

Diagram 4

The drill now restarts at the other end and works its way back. Player 1 has become the passive defender at the other end. Player 5 is now where Player 1 was. Both outside players, Player 4 and Player 2 stay in their respective locations.

Now Player 3 makes the pass to Player 4, who lets the ball roll across their body to play it with the outside food. Player 4 makes the run around Player 1 to receive the return pass.

Diagram 5

Player 3 receives the pass from Player 4, takes a directional touch toward the other end line and plays a pass to Player 5 waiting on that endline.

Diagram 6

We are now back in the original starting position, with Player 3 as the passive defender and Player 5 starting the drill again with a pass to Player 2.

Coaching Points

Quality of the Pass – The initial pass (from Player 1 in diagram 1) must be accurate and weighted properly. Player 1 needs to be close enough to the defender before making the pass so the defender can’t easily drop off to cover the run but not so close that the defender can easily intercept the pass.

Once your players are comfortable with the drill, the initial pass should be practiced with the outside of the foot, as this can be quicker and easier than a pass that brings the right foot across the body and closer to the defender.

The weight and accuracy of the second pass (in diagram 3 this is Player 2) is key so their teammate who made the initial pass to them can run on to the ball space without slowing down.

In order to player a quick 1-2 in small spaces the outside player (again Player 2 in Diagram 3) must be off the shoulder of the defender and get into an open body position. This way, the ball can roll across the body so they can take it with the outside foot, allowing them to play an accurate one touch return pass.
Progressions / Variations

You can make the first pass have to be taken with the outside of the foot
The return pass from the outside player must be 1 touch
You can increase the pressure from the passive defender. For example, in diagram 1, when Player 1 collects the return pass on the intiial 1-2, he must only take a touch and then pass to the other endline, and then run to pressure the endline player with the ball as a live defender.

Competitive

If you have at least 10 players, you can break up into groups and they can compete against each other for the most number of successful 1-2’s in a specific time period, such as 2 minutes. Every time the ball goes from one end lines to the player at the other endline, that’s one.

Have a coach at each group doing the counting and enforcing the rules. For example, if the rule is outside of the foot for the initial pass, one touch for the return pass and two touches max to play to the other endline, then the coach does not count a 1-2 that violates those rules.

By Gregg Gillies

Gregg Gillies is a nationally licensed coach through the USSF and is a Youth Athlete Development Specialist and Head Coach at Mount Laurel United Soccer Club, where he currently coaches a u14 girls team, the MLU Raptors. He also is the owner of www.NoLimitsSoccerTraining.com, where his focus is on maximizing a player’s individual technical skills, soccer IQ, and overall athletic development.

Passing Patterns

By David Johnson –

Objective

This session will focus on passing and game like patterns of play.  The focus needs to be on proper weight and direction of the pass and the quality of the runs.  The focus is also on moving without the ball.  This should be done as close to game speed as possible.  Communication including calling for the ball and what areas are open such as calling “line” are critical.   Over emphasis is very critical for players to remember not only the passing patterns but the verbal commands as well.

Diagram 1

Set Up

There are 2 lines facing each other with 2 players facing the line with the ball.  The drill begins with the players nearest the ball calling for the ball.

Execution

The first pass is to the nearest player.   The passing player moves to the right or the left opening up space for a pass back.   This determines the angles of the rest of the drill.  The second player checks to the same line as the passing player.  The ball is played back to the original player.

Diagram 2

The next movement is for the player to pass a long ball to the checking second player.   Once that pass is made the original player makes a diagonal run through the space calling for a return pass.   The player on the line plays it to the feet of the diagonal run.

Diagram 3

The drill then flips to the other line and the drill flips.   The most important movement is the first decision by the passing line as to the which direction they go – that determines which line the pass is made to and what angle the diagonal run is made.

Diagram 3

Coaching Points

  • Change the middle two players frequently. Every minute or so
  • Passes must be weighted properly and sent to the correct foot of the receiver
  • Remind players of in game situations where this is valuable and how the decisions of your teammates affects your decisions and options.

By David Johnson

David Johnson has been a high school coach for more than 20 years.

Heads Up Game

By Steven Smith

Area Size: 40 X 35 Grid

Teams:  Everyone on the team in groups of two

Time: 10-12 minutes

Objective:  Increase passing skills in teams of all developmental levels

Narrative
This warm up activity can take away the boredom that often comes with warming up. It is a gradual progression of passing and receiving with partners that turns into a fairly intense and fun way of getting your athletes to focus and be fully prepared to go hard once you hit the main training phase.

Set Up
A large grid of 40 X 35 is constructed for players to pass and receive with their partner. Every player finds a partner to pass and receive with inside of the grid.

This activity is a three step progression of intensity.

The activity begins with each set of partners having a ball. The ball is passed and received only with their own partner. After intervals of passing and receiving with intervals of stretching and range of motion activities the intensity is increased by inserting a set of rabbits (defenders who chase down ball). The rabbits simply attempt to knock the ball of the partner passers out of the grid to eliminate the partners.

The activity momentum increases with the number of defenders that the coach chooses to insert into the grid.

The final progression is where the intensity reaches it’s peak. Two sets of partners give up their balls and are joined together by holding onto a towel. The defenders with the towel must work together to tag a player without the ball. This means that the partners who are passing and receiving must pay attention to the defenders with the towel and when their partner is being chased they must get the ball to their partner. Once a player has the ball on their foot they cannot be tagged. If a player is chased out of bounds (grid) then they have been tagged. Once tagged the chasers drop their towel and the tagged player picks up the towel and his partner joins him or her to become the taggers. The former taggers become passers and receivers. It is a continuous game until the coach ends the activity.

Variations:

Goalkeepers can be introduced into the game with the restriction that they pass and receive using their hands to catch.

By Steve Smith
Steve Smith has been a men’s college coach that holds an NSCAA Advanced National Diploma and a Doctorate in Physical Education.

Developing Confidence on the Ball

By Gregg Gillies –

Warm Up:  Grid Dribbling

Set Up: Size (30 yds x 25 yds) Field size can vary depending on the number of players you have.  You only need four cones but can add a few more if this helps keep the players in the playing area.

The Rules:

  • Each player has a ball and must stay within the grid
  • They dribble the ball at top speed, while keeping the ball under control, avoiding collisions with other players, and continually changing direction with their dribble
  • Players work at maximum effort for 15 seconds and then perform a recovery dribble, slowly dribbling within the grid for 30 seconds
  • After each round give the players 30 to 60 seconds (or more, if needed. The less rest, the more conditioning involved, the more rest, the more technical oriented the drill) of total rest.
  • Have the players perform 4 to 10 total rounds.

For the first round or two, allow the players to change direction any way they like.

After that, perform a few rounds with any of the following moves.

  • Simple Outside of the Foot touch
  • Lunge fake – when approaching the defender step out hard to one side as if you are about to accelerate around the defender in that direction but do not touch the ball.  Then, using the outside of the opposite foot, take a touch the other direction around the defender.
  • Scissors
  • Double Scissors
  • Step Over
  • Matthews
  • Matthews with Scissors
  • Fake Kick and Go (fake a kick to the left with the right foot, place the right foot on top of the ball, take a slight backward hop on the left foot, and then accelerate away to the right by touching the ball with the outside of the right foot).  You can also do the opposite.
  • 180 Pull Back
  • Cruyff
  • 180 Chop Cut (inside and outside of the foot chops)

You would not use all of these every time you do this drill.  Pick three or four and focus on them in one session.

How many moves or the difficulty of the move is left up to you, the coach.  You know your players skill level the best.  Obviously you won’t be using the Matthews with Scissors, or the Maradona with 4 year olds.

Coaching Points:

The focus is good control, with quick, soft touches at speed, as well as rapid change of direction.

Players should have slightly bent knees when they change direction and should be keeping the ball close, so that they are balanced and under control, ready to go in any direction.  They should not be reaching out with one leg, extending it too far away from them to make a cut and change direction.

Technique (Footwork) – Players must be able to dribble with both feet, while making short, sharp touches on the ball.  The ball can not be allowed to get away from them or they will lose control.

Technique (Vision) – Does the player have the ability to get their head up and see what’s around them?  If they don’t, they will constantly run into other players, or get run into by other players.

Positive Attitude and Confidence – It’s very important to be supportive of your players and encourage them when it comes to their dribbling.  Most players take way too big a touch and always want to use speed to basically pass to themselves (especially at younger ages) and use their speed.  It’s important that they become confident with the ball at their feet.  It doesn’t matter how good they become at one touch passing, if they can’t have the ball at their feet, they will not be successful at the game of soccer.

Progressions and Variations:

Every player dribbles on their own, constantly changing direction.  The coach yells out a move and the player must perform that move as soon as possible.

Another variation is to have the players dribble for 30 seconds, performing as many moves as possible in that timeframe.  Give the players three to four moves to focus on.  They can perform the same move multiple times but not in a row.  So the could do a scissor, then a cruyff and then do a scissor again.

This adds a bit of a competitive element into a non-competitive drill.  The players will work harder and enjoy it more.

 

Exercise:  Multi 1v1 With Extra Defenders

Set Up:  Size (30 yds x 25 yds) Field size can vary depending on the number of players you have.  You only need four cones but can add a few more if this helps keep the players in the playing area.

The Rules:

  • Depending on your numbers and skill level, have 6 to 10 players in the middle. The players are divided into groups of two, with each group having one ball.
  • The remaining players are outside of the grid and are defenders. They stay on the imaginary sideline line but patrol up and down that line.
  • The pairs play 1v1 in the grid. This means their are multiple 1v1 games going on at the same time.  The object for the player with the ball is to “score” by dribbling across any of the four sidelines and stoping the ball under control.  The “defenders” on that sideline can knock the ball away, being careful not to venture onto the field of play.
  • Games last 30 to 60 seconds. When a game is finished send the 1v1 players to the outside to become defenders and the defenders enter the grid and are matched up into pairs to play 1v1.
  • After each round give the players 30 to 60 seconds (or more, if needed.  The less rest, the more conditioning involved, the more rest, the more technical oriented the drill) of total rest.

 

Coaching Points: – same as above.

 

This one is especially important.

Positive Attitude and Confidence – It’s very important to be supportive of your players and encourage them when it comes to their dribbling.  Most players take way too big a touch and always want to use speed to basically pass to themselves (especially at younger ages) and use their speed.  It’s important that they become confident with the ball at their feet.  It doesn’t matter how good they become at one touch passing, if they can’t have the ball at their feet, they will not be successful at the game of soccer.

Progressions and Variations:

Depending on age and skill level you may make this a rule or just encourage it.  It’s important to encourage players to try moves when attacking 1v1, not just using a simple touch to the side and trying to dribble past a defender.  Encourage and support your players to be creative and make mistakes.  That’s how they get better, build confidence and eventually use these moves in games.

Exercise:  Multi 1v1 With 4 Goals

Set Up:  Size (30 yds x 25 yds) Field size can vary depending on the number of players you have.  You only need four cones but can add a few more if this helps keep the players in the playing area.

The Rules:

  • Depending on your numbers and skill level, have 6 to 10 players in the middle. The players are divided into groups of two, with each group having one ball.
  • The remaining players are outside of the grid and are “walls”. They are there to keep the ball in play by stopping it and letting the 1v1 continue.
  • The pairs play 1v1 in the grid. This means their are multiple 1v1 games going on at the same time.  The object for the player with the ball is to score in one of the two small goals in the direction in which they are going.  This drill is direction specific, just like a full sized game.
  • Games last 30 to 60 seconds.  When a game is finished send the 1v1 players to the outside to become the “wall” and the “wall” players enter the grid and are matched up into pairs to play 1v1.

 

Coaching Points and Progressions and Variations are the same as above.

One added variation would be to make the outside players neutrals, giving the 1v1 offensive player someone to pass to, so they can add off the ball movement to the drill.  You can increase the difficulty level by giving the outside players one touch.

By Gregg Gillies

Gregg Gillies is a nationally licensed coach through the USSF and is a Youth Athlete Development Specialist and Head Coach at Mount Laurel United Soccer Club, where he currently coaches a u14 girls team, the MLU Raptors. He also is the owner of www.NoLimitsSoccerTraining.com, where his focus is on maximizing a player’s individual technical skills, soccer IQ, and overall athletic development.