Archive for the ‘Soccer Drills’ Category.

W Passing Pattern

The use of shapes in passing patterns is very common. Most coaches will be familiar with diamond and square passing patterns. The Dutch are fond of ‘Y’ passing patterns. A pattern that I had not run across before, but transfers beautifully to game situations, is the ‘W’ pattern. I found it in The Complete Soccer Coaching Guide. This book by Chris Apple includes 76 complete training sessions. The one I’ve included below is a great example of the innovative coaching described in this book.




 W Passing
Groups of eight or more players, each pass is 12-15 yards away. Pass and follow, the last player receives and speed dribbles back to where the pattern started. Each player should be playing two touch, opening up with their first touch and using the same foot to play the pass.


Progression 1
A plays B; B uses 2 touches to open up and play C and then supports C; C Lays off to B; B clips a ball in the air to E; E settles one touch for D who is close in support; D plays a 1-2 to return ball to E who speed dribbles to A.


 Progression 2
A plays B; B used 2 touches to open up and play C; C half turns and plays E; E opens up and plays and 1-2 with D; E receives the 1-2 and speed dribbles Back to line A.

Small-Sided Possession
8 v 4 in a 25×20 yard playing space.
The team with eight plays one touch, the team with four have unlimited touches when they win it.
Play two min games counting passes; each person gets one chance being the 4-player team and two being on the 8-player team.
Coaching Focus is on the 8 players and their movement.

11 v 11 Tactical Work
We work on our 11 man shape playing vs a 3-5-2. Looking to exploit their outside backs and the space in the corners. Defensively making sure our weak side WMF and a FW tuck so that we are not out manned in the Center of Midfield.

Do you have other shapes that you use to in passing combinations?

Have a great day!


Training 2 v 1 Situations

Playing indoor soccer or Futsal during the winter provides a great opportunity to focus on teaching players how to break down defenses in 2 v 1 situations. This is an important tactical situation for players to understand and be familiar with because so much of the game can be broken down to 1 v 1 and 2 v 1 situations.

A book by David Goldstein, 2 v 1 Attacking Drills and Exercises , provides a tremendous amount of insight into the technical and tactical elements of combination play against one defender. It is very comprehensive; starting with basic principles and patterns before moving on to exercises and small-sided games. Here’s a short excerpt as an example.


False Double Pass Dribbling Option from Diagonal Pass

What is illustrated is a possible solution for an attacker when the defender, labeled C, makes a recovery run by tracking attacker B which in turn blocks the passing lane. The attacker B receives the ball in Square A from attacker A. The pass is numbered 1. In Square A1 attacker B passes off the ball diagonally, numbered 1and attacker A steps forward to receive the pass with a run numbered 1.

In Square A2 attacker B spins around the defender C in an attempt to get the ball back behind the defense. This run is numbered with a 1. Defender C however, starts making an effective recovery run which disrupts the ability of attacker A to return the pass to attacker B. In Square A3 where the pass should be sent forward defender C’s good recovery run and closing of the passing lane prevents the pass from occurring. The attacker A, now in possession of the ball, does not have a workable Double Pass Pattern anymore.

One of the best options for the attacker with the ball is to dribble into and across the area where attacker B’s run pulled defender C out of the space with the run. This solution is shown in Square A3 and attacker A’s dribble is numbered 1. There are a myriad of possible solutions but this is an effective one because it exploits the space that the defender had to surrender to achieve the blocking of the passing lane.

Diagonal Wall Passing

This use of wall passing is not often pointed out, taught or practiced with players. The left half of the above soccer field is Diagram 14 A and the right half is Diagram 14 B.  I hope that I made this clear enough that if you just walk through it slowly all the lines should come clear.

The reader can see in Diagram 14 A, page 54, the attacker, labeled A, use attackers B and C to create wall passes diagonally across the field. Attacker A uses a Low Wall Pass Pattern with attacker B and a Curved Run with attacker C to get into a scoring position behind the defense.

Attacker A sends a pass numbered 1 to attacker B. Attacker A then makes a run past the defender.  The run is numbered with a 2 which allows the pass back from attacker B. The return pass is also numbered 2 because the pass and the run are essentially simultaneous. Attacker A then passes the ball to attacker C with a pass numbered 3. While attacker C holds the ball in a shielded position attacker A makes a Curved Run around attacker C. The run by attacker A is numbered with a 4. Attacker C then plays off the ball with a pass numbered 5 for attacker A to shoot at goal which is numbered 6. This attack is done across the field in an East to West motion and not in the more traditional North to South manner of penetrating a defense and attacking the goal.

In the right half of field the reader can see Diagram 14 B, page 54. Another East to West attack is demonstrated using 2 versus 1patterns to penetrate the defense. Attacker A uses attackers B and C to cut diagonally across the field. The first pattern that A and B use is a High Wall Pass followed by a more traditional Wall Pass that combines attacker A and C which leaves attacker A with the ball in a position to pass the ball behind the defense to attacker D who shoots the ball at goal.

Attacker A starts the sequence by dribbling at the first defender; the dribble is numbered with a 1, and then passes the ball to player B to combine for a High Wall Pass. The pass to attacker B is numbered with a 2. The return pass by attacker B is numbered 3 as is the run by attacker A past the defender. Attacker A then passes the ball to attacker C to start a wall pass. This pass is numbered with a 4 and the run by attacker A to get behind the next defender is also numbered with a 4. Attacker C sends a penetrating pass back to attacker A, who receives it behind the defense. This pass is numbered with a 5. The attacker A is now in a position to cross the ball to attacker D who is making a run towards attacker A in front of the goal mouth. Both the cross by attacker A and the run by attacker D are numbered 6. The shot on goal is numbered with a 7.

Three Grid Game: Set-Up

This shows the organization for the start of the Three Grid exercise. Each group has a goal keeper, two defenders in the grid next to their goal keeper, one midfielder in the middle grid and one attacker in the grid where they can score. The exercise requires four field players for each team and a goal keeper for each team. The black team defenders are lettered B and A. The black midfielder is lettered with a C. And the attacker for the black team is lettered with a D. The white defenders are lettered E and F. The midfielder for the white team is lettered with a G and the attacker for the white team is labeled H.  Goal Keepers are stationed on both ends.

Teaching players to recognize and deal effectively with 2 v 1 situations during the indoor season will transfer very easily to the outdoor game in the spring. If they can see the ‘pictures’ in a 5 v 5 game they can look for the same cues when the game is 11 v 11.

Have a great day,


Training Sessions for the 4-3-3

One of our latest books has generated a lot of interesting. Both the hard copy and the eBook version of ‘Training Sessions for the 4-3-3‘ have been a very popular choice of coaches visiting The book is a guide that provides exercises, drills and small-sided games that teach players how to perform the roles and responsibilities of each position in a 4-3-3 formation.

Continue reading ‘Training Sessions for the 4-3-3’ »

Teaching Three Runs to Create Options

This is one of those sessions that I read or saw another coach present but I can’t recall where. I wish I could give the coach credit because I’ve found it to be a very useful session to teach players how to make runs for their teammate with the ball.

The three runs that this session focuses on are checking, drifting and Continue reading ‘Teaching Three Runs to Create Options’ »

Three Line Shooting

I usually end each session with a shooting exercise that incorporates aspects of the practice theme. One of the formats I often us is a simple three line set-up. I like this because you can do a wide variety of things from these basic starting position. The players are comfortable because we use this set-up often but I can make adjustments to place the emphasis where I want it.

I started using this as a regular part of my practices after Continue reading ‘Three Line Shooting’ »

Attacking in the Final Third

The June edition of the WORLD CLASS COACHING magazine that is part of the Member Drills Database will have a session from Elmar Bolowich, Head Men’s Coach at Creighton University. He presented it during the 2013 Nebraska WORLD CLASS COACHING International Seminar. The focus is on Continue reading ‘Attacking in the Final Third’ »

Defending Small-Sided Games and Drills Competition

We recently asked coaches to submit their favorite defending drills and small-sided game. We picked one from all the entries as the winner and the coach received a $200 gift certificate to our site. The winner was Gabriel Celante for his Transitional Defending Game. Here’s a look at the game.

Transitional Defending Game
This Transitional Defending Game focuses on developing and practicing defending cooperation, defensive pressure, and specific decision making while defending. This small sided game also focuses on developing transition to Continue reading ‘Defending Small-Sided Games and Drills Competition’ »

Spanish Training Games

The key to seeing improvement in your team is for your training activities to relate to the game as closely as possible. You can spend weeks teaching your players to understand and perform a complex drill full of movement and rotation but if they can’t relate the activity to what they do in the game it’s just a waste of training time. Sure, they’ll get better at the drill but it won’t improve their performance on game day.

That’s the beauty of straightforward training games; you can spend your time teaching the game not teaching the drill. Then on game day you can see the players use the skills and tactics they learned in training to improve their chances of success.

In our latest book, Coaching Spanish Soccer, the author, Jodi Pascual, discusses the methods and tactics used to create successful Spanish teams and players. He also shows practical examples of drills, exercises and games that they use with players both young and old. The drills are not complicated but the key is how they relate back to the game. Here’s an excerpt from the book that shows an example:

The next activity is another “rondo”, but this, more than a warm-up, is a real “positional SSG” with implications in the way the team plays. This one is 4v1 in a 5×5 grid. Again, at high level is played with just 1 touch, so, the same we told before can be applied here, about awareness and/or decision making; of course, technique is also very important: you can be ready but, if your technique is not good, you won’t be successful when passing. This is used a lot to improve the quality of the first touch (no matter if it’s a pass or a control of the ball). As we said, this game has real implications on the way of playing. Why? Easy: Imagine that the player at the bottom is one of the CB; the players on the side are the other CB and one of the FB and, the player at the TOP is one of your DM. This first diagram just show the drill, and nothing else; just how to an activity.

This is the game as itself (4v1); now, we’ll show a new picture, with names written on it; probably, it’s easier to understand the idea of this exercise and how it can be used. I think that all of us have seen several times this disposition on the pitch, and also this kind of movements with the ball.

Here is the result: the four players (3 Defenders and 1 Midfielder) can play the ball in this “keep away” game but, as written, it’s a real part of the time. You have seen the players several times positioned in that way and the ball moving from one to another: also, if the man at the bottom was Casillas and the two men wide were Piqué and Puyol, with Alonso at the top, we would find that this is a normal build up from the back for Spain.

The next situation is closer to opponent’s goal, but with the same set-up: one player at the bottom, two on the sides, and one at the top. Exactly the same as before, but with names and situation of the pitch changed. But, the important thing is that this drill (as many others), can be used no matter your formation or where you are on the pitch. Change players, go right, left, up or down, but you’ll also find this disposition several times on a pitch during a match. And that’s the important thing.

We are now going to a drill than that can be considered a progression from the last one; in this case, it’s a 4v2; quite similar, but players are working in pairs; this means that the chasing players, no matter who of them can get the ball, will go to be players and, for the same, if a player loses the ball is he a his mated the ones that goes in. It’s a easy drill to introduce the concept of “team”; it’s not my self alone: it’s me and my partner. If the pressure over the carrier/kicker is good and the second (cover), is well positioned, it’s possible to recover the ball easily or, force the team with ball to a mistake. And, at the same time, as you can see, the concept of pressure/cover is easily introduced.

In this case, the grid will be no larger than 10×10. If it’s bigger, too much space for the “chasers” and it will be quite difficult to get the ball; for very advanced and experienced players, a smaller grid can be possible. As written, 1 or 2 touches (maximum) for the players, unless they are young and beginners and we want to show them about these concepts. As before, this drill is still a “positional” one, so, the players must stay on the line and can’t go in dribbling or whatever. Again, the accuracy of the pass is a key for the success of the drill.

This is just one of the drills from Coaching Spanish Soccer.

Have a Great Day!


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)

Team can use targets but not required to score a goal

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

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!