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Passing Sequences & Movement Off The Ball

Sundays Academy session concentrated heavily on passing sequences & movement off the ball.  It was a nice session that developed well from the typical drills to offering players a bit more freedom & creativity to develop passing combinations & support play.  We used Barcelona as a prime example.  Their build up play can be patient then all of a sudden carve a team open.  Short passing through likes of Xavi or Iniesta then the through ball to Messi.

As always we filmed the session.  I was happy with everything up to my possession game.  The idea of the possession game was to take the idea of the passing short & keeping possession to a set number of passes before switching the ball to another grid.  I must admit I didn’t get the results from it that I intended but as coaches it is important to realise this & adapt.  Either by making a change to the game or simply bin the idea!  Never continually force the players to do something that is not achieving what you have set out to do.  I quickly assessed this & knew it was time to switch the session.  My Academy assistant had the next stage of the session set up & transferred the players over.

Warm up…

Control Game With Keepers

Control Game With Keepers

Emphasis

Passing, control / first touch, communication & catching for goalkeeper.

Set-Up

Players spread out around half a pitch in a circle.  All players on the outside have a ball.  One outfield player works inside the circle without a ball & with a goalkeeper.

Objectives

In turn outfield players drive the ball in toward the middle player.  They must control for the keeper to combine & catch.  For each successful touch by the outfield player & catch by the keeper they receive a point.

Keeper should throw the ball back to the server.

Progressions

  1. Rotate outfield player in centre.
  2. Operate as a competition.
  3. Set a time limit.
  4. Vary the service.
  5. Limit the outfield player in the centre to one touch.
  6. Condition what part of the body they must use.
  7. Get the inside player to work the keeper by not offering them ‘presents’.  Make them work to catch the ball.

Coaching

  • Quality passing from servers.
  • Good first touch.
  • Communication.
  • Catching technique.
  • Distribution.

Again we operated with a few variations.  We started with the player in the middle taking turn to rotate with outside player while juggling the ball.  This developed to adding 2 players to take it in turn to remain in the middle of the circle to combine together.  This is ideal to work with an outfield player & goalkeeper.

The Technical Bit…

We then got players to work in groups of 3 with 2 balls.  This was to get their footwork & passing going to a nice high tempo.  Nice session to improve peripheral vision & of course when we talk about that the player that springs to mind is Paul Scholes.  Did you know he used to do a warm up with his eyes before every match?!

The Paul Scholes Passing Session

The Paul Scholes Passing Session

Emphasis

Paul Scholes of Manchester United is renowned for his vision.  His ability of passing the ball over 40 yards at ease is superb to watch.  What makes Paul Scholes a world class player is his vision.

This session is perfect to improve your players’ peripheral vision.  This is a part of vision that occurs outside the very centre of gaze.

Set-Up

3 players stand in a triangle.  The player at the top of the triangle stands in between the 2 players with the ball.

You can use cones if necessary.

Objectives

The players with a ball, in turn, pass to the target.  They must pass the ball across the targets body so they pass back with the inside of their foot.

The target player works both feet but should stand with open body looking straight down the middle of the facing players.  They should look to play one touch & increase the speed of play.

The player at the top of the triangle works for 30 seconds – 1 minute then changes.

Progressions

  1. Instead of letting the ball come across your body & passing with the inside of your foot, vary to pass near side & with the outside of your foot.
  2. Increase / decrease distance between players.

Coaching

  • Stand open body.
  • Weight & accuracy of pass.
  • First touch.
  • Peripheral vision.
  • Communication & understanding.

This then led in nicely to our passing drill.  When you watch the video you will see I had 2 grids set up to suit my group size.  This also formed the basis for my development in the Barca Passing Sequence before using the set up for the final possession game.  Use your set up wisely.  No waiting about for players & it doesn’t put you under pressure either!

Passing Drill

Passing Drill

Emphasis

Pass, move & support session.

Set-Up

20 x 20 yard grid with 2 players & one ball at one corner & then another player at each corner.

Objectives

Player passes to next corner & follows their pass for lay off & return the pass, one-two.

Progressions

  1. Change of direction to use other foot.
  2. Skip out the return pass & play direct to the next corner, i.e. play ‘give & go’.  (See diagram.)

Coaching

  • Good passing.
  • First touch & lay off.
  • Movement, don’t wait on pass.
  • Timing & weight of pass.
  • Communication.

This is what I call my boring passing drill.  It simply was to get the players used to playing the ball…also checking before receiving & some basic combinations like ’1-2′s’ & ‘give-&-gos’.  This developed on to the next development that allowed the players a bit more freedom.

Barca Passing Sequence

Barca Passing Sequence

Emphasis

Emphasis is based on pass & move that the great Barcelona demonstrate with the likes of Iniesta, Xavi & Messi.  Looking for the short pass, short pass then killer through ball.

Set-Up

Set up as per diagram, 2 cones facing each other approx 20 yards apart.  Have a supply of balls at either end.

Objectives

First passing sequence with the red players;

  • Player A makes the first pass to player B who has checked & moved away.
  • Player B then lays the ball off to player C.
  • Player A then over laps player B to receive the pass in space from player C.
  • Player A then passes to player D.
  • Player D operates the same sequence but as a mirror image.

Second passing sequence with the yellow players;

  • Player A makes the first pass to player B who has checked & moved away.  Player A then follows their pass.
  • Player B then lays the ball off to player C.
  • Player B then over laps player C to receive the pass in space from player A.
  • Player B then passes to player D.
  • Player D operates the same sequence but as a mirror image.

Progressions

  1. Vary distance & technique of pass.
  2. Look at creating different passing movements.
  3. Finish with a shot at goal.

Coaching

  • Communication & understanding.  Player should shout, ‘set’.
  • Players should use 1 or 2 touches only & use both feet.
  • Play ‘side on’.
  • Movement on / off ball.
  • Speed of play.
  • Quality passing, weight & accuracy.

Really happy with the session & players find it easy to identify by using pro players / teams to explain.  How many times do you see Xavi, Iniesta & Messi combine like this?  To finish of my part of the academy session I took everything that we had worked with into a possession game focusing on switching the ball.

The Tactical Bit…

Break Out Game

Break Out Game

Emphasis

Possession game encouraging movement off the ball & support play.

Set-Up

Session takes place in a 50 x 20 yard area.  3 sections are divided inside this area.  First section is 20 x 20, second section is 10 x 20 & third section is 20 x 20.

Objectives

Play takes place in the first section with a 5 v 2 possession game.  After set number of passes have been reached the ball should be passed into section 2 for a team mate to run onto.

They then pass & link up in section 3 to continue the possession game of 5 v 2.

For each successful attack the attackers receive a goal.  If the defenders should win possession they receive a goal for 3 consecutive passes.

Progressions

  1. Rotate players roles.
  2. 1 or 2 touch passing.
  3. Ball must be chipped into area 2.
  4. Extra players introduced.
  5. Area made smaller to demand better control & movement.

Coaching

  • Work rate on / off ball.
  • Quality passing.
  • Look for space.
  • Width & support.
  • Look to switch.
  • Communication & understanding.

With being a player short I operated 4 v 2 in each end zone.  Although this offered no real incentive for the defending team.  I adapted the game so we had 3 teams, i.e. 3 teams of 4 players.  The focus was still on 4 v 2 in each end zone.  If the orange team kept the ball for 5 passes in their zone they would transfer the ball to the yellow team in the other end zone to do the same.  If the 2 players from the blue team won the ball from the yellows the other 2 blue players would switch from the other end zone to join them while 2 yellow players would switch grids, i.e. it was the yellow team trying to win the ball back as their punishment while the blue team tried to complete 5 passes before combining with the orange team.

The players found this quite confusing & as I was not getting the results I wanted from the game I decided to finish this part of the session early.  As coaches never be afraid to change or move on.  Don’t force players to continually do something that no one is benefiting from!  My Academy assistant was then ready to transfer the players over to work on playing through the midfield.  We then finished with some free play.

Coaches, always adapt.  My diagrams above will show a certain amount of players but if you don’t have enough – adapt!  Adjust the size of the pitch too.  Insure your players enjoy the training but demand a lot of hard work from them at the same time.

Let me know how you get on if you use with your own team.  Always feel free to re-post & share as long as you link back to my blog.

Want more info?  You can access over 450 of my session plans by clicking here!  Follow me on Facebook, Twitter or You Tube

Possession

Last Sunday I concentrated heavily on ball retention at my Academy.  The session had a mix of ball mastery, 1 v 1 duels developing nicely to 3 v 1.  Progressions challenged the players but still remained on topic.  You’ll see from the video footage that the set up meant no standing about for the players.  They moved from one session to the next.  Very happy with the session.

The other nice thing about filming the sessions, apart from sharing with you, is that I can review my own session & player performance.  When watching back at the 3 v 1 session I was not happy with the tempo…as I walked around other grids offering coaching points one or two players got lazy in the grid I had started with – the camera never misses a thing!  While I edit the videos to share the session plans I think I’ll not edit the videos so players can watch their performance.  This is perfect to increase their performance & decision making.

Warm Up…

Barca Keepie Ups

Barca Keepie Ups

Emphasis

Fun game for players to ‘show off’ their juggling skills!

Set-Up

Split players into groups.  They make a circle & join hands.  One ball per group.  Mark out an area using cones where groups have to start from & finish.

Objectives

Groups must perform keepie ups & move from one side of the area to the other.  They can then race back to the starting point.

The ball must be kept off the ground while performing keepie ups between each other.

Progressions

  1. Rather than move from one side of the coaching area to the other have groups perform in the same area joining hands.  If a player mis controls they leave the circle.  Play until there is a winner.

Coaching

  • Be confident & comfortable on the ball.
  • Keep body relaxed.
  • Keep eye on the ball.
  • Good control over ball.
  • Communication.

You’ll see from the video we operated 2 variations.  One where the players stand stationary joining hands then develop to moving with the ball.  This is something we will operate on near a weekly basis to improve their juggling & ball control.  Don’t be put off doing these type of games from a young age…you will see improvement on a week to week basis!

The Technical Bit…

My Academy Assistant, Lee Hodge, then performed an excellent ball mastery & passing session.  Watch the ball skills session here & his passing session here.

To increase the tempo we developed to a fun 1 v 1 session that I call Power Ball after the Gladiator game.

Power Ball!

Power Ball!

Emphasis

Like the Gladiators game but instead of carrying the ball & throwing into baskets, players dribble the ball & try to shoot them into mini goals.

The emphasis is on 1 v 1 defending.

Set-Up

The game takes place inside a 30 x 30 yard grid with 6 mini goals placed equally around the outside.  You can adapt the size of the pitch to suit your group.

A large supply of balls is placed inside a small square in the middle of the grid.

Objectives

Two equal teams compete to concede the least amount of goals.

One team play as forwards & continually dribble balls out of the central area aiming to beat the defenders & score.

Defenders must try & stop the attackers.  The session starts with as many balls as possible & in a 1 v 1 environment.

Once it gets down to the last couple of balls the attackers look to combine.  Defenders must also operate as a unit.

Teams change roles for the next game.

Progressions

  1. Players changes roles.
  2. Attackers can change point of attack & dribble towards another goal to see how defender adapts.
  3. Defenders protect one goal so must communicate to pass attackers on to a team mate.  This will help improve communication, understanding, balance & covering.

Coaching

For defenders;

  • Deny time & space for opponents.
  • Pressure first touch.
  • Close down space quickly.
  • Jockey opponents.
  • Force player wide – away from goal.
  • Tackle opponent correctly – not from behind, make contact with ball & ensure correct timing.
  • Don’t go to ground unless the ball is played to a team mate or out of play.
  • Balance & covering.
  • Defending as a unit.
  • When to mark – when to drop off.
  • Showing a player inside – outside.

For attackers;

  • Speed of play – run at the defenders.
  • Turns & skills.
  • Good close control of the ball.
  • Decision making.
  • Quality finishing.
  • Be confident & direct.
  • Follow in shots.

The boys automatically looked to combine with each other in the last game of Power Ball so the overall session developed well with the introduction of 3 v 1.  I had set up four 10 x 10 yard grids with a 5 yard safety area between each.  This offered a perfect 25 x 25 yard pitch for Power Ball then the 4 grids were set up to walk in to.  This is an important factor as coaches…prepare your set up wisely as players hate standing about!

3 V 1

3 V 1

Emphasis

Keep the ball, movement off the ball.

Set-Up

3 attackers play against 1 defender in a 10 x 10 yard grid.

Objectives

Attackers try to keep the ball from the defender for as long as possible. When attacker is dispossessed they replace the defender or have everyone take a go & play a set time.

Progressions

  1. Larger / smaller area depending on ability.
  2. Record set number of passes without interception & compare with other groups.

Coaching

  • Interpassing within a triangle shape.
  • First touch on the ball.
  • Support movement.
  • Quality passing.
  • Communication.

It is essential to develop & challenge the players while keeping a similar feel to each session.  I loved the idea of adding a triangle in the middle to challenge the players work rate & movement on & off the ball while making supporting runs for each other & playing that great through ball.

Movement ‘Off The Ball’ In A Passing & Support Game

Movement 'Off The Ball' In A Passing & Support Game

Emphasis

Focus on improving movement ‘off’ the ball.  Session to work on passing, movement off the ball, fitness & looking for the penetrating pass.

Set-Up

Play takes place in a 15 x 15 yard area with a 4 yard equilateral triangle in the middle made up of cones.  There are 5 players in the activity with one being a defender & the other four being on offense.

Objectives

The 4 players try to maintain possession while also looking to score goals by playing the ball through the triangle to their team mates.  The defender is NOT allowed inside the triangle so they must be constantly working their way around the triangle trying to cut of the penetrating passes.

What makes this such an interesting activity is the required movement off the ball by the offensive players.  On every pass they are moving in order to get into a better position to either make a penetrating pass or receive one.

Play this game for a 5 minute period with each player having a one minute turn in defence.  It gets the players working hard, thinking & competing while having fun trying to beat their team mates.  The player who gives up the fewest number of goals in defence wins.

There is a tendency in this game for the offensive players to get to close to the triangle which takes away the passing angles.  This is easy to correct & is a good learning opportunity for the players.

Progressions

  1. Change to 4 v 2, or 2 v 2 v 2.  Keep the overload initially until players get good at this before you move on.  Experiment with numbers increasing the difficulty of the session as you go.

Coaching

  • Creating space for yourself or for a team mate by movement off the ball.
  • Quality of passing (weight, accuracy & timing.)
  • Quality of control & first touch.
  • Effective maintenance of possession,
  • Communication.

The Tactical Bit…

Now we wanted to take what the players had worked on & develop it into a tactical game then some small sided games focusing on ball retention with good movement off the ball.  This then assisted in better 1 v 1′s, passing & all the other components we wanted like support, depth & penetration.

Target Passing & Possession Game

Target Passing & Possession Game

Emphasis

Passing & possession game to play to target player.

Set-Up

Play takes place inside a 35 x 35 yard area with a smaller 6 x 6 yard square in the centre.

Objectives

The 5 yellow players pass the ball & look to keep possession from the 3 red players.  The object is to pass the ball to the 2 yellow players inside the square.

The 3 defenders work as a unit to stop the attacking players passing to the smaller square.

Apart from the 2 players inside the square, no one is allowed to enter the smaller area.

Progressions

  1. If the defenders win the ball offer them a goal for set number of passes that they retain possession.
  2. Players inside the smaller square follow their pass out of the square & the player making the pass replaces them.
  3. Play 4 v 4 with both teams looking to play the ball into the smaller square to the target players.

Coaching

  • Keep possession – be patient.
  • Pass & move.
  • Good supporting angles.
  • Work rate & movement on / off the ball.
  • Communication.
  • For defenders look to press.
  • Intercept / block passes.
  • Anticipate.

The players really got the concept & played some terrific football.  With having the 6 small goals still placed around the outside we developed the game & set a challenge for each team.  As you can see from the video the orange team had to pass to their play maker & then he was able to accelerate out of the central area & combine to score in any 1 of the 6 goals.  If the yellow team gained possession they could attack & score in any of the goals.

I always want the players to take that focus into small sided games.  I also feel after 75 minutes of listening to us coaches it’s important for them to have some free time to simply play.  We will on occasion offer coaching points & communicate with players but generally we let the game be the teacher & offer them some free time.

The 4 Goal Game was great as it worked on all aspects & switching.  The Real Madrid game is one of my favourite small sided games along with the players!

Small Sided Games…

4 Goal Game Encouraging Switching Of Play & Width

4 Goal Game Encouraging Switching Of Play & Width

Emphasis

To improve width, support & switching of play.

Set-Up

20 x 30 yard pitch with 4 mini goals placed in each corner of each wing.

Have a supply of balls in each goal.

Objectives

Players are encouraged to switch the point of attack from one side of the pitch to the other.

Don’t force play, if one goal is well defended look to switch at speed & attack the other goal.

Progressions

  1. Adapt the size of the pitch to suit the ability of the group.
  2. Introduce a neutral player.

Coaching

Attacking

  • Relaxed on ball.
  • Quality dribbling, skills & turns.
  • Quality passing – correct weight & accuracy.  Vary passing, pass into space.
  • Angle of pass.
  • Attack at speed.
  • Don’t force – look to switch.
  • Use the width.
  • Good technique.
  • Work rate & movement on / off ball.
  • Decision making.
  • Communication & understanding.

Defending

  • Win the ball back as quickly as possible.
  • Work as unit – offer cover in the space behind.
  • Look to close the player down but don’t dive in.
  • Look to close the space & hunt in packs forcing the attacking team into errors.

The Real Madrid Game

The Real Madrid Game

Emphasis

Excellent game encouraging players to go wide.

Set-Up

40 x 25 yard pitch with 2 mini soccer goals.  4 v 4 is played with goalkeepers being an added option.

The 2 mini soccer goals are placed in the centre of the pitch, back to back.

Have a supply of balls in either goal & around the perimeter.

Objectives

The big difference with this game is that the goals are positioned in the centre of the pitch, back to back.

One team defends the goal that is facing south & score in the goal facing north.  The other team do the opposite.

You must have at least one player in each half at all times & you can’t kick the ball over the goals into the other half.  The ball must be played around the goals.

The game encourages players to take up wide positions to get around the goals.  Players naturally form into a diamond shape with two players going wide, one attacking & one playing out from the back.

The game also encourages playing from the back as the keeper can’t kick it long over the goals.  Also, with the unusual pitch lay out & goal positions it really makes the players think.

Progressions

  1. Introduce more players.

Coaching

  • React quickly when your team first attacks & look to get an early shot at goal.
  • Always follow in for rebounds.
  • Shooting technique.
  • Shape – width.
  • Diamond shape.
  • Play from the back.
  • Concentration, vision & insight.
  • Team work.
  • Understanding.
  • Communication.

Coaches, always adapt.  My diagrams above will show a certain amount of players but if you don’t have enough – adapt!  Adjust the size of the pitch too.  Insure your players enjoy the training but demand a lot of hard work from them at the same time.

Let me know how you get on if you use with your own team.  Always feel free to re-post & share as long as you link back to my blog.

Want more info?  You can access over 450 of my session plans by clicking here!  Follow me on Facebook, Twitter or You Tube

Transition

When you mention Barcelona everyone automatically thinks about the attractive football they play.  But have you thought about how good they are closing down, applying pressure to win the ball & how disciplined they are?  They all work as a unit to win the ball back in 6-7 seconds.  If they fail to do so they retreat into their set playing positions & ask the team to break them down often forcing them into errors.  Like a strategic army fighting a war Barcelona should receive as much credit to the discipline & quality they have without the ball.

Teams are at their most vulnerable in terms of losing the ball in the first few seconds after gaining possession.  It is this transition period that we are looking at, both in terms of winning the ball back quickly & then keeping it.

The key is the first 6 seconds after losing the ball.  This period is when the opposition have not yet switched from defensive to possession mode.

The other key period is those 6 seconds after you have won the ball back & need to maintain possession during that critical period when your team is changing shape & finding space (going wide & deep.)  This is what I focused my academy session on last Sunday & you can see that exactly from my session plans & videos below…especially if you watch the shape some of my players take automatically after winning the ball in the Braga transition game.

Warm up & technical bit…

After some dribbling, juggling & ball mastery the players moved into the following session…

Control

Control

Emphasis

Control & movement session.

Set-Up

Divide players in half.  Set a series of cones down, one down every 5 yards.

One player per cone with a ball.  Place the same amount of cones out facing the players 5 yards away.  The other half of the group line up at one end without a ball.

The other cones should be angled mid-way between the first row.

Bib groups off so it is easier for turnaround.

Objectives

One group serve while the other group control & return the ball.

Players go one by one, they move half way toward server, control & retreat backwards around cone & onto the next player.  Each player in line should be ready to go so that all players go in & out together.

After one circuit is complete players should reverse roles, i.e. first player in line changes with first server.  The server will then move to the starting cone.

Progressions

  1. Passing (one touch.)
  2. Volley (side on, then laces.)
  3. Heading.
  4. Chest / volley.
  5. Thigh / volley.
  6. Chest / thigh / volley.

Coaching

  • Good service.
  • First touch & return pass.
  • Quick movement & proper footwork.
  • Timed movement, so players go in & out together.
  • Communication.

The tactical bit…

This was a nice small sided game to get the boys disciplined to close down the ball well & hunt in packs.  They get used to forcing the opposition to make an error & communicate so if they can’t win the ball inside 6 seconds they retreat back into their shape asking the opposition to try & break them down.  Insure someone counts out aloud, ’1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6′ so they get used to the time & award a point for each success.

6 Second Transition Game

Watch the video highlights

6 Second Transition Game

Emphasis

Teams are at their most vulnerable in terms of losing the ball in the first few seconds after gaining possession.  It is this transition period that we are looking at, both in terms of winning the ball back quickly & then keeping it.

The key is the first 6 seconds after losing the ball.  This period is when the opposition have not yet switched from defensive to possession mode.

The other key period is those 6 seconds after you have won the ball back & need to maintain possession during that critical period when your team is changing shape & finding space (going wide & deep.)

Set-Up

40 x 25 yard pitch with 2 mini soccer goals.  You can play 4 v 4 – 6 v 6 depending on the amount of players you have available.

Have a supply of balls in either goal.  Play starts with the goalkeeper rolling it out.

Objectives

In this game when a team lose possession they have 6 seconds to win the ball back (the coach counts this out loud.)  If they win it back in that time they are awarded a point (a goal.)

The idea is to double team & work frantically to get the ball back in the allotted time frame.  If they fail to achieve this they must then go to the centre & make sure they close all the gaps & limit the space for the opposition.

If they do win the ball back within 6 seconds, if they are high up the pitch they must look for an immediate goal scoring opportunity.  If they are in a more crowded midfield area they must look for an ‘outman’ who can get hold of the ball & maintain possession through the crucial 6 second period.

Progressions

  1. Adapt amount of players & size of pitch.
  2. Award bonus points for set amount of passes / time opposition keep the ball.

Coaching

Trying to win possession;

  • Concentrate on closing down – ‘PRESS’.  When a player goes to win possession players around them close space – tuck in.  Don’t dive in!
  • Keep shape, apply pressure while others react & drop off but cover space in behind.
  • Communication.
  • Nearest player pressures the ball.
  • On the call, ‘PRESS’, all players should look to win the ball off the opposition.

In possession;

  • Quality passing – weight & accuracy.
  • Decision making.
  • Support play.
  • Work rate on / off ball.
  • Receive ball side on.
  • Head up.
  • Play simple pass.
  • Look for space.
  • Use of width & depth.

Develop to…

After the 6 second transition game this worked great.  The players really enjoyed the session & it encouraged good ball retention.  The team that won the ball & used it well were not only rewarded with bonus points but got to continue to attack!  Make poor decisions or lose the ball & you’re out the game!  Start off simple & don’t allow the team that lost the ball to win it back in their own half.  As the players get used to the concept develop so that teams can win the ball back before the other team leave the half.

Braga’s Concentration Of Transition

Watch the video highlights

Braga's Concentration of Transition

Emphasis

To win ball & counter attack at speed.

Set-Up

Play takes place on half a pitch with 2 full size goals & the pitch split in half by cones.

A supply of balls are placed in each goal with a keeper at either end.  Organise 3 teams of 6.  A team of white is in one half with 6 red v 6 yellow in the other half.

Objectives

Red attack yellow.  If yellow gain possession of the ball the red team stop while the yellow team attack the white team in the other half.

Teams continue to attack until they lose the ball.

The session is based around transition.

Progressions

  1. The team that loses possession can try to regain the ball before it leaves their half.

Coaching

Trying to win possession;

  • Concentrate on closing down – ‘PRESS’.  When a player goes to win possession players around them close space – tuck in.  Don’t dive in!
  • Keep shape, apply pressure while others react & drop off but cover space in behind.
  • Communication.
  • Nearest player pressures the ball.
  • On the call, ‘PRESS’, all players should look to win the ball off the opposition.
  • Recovery run.

In possession;

  • Break & attack at speed.
  • Quality passing – weight & accuracy.
  • Decision making.
  • Support play.
  • Work rate on / off ball.
  • Receive ball side on.
  • Head up.
  • Play simple pass or run with ball.
  • Look for space.
  • Use of width & depth.

Finish off with some free play & a cool down along with a debrief.

Coaches, always adapt.  My diagrams above will show a certain amount of players but if you don’t have enough – adapt!  Adjust the size of the pitch too.  Insure your players enjoy the training but demand a lot of hard work from them at the same time.

Let me know how you get on if you use with your own team.  Always feel free to re-post & share as long as you link back to my blog.

Want more info?  You can access over 450 of my session plans by clicking here!  Follow me on Facebook, Twitter or You Tube

Passing Time

Here is my session plan notes from my Academy session a few weeks ago.  The focus was on passing.  I started with basic technique to working in groups of 3 & developing into some free play & a tactical game focusing on the technical sessions.

Warm Up…

I like my warm ups to introduce the ball straight away.  My players know on arrival to get a ball & go for a dribble & have some fun.  You see the main use of a ball net for me is to carry the balls from my van to the pitch.  Unlike other ‘coaches’ I don’t use it to keep all my balls sitting in it as some sort of blackmail that if they listen & do laps for a warm up their reward will to be to open the bag & get a ball!

Barca Keepie Ups

Barca Keepie Ups

Emphasis

Fun game for players to ‘show off’ their juggling skills!

Set-Up

Split players into groups.  They make a circle & join hands.  One ball per group.  Mark out an area using cones where groups have to start from & finish.

Objectives

Groups must perform keepie ups & move from one side of the area to the other.  They can then race back to the starting point.

The ball must be kept off the ground while performing keepie ups between each other.

Progressions

  1. Rather than move from one side of the coaching area to the other have groups perform in the same area joining hands.  If a player mis controls they leave the circle.  Play until there is a winner.

Coaching

  • Be confident & comfortable on the ball.
  • Keep body relaxed.
  • Keep eye on the ball.
  • Good control over ball.
  • Communication.

Fun & increase the tempo…

After the fun juggling exercise I introduce another enjoyable session (although without a ball – shock!) that helps to get your players switched on & increase the tempo & concentration…try this & even join in for a bit of fun!

Chain Reaction

Chain Reaction

Emphasis

Fun warm up concentrating on speed of thought & reaction speed.

Set-Up

Vary size of grid but generally 20 x 20 yard grid is nice size.

Adapt depending on your squad size.  The diagram is based on a squad of 14.

Objectives

Players should inter link arms in groups of 3 to create chains.  In the diagram you can see 4 chains of players leaving two players free in the middle.

Player 1 tries to get on the end of a chain before player 2 catches them.  If player 1 links onto player C from the red chain then player 2 tries to catch player A from the reds before he reacts & then they try to join another chain.

Progressions

  1. Introduce a ball.

Coaching

  • Speed.
  • Reaction.
  • Communication.

The technical bit…

We started with the basics with this boring drill but is great to remind young players how to pass a ball.  For older players it’s nice to offer something simple for them to touch & pass the ball many times.

Passing / Receiving Through Targets

Passing / Receiving Through Targets

Emphasis

Passing accuracy.

Set-Up

One ball between two players.  Players should face each other 5-10 yards away from each other with a mini gate set up in the middle.  The gate should be approx a yard wide.

Objectives

X1 passes to X2 through the gate placed in between the players.  X2 controls the ball & passes it back through the gates to X1.  Players count how many passes go through the gates successfully in the time limit.

Progressions

  1. Condition passing foot.
  2. Players have to control with the left & play with right foot & vice versa.
  3. Reduce time.
  4. Increase the distance.
  5. If players miss a gate – there score returns to zero – keep count.

Coaching

  • Use inside of the foot.
  • Lock ankle square to the target.
  • On toes to receive a pass – move into line with the ball.
  • Communication – call partners name.
  • Try to be quick but maintain accuracy.
  • Help partner with straight passes.

Develop to…

This allows players freedom for passing combinations to having some fun with long range passing & being able to ‘ping’ a ball to one of their team mates.

Combination Play

Combination Play

Emphasis

Combination passing.

Set-Up

Players spread out over half a pitch.  1 ball between 3 players.

Objectives

Players begin with playing any combination of passes to each other & moving anywhere through the half of the field.

Progressions

  1. 1 player must now play a series of give-and-go with the other 2 players.
  2. Once a player has performed a give-and-go, 1 of the other players does a takeover (1 play dribbles the ball toward another player & then leaves the ball for the other player to take.)  This will alternate the passer each time.
  3. Players make the following combinations; short pass, long pass, take-over.
  4. Finish with players being given free roles & allowing to make / receive a pass from anyone.

Coaching

  • Communication & understanding.
  • Players should use 1 or 2 touches only & use both feet.
  • Speed of play.
  • Quality passing, weight & accuracy.

The Tactical bit…

We take what we have worked on from the technical sessions into a game scenario.

5 Goal Game

5 Goal Game

Emphasis

Possession & combination game focusing on changing the point of attack.

Set-Up

2 equal teams play on half a pitch.  5 mini goals / gates are set up within the area using poles or dome cones.

You can adapt the size of the area & the amount of mini goals set up to suit your group.

Objectives

Teams combine to score a point through dribbling through the gates, passing through the gates or score a bonus point by playing a 1-2 / give-&-go through the gates.

Players are not allowed to score back-to-back goals in the same gate.

Progressions

  1. Add more mini goals / gates.
  2. Colour code certain gates, i.e. gates on the wing to encourage good width.

Coaching

  • Good first touch.
  • Quality passing.
  • Movement & work rate on / off ball.
  • Don’t force it through gate, look to open up & switch.
  • Always receive ball side on.
  • Awareness.
  • Communication.

Free Play…

Allow time for your players to finish with a small sided game at the end of the session.

Cool Down…

Football Tennis

Football Tennis

Emphasis

Fun cool down concentrating on control & first touch.

Set-Up

6 v 6 on a 30 x 20 yard grid with tennis net in middle or series of 6ft spiked poles. Obviously change the numbers / grid size to suit your group.

 

Objectives

Fun game of footy tennis. One team serves the ball out of their hands from the back of the grid. The ball is allowed one bounce before it has to be returned to the opposition.

Players can combine with each other before returning to the other side of the grid.

Can use any part of the body apart from your hands.

First team to 10 wins.

Progressions

  1. Players must juggle the balls a certain amount of time before returning.
  2. Certain amount of players must touch / combine before returning the ball.

Coaching

  • First touch.
  • Control.
  • Keep eye on ball.
  • Keep body relaxed.
  • Work as team.
  • Communication.

Coaches, always adapt.  My diagrams above will show a certain amount of players but if you don’t have enough – adapt!  Adjust the size of the pitch too.  Insure your players enjoy the training but demand a lot of hard work from them at the same time.

Want more info?  You can access over 450 of my session plans by clicking here!  Follow me on Facebook, Twitter or You Tube

RIP Mini Soccer

‘You only need to use one foot as you’ll be a left midfielder’  Local coach to child aged 4.5

What happened Mini Soccer & the enjoyment in kids football?  I notice it with my own programme that toddlers finishing our Toddler Soccer classes are bypassing our Mini Soccer sessions so they can get straight into the competitive world of senior football aged 5.  Do parents not realise that children need to develop their football ability & understanding the same way as they need to progress in school?  My report will annoy a few ‘coaches’ & clubs but I want that.  I want a bloody reaction as I’ve never seen youth football so poor in over 25 years involved in football.

My philosophy. centered on the European approach, continues to be successful when developing children.  It seems to good to be true…maybe it seems so simple that I insure well planned sessions that focus on the child.  Maximum touches, plenty of 1 v 1′s developing to small sided games, encouraging freedom & creativity but offering education & development all in a fun environment.  Put simply we develop the child in the right way insuring a good technical basis along with game understanding that we adapt to suit the age & ability.

Make it a fun environment for children to learn in

I have over 15 years of coaching experience, I hold my UEFA A Licence & have a passion to keep on developing as a coach & passing that information on to my players & team of coaches.  It does come with a price.  My programme is not free.  I have invested thousands of pounds into my business & it is self funded through the parents & children that support me.  This makes me the big bad wolf.  Why?  I can’t access any funding.  I am a hated figure by many at the Irish Football Association, Sport NI, Council’s & many individuals.

People reading this outside Northern Ireland will not understand.  If you’re not that experienced & have a lack of knowledge, little equipment & poor training methods then the powers that be love you.  The secret is to not be fully qualified & plan poor sessions.  So if you turn up late with little equipment, have a bottle of water for your first aid kit & have kids stand in long lines & operate crap training you are in.  If you say you are doing it voluntary & then use the magic words in Northern Ireland which is, ‘cross-community’, bloody hell you have won the lottery!   You get loads of funding & support.  You also get reduced pitch fees.

If the powers that be concentrated as much on the poor training methods as they did on child protection we wouldn’t have anything to worry about.  Don’t get me wrong child protection is important but why then ignore the poor standards of coaching?  Although child protection does get ignored after a course & background check come back complete & successful…another box ticked but why so many individuals then get away with shouting, screaming & swearing on the touch line go unchallenged?  This is child abuse but we’ll cover that another time…that’s a blog piece on its own!

But try to operate a programme like mine & you are the anti Christ of youth football.  I mean charge for good football coaching?  You can’t do that when everyone else is giving up their time to do it voluntary.

Volunteers

Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for volunteers in football but it isn’t the head coach of a youth team.  Oh, & before everyone jumps on the bandwagon of saying that it wasn’t for these volunteer coaches so many kids wouldn’t get playing football…listen it depends what you actually want.  I want my child to play golf & the piano.  Do I want to send him to someone who is not qualified.  Let me make it simpler.  Here is what would happen if I sent my child to a parent that isn’t qualified to teach him how to play the piano like in football;

Does your child stand in a long line waiting a turn?

  • There is no music books so he can’t read music
  • He goes for a warm up by running around the piano – he’s not allowed to play it!
  • He stands in a line for ages while watching everyone else get to play one note…after waiting in a line for 2 minutes, or longer, he gets to play one note then goes to the back of the line again.
  • The piano teacher wants to show off so starts playing not allowing any child to get near it…one child goes to play a lovely chord so the teacher quickly closes the lid of the piano.
  • The child is hurt & needs first aid treatment so the teacher provides a bottle of water.
  • When the child tries a new chord or uses the peddle the teacher screams at him & tells him to play it safe…just use one hand & don’t try anything fancy.
  • This same teacher gets frustrated when his student can’t perform in Carnegie Hall on his own…he simply looks at him, always, for guidance as he can’t play on his own with freedom, creativity & confidence.
  • The unqualified parents son gets to play on the piano longer than your son.
  • Due to basic techniques not being taught the child can’t perform to the expected level.  The teacher will not except responsibility & instead looks at replacing him through his poor teaching methods with another student taught properly by another teacher.

Poor Coaching Methods

Okay so I am I’m going over the top but honestly I have seen such poor methods & yet little seems to being done to improve.  The unqualified coach who turns up with their initials emblazoned across their top & ‘COACH’ written on their back then shout Premier League instructions to their 5 year old players.  I’ve heard it all before;

  • Pick it up
  • Switch on
  • Play in the hole
  • Switch
  • Double up
  • Squeeze

Something which I created as Academy Director at Irish Premier League side, Lisburn Distillery, has turned into a monster.  When I brought talented children into the club at the age of 6 they had already 2 years good practice in my Toddler & Mini Soccer programme.  We continued their education concentrating on the technical side of their game, plenty of 1 v 1′s & small sided games.  This was all done in-house & really developed their games.  What other clubs have done by taking my successful blue print have created a monster.  Gone is the age appropriate training & in comes the 5, 6 & 7 aside ‘mini leagues’.  The competitiveness comes out of everyone & the development in the kids is forgot about.

It is clear to me that things will not improve short term so who needs to take the stance?  Parents!  Don’t rush getting your kid into a competitive club.  Let them develop & enjoy their football.  Let them learn the game away from the pressures of uneducated coaches & don’t fall into the trap of shouting parents screaming about their 5 year old who is going to be the next big thing.

I’ve seen it all before.  The potential in children can be lost along with their enthusiasm by idiot coaches & parents.  Support your child but in the right way.  Let them play.  It’s a common sight seeing parents & grandparents watching their young children take their first steps in football.  But over the years less parents watch their child as they get older because that Premiership dream gets further away for the parent.

In Northern Ireland we are light years behind any other nation.  Clubs wonder why talented kids they send over to England often come back.  Let’s hazard a guess of a combination of lack of training, crap training & poor youth development planning is maybe a factor.  Add in the other factor of just playing a game…especially when it’s on a massive pitch & kids hardly touch the ball & that may give you an answer.  Kids in England train minimum 3 times a week aged 9-13 & when they start to hit 14 they can be in up to 4 & 5 days per week.  In Northern Ireland we can’t train more than once a week or twice…do you know why?  Well the best excuses I often here is; we’ll burn them out & then the old funding issues.  Football is a business nowadays & until Northern Ireland & the Irish League wake up to this I really do think it will be RIP Irish League & Northern Ireland football.

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