Category Archives for Drills

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.

5 v 3 to Score

By David Johnson –

Objective

This session will focus on shooting and service for the shooter.  The focus needs to be on proper weight and direction of the pass and the quality of the finish.  This should be done as close to game speed as possible.


Diagram 1

Set Up

Position 3 cones in a triangle on one side of the penalty area.  The exercise begins with one player at the side cone (service cone) and one player at the top of the penalty area (shooting cone).  The rest of the players line up on the end line cone with balls.  This drill can be done with or without a goalkeeper, but a goalkeeper is recommended.

Execution

The first passing pattern is the first pass to the player at the service cone who then plays a ground pass to the shooter for a finish. The rotation is the player who started the drill to move to the service cone. The player on the service cone to move to the shooting cone.  The shooter to retrieve the ball and return to the line. As shown in Diagram 2

Diagram 2

The next progression is for service cone player to send back a 1 touch pass to the starting line.  The starting line then sends a ground pass to the shooter for a finish.  Same rotation as before.


Diagram 3

The next progression is for the starting line to send the ball directly to the shooter who passes it to the service cone.  The service cone then can send a flighted or ground pass back to the shooter for a finish.  Same rotation.


Diagram 4

Variation

  • The same triangle cone setup can be placed on the opposite side of the penalty area to mirror these patterns so the players can work both sides.
  • The coach can call where the shoot should be placed – near post, far post, upper 90, etc.
  • The passes can all be 1 touch or 2 touch – there can also be a foot restriction (right foot only, left foot only)

Coaching Points

  • Ensure the players are opening up to receive and send the ball. The player must be in proper position in order to play the ball quickly
  • Passes must be weighted properly and sent to the correct foot of the receiver
  • The finish must be with direction and power – ensure the shooter follows their shot to the end.

By David Johnson

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

Triangle Shooting

By David Johnson –

Objective

This session will focus on shooting and service for the shooter.  The focus needs to be on proper weight and direction of the pass and the quality of the finish.  This should be done as close to game speed as possible.


Diagram 1

Set Up

Position 3 cones in a triangle on one side of the penalty area.  The exercise begins with one player at the side cone (service cone) and one player at the top of the penalty area (shooting cone).  The rest of the players line up on the end line cone with balls.  This drill can be done with or without a goalkeeper, but a goalkeeper is recommended.

Execution

The first passing pattern is the first pass to the player at the service cone who then plays a ground pass to the shooter for a finish. The rotation is the player who started the drill to move to the service cone. The player on the service cone to move to the shooting cone.  The shooter to retrieve the ball and return to the line. As shown in Diagram 2

Diagram 2

The next progression is for service cone player to send back a 1 touch pass to the starting line.  The starting line then sends a ground pass to the shooter for a finish.  Same rotation as before.


Diagram 3

The next progression is for the starting line to send the ball directly to the shooter who passes it to the service cone.  The service cone then can send a flighted or ground pass back to the shooter for a finish.  Same rotation.


Diagram 4

Variation

  • The same triangle cone setup can be placed on the opposite side of the penalty area to mirror these patterns so the players can work both sides.
  • The coach can call where the shoot should be placed – near post, far post, upper 90, etc.
  • The passes can all be 1 touch or 2 touch – there can also be a foot restriction (right foot only, left foot only)

Coaching Points

  • Ensure the players are opening up to receive and send the ball. The player must be in proper position in order to play the ball quickly
  • Passes must be weighted properly and sent to the correct foot of the receiver
  • The finish must be with direction and power – ensure the shooter follows their shot to the end.

By David Johnson

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

Dribbling Training Session

By Gregg Gillies –

Warm Up:  Lateral Dribbling

Set Up:  You’ll need 3 to 12 cones, depending on the number of players you have and how many you want in a each group so they can maximize the number of touches they get.  See the diagram below for how you set up the cones.

By placing the cones side on to the players, they need to execute two 90 degree turns.  This encourages our players to utilize a quick, sharp chop cut with the inside or outside of the foot to change direction at the first and last cone, instead of only dribbling straight ahead between cones.

Coaching Points:

The focus is good control, with quick, soft touches at speed, utilizing the inside and outside of both feet.

They will start and end with a quick acceleration, pushing the ball a little further ahead of them, but under control enough to make the sharp turn at the first cone.

Have them utilize the toe down dribble both toward the first cone and away from the last cone.

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.

It’s important to focus on the following with regard to all foot skill drills.

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 or do they just focus on the next cone?  Sometimes you can let them know that you will be holding up fingers and they will need to tell you how many, while they are performing the drill.

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:

There are many ways to progress this drill.  How many, and which ones, you use will depend on the age and skill level of your players, as well as how much time you will spend on this drill.  I recommend doing this drill for nore more than 10 to 15 minutes.  You can break up the variations amongst different practices.

Some progressions include:

  • Left foot only
  • Right foot only
  • Inside of the foot only
  • Outside of the foot only
  • As many touches as possible between cones
  • As few touches as possible between cones

The next progression is to turn this competitive.  While we must spend time utilizing some drills to develop technique, it’s not what our players signed up for.  If you want to get the most out of them, find a way to make almost anything you do competitive in nature.  It will help to accelerate the development of your players.

That means, turn this into a relay race.  Before the next player can go, the one dribbling must stop their ball next to that player, and then they slap hands.

It is easiest to have no rules in terms of touches but if you have enough coaches to keep an eye on the players (the most competitive get creative about cheating!), you can use rules like left foot or inside of foot only.

In order to maximize touches, better to keep the teams small and have each player go two or three times per relay race.

Square Dribbling With Foundational 1v1 Moves

Set Up:  Use a 20 yard by 20 yard square.  Place five cones in the center (see diagram below).  The first player in each line should have a ball.

To start, the first player in two lines opposite one another, dribble toward the center cones.  These center cones (you could also use poles, corner flags, dummies, or coaches) are a “defender”.  When the player approaches the cones, they make a move (the moves list is below) and beat the “defender” to the right (everyone goes right or left at the same time.

Once those two players get by the “defender’ they pass to the next player in line.  As soon as they beat the “defender” the first player in the other two lines, dribble toward the center and do the same thing, make a move, beat the “defender” and pass to the next player in line.  Then the first two players in the first two lines go again.

Coaching Points:

The focus is good control, with quick, soft touches at speed.

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.

As with the first drill, it’s important to focus on the following with regard to all foot skill drills.

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 or do they just focus on the next cone?  Sometimes you can let them know that you will be holding up fingers and they will need to tell you how many, while they are performing the drill.

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:

The moves to beat the “defender” should utilize what I call foundational 1v1 moves to beat a defender.

Some progressions include:

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 directio 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.

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.

Common Mistakes

Most players, when learning moves like above will do a combination of three things.  They practically come to a stop when they are going to make the move, such as a scissor.  Encourage them to keep their speed dribble.  They don’t need to slow down to perform  lunk fake or scissors.

Another common problem is they make the move too late.  They get way too close to the defender before making the move.  One way to work on this is to have coaches stand in the middle as defenders.  Don’t actively defend, but if they get so close to you that you can stick your foot out to knock the ball away without moving, do it.  This will help them learn proper distancing when it comes to these moves.

Finally, as I mentioned above, most players take way too big a touch and always want to use speed to basically pass to themselves (especially at younger ages) and then beat the defender to the ball.

You can have a coach stand next to the line they are headed to, and if the touch from the move is too big, the coach can come out and take the ball before the player runs it down.

1v1 to 2 goals (encourage the Foundational 1v1 Moves)

Set Up – Use a 20 yard by 20 yard square.  Place two small goals on one endline, 3 to 5 yards in from the sideline.  Place two lines of players on the other endline, one each across from a goal.  Every player should have a ball.  See diagram 1.

Rules – The first player in one line dribbles toward the goals and shoots.  The first player is th eonly one that goes to goal unopposed.  At this point on, the drill continues in the following manner.

As soon as that first player shoots, the first player in the second line dribbles into play and can score in either goal.  The player that just shot the ball, now turns and must defend 1v1.

Once that second player shoots, the defender goes and gets their ball and goes to the back of their same line.  The next player in the first line now dribbles to try and score in either goal and the player that just shot defends.

Continue the drill in this manner.  The player that just show always turns and plays defense against the next player in the other line.  Once a player is finished playing defense, they go get their ball and head to the back of the line.

We’ve gone from cones, to moves, unapposed, with the second drill having a non-active “defender” involved.

Now we take it to a game environment, with live defense.  But the offensive player gets the advantage of attacking two goals.

Diagram 1

In diagram 1 above, the first player to dribble and shoot (in black) then becomes the defender (now in yellow, just to differentiate offense and defense in this article).

Diagram 2

The next player dribbles and attacks the defender (now in yellow).

Diagram 3

The player that just show races over to defend the offensive player in the other line.

Coaching Points:

 The focus is good control, with quick, soft touches at speed.

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.

As with the first drill, it’s important to focus on the following with regard to all foot skill drills.

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 or do they just focus on the next cone?  Sometimes you can let them know that you will be holding up fingers and they will need to tell you how many, while they are performing the drill.

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:

Once the players are comfortable, you can add one rule.  They must perform at least one foundational move, as determined by you.  For example, in order to be allowed to score, they must perform at lunge fake, scissor, or step over.

This builds on the previous drills, but with a higher difficulty level.  Giving them two goals to shoot at makes performing moves more easily (so they will see more success), as the defender can’t over play them.

To make it more about the moves, you can also make a rule that they must score within 5 yards.

The next progression is to turn this competitive.  While we must spend time utilizing some drills to develop technique, it’s not what our players signed up for.  If you want to get the most out of them, find a way to make almost anything you do competitive in nature.  It will help to accelerate the development of your players.

In this case, you can put the two teams against one another and pick a number, such as first team to 5 goals.  Obviously, the first goal doesn’t count as that player is going unapposed.  To make it fair, if the team going on offense first breaks a 4-4 tie, the other team gets a chance to tie (think bottom of the ninth in baseball).

 

Scrimmage/Small Sided Game:  1v1 Mark Up

Set Up:  This game can be done in any numbers from 2v2 up to full sided but best if used in the 3v3 to 7v7 range.  Depending on your numbers you can run two or three games of 3v3 simultaneously and then combine into a larger 6v6 (or bigger) game.  The smaller games will give the players more touches and more opportunities and space to challenge defenders 1v1.

Rules:  All normal soccer rules apply except for one change.  Every player on a team is matched up individually against a player on the other team.  What this means is, there is no help defensively.  For example, if Izzy and Shannon are matched up against one another, only Izzy can defend against Shannon when Shannon has the ball and vice versa.  There is no devensive help!

Coaching Points:  When you can only be stopped by one player on the other team, you become very aware of where they are, where the ball is, and where you might go to get free for a pass.  Teams will learn that quick speed of play, movement off the ball and challenging defenders will wreak havoc on a defense.

 This game gives player the opportunity to be aggressive in challenging players 1v1 within what is basically a normal game environment.  There is also a very good defensive element built in and that is accountability, especially in terms of tracking back.  If you don’t track back defensively after an offensive run, your team will pay for it and all your teammates will know whose fault it was.  There is no hiding defensively in this game, the way some players do on a big field.

 This session will help players to think ahead, anticipate what comes next and encourage them to move off of the ball, instead of just watching it.

Progressions and Variations:

 One progression you can add is the rule that every time a player gets a ball, they must make an offensive move, like the previous 2 goal 1v1 drill.

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.

Playground Games

By Sean Reed –

Objective

I have chosen to write about a couple of classic playground games which you would often seen played in the playground, down the park and even in the street. Games that allow the players to manage, take control and most of all let them play.

Set Up – World Cup Singles


Diagram 1

Set Up

  • I goal
  • I Goalkeeper and 5 outfield players (anymore then you might look to go into the doubles game)
  • An area is can be created in front of the goal in which no goals can be scored from within
  • The ball starts with the goalkeeper and they with start the play by throwing the ball out onto the pitch area
  • The objective is for the individual player to score, once a player scores they are through to the next round
  • The last person left is out and the next round starts with all the players who scored going through
  • This continues until you reach only 2 players left in for the final. The winner of this game then becomes the champion
  • The number of goals to score within each round can be changed, as the player you might want players to have to score 2 goals to go through

Coaching Points

  • Being positive / confident when in possession of the ball
  • Creating a goal scoring opportunity
  • Working as an individual player
  • Defending, getting up to the ball
  • Working hard in and out of possession
  • Enjoy the game

Set Up – World Cup Doubles


Diagram 2

Set Up

  • As with the previous session
  • Within this game the players are now playing in pairs
  • A pair must score 2 goals to go through into the next round, for the final it is 3 goals
  • Only headers or volleys can be scored in the 6 yard area

Coaching Point

  • Supporting angles / areas when in possession
  • Game plan based around out of possession
  • Working hard collectively to gain possession and take advantage of when in possession
  • Enjoy the game

Set Up – 3rd Headers and Volleys


Diagram 3

Set Up

  • 3 or more players
  • 1 goalkeepers and 2/3/4 players outside
  • Goalkeeper starts on 11 points, outfield players start on 10 points
  • Players must score with either a header or a volley on the full
  • If the player scores, then the GK loses a point
  • If the GK catches the ball, the outfield player misses the goal or scores a goal but is not a header or volley on the full, they go in Goal

Coaching Points

  • Quality of passes / crosses played into the area
  • 1st touch to set up the opportunity to finish
  • Quality on the finish, timing of movement, body shape and end product
  • Enjoy the game

By Sean Reed
Former First Team Coach of Championship side Fulham FC. Sean is a UEFA A Coach with a Masters in Sport Coaching. He has over 15 years of experience working in professional football from Academy through to First team in the Premiership and Championship.

Web – www.seanjreed.com
Twitter – @SeanJReed

Off the Ball Movement

By Gregg Gillies –

Warm Up: Hand Ball Soccer

This is a great warm up game. When utilizing it with my teams, I’ve found that it gets them engaged and excited about the upcoming practice session (their brains are switched “on” and they are focused). It gets their bodies moving and their minds ready for what’s next without the mind numbing repetitiveness of typical warm up drills.

You’ll find it’s a fantastic warm up for one of the biggest challenges many coaches face; taking their players from reacting to anticipating and moving off the ball.

As coaches, we all know how challenging it is to teach good off the ball movement, to get your players to embrace this, instead of getting caught just watching the game when they don’t have the ball, and then reacting after the fact.

By not being able to advance the ball except through a pass, players will naturally move off the ball. Also the fact that teammates will better be able to keep the ball and find them in this game, as opposed to doing so with the ball at their feet, will encourage more players to move.

They’ll also play the game at a faster speed.

With a number of progressions and rules, it can be quite challenging, help improve technical skills and create variety so it’s not the same each time it’s used.

Set Up: The length of the field and the number of players can vary greatly depending on the space you have available. It seems to work best in the 4v4 to 7v7 range, on a field of 30×30 to 50×30.

Rules: Teams move the ball by throwing it with their hands. When they catch a ball they can’t move. In order to move up the field, you must throw the ball to teammates. If the ball hits the ground on an attempted throw, it belongs to the other team, who can pick it up and attack.

In order to score, you must play a ball with your body, into the goal. This means volleys, headers, even the chest or thigh, whatever works to take the ball out of the air and put it in the goal. Clearly, this works well for working on taking crosses (in this case, throws) out of the air. Many more chances to do so in this warm up game.

Coaching Points: Not many. It’s a warm up and the rules will pretty much take care of the objective. As discussed above, the rules and uniqueness of this game will naturally have players moving off the ball, anticipating, and taking balls out of the air (as many youth coaches know, this always presents a challenge when the game starts taking place in the air more often).

Let them play. You’ll find this is a game that truly does do the teaching. Make note of anything you want to discuss and talk about it after the warm up or when something similar comes up later in practice.

Progressions: You’ll always be able to make this game more (or less challenging). If your players are really young, you can allow them to volley or head the ball our of their own hands intead of off the pass from a teammate. Or make them play a touch off the thigh before volleying.

You can also limit how a team scores.

Goals could come only by:

• A header
• A laces volley
• An inside of the foot volley
• A chest touch then volley
• Pretty much any touch combination you can think of that will challenge and engage your players.

Small Sided Game: Movement X

Set Up: 3v3 (up to 6v6) on a 40×30 field (can be made smaller or bigger depending on your teams age and ability).

Rules: There are 5 squares set up on the field (see diagram below). One near each corner of the field and one in the very middle of the field. The squares are 3 to 5 yards (can be adjusted to increase or decrease the difficulty level of passing). Each team goes toward two squares at the one end (like 2 goals) but both teams can use the center square.

To “score” a goal, a team must successfully pass into one of their end squares or the middle square. However, a player can not wait in the square, they must meet the ball in the square. When they “score” they retain possession and contiue to play.

Like the Hand Ball game warm up, Movement X is designed to get players to focus on and beware of, movement off the ball into space, and anticipating passes, both as the receiver and as the player playing the pass into the square.

Coaching Points: The middle square allows teams to focus on runs through the middle and making passes that switch the field of play. It also encourages maintaining possession by going backwards from one side of the field to the other, as players realize they can “score” this way.

Correct Body Position – Pop the hips open and let the ball run to the back foot. Receive the ball with knees bent, head up and the first touch should be directional to beat the defender.

Lose your mark – don’t stand and wait to receive the pass, check to or away first, then to the ball (or away from it) to create space in which to receive the pass.

• Passing and Support Play
• Decision-making – where and when to attack, playing away from pressure
• Technique on the pass – timing, weight and accuracy
• Timing of the runs off the ball
• Communication

Progressions:

• One or two touch on the final pass only (the one into a square)
• Add one or two neutrals to help the offense move the ball

Scrimmage/Small Sided Game: 1v1 Mark Up

Set Up: This game can be done in any numbers from 2v2 up to full sided but best if used in the 3v3 to 7v7 range.

Rules: All normal soccer rules apply except for one change. Every player on a team is matched up individually against a player on the other team. What this means is, there is no help defensively. For example, if Bob and Sean are matched up against one another, only Bob can defend against Steve when Steve has the ball and vice versa. There is no devensive help!

Coaching Points: Offensively, this reinforces the theme of the previous game and the warm up, and that is anticipating and moving off of the ball. When you can only be stopped by one player on the other team, you become very aware of where they are, where the ball is, and where you might go to get free for a pass. Teams will learn that quick speed of play will wreak havoc on a defense.

There is also a very good defensive element built in and that is accountability, especially in terms of tracking back. If you don’t track back defensively after an offensive run, your team will pay for it and all your teammates will know whose fault it was. There is no hiding defensively in this game, the way some players do on a big field.

A summary of the coaching points that are applicable to all these games.

Key Coaching Points
• Angles and distances between the Attackers (game realistic)
• Movements to create triangles and passing options
• Quality, weight and decision of the pass (play around, through or possess)
• Movement to receive
• Body shape to receive
• Angles and distances to combine
• Timing of passes
• Passing options around and ahead of the ball
• Communication

This session will help players to think ahead, anticipate what comes next and encourage them to move off of the ball, instead of just watching it.

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.

Individual Attacking

By David Johnson –

Objective

This session will focus on the attacking player of a 1v1 dual.   The attacking player must be able to control the ball with all surfaces of the foot, understand when and how to shield the ball, and ultimately how to beat the defender.


Diagram 1

Set Up

Position cones in 3 lines with enough room between each cone for players to move around the cone. There has to be a matching number of cones to players. Have each player take a ball and stand next to a cone.

Execution

  • The build up of ball handling and skills begins with each player moving in a circle around the cone next to them.
  • Dribble around the cone with both feet
  • Dribble around the cone with the right foot only
  • Dribble around the cone with the left foot only
  • Roll the ball around with the sole of each foot
  • Use the laces to push the ball around the coneThe first Progression is to move the players into lines at the end of the line of cones as shown in Diagram 2.The players then progress moving either weaving or beside the cones to the other side by dribbling to each cone. At each cone the player preforms a move to evade the defender such as step over, scissors, or mathews. This is where player creativity can shine as the player moves at game speed through the cones.

Diagram 2

The final progression is to split the players evenly across the 2 channels created by the 3 rows of cones.   The players on the left side of the cones are defenders that start play by making a sharp pass to the feet of the attacker on the other side.  The attacker must control the ball and then take on the defender 1v1 in the channel.   The player that wins the ball and takes it to the opposite side of the channel from where they started wins the dual.  The player must have the ball under control in order to win the dual.  See diagrams 3, diagram 4, and diagram 5

Diagram 3

Diagram 4


Diagram 5

Variation

  • The attacker can only use their right or left foot to beat the defender
  • The attacker has to shield the ball for 5 seconds before they are allowed to try to beat the defender.
  • Defender serves a ball in the air by throw-in or lofted pass

Coaching Points

  • Ensure the players have good control and understanding of how to move the ball prior to working 1v1 at game speed
  • Ensure the players understand that possession or not letting the ball being taken easily is more important than moving to the other end of the channel
  • Allow players to be creative in how they take on and beat defenders

By David Johnson

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