search
top

Coach Tim’s Academy Session

I thought I would share my own Academy session that I performed with my squad last Sunday.  We had a squad of 14 boys aged 11-13 that reported for the session.  Typical Belfast weather – rain & high winds!  With this in mind I wanted a session that would always involve the players and that was easy to manage in terms of setting up and developing.

As soon as my players arrive a ball is at their feet

I always arrive 20 minutes before the players so I can set my coaching area up and everything runs smoothly.  On Sunday I set up 4 grids measuring 15 x 15 yards with a 5 x 5 yard safety area between them.  This offered me an overall 35 x 35 yard coaching area which is what we would develop to.  One session to the next only involved lifting a few cones – no waiting about for the players!  Inside each grid I set up a 4 x 4 yard triangle.

On arrival my players know to get a ball and go for a light dribble in one of the allocated grids.  This is their own time as I encourage them to arrive early, get a ball, go for a dribble and have a chat with their team mates – always giving each other a high-5 on arrival.  I then welcome the group, give all the boys a high-5 and ask how they got on in their matches for their club sides.  I then give them a quick overview to the session ahead.  Players then focus and get to work.  They continue the warm up through a series of dribbling, skills, turns & keepie ups.  I like to run through the ‘Ronaldo 7′ and then organise them to juggle the ball in groups.

By the time my warm up is complete each boy will have touched the ball several hundred times.  Yet how many youth set ups still keep the ball locked away and have their players run laps around a pitch!  There is time allowed for players to stretch & take on fluids.  We then run through our Speed, Agility & Quickness routine.  We use a series of movements through the speed ladder, hurdles and hoops.  Players again take a drink before returning for the first part of our technical session.  I always like to use the ball and will always concentrate on possession games setting goals and keeping game realistic.

You will see from my first game we use the grids wisely.  I ended up having one grid spare.  In two other grids we had 4 v 1 and in the other grid we had 3 v 1.  This was intresting as I rotated so that all groups had the opportunity to try 3 v 1 as it was more challenging.  I always like to insure success in all my sessions but then like to challenge so feel free to make the triangle smaller (i did) or change it from 4 v 1 to 3 v 1 or maybe 4 v 2?  Have fun, this is a great session to develop movement and work rate off the ball along with passing and supporting runs to passing and touch.

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.
I then developed the session.  As I had set up 4 grids with the safty area of 5 yards between each grid it left a 5 x 5 yard box in the centre and a 35 x 35 yard area to work in.  I simply had to lift the 3 cones from the triangle in each grid and we could move straight on to this session.  This offered a smooth transition with little to no standing about for the players (another pet hate of mine!)
You’ll see from my session plan below that this game is 5 v 3 with the 5 in possession trying to play to the 2 target players in the box.  With the 4 players I had over I had them play as wall players.  they played with the team in possession.  If the defenders won the ball the wall players played with them.  For 5 passes they were rewarded with 1 goal, this offers incentives to both the defenders as well as the attackers.  I rotated the players so everyone played in each role.  Remember the target players inside the box are replaced by the player who plays the ball to them.  My players carried this out great!

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.
I then finished the session off with a 7 v 7 game into full size goals on a slightly smaller half a pitch.  I simply asked them to get a basic shape and enjoy themselves.  Only changes I add from a ‘normal game’ is keeper must roll out and play from the back.  Throw in’s are replaced with pass in’s or dribble in’s.
I do think it is important that players can have some freedom to play without continual instructions and ‘orders’ from the coach.  We then finished off with a cool down.
Let me know what you think of my session and if you try out the sessions how you and your team got on with them and what variations (if any) you made.  Remember you can have full access to all my session plans by clicking here!

U12 Training Session

I took a session for a local U12 side last week.  I always prefer my sessions to run smoothly so players aren’t standing about but also that each session is based around the same theme.  Last Thursday was an awful night.  Strong winds and rain so essential that the players were kept busy and always moving.  Likewise, having your coaching area set up so players can move from one thing to the next without you having to have them stand about and take time to re-set your coaching area.  I like to see all players with a ball during the warm up dribbling, performing skills and juggling the ball.

My warm up started with all players in a 10 x 10 yard grid with a ball.  I made a further 4 different coloured 10 x 10 grids in either corner.  This concept is taken from my great Dutch friend, Bert-Jan Heijmans.  All players remained in the centre grid dribbling the ball, perfoming skills & juggling the ball.  I then performed the ‘Ronaldo 7′ which is 7 different skills performed while the ball is stationary.  The idea is that your feet is furthest away from your brain so through repetition will lead to improvement on speed, reaction and the idea of performing skills on the pitch ‘without thinking about it’ or if you prefer, instinct.

I then worked on a spatial awareness game.  I had 16 players in the centre zone so I wanted them to react on my whistle and dribble at speed to either of the 4 outside grids.  If done correctly we would have 4 players in each grid.  The players had great success from this.  You can also operate a number of  ‘mini games’ within each grid like ’3 v 1′ or ‘Ball Hunter’.

My diagram below doesn’t exactly show what I have explained as it is another variation on my session.  If you add another grid in the middle and obviously base on the idea that the players will be split equally amongst the grids.

Dribbling Grid Game

Dribbling Grid Game

Emphasis

Dribbling, spatial awareness & listening skills game.

Set-Up

Great game if you are on your own as a coach or waiting for another group to finish before your allocated time meaning no set up time or little preparation.

Start the session inside a 10 x 10 yard grid using all the same colour of cones (although in my diagram you can’t see this the grid should appear in the middle with the other 4 grids on the outside.) All players have a ball & dribble around. While the players are doing that set up another 10 x 10 yard grid alongside it, but leaving a 10 yard safety area. This time use a different colour of cones.

Encourage players to look for space & perform skills. Again leave another 10 yard safety area & set up a third 10 x 10 yard area using another colour but keeping inside a ‘square’ shape. Finally set up a forth 10 x 10 yard area using a forth different colour of cones.

Objectives

With four different coloured 10 x 10 yard areas set up on the outside players should dribble within the centre grid.  On the coaches call players should dribble at speed to the outside grids.  I worked with 16 players so ideally there should be 4 players in each grid (unlike my diagram!)  On the next call players return to the centre grid.

This is an excellent session for players to improve their decision making & getting their head up.

Progressions

  1. Play mini games when players are in the outside grids like ’3 v 1′ & ‘Ball Hunter’.

Coaching

  • Dribbling skills.
  • Tricks.
  • Head up.
  • Look for space.
  • Change of direction / speed.
  • Awareness.
  • Listening skills.

Set up well so players don't stand about

It is essential to plan and set your session up so that it runs smoothly and players aren’t standing about getting cold, distracted & bored!
I wanted to work on 1 v 1′s and continue the theme of dribbling, skills, turns and work at a high tempo.  My next session was easily combined into the set up from the first part of my session.
With having 4 grids set up on the outside all I had to do at the start of the session was leave a couple of extra cones down in each grid for the mini goals.
Players then worked in their groups of 4, playing 1 v 1.  This in turn kept the high tempo but also allowed enough recovery for each player.
Having mini goals on either side of the grid insures players can change direction to beat & fool the defender.  Although if the defender should gain possession they then become the attacker.
Rotate players so that everyone has an opportunity to play both as an attacker and a defender.  I named the session after PSV as I viewed it at their Academy!

PSV 1 V 1

PSV 1 v 1

Emphasis

1 v 1 duel, beat the defender with a move at speed.

This is a simple session that I viewed at the PSV training ground.  The Academy played this at a high tempo.

Don’t have long lines although work in groups of 4-5 players per grid so each player receives a recovery period.

Set-Up

Set up 10 x 10 yard grids with a safety area between each one.

Players should position themselves at the top of the grid in the centre facing the defender at the bottom of the grid.

A mini goal should be placed on either side of the grid.

Objectives

Defender starts with the ball (red player).  They make a firm pass to the attacker (yellow player).

The attacker should meet the ball & both players come to the middle of the grid.  The attacker performs a skill & attacks one of the goals while the defender applies pressure.

Encourage the attacker to be brave, perform a skill & play at speed.  They should also be patient & if they cannot score in one goal look to switch & attack the other goal.

Progressions

  1. Increase / decrease area depending on age & group ability.
  2. Change roles so each player has an opportunity of being a defender & an attacker.
  3. If defender wins ball they can attack either goal.

Coaching

For attackers;

  • Accurate driven pass.
  • Good close ball control.
  • Assertiv, determined dribbling in tight space.
  • Use of both feet.
  • Change of direction.
  • Skills & turns.
  • Fakes.
  • Be direct.
  • Speed.
  • Be brave.

For defenders;

  • Deny time & space for opponents.
  • Pressure first touch.
  • Close down space quickly.
  • Jockey opponents.
  • Force player wide – away from gate.
  • Tackle opponent correctly – not from behind, make contact with ball & ensure correct timing.
  • Don’t go to ground unless the ball is played out of play.
  • Showing a player inside – outside.
I am always keen to take what is learnt in the technical session into a tactical themed game.  I thought the 5 goal game was perfect as it encourages spatial awareness with changing the point of attack.  The scoring system encourages 1 v 1 and dribbling as a player dribbling through the gates receives a goal.  It also combines team play & passing.  If a player passes to a team mate they receive 2 goals and to encourage movement and support the team is awarded a bonus goal for a 1-2.
I had 16 players so I played 5 v 5 + a neutral player (i.e. they play with the team in possession making it 6 v 5).  To keep all players active and not to over crowd the pitch I played another team of 5 as wall players.  They were spread around the outside of the pitch and were restricted to 2 touches and couldn’t be tackled but had to play at speed.  They could move up & down but not allowed to enter the playing area.  I played roughly 5 minutes a match with every team taking a turn as wall players.

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.
I finished with small sided games with no restrictions (again I rotated the teams but the resting team played as wall players to stay active).  Apart from some encouragement, praise and lighted heartedness let the kids play – they listen to us coaches enough!
Let me have your thoughts on my session plan and if you have tried it.  Great to have feedback!  One thing you will see is that my players always have a ball at their feet.  With the session being set up so well players did not get cold or frustrated.  They were kept moving during the entire session and I kept my coaching points short and to the point.  They were that busy enjoying the session the gale force winds and rain were forgotten about!

top