Archive for the ‘Practice’ Category.

Keeping Sessions Fresh During the Winter

With our harsh Midwest winters we are forced to do most of our training indoor. This usually means training in school gymnasiums. They vary in size but most are much smaller than the spaces we use outdoor and severely limit what training topics can be covered.

We do a lot of technical dribbling and passing work during this time because the players get a lot of touches, the sessions are easily scaled to the number of players at training and small spaces actually help to increase the pressure on the players. It requires them to keep closer control and be more aware of open space.

While these sessions are great for technical development, they are Continue reading ‘Keeping Sessions Fresh During the Winter’ »

Juggling Study

In a post from August of last year entitled, ‘Juggling – Developmentally Important or Just a Nice Trick’ I described a new juggling program we implemented with our club. We set juggling targets for each age group in an effort to give the players a goal to shoot for so that they would be motivated to work on juggling in their own time. I found the question discussed in the post to be a difficult one to answer. I hadn’t seen anything that quantified the benefits of juggling as they relate to balance, touch or ball control. 

I recently came across the study below which looked at Continue reading ‘Juggling Study’ »

Small-Sided Games in Training

Small-sided games are a great tool for player development. But as with any tool they must be used correctly to achieve the best results. It’s not enough to create two teams of eight and drop a ball. The more specifically you design the game, the more your players will benefit.

Most coaches will choose a game that focuses on the technical or tactical elements that were worked on earlier in the session but many miss the one factor that can be the difference between a session that translates into improved performance in the next match: the formation that the teams use during the small-sided game.

Playing small-sided games in the same formation that your team uses on game day means that the players will get used to the shape and angles of support of your formation and know more about what to expect from their teammates and the opponents.

Here’s an excerpt from, ‘Formation Based Soccer Training‘, that talks about this in more detail.

3 v 4 EXERCISES TO TRAIN THE 4-4-2 DIAMOND MIDFIELD, FLAT BACK, ZONAL DEFENDING

OBJECTIVE: HOLDING THE FLAT BACK SHAPE IN THE BACK, TRAINING ZONAL DEFENDING

Players and equipment: 7 players; square shaped grid large enough to play 3 v 4 to small, Pugg type nets; seven bibs, three one color and four a different color; two Pugg nets placed opposite each other at each end line.

Objective: To force the four players on one team (backs) when defending to stay compact playing flat and defending zonally; and to force the three players on the other team when playing offense to move the ball wide with centered balls to the vital area to create shots on goal.  This exercise is for the benefit of the defending players. Use four backs on one side. The other side should be the one attacking mid at the top of the diamond shaped midfield and the two front or the two outside midfielders and the one defensive mid at the bottom of the diamond. Remember, this is only a sample objective. The objective changes each time a training session theme changes but positional play remains the same.

Set up: Square shaped grid with small, Pugg type nets placed opposite each other at each end line large enough to play 3 v 4, two-way directional (about 40×40 yards). Two teams of three players on one team and four backs on the other team in different colored bibs playing against each other, no limit on touches. Place 3 soccer balls in each Pugg type net to be used to keep the game going after a shot on goal.

Exercise: Two teams in bibs, two-way directional competition to score to goal. Unlimited touches. Defending team must maintain flat shape. First team to reach three goals wins. Use multiple grids so all players are involved at one time.

Progression: From Pugg type nets to target players: Remove Pugg type nets and replace with a target player without a bib at each end line. The target player moves in the goal channel, behind the end line to stay open to collect a ball shot to him. The target player belongs to the team on his side of the grid. Rather than shooting to the Pugg type nets, each team now shoots or passes to the target on the opposite team who collects the ball and passes it back to a player on his team (the opposite team that passed the ball to him) to start play again. The pass made by the target player must be done quickly to keep the game moving.

To small cone goals: Leave the target player as is and add a cone about two yards to his right and another cone about two yards to his left creating a small goal area. The target player can move laterally within this small goal area to collect the ball. The purpose of this small goal is to give perspective to the shooter with an obstruction (the target) in goal. The shooter is to try to avoid the target rather than pass to the target as in the earlier progression. The target which could be a keeper using his hands or a field player not allowed to use his hands, tries to stop the shot on goal. He collects the ball and distributes to his team.

To full sized goals with no keeper: Replace the target and small cone goals with a full sized goal with no keeper. The full sized goals are at each end line.

To full sized goals with keepers: Add a keeper in each goal.

The square shaped grid marked with cones or disks remains the same for each of these 3 v 4 exercises.

Or, use four backs, flat, and two outside midfielders with a defensive mid at the bottom of triangle.

Next, restrict touches for the 3 attacking players to two touch.

Have a Great Day!

Tom

Training a Team with Two Goalkeepers

This is the first time I’ve coached a team with two players that think of themselves as full-time goalkeepers. We came to an understanding before the season began as to how playing time would be divided. We also decided which events they would have a chance to play on the field when they were not in goal. In other events they would play one half in goal and not play in the other half.

This has worked well in large part because everyone has known what to expect and there have been no surprises. I also think it has been very good for both goalkeepers because there is an element of competition that is usual among field players but doesn’t often happen with goalkeepers because a youth team usually only has one. They are aware of how the other goalkeeper is doing in a exercise or game and they push themselves to be as good or better. This is in spite of the fact that they  have had strictly even playing time up to this point. They know that there will come a point in the season, around the time of State Cup, that the goalkeeper that has proved themselves to be more consistent will get to play more in important games.

One of the keepers had never played on the field before this year and that opportunity has not only helped her with her foot skills but also taught her the game from the perspective of a defender. She has grown in confidence to the point where she looks like she belongs as much on the field as she does in goal.

Having two goalkeepers has helped the team in a number of ways as well. It gives us a sense of security because we know if one of the goalkeepers picks up an injury the other one is there to take her place instead of having to use a field player. Fortunately, both have remained healthy but in a long year of competition I would expect one to be out for a game or two sooner or later. The greater benefit has been in training. Having two goalkeepers makes for more realistic and competitive exercises and small-sided games. With only one keeper, the team she is on has a distinct advantage over the team that has to put a field players in goal. This also takes a developmental opportunity away from the field player because she is practicing something she would almost never do.

I’ve enjoyed incorporating specific sessions aimed at the goalkeepers into our practice routine. The book, ‘Team Training for the Goalkeeper‘ has been an excellent resource for me to find sessions that benefit the team but especially the keepers. Here are two small-sided games that we’ve used with a lot of success.

Small-sided game 3 – GK dealing with pullbacks
Organization: 30×60 / 5v5 w/ 4 targets (in 5×5 boxes), two goalkeepers and full goals / ball starts w/ GK1 / combines w/ team 1 and targets to score / goal must come from a ball pulled back from one of the two targets

Coaching Position: Behind the goal

GK Coaching Points
Angle play: prioritize front post
Stand up / be big
Low hand save with cutbacks across goal
Contingencies (rebounds)

Progression
Team can use targets but not required to score a goal

Variation
Can play the same game to emphasize the goalkeeper’s distribution decisions and techniques in counter attacks / goalkeeper’s first look is to the targets – develop mentality to exploit opponent’s with distribution patterns

Small-sided Game 4: GK dealing with crosses
Organization: 4v4 w/ goalkeepers and full goals / four wingers / 36×44 w/ 5 yard wide channels / Game starts with a free cross into GK1 / game begins with the condition that a goal must come directly from a cross

Coaching Position: Behind the goal or wide of the exercise to see starting positions, decision making and recovery movements

GK Coaching Points
Starting positions in relationship to the ball
Stay or go decision
Angles of approach
Catch/box decision
Contingencies

Progression
Crosses can only come from the defensive half (deep crosses) or attacking half

Do your teams usually have one goalkeeper or two? At what age do you think having two makes sense for the goalkeepers and the team?

Have a Great Day!

Tom