search
top

Session Notes

Here is my session notes from a recent academy session.  After the players warmed up with the ball through dribbling & juggling we transferred into some fun warm up activities.  This developed into a terrific passing, receiving & turning exercise that I received from Rene Meulensteen from Manchester United.

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.

This always offers great fun & laughs with the players & is a simple warm up session.  We then developed to increase the tempo & introduce the ball as early as possible with the session below…

Quick Feet

Quick Feet

Emphasis

Quick feet & reaction.

Set-Up

Place a number of random cones set out in the middle of the area.  Have 4 groups spaced around each side of the square about 10-15 yards away.

Objectives

On the coaches call, the first player from each group attempt to get across the coned area.

Players must side step the other players & use quick feet to avoid touching the cones on their way across.

Progressions

  1. Introduce a ball for each player.
  2. Set up goals in each corner.  After players dribble through the cones they finish with a strike at goal.
  3. You can introduce goalkeepers & defenders.  If on grass use poles rather than cones in the middle.

Coaching

  • Quick side stepping.
  • Reaction movement.
  • Good ball control.

We progressed to a great session that was created by Manchester United first team coach, Rene Meulensteen.  This is terrific for passing, receiving, turning, timing & understanding.  There is 2 great progressions to the below session that we will share at a later date.

Link Up Play – Receiving & Turning

Link Up Play - Receiving & Turning

Emphasis

Receiving, passing, turning & link up play.

Set-Up

Vary the size of the grid to suit your players & what you want from the session.  Larger grid offers further distance for passing but smaller sized grid offers less space for turning & keeps the session game realistic.

I’ve carried this session out in a 12 x 12 yard grid.  Great – especially when the session develops & 4 players have to turn with the ball & deliver it to another wall player!

Objectives

The outside red players pass to the red players inside the grid.  They return the pass then switch to the opposite player on the other side.  The yellow players carry out the same process.  Aim for 1 touch passing.

Session develops from red pass to red / yellow pass to yellow to red receives from yellow & yellow from red etc.

Timing of pass, look over shoulder, turn & receive is essential from all players so the session doesn’t break down!

Rotate & switch the players roles.

Progressions

  1. Players in the middle turn whilst receiving & play to the player on the opposite side of the grid.
  2. Players receive take the ball across then take the player on in 1 v 1 on the other side of the grid.

Coaching

  • Movement.
  • Accuracy.
  • Change of direction with / without ball.
  • Awareness & communication.
  • Timing.

The players then transferred to my Academy assistant for some tactical training through small sided games.

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

Athletic Bilbao’s Iraola skill against Manchester United – It’s Simply Ball Mastery & Repetition!

Manchester United have not only been knocked out of Europe but were outclassed by a classy Spanish side that everyone is talking about!  I’m not going to jump on the band wagon of talking about Llorente or Muniain but the defender, Iraola.  It was he who produced a moment of brilliance that made the United back line, including Rio Ferdinand, look like idiots.  Dare I say it but it looked like George Best dancing around players & sticking them on their backsides!

Now I am a massive United fan but I’ll be honest, I wanted to see that ball hit the back of the net as the skill was unbelievable!  To really know what I’m talking about here is the run.  Anybody reading my blog will know how critical I am of how some grassroots coaches have not evolved.  Over the years & many clubs visits across Europe I pick up a number of fresh ideas.  Funny enough I am going to use an example of how Iraola’s skill came about through a Manchester United coach…

Manchester United coach, Rene Meulensteen, originally arrived at the club to work as the skills coach.  Sir Alex Ferguson was that impressed with the Dutch man he got him to work with the first team players.  It was this role that he worked a lot with Cristiano Ronaldo.  The work he carried out with Ronaldo was practiced by all United Academy players.  Because the feet are the most distant part of the body from the brain, players need to learn, through repetition, to operate them without thinking, through instinct or improvisation.  I took this concept & tweaked to suit my players.  We call it the Ronaldo 7 – 7 different moves with the ball stationary.  This improves speed of mind & feet through repetition & ball mastery.

I carry this out at nearly all my classes as a warm up.  While many teams take their players for a warm up by doing laps around the pitch shouting out, ‘right hand down’, ‘left hand down’, ‘up & head the ball’.  I prefer to operate dribbling, tricks, turns, juggling the ball & the Ronaldo 7.  The advantage is that, through using the ‘Ronaldo 7′ in a warm up, it increases the body’s temperature & allows maximum touches of the ball.  In fact, the players could touch the ball several hundred times, much more beneficial than jogging around the side of a pitch!  It is simply improving the player’s touch & co-ordination.  I feature this all in my new book.

Ronaldo 7

Ronaldo 7

Emphasis

The ‘Ronaldo 7′ originated from the great Manchester United Coach, Rene Meulensteen, & of course Ronaldo.

The Dutch coach was brought to United to operate as the Skills coach.  He used Ronaldo & his squad number to demonstrate 7 different skills.

The idea is that your feet is the furthest thing away from your brain.  So through repetition you will operate things without thinking – instinct or to improvise.

The other bonus is though using the ‘Ronaldo 7′ in a warm up it increases the bodies temperature along with maximum touches of the ball.  In fact your players could touch the ball several hundred times – much more beneficial than jogging around the side of a pitch!  It is simply improving the players touch & co-ordination.

Set-Up

Easy – give the player a ball!

Objectives

For the player to carry out 7 different skills at a high tempo.  The player & ball should not move from their starting position.

The Ronaldo 7 is made up of the following moves;

  1. Toe Taps – Place the sole of the foot on top of the ball then look to alternate feet.  Switching from left foot to right foot.  Look to increase speed.
  2. Sides – Play the ball between left & right foot by passing with the inside of each foot.  Look to increase speed but keeping the ball under control at all times.
  3. Sticky Tape – Start with the sole of the right foot on top of the ball.  Look to roll your foot from one side of the ball to the other.  Try to get your foot as close to the ground as possible but don’t touch the ground or let go of the ball.  Depending what is most comfortable balance stationary on your left foot or hop.  Change feet after set time.
  4. Laces, front roll, drag back – Start of all right foot.  Use the laces to hit the ball in front of you, then drag back with the sole of your right foot.  Continue at speed.  Switch over to your left foot.  Then after set time look to mix.  Kick the ball with laces of your right foot, drag back with the sole of your left foot.  Kick out with the laces of your left foot, drag back with the sole of your right foot.  Repeat at speed.
  5. Step Over – Ball is stationary.  Right foot should step over the ball from the outside over, adjust footing then repeat with left foot.  Continue at speed.  Insure you don’t touch the ball or move from the spot.
  6. Ronaldo Scissors  – The famous Ronaldo skill!  Right foot should come around the inside of the ball then make a complete circle around it.  Repeat with the left foot.  Continue at speed, again don’t touch the ball & keep in the same area.
  7. Tap Dance – Fun co-ordination one to finish on.  Front part of each foot touches the ball.  Left foot, right foot, left foot twists around the back of right leg to touch the ball.  Right foot, left foot, right foot twists around the back of left leg to touch the ball.  Repeat at speed.

Progressions

  1. Time each skill.
  2. Add different skills.

Coaching

  • Touch.
  • Perfecting skills.
  • Speed.
  • Co-ordination.

So next time your players arrive for a warm up get them with the ball from the start & watch the motivation go into over drive!  If they ask why do they do it every session & why they should practice at home, well tell them to click on this video!

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

The State of the Game

People like to make it a crime in Northern Ireland that I charge for children to access my football coaching.  Never mind I have spent thousands of pounds to develop myself & undertake my coaching qualifications along with the sacrifice I have made in my life to get to where I am.  A meeting last week reminded me that the future of the local game & the development in our young players is in the hands of semi to non qualified volunteers.  In this life you get what you pay for…

When will attitudes change in youth football?

Lisburn Distillery

4 years ago I left my post as Academy Director at Irish Premier League side, Lisburn Distillery.  I spent 6 happy years at the club but left disappointed that I’d not been allowed to complete my project.  I don’t think people will ever understand the hurt that you receive as I put my life & soul into it.

At the same time you have to be true to yourself.  I left due to funding & a lack of contact time with the players.  This is such a regular occurrence in Northern Ireland.  I had my players in twice a week for training along with their match.  The majority of players also attended one of my development centres.  I wanted them in another night so we would see them 4-5 times per week but the club wanted them down to one night a week due to funding.  So we want to develop elite players in Northern Ireland by training them once a week?  Then they wanted to cut my expenses too.  This would have resulted in it costing me money to work for the club.

How can we produce better players unless we increase the contact time & give them access to the best youth coaches & development programme?  It’s a bit like the millions of pounds the Government waste into researching child obesity.  They come back with their findings that if children eat less & exercise more it will reduce their weight & increase their life expectancy.  Bloody hell, now there’s a plan…I can just imagine the length of time it took the Government to come back with those findings & the amount of public money it wasted.

I suppose it’s the same here when the powers that be looked at building a National Stadium somewhere & wasted millions of public money talking about it for nothing to happen on the proposed site.  The same way that many Council’s stop me from hiring a venue or charge me £100 per 45 minute slot to operate a Toddler or Mini Soccer centre.  It’s a load of crap.

So getting back to producing elite players.  If we offer the best youth coaches & increase the contact time we have with players that is going to create better players.  What a simple little concept but we have to make it difficult by finding excuses to not do it.

The Irish Premiership

I had a meeting with an Irish Premiership side recently.  On paper they want to re-structure their academy & to be fair they have a nice plan but it’s only on paper…implementation is the key.  I met with them, they seemed quite genuine when they said they were happy to receive an application from myself & highlighted my experience & qualifications.  After 15 minutes of talking we hit a dead end, ‘You do realise that this position is voluntary?’  Now at this point you would think they would try to offer some small weekly allowance to get you on board…you know something to help cover a little of your time or the very least petrol / mobile phone expense?  Or maybe suggest using their website, match day programme or signage at the stadium to promote my business as another leverage.  No!  Nothing!  Not a penny!

‘Well what is you do? ‘  I asked.  ‘I’m a painter & decorator’ came the reply.  ‘Ok, I’ve heard good things about you.  I’d like to bring you to my house & tell you what I want you to do to create a lovely looking house.  I’m going to give you some freedom as well for you to put your own identity on my house.  But just one thing, I have no money.  Sure your qualified at what you do & have invested years to get to where you are now but I’m sure you’ll do it for nothing as your passionate?’

Funny, I’m still waiting for my house to be decorated…I think I’m just going to have to bring some cowboy in.  He’ll do the job for nothing.  Although he’s not educated, qualified & not suitable to let free on my house but it will get the job done.  Does this story sound familiar?  Why as coaches do people expect us to do it for nothing?  Whose going to pay my bills & support my wife & 3 children?

Pay peanuts get monkeys…

So while clubs get anyone to come in & manage their youth teams the end result is the same.  I’ve never seen youth football so poor in Northern Ireland.  People will say it’s better, we have small sided game centres but for every one success story there will be 12  horror stories.  The 5 & 7-aside games are flawed.  They play on an adults 5-aside pitch with the massive wide goals.  Kids as young as 5 & 6 chase one ball from one end of the pitch to the other.  You’ll have some poor sod in goals (who wants to do nets at the age of 5 & 6??) while 8 others chase the ball into the corner while the other keeper stands doing nothing.  Then someone boots the ball to the other end & some idiot coach shouts, ‘WELL PLAYED, NOW GET OUT!’  At the same time you have about 30-50 parents, grand parents all huddled round the pitch screaming & shouting at these little kids.  What is worse is the clubs to provide a team put anyone in charge.  In most cases an un-qualified parent.  This is the worst thing a club can do as it’s the most important age group & should have the best coaches at this age group!  The other problem you have is teams meeting an hour before kick off.  Assuming some of these young children have 30-45 minutes to travel to get there & then home you will find that 2-3 hours are wasted travelling or standing about for 30 minutes of football…well that is if they get a full game!

Why not split the pitch in half & play left to right using small pugg goals & NO goalkeepers & play 4 v 4.  Then simply rotate games so that kids get more football & more variation as well as developing.  Better still, just organise it yourself internally like I did at Distillery!

I see so many of my little toddlers who have been with me from the age of 2 go from my Toddler Soccer to the Premier League…oh wait, sorry, I mean the little 5-aside league.  This is what is ruining the game & the fun for kids.  The people that brought this in to ‘develop’ the kids have created a monster.  When I was at Distillery I was questioned at bringing kids in at 6.  I was passionate that it was going to happen & pushed it through.  Although I managed it in a completely different way to how people are today.

Challenge your players but concentrate on the technical side of the game & always use the ball!

All the children received was good quality coaching.  Always with the ball.  Dribbling, tricks, keepie ups, 1 v 1′s & small sided games.  It was all controlled by me & all internal.  We didn’t play any opposition simply created internal 4 v 4 game days.  We educated the parents too.  It was perfect.  After a year we invited opposition in as long as they played to our rules of 4 v 4 & 5 v 5.  When we actually came round to playing in organised game centres with kids our own age we beat them 7, 8 & 9-0 & in some cases 19-0!  So here was the next problem.

We have become so structured it stops development…

My boys were learning nothing as they weren’t being challenged.  It certainly wasn’t doing the teams we played any good getting beat by that amount.  It proved my development programme worked.  I asked to play a year up.  Honestly, the reply I got back from the ‘Development Officer’ you’d think I was announcing World War III!  It wasn’t allowed to happen on the grounds of health & safety – BULL!  How did you develop when you were a kid?  On the streets playing against better, stronger & older kids so you always excelled at your own age.  I went ahead & put them up a year & told a wee white lie.  Haha, you normally have the sad coaches playing over aged players to gain an advantage – we were having to ‘cheat’ by playing under age players!

When we look back on it now we can see how it has developed those young players.  They are all playing at the so called ‘top’ clubs in Northern Ireland.  But even that I’ve done that many will argue against it & the overall enjoyment & development is suffering.

Parents you need to take a stand!

If you think the coach shouting at your kid is good, think again!  They are stopping your child from playing.  Let’s think about it.  Your son does something bad, you shout at them so you hope they don’t do it again?  Well, same on the football pitch.  Your child tries something & it doesn’t come off so a fully grown man shouts at him…the result?  The child won’t play with freedom & creativity…simply play in a comfort zone & won’t take risks.  We prefer to educate rather than shout.

I’ve raised the point already about travelling & standing about prior to the match.  Next time your child plays count how many times he touches the ball.  Why not take a stop watch & time how long the ball is at their feet?  You’ll be shocked!  Go ahead – do it!  Then do the same in training.  If you have a coach that does laps around the pitch I’d have to ask questions on how that is going to develop his technical ability at football.  My son goes to piano lessons, if the teacher made him run round the piano I’d take him out the class!

Does your coach operate line drills, doggy style runs or lectures?  Or if you son gets hurt does your coach run on to the pitch with a bottle of water!!!  It needs to change.  Start off with the 3 L’s – get away from; laps, lines & lectures!  In Northern Ireland coaches that say, ‘We’ll burn the kids out’ actually mean they can’t be bothered planning sessions.  It’s games that do the damage.  A match on a Saturday, a match for the school, a match for a County & a match in training!  Kids can train every day it it is all based around the technical side of the game.

A scout informed me that 98% of Northern Ireland kids return home from pro clubs across the water.  People talk about 1% of kids making it through the academy system.  It’s such a small percentage of children that actually make it as a professional.  But we’re not going to get any kids playing across the water in the near future unless we increase the level of coaching here & the amount of contact time we have with our kids!

Don’t be a yes man & stick to your beliefs…

There is a small group of coaches who I have met that think similar to me.  The powers that be hate them.  Look at Paul Cooper from Give Us Back Our Game.  They stopped his funding & wanted to get rid of him.  What a gent.  The stuff that Brooking is coming out with at the FA now is what Paul was saying years ago.  Paul was part of the studies at Manchester University with his business partner Rick Fenalgio that studied Manchester United’s 4 v 4 study.  Less kids on the pitch = more touches, more dribbles, more passes, more tricks, more shots, more goals = higher technical ability & development of a player.  The Dutch have been doing this for years.

Only last week was one of my coaches met by 2 coaches from the Irish Football Association.  ‘You work for Tim Wareing?  We (the Irish Football Association) don’t like him.’

My coach asked them had they seen me coach, ‘No…just what we heard.’  You see you have the robots.  They can’t think for themselves & just follow the crowd.  Jealousy is a wonderful thing.  They talk about you as they fear you.  This is what holds back football in the UK.  We have coaches that are only out for themselves.  The fear of someone knowing more than them stops them from asking questions.  We have far too many clubs.  Then each club has 10 mini clubs within them as no one wants to support each other.

Commission…

I believe coaches should be paid on commission (as should pro players!)  I run my own business so I need to insure the coaching is carried out to a high standard as well as the running of my business.  This is how we are all paid.  I don’t get Government grants or tax payers money!  Whereas we have ‘Development Coaches’, ‘County Coaches’, etc. etc. in the IFA / FA.  Now before my little friend pipes up.  I am not speaking about everyone.  I know some great coaches that work in the IFA / FA.  But you can bet your house on it that there is many ‘jobs for the boys’.  At the minute they all get paid the agreed amount regardless of performance.  Change that to a commission based approach & the standard will improve throughout!  Imagine if clubs followed the same route & paid to have the best youth coaches.  What would it do to our local & national game?

Can we evolve?  Our cultural is mixed.  It’s getting a balance.  Pay for coaches to work with the best but look for passionate coaches that want to improve & have an open mind.  I have great coaches that work for me.  Pro Licence, UEFA A & B Licence coaches & a number of great young coaches.  With a team of 37 coaches I find them to be generally reliable & turn up for sessions as they are paid.  I operate free staff training every 6 weeks…the numbers are generally about 10-12 attending!  We don’t have that cultural that we want to learn.

Professional Level

You want your child to ride a horse, play an instrument, learn how to swim or play golf you demand an expert.  Why not in football?  1-2 hours poor coaching is not enough.  We need to change & fast.  If not we’re going to slide down the FIFA rankings even more.  87th position in the rankings?  I’ve still not got over us not being able to beat a country that has more sheep than people!  I’m fed up of the excuses that we are a small nation…look at some of the nations that are above us; Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago & the likes of Iraq…

Let’s embrace change & come out the dark ages.  When a junior referee can make £100 on a Saturday while a coach makes nothing we have problems…but we’re a small country who can’t train excellence in youth more than 4 times a week because of ‘burn out’ & finance…this is bull…we waste over £5 million of tax payers money on 15 leisure centres in Belfast a year…yes you read that right…give me £20k a year & a leisure centre & I’ll train kids 4 times a week.  But that wouldn’t work as people don’t work together in NI – just slate them unless you’re a yes man that keeps doing the same crap that was going on 25 years ago.  1986 is a distant memory.

top