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Do You Pick a Youth Team to Win or Develop?

Last year I wrote a blog on ‘How Much Game Time Does Your Youth Team Players Get?’ & some may have argued it is easy for me to write that but do I carry it through with my own team? Why should you look to share game time? Below is some of my findings from last year & how it compares to what I’ve done with my own U12 team this season.

The Scenario…

It’s a cold winters morning & your squad of 16 players have been up from 8am getting ready. They meet at 9am to travel 1 hour to the venue. 10.30am they’re doing the warm up for the 11am kick off. So 3 hours have passed by & 11 players take to the field to kick off while 5 others watch on…

This is a common situation in youth football. The scenario I have used above puts the manager against the ‘best’ side in the league. So he picks his best 11 players to play the game which is 30 minutes each way. His team come in at half time 2-0 down. He looks to the bench & simply thinks he has his best 11 on the pitch & the other 5 won’t make a difference so doesn’t make any changes. The 5 kids on the bench are freezing & disappointed, they have all went to training during the week & have been up from 8am…now at 11.40am they still haven’t got anywhere near getting on! Mid way through the second half the manager finds his team 3-0 down so asks the 5 subs to get warmed up.

10 minutes to go & it is 4-0. He replaces the 2 forwards with 2 subs thinking they can’t do any worse. 5 minutes left he replaces a winger like for like. In the last minute he makes the other 2 changes so everyone gets a game. The game finishes 4-0 & everyone is disappointed. They do a cool down & get changed before making their way home. They leave the ground at 12.30pm & return home at 1.30pm. Jonny who has been up at 8am got back into his house just before 2pm…nearly 6 hours dedicated to the team that offered him 2 minutes on the pitch today.

How many minutes each of our players have played to date…

How many minutes each of our players have played to date…

This is common in youth football. So many parents have said to me over the years that their child doesn’t receive equal game time while signed up at other clubs. This season was the first time in 5 years that I ran my own team. I wanted to insure ALL of my players received similar game time. I have scanned my record time for my team for you to see. You’ll notice against some players there is a second time in brackets. This is to allow for weekends away, suspensions, injuries or rarely a player arriving late. This helps keep a balance.

I purposely keep my squad to 14 players so that I only have 3 subs. I always try to make 3 subs at half time so everyone receives at least half a game. We have noticed a real difference as some players in the summer were behind others in terms of development. With insuring they play similar game time as the rest, in some cases more time, we have noticed a real improvement.

The project is only 6 months in but as we review at the end of the year the game time is pretty much the same. Obviously we only have one goalkeeper hence he is at the top of the list (Dale) while we don’t have many centre backs so they also are a little ahead of the rest of the pack.

As a coach or manager do you review game time? Do you try to be fair to aid development for all players? I also want to insure that players don’t get complacent either. We ask the subs can they be impact players? Basically they only have half the time to make a difference so can they become an impact player! At the same time we now will balance out the second half of the season. If we feel any player is getting too complacent in terms of thinking they will get a full game so not work as hard they will be subbed. We now ask the question to players, ‘play so we can’t sub you’. It’s not to add pressure it is simply to get them thinking more about their game.

We realise that at a young age players will never have consistency in their games but we always expect the basics of time keeping, appearance, attitude, work rate & always wanting the ball. We offer a positive environment that allows them a platform to perform.

Let us have your feedback to this article regardless if you are a coach, parent or player. My next blog will be based around what the subs can do while waiting to get involved. Below is our end of year video review. Some funnies, tricks, great football & goals after kicking off this project in June. Enjoy!

Goalkeeper Training – The Forgotten Man? (Part 3)

During Part 2 we looked at reflex sessions along with pressure saves & crossing.  In grassroots football the goalkeeper is generally the forgotten man.  Simply the training they receive is in group format or via a shooting drill.  Obviously at this level resources are limited but to find someone to do a little work is better than forgetting about one of the most important people on the pitch.  Below I will share a copy of my session plan notes specifically for our keepers.  This is the final part of our 3 part series.

We will focus on goalkeeper games during part 3.

Goalkeeper Games

Distribution Games.

1. Object of the game is to score in the other goalkeepers net by throwing the ball. Goalkeeper 1 starts the game by throwing the ball towards goalkeeper 2 & their net. If goalkeeper 2 saves by catching the ball they are allowed maximum of 2 steps towards goalkeeper 1 before throwing the ball. If either goalkeeper tips ball or punches ball out of play the goalkeeper who had the shot gains possession.

Variations include kicking the ball from the hands, volley or drop kick the ball, kick the ball from the ground or play 2 goalkeepers in each goal & if 1 shoots wide or over they must complete a lap of playing area before continuing in the game.

Session 1

2. To practice good all round distribution of the ball set up areas so that the goalkeeper has targets to throw or kick the ball to.

Session 2

3. 3 players; A, B & C, & positioned along the half way line. They each have a supply of balls & stand beside a mini goal. Each take it in turn to cross the ball towards the goalkeeper. Once goalkeeper collects the ball they should look to distribute toward any of the 3 mini goals by throwing or kicking.

Coaching points include communication, distribution, winning the ball, work both feet, throwing & kicking technique & rapid build up.

You can develop by having players A, B & C dribble the ball & performing back passes for the goalkeeper to deal with in same way. You can add a second player to look to close the goalkeeper down automatically to help it become more realistic to a game. Finally, after collecting the ball the goalkeeper should look for a defender to play out to for them now to score into the mini goals.

Session 3

Crossing Games.

1. Goalkeeper 1 throws the ball to W1. W1, within 3 touches, crosses the ball long & high into the penalty area for goalkeeper 2 to collect. Distribute the ball to W2 to cross for goalkeeper 1.

3 important factors to handling crossing situations are; positioning, judgement & action (to attack cross or not). Goalkeepers positioning will vary according to the angle & distance of the cross. Goalkeepers should wait until the cross has been delivered & quickly decide whether to attack the cross or advise defenders to attack it.

Goalkeepers need much practice on positioning & decision making on crosses coming into the box. This practice is simply organised & allows goalkeepers to practice all that is mentioned above. Make sure that the winger varies the crosses, i.e. hard & low, near post, far post, etc.

Session 1

2. Players remain in zones. Goalkeeper delivers to W or to A1 & A2. A1 / A2 passes wide to W. W crosses the ball within 3 touches. Goalkeeper then communicates & decides whether to come & collect the cross or allow the defenders to deal with it.

This session adds to the previous one by testing the goalkeepers ability to deal with crosses while under pressure from opponents being marked by the keepers defenders. If is important that the goalkeeper communicates with the defence to remind them of their marking responsibilities as well as taking up a correct position. Then the keeper has to decide whether to attack the cross or advise his defenders to challenge. In taking the latter course, the goalkeeper needs to give clear information to attack the cross, shouting clearly & loudly, ‘AWAY!’ If the goalkeeper decides to attack the cross, they should shout loudly & clearly, ‘KEEPER’S BALL!’

Session 2

Duel Games / Mini Games.

1. This session is to practice & improve a goalkeeper when faced by oncoming attacker in a 1 v 1 situation. The goalkeeper should always look to come off his line (although not to quickly as to avoid being chipped) & narrow the angle for the attacking player. The goalkeeper should not be easily tricked after a feint & should remain big & confident as to outwit the forward.

(S) plays the ball to X1 or X2. X1 or X2 runs with the ball through the cones & at the goalkeeper. The attacking player attempts to score past the goalkeeper in a 1 v 1 situation by shooting or to try & dribble past the keeper.

Session 1

Every club should allocate some time & personnel to work with the goalkeepers.  Whether that be to bring the goalkeeper in early of have a keeper group night it is essential that the last man in defense is not forgotten about.  I hope you have enjoyed my 3 part series.

Goalkeeper Training – The Forgotten Man? (Part 2)

During Part 1 we looked at warm ups & handling along with agility & goal line sessions.  In grassroots football the goalkeeper is generally the forgotten man.  Simply the training they receive is in group format or via a shooting drill.  Obviously at this level resources are limited but to find someone to do a little work is better than forgetting about one of the most important people on the pitch.  Below I will share a copy of my session plan notes specifically for our keepers.  This is the second of a 3 part series so please check back soon for part 3!

We will focus on reflex sessions along with pressure saves & crossing during part 2.

Reflex Sessions

The following sessions should be operated in sets of 10. Although please adapt to suit the age & fitness of goalkeeper.

1. X1 throws ball through on looking goalkeepers legs, goalkeeper then turns & X2 immediately shoots.

Session 1

2. X passes to right, goalkeeper dives to save & rolls back. Same process but to the left.

Session 2

3. Develop previous session by passing to either side. Coaching points will include not diving too early, sharp, adjust & try not to come forward.

4. Goalkeeper operates on knees in mini goals. S1 throws to X1 who volley’s to alternative sides for goalkeeper to save & knock out. Same process but from S2, firm throws, react to re-bounds. Develop with goalkeeper on feet, use whole goal.

Session 4

5. Goalkeeper touching near post & looking at S1, then reacts to shot from X1.

Session 5

6. Goalkeeper is arms length from near post, on call quick feet, spring & dive to stop throw from server scoring. Develop to working on both sides of goal.

Develop again, after save goalkeeper is flat on ground on belly & reacts on call to save in other corner. Coaching points include spring & power.

Session 6

7. Server throws to top corner, goalkeeper leaps to save.

Pressure Saves & Crosses

1. S1 shoots, goalkeeper saves, moves to other goal, sets & saves from S2 then sets & saves from S3 in other goal. Coaching points include footwork, position, relax & save.

Session 1

2. S1 throws to S2 who shoots against GK1 or GK2. Coaching points include alertness, reaction & cover re-bounds.

Session 2

Late Reaction Saves.

1. Goalkeeper looks the other way & on command turns & saves. Serve from penalty spot to 18 yard line. Coaching points include goalkeeper to be on toes, sight of ball, attack it & save it.

Crosses.

1. S1 throws ball into X1, X2 & X3 who all put pressure on the goalkeeper. Object of the game is for the goalkeeper to collect cross or punch clear out of danger zone. Coaching points include the goalkeeper being slightly off line (2-3 yards), face the ball, correct timing, catch ball at highest point, be decisive & positive in attacking the ball, call loud & early if goalkeeper is coming for the ball, if not shout away – defenders need to know, communicate, be confident & positive.

Session 1

Every club should allocate some time & personnel to work with the goalkeepers.  Whether that be to bring the goalkeeper in early of have a keeper group night it is essential that the last man in defense is not forgotten about.  Join us next month for part 3.

Goalkeeper Training – The Forgotten Man? (Part 1)

In grassroots football the goalkeeper is generally the forgotten man.  Simply the training they receive is in group format or via a shooting drill.  Obviously at this level resources are limited but to find someone to do a little work is better than forgetting about one of the most important people on the pitch.  Below I will share a copy of my session plan notes specifically for our keepers.  This is the first of a 3 part series so please check back soon for part 2!

We will focus on how a goalkeeper should warm up & I’ve also included details on agility & goal line sessions during part 1.

Warm Up & Ball Handling Sessions

1. Bounce ball, on command carry out:

  • Roll ball in front & dive on it.
  • Throw ball into air & jump & catch it.
  • Put ball in between legs & dive & catch.

2. Goalkeeper 1 kicks ball into hands of goalkeeper 3 who catches & kicks ball back, same then with goalkeeper 2. Rotate so that each goalkeeper is working. Coaching points are – stance, handling & speed.

Session 2

3. Develop by serving the ball high in the air so that goalkeeper 3 can take short steps & jump high to catch the ball finishing with stretch.

4. Operate sessions 2 & 3 again but vary starting position so goalkeepers can work on foot work & turning.

Session 4

5. Goalkeeper 1 throws to goalkeeper 2 who dives to right, catches & throws back while getting straight back up to dive again – carry out 10 times. Coaching points are – foot work, handling, speed, return ball & get back up in one motion.

Session 5

Agility & Goal Line Sessions

The following sessions should be operated in sets of 12 developing to 20. Although please adapt to suit the age & fitness of goalkeeper.

1. Goalkeeper sits on bum with legs bent & loose, partner then serves ball so goalkeeper can stretch & catch ball over head & return. Coaching points is speed & technique, i.e. operate session like sit up.

2. Rowing, feet off ground, partner throws ball goalkeeper catches with knees up to chest & returns with legs out. Coaching point is co-ordination, i.e. operate session like rowing machine.

3. Goalkeeper on bum, partner throws ball to left & right so goalkeeper can catch & throw back. Coaching points include agility, service, catching & to keep loose.

4. Develop above session, dive from left to right – keep ball off the ground. Main coaching point is to keep ball in front of body line.

Every club should allocate some time & personnel to work with the goalkeepers.  Whether that be to bring the goalkeeper in early of have a keeper group night it is essential that the last man in defense is not forgotten about.  Join us next month for part 2.

Player Development Plan (PDP) & Visual Psychology

In everyday life we all have to set goals.  We set targets to achieve results.  It can vary from improving our business to increasing sales in our job or simply using behaviour charts for children!  I remember working in a Travel Agent where there was a white board displayed with everyone’s name written on it.  Your total number of sales was written alongside your colleagues.  The month started on zero.  If you made a booking for a family of five & a group booking for 20 you shot up to 25 while your colleagues lagged behind.  It was a nice feeling, but if it was the other way around it made you work harder to improve your performance & reach your goal, especially if there was a reward at the end of it.

Surround yourself with positive visual psychology!

Surround yourself with positive visual psychology!

Football is no different.  All my 1-on-1 students keep a Player Development Plan (PDP).  I also provide a folder with a lot of advice included in it for them.  We then set a plan & goals for them to achieve.

You can make it as simple as you want, write it out by hand or complete online & print it out.  The main topics you should cover include:

  • player’s name
  • month / year
  • strengths / weaknesses
  • what I need to improve on
  • how to improve
  • targets
  • short-term goal
  • medium-term goal
  • long-term goal
  • signature

It is important that the player himself completes the PDP, but assist & guide them.  If they have weaknesses, set targets for improvement in that area.  Set relevant homework.

You can see from the examples below, how one of my players has completed his PDPs.

One of Luke's early Player Development Plans...

One of Luke’s early Player Development Plans…

You can see his strengths & what he feels he needs to work on.  We then focus on this during our 1-on-1 sessions, but also set homework so he can be working on this away from the sessions.

He also sets his long term-term goal.  This can be anything from playing for a top club to playing for your country, or both!  This is the dream, the goal to aim for.  The important thing is also to set short to medium-term goals so each individual can see, feel & touch success.  Ensure the short-term goals are achievable & realistic.  In this example, he has set a target to score 4 goals & set up 8 goals over the month.  Obviously, the number of games he plays & his position on the team will affect this.  You have to remind the player that he may put in several terrific crosses or through balls but, even if the forward doesn’t score, it is no reflection on his own creativity.

I also like my players to have their PDP placed on the wall so they see their targets first thing in the morning & last thing at night.  I am also a firm believer in surrounding yourself with positive images & memories.

I have my coaching certificates on the wall, my last book cover blown up & framed along with images & newspapers clippings framed.  It’s not to stoke my ego but simply to surround myself with positive memories.  Then if I have a bad day I can remind myself of what I have already achieved.

This is why I ask my players to display their medals, trophies & images in their room.  This is called Visual Psychology – surrounding yourself with a positive image – just like the image above.

If they have a bad game or disappointing news I ask them to go to their room & take 10-15 minutes, looking around them & reading through their PDP to see how far they have developed.

One of my players came home very upset after a game.  Yet, a short time away on his own, around his positive memories & reading his PDP really helped & completely changed that.

Comparing the same player’s PDP from December 2009 to March 2011 you will see new strengths added, less evidence of weaknesses in his game & his keepie-ups go from his early target of 37 – 38 to being able to do 100!  In the same folder, we also have invitations to the National County Excellence meetings & report cards.  Also details on his performance with his club & attendance at the Liverpool Academy.

Player Development Plans work – have your child or players keep a record & goal set from today!

Comparison of PDP from December 2009 to March 2011 - look at the improvement!

Comparison of PDP from December 2009 to March 2011 – look at the improvement!

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