Archive for the ‘General Coaching’ Category.

Fitness and Skills Testing

In next week’s podcast on I discuss the preseason training routine that I perscribe for my players. One way to ensure that they actually DO the preparation is to test them at the start of the season. I also test them at the end of the season.

I use the testing put together by There are six tests; one fitness test, three skills tests and two speed tests.

I’ve found these to be a great indicator of how ready my players are to train. The test we do at the end of the season also tell me if what we have done has improved the players technically and physically. There is only so much we can do to improve speed, you either have it or you don’t but one of the Continue reading ‘Fitness and Skills Testing’ »

1 v 1 to 3 v 3 Continuous Game

I like using continuous games because they are high energy, engage the players and create a very competitive environment. If you keep score then the game can replicate the pressure of the actual game.


This game is best played with at least six players on each team. To start the coach passes a ball into the middle and Continue reading ‘1 v 1 to 3 v 3 Continuous Game’ »

Recovering After a Tournament Weekend

The end of the year includes the most important tournaments of the year. We played one over Memorial Day weekend and our State Cup competition begins on the following Friday. I usually plan to train for an hour one each of the days in between the tournament and State Cup.

The first session is purely for recovery. I want the players to get together get warmed up and go through a couple of easy, non contact exercises and fun games to get players loose and rejuvenated after having played four games over the long weekend. The tournament was an Continue reading ‘Recovering After a Tournament Weekend’ »

Gaining Possession

This is a training session that I’ve often used to work receiving. I’ll return to it once a month or so. Sometimes I’ll repeat the session once a week (with variations) for three weeks to focus the players on these skills.

I begin with a juggling warm-up. It begins with free juggling and progresses to include some form of limitation depending on the level of the players.


  • One juggle and catch – for players having trouble with the technique of juggling
  • Progressive Juggling – One and catch, two and catch, three and catch, etc.
  • Right Foot, Left Foot continuous pattern


Throw, Receive and Dribble Away
The players each have a ball in their hands. They jog around the area, throw the ball slightly Continue reading ‘Gaining Possession’ »

Train Midfielders and Defenders to Pass to Feet or Space

With only two practices per week with my teams I’ve found that it works best to focus on a technical topic (Running with the Ball, Dribbling, Control, Shooting) during our first practice of the week and then Passing and Possession progressing to a small-sided game during the second session. We also do one shooting exercise toward the end of practice just to keep a focus on that before the weekend.

I’m always looking for variations on possessions games to focus on different aspects of possession and to keep the practice fresh. I was reminded of one recently when I was looking through one of our best selling books, ‘Players’ Roles and Responsibilities in Systems of Play‘. By creating target areas in each corner Continue reading ‘Train Midfielders and Defenders to Pass to Feet or Space’ »

Different Games Teach Different Skills

Each winter soccer teams in the cold weather states are forced inside to continue to train and play. Some are fortunate enough to continue playing the game as they do outdoor. Facilities like Total Soccer in Wixom, MI provide 11 v 11 and 8 v 8 fields indoors.

These facilities are rare around the United States so most teams are left with one or two options: Futsal or Indoor Soccer (also known as Arena Soccer). The two formats are very different

Futsal is FIFA’s recognized form of soccer indoors. It is played all over the world is the only form of soccer indoors that offers a World Cup. Futsal is often played on a basketball sized surface with goals that are 3 meters wide by 2 meters tall. Each team plays with four field players and a goalkeeper. The Futsal ball is a, ‘low bounce’ ball that is one size smaller than the ball each age group plays with outdoor. The rules are almost the same as outdoor soccer with a few exception.

Arena Soccer is played on a field most similar to a Continue reading ‘Different Games Teach Different Skills’ »

Breaking Down the Technique of Shooting

A player’s shooting technique is a bit like a golfer’s swing; there is a generally accepted way to shoot a soccer ball but there are also individual differences that can exist without a negative effect on the final product.

Even though there we can accept individual difference, I think it’s important to give young players a template to work from. This session is designed to give a player the key points so that they check for breakdowns in these areas if they are not hitting the ball with the kind of power or accuracy they are looking for.

Volleys in Pairs


I start with volleys and focus on Continue reading ‘Breaking Down the Technique of Shooting’ »

Dynamic and Active Warm Up Variations

A good pregame warm-up should get a team physically and mentally prepared to play from the first whistle. You can look for some patterns that may point to a need to change how your team warms up before matches.

Does your team often have a slow start or go down a goal early?

Does your team always play better in the second half?

If you answer yes to these question then the issue may Continue reading ‘Dynamic and Active Warm Up Variations’ »

Teaching Pressing to Increase Effort Level

Occasionally a team will play a game when the effort level is just not there. There can be many reasons (or excuses) for it but when this happens with one of my teams I use it as an opportunity to explain that each player is responsible for their level of effort. When they go on the field it should not just be to make up the numbers but to make a difference in the game.

The next week I’ll often plan one of our sessions around activities that put the players in the position to give a maximum effort. This can push players to levels that they didn’t think they were capable of. It also helps to reinforce the idea that their effort level is up to them; they can play as hard as they choose.

There are many different exercises that can accomplish this goal. The ones below are taken from a session I recently did with one teams after a game where I new they could have been more committed than they were.



The diamond is only 10 yards across. The players move back and forth on their side of the diamond. We used four of these so that all 16 of the players were moving at the same time.


  • Shuffle there, shuffle back
  • Shuffle there, run back
  • Run there, shuffle back
  • Run there, run back

These progressions were interspersed with stretching and activation movements.


Next the players run to the middle and shuffle to the right. They do this in unison so that they move in and out together. Next run in and shuffle left.


One player has a ball in their hands and everyone follows their lead. The player with the ball can choose to shuffle right or left and the other three players must follow their lead.



Working on pressing is a great environment to talk about effort. The effort to focus and anticipate as well as the physical effort to pressure the player on the ball.

The key is that the player across from the ball is the one to press it. The player with the ball can be instructed to pass to the right and run left or the other way around.


Allow the player with the ball to decide where to pass based on which side the defender tries to take away.


1 v 1 Diagonal Goals

This is a fast paced, high energy game that requires effort and focus.

The attacker must get past the flags before they can score. Then they must immediately turn and defend the attacker from the other team.


Transitional Possession

I usually play this game to work on possession but by changing what earn the team a point, you can change the focus of the players.

When one team has possession the other team sends two defenders to win the ball. Each time the attacking team makes five passes the defending team can send another defender. If the attacking team makes 15 passes then they pass the ball across the half line to the defending team.

The defending team earns points based on how quickly they win the ball. If the first two defenders win it or force the attackers to lose it out of bounds then the defending team earns five points. If they win it with three defenders then they receive three points. If they win it with four defenders they one receive one point.

This point system creates the urgency for them to win the ball as soon as possible. To keep it simple I call out the score by saying, ‘The yellow team is up by three.’ Then, ‘The black team is up by two.’ Keeping the score this way is easier for me and keeps the players motivated because they know the score.


For the scrimmage we start by having each player match up with someone on the other team. When someone scores, whoever was marking them must leave the field and run all the way around it before rejoining the game. The team must play down one player until their teammate finishes their run.

This creates a very combative and competitive environment. I emphasis to the players that whoever works the hardest win usually be the one to win the 1 v 1 matchups and that will make a difference to how successful their team is.

The losing team puts the equipment away.

How do you create an environment within your team that fosters individual effort to support the team?

Have a great day!



Dutch Up, Back and Through to Finish

Some  coaches may consider pattern play to be limiting. They say, ‘I don’t want my players to be robots that just pass and move in the patterns that I’ve taught them.’ I can understand this and I agree with it but where are our players supposed to get their creative ideas from?

We want our players to combine and be creative in attack but our challenge in the United States is that most of our players don’t watch the being played at the highest level every week. They don’t see the intricate patterns and movement of Barcelona  or the timing and runs of Manchester United’s Sergio Aguero’s. When it comes time for them to play they don’t have pictures or patterns to emulate. If we want our players to be creative we have to give them a framework to start with.


Coaching Soccer Champions by Terry Michler, has some great patterns that build off of very simple foundations. You can add layers to them as the player become more comfortable with the basic set up. Here are a few examples:


Up – back – deep – and go to goal in a half field area or less
This is the first of 12 progressions with the same starting action.
The back plays up to the midfielder and gets the ball back. He then plays a deep ball to the striker who dribbles to goal and shoots.

Coaching Points

  • Good sequence between the back and midfielder with crisp passing.
  • The midfielder should check and come back to the ball and lay it off to the back — in 1 touch.
  • The back then plays deep to the striker who receives ball and advances it to goal for a shot. Strikers should focus on scoring with every shot !


Now when the striker advances to goal, the player must avoid the obstacle and then finish with goal-scoring attempt.


Up – back – deep – give and go – and then shoot

The midfielder, after laying the ball off to the back, will turn and play a give and go with the striker.  The striker should shoot first time.  Encourage quick, crisp passes in the give and go sequence and the midfielder should be close to the striker.



Place 1 obstacle for the give and go sequence and the other for the striker before shooting.  This will more closely resemble actual game play.  Ball control is essential as the play is now at speed and around fixed obstacles.


Here’s the last pattern in the progression just to give you an idea of how the complexity can be increased as the players become familiar with the patterns.

Do you agree with me that teach patterns gives the players ideas and enhances creativity or do you feel that we are better off allowing the players to find combinations of their own?

Have a great day!