Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category.

The Penetrating Pass

I’ve spent the first few weeks of the year focusing on passing and possession with one of my teams. They’ve picked up on the concepts very well but there have been times when have just kept possession for the sake of possession. Possession without the intent to play the penetrating pass will have your team knocking the ball around nicely but not going anywhere. And that’s what I started to see with my team.

To progress our possession passing to finding penetrating passes I started with this session.

092814-1 Continue reading ‘The Penetrating Pass’ »

Coaching Team Shape in the 4-2-3-1

One of the biggest challenges when coaching young players is getting them to stay in position. Time and again, you see them charging for the ball, before huddling around it in a clumsy effort to get a kick. Even senior players can succumb to over enthusiasm, creating huge gaps for the opposition to exploit and break through on goal.

Coaching Team Shape in the 4-2-3-1 provides a grid based training system that solves this problem. Firstly, it introduces your players to the key principles of keeping team shape before providing a progressive series of drills that improve their Continue reading ‘Coaching Team Shape in the 4-2-3-1’ »

Coaching the Principles of Soccer

When you coach young players, it can be difficult to know where to start. Some coaches will focus onlyon developing technique without teaching the key elements of the game. But this can just stunt a young player’s development. When they don’t understand the game’s core principles, they won’t know where they need to be and why so they can use their  technique to create chances to score. To solve this age old problem, two experts in youth coaching have created Coaching the Principles of Soccer – Attack and Defense. This book presents a structured approach to developing an understanding of how the game is played and to provide them with a solid base on which they can develop.


The drills in Coaching the Principles of Soccer – Attack and Defense will Continue reading ‘Coaching the Principles of Soccer’ »

Coaching Team Shape in the 3-3-1

How many times do you hear coaches yelling, “Spread out, create space!” And how often do you see the players look around and not move much?

This is a sign that the players don’t know where to go or how to move in relation to their team mates. This ability is not a natural one for most players. They need to be shown where to go to support their team mates while keeping proper spacing between themselves and their team mates.

A new book called, ‘Coaching Team Shape in the 3-3-1′ by Sean Pearson contains Continue reading ‘Coaching Team Shape in the 3-3-1’ »

Training 1 v 1 Skills at Home

The summer months are a great time to recharge and take a break from formal training and playing but that doesn’t mean that players can’t work on improving their individual skills in their own time.

Legendary-1v1-Moves-vid-sidexside Continue reading ‘Training 1 v 1 Skills at Home’ »

Conquering the Myths of Youth Soccer

I recently discovered a post by Vince Ganzberg, former Director of Education of Indiana Youth Soccer and current Grassroots Coaching Education Consultant for US Soccer, that got my attention. ‘Conquering the Myths of Youth Soccer’ highlights some of common youth soccer fallacies. I’m re-posting one of the myths he deals with here because it’s one that I hear repeated over and over. Too many people think that more matches equals more development. Ganzberg does an great job explaining why this is not necessarily the case. 

“Conquering the Myths of Youth Soccer”
Vince Ganzberg
Director of Education of Indiana Youth Soccer

This past summer I finally found some time to read a few books. One of the books that Continue reading ‘Conquering the Myths of Youth Soccer’ »

Don’t be in a Rush

Parents (and many coaches) are in such a rush to move their players from one stage of development to another. They want their kids to play on the highest level team, in the best division, against the best players regardless if they are actually ready for it. They view it as a status symbol as much for them as for their child.

This is most obvious during the tryout process each year. You have parents jockeying for the best position on the best team in the biggest club. What they should be doing is finding the RIGHT position on the RIGHT team in the RIGHT club with the RIGHT coach.

Kids are best served by playing with other children that are at the same developmental stage that they are. This will allow the coach to set the level of difficulty so that all players maximize their development. If your son or daughter is on a team with more advanced players they will be expected to play at that level. That might be unrealistic given their level of talent and experience. There’s nothing wrong with challenging players to reach high standards but if those challenges are unrealistic they will be frustrated demotivated. They will probably give up because they just aren’t able to reach the level of the other players.

It’s far better to find a team that will challenge the child at a level where they can achieve some success. That success drives their motivation to continue to try and creates an upward spiral of development.

You can also see this rush when it comes to having players move from one format to the next. It seems that everyone wants their kids to progress as quickly as possible from 4 v 4  to 6 v 6 to 8 v 8 and finally to 11 v 11. It’s as if getting there quicker will mean that they are better players, faster. Skipping through these important steps too quickly can hurt a player because it will make them too dependent on their athleticism to survive rather than being able to acquire the skills that  are nurtured at each stage of development.

I came across a German Youth Development Model on a Twitter post recently that I thought laid out a good framework for the stages of development that each player goes through from four to 30 years old. It gives the expectations and guidelines for each stage. I thought it was an interesting insight to the German system.

Youth Development Program

Please share your thoughts and comments in the section below.

Have a great day!


At Home Training Tools

There are a large number of ‘at home’ training devices on the market. I thought I would comb through them and give you what I think the best best option are.



This was one of the first at home training tools that I was familiar with. They were very popular in the 90’s and continue to be today.

SoccerEdge Bungee Soccer Trainer

Another old standard is the bungee cord attached to a ball. Less expensive and more portable but doesn’t give you the same satisfaction of hitting a target.

Kwik Kicker

This is just a hand-held version of the bungee cord and net. More portable than it’s larger cousin but much less versatile.

Kwick Kicker


Soccer Wave

This one popped up a number of years ago (with a pretty young looking Clint Dempsey as the pitch-man) and is a fairly unique concept. It’s advantage is that is generates a very consistent service that allows for a lot of repetitions without the need for a server.


Soccer Tennis is universally popular game but it’s often played with lines rather than an actual net. These very portable nets allow you to create an environment that is a lot more fun than just playing over a line.

There’s an overview of the most popular home training tools. Picking one of these up for the summer will help encourage kids to keep their foot on the ball all summer long.

List any other products that you like in the comments section below.

Have a great day!



A Letter to Parents

I have nephews that play competitive baseball and my sister told me about a letter a coach sent to the parents of  his youth baseball team before the season. She described how  it covered the different roles and responsibilities of the parents, coaches and players. The parallels to youth soccer were instantly obvious. She found a link to it on the web site of a Kansas City youth baseball organization run by a former professional baseball player, Kevin Seitzer.

As we come to the end of one year and approach tryouts for next year, I though that this letter might help other coaches communicate their expectations move effectively to the parents and players on their teams.
Continue reading ‘A Letter to Parents’ »

Training Creativity Out of Our Kids

Training skillful creative soccer players has been a passion of mine since I began coaching almost 25 years ago. There is nothing more enjoyable or rewarding than seeing young players gain confidence in their ability with the ball at their feet. I also look at this as an educational experience that extents beyond the soccer field. Nurturing kids in a environment where trial and error are rewarded and mistakes are not the end of the world produces people who are willing to try new things, take risks and innovate.

I’ve recently come a across a number of blogs and videos that discus how we are killing our kids creativity. They haven’t all been soccer related but I’ve seen connections back to coaching in many of the points that are made about traditional education.

This is the first video that came to my attention and started me thinking more about this topic.

I particularly like the story at 15:30. It’s a great lesson in the importance of finding what kids are good at and developing that rather than defining them by what they are not good at.

In coaching I believe that we kill creativity by placing too high a value on winning (in education they would say, ‘testing’). Yes, it’s a game, we want to win but how do we want to do it? We want our young players to win in a way that will help them win in the long term. Teaching them be confident on the ball, smart about where they pass it and creative in the ways they move will give them the best chance at a win-win (win today – win tomorrow).

This is a very difficult row to how in a culture where the end product is more important than the means used to achieve it. We take the zero-sum-game world we live in as adults and impose that on our children in their education (both physical and mental). Making the outcome more important than the effort means that there is nothing valuable in trying something that doesn’t work. It means that mistakes only hurt the team and should be avoided at all costs. Those costs include individual learning, developing and improving.

I know I’m not the first coach to say these things but I don’t think we can say them too often. If we coach long enough we will have the opportunity to see many players grow from young players through to their late teens. Their parents will only truly see this with their own children once. If we don’t guide the learning process for both players and parents we are missing a chance that won’t be repeated for that child.

Have a great day!