Posts tagged ‘Games’

Winter Outdoor Training

With more and more turf soccer fields being installed around the country an increasing number of coaches are training their teams outdoor during the winter months. This provides a great opportunity to continue to focus on playing ‘Real Soccer’ when we used to be limited to practicing and playing small indoor versions of the game.

The challenge is that while the surface allows us to train outside we are often still dealing with cold temperatures. This makes it difficult for the players to focus if we use these sessions to try to teach too much. I’ve found that they get the most out of the session if we have a very active warm-up, like the one I described in last week’s post, followed by a series of small-sided games focused on a particular topic. This allows me to reinforce the key points of the chosen technical or tactical subject while keeping all of the players active and engaged.

This is also an extremely easy session to motivate the players for because it’s fun. I also add to the competitive atmosphere by having consequences attached to the results. It may be as simple as having the losing team put the equipment away or fitness based where the winning team has to complete one repetition of a fitness activity but the losing team has to complete four reps.

The small-sided games that you can use for this type of session are limitless but I like to put the players into some new training environments so I look for games that we didn’t play in the last outdoor season. My favorite resource for innovative small-sided games is is Brazilian Training Games.



The book contains more than 100 small-sided games. There are some very unique and interesting games that will be different from any games you’ve used before. Here are a couple of examples.


Heads Up

Organization: 4v4 to 9v9

Description: A regular game is played without vests. All players wear a swimming cap. Female players can wear head bends instead of swimming cap.

Coaching Points:
– Heads up/better vision
– Communication

Equipment: Ball, discs, cones, swimming caps.


Vests with Numbers

Organization: 6v6 to 10v10

Description: Game is played will all players wearing vests with numbers on. All rules will be determined by the numbers.

Examples: #1 to # 4 play 2 touches , the rest are free (unrestricted)
– Just # 5 to # 8 can score, the rest must assist
– Even numbers play weak foot rule and odd numbers are free

Coaching Points:
– Speed of thought
– Cognitive development
– Communication

Equipment: Ball, discs, vests with numbers


Color Ball

Organization: 2 teams of 4v4 to 8v8 + goalies

Description: Game played with 3 different colors ball. Each color means the number of touches on the ball.

Ex: white = 1 touch, black = 2 touches and gray= free touches

Coaching Points:
– Speed of thought
– Communication

Equipment: discs and balls with different colors

Your options for small-sided games are limited by your experience so I would suggest searching out new ideas like those in Brazilian Training Games.

If you have an interesting format for a small-sided game please share it with other coaches by describing it in the comments section below.

Have a great day!


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’ »

How Do You Play 5 v 2

If there’s one standard possession game that just about every coach uses it must be 5 v 2.  It’s a great introduction to possession play because the intensity of the defending is easily controlled by the size of the area. The attackers have enough of an advantage that they can gain confidence from being successful but it is still a challenge. Once the players achieve a certain degree of comfort you can put a limit on their touches and challenge their ability to think quickly and read where the open pass is.

The most common way I’ve seen the game played is with five offensive players Continue reading ‘How Do You Play 5 v 2’ »

Progressive Finishing Game

As the year progresses I like to add more functional activities to replace purely technical exercises. Not only do the players enjoy activities that are game related more I’ve also seen a greater transfer of training when I use them.

I prefer drills, exercises and games that are progressive; moving from low pressure to full pressure. They allow the player to have initial success but then be challenged by the ever increase pressure of Continue reading ‘Progressive Finishing Game’ »

Increasing Confidence in Possession

Teaching players how to protect the ball until the option to shoot or pass is available is extremely important if you want your team to keep possession and learn to build an attack. There will be times when there isn’t an open team mate and they need to buy some time and create some space before support arrives.

The first thing I do when working on this topic is to have the players focus on the quality of their first touch. A player’s first touch can put them into a tackle Continue reading ‘Increasing Confidence in Possession’ »

Encouraging Combination Play

For me, the beginning of the season revolves around getting a group of players to work together within a framework of a system. Lately that system has been the 4-3-3. This involves teaching each player the role and responsibility of their position: How the defenders work together to stop attacks and win the ball. How the midfielders connect the team together. How the attackers create goalscoring opportunities. All of this gives the players a starting point but the most important learning comes next.

Helping the players to think and act creatively within the framework of the system is what will Continue reading ‘Encouraging Combination Play’ »

Juggling – Developmentally Important or Just a Nice Trick

Our club recently established a set of benchmarks for how many times the players should be able to juggle at a given age. Here are those targets:

U8 – 10 with feet only – 10 with thighs only – 4 with head only
U9 – 20 with feet only – 20 with thighs only – 6 with head only
U10 – 10 with feet only – 10 with thighs only – 12 with head only
U11 – 80 with feet only – 80 with thighs only – 24 with head only
U12 – 100+ with feet only – 100+ with thighs only – 50+ with head only

Unfortunately, most of our players in the club are below these standards so we’ll be working to improve that this year.

When you talk about juggling with coaches you usually Continue reading ‘Juggling – Developmentally Important or Just a Nice Trick’ »

Using Small-Sided Games to Develop Players

Most coaches use small-sided games as part of their training sessions. Sometimes this is limited to a 10 minute scrimmage at the end of the session.

During the spring season I will often run an entire session that revolves around two or three small-sided games to reinforce technical or tactical topics that we have covered a number of times during the fall and winter. As the session continues the players move in and out of the two or three different games. Each one has a slightly different challenge for the players to solve. The players enjoy the change of pace and the games help the players connect the skills we’ve developed to the game itself.

I’m always on the lookout for games that are a bit different. A book that we recently released has given me a number of good games that my players have really enjoyed.  Check it out here.

Developing Creativity Through Small-Sided Games, is written by Brazilian soccer coach, Eduardo Andriatti Paulo. He feels that the Brazilian system has moved away from Continue reading ‘Using Small-Sided Games to Develop Players’ »

Shooting Drills Competition Winner

It was difficult to choose a winner in our recent shooting drills competition because we received so many good entries. In the end we picked this exercise from Dennis Hillyard of New York. We were looking for drills that were easy to understand, used equipment all coaches have access to, provided a lot of repetitions for the players, were scalable to larger and smaller numbers and provided progressions that could be used as the players develop. This exercise meets all of those criteria.

Shooting Competition – First Time Shooting
Continue reading ‘Shooting Drills Competition Winner’ »

FC Barcelona – Style and Domination

FC Barcelona has become the world’s top club and has set the standard for all other clubs to follow.  With more than a dozen major championships and counting over the past four years, the team has achieved remarkable success in La Liga, the Copa del Rey, the Champions League and also the FIFA World Club Championships.  Further, the bulk of the 2010 World Cup Champion Spanish National Team mainstays call Barcelona their home club.

What has prompted this run?  Certainly talented players including the likes of Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique and others are critical to the team’s stunning run.  However, the Barcelona model is much more complex, as the coaching, philosophy, tactics, team culture and more all contribute to the spectacular results and consistency that have been the hallmark of the club in recent years.

A new book that we’ve just released call, FC Barcelona: Style and Domination, A Tactical Analysis of FC Barcelona examines the special qualities and practices that have been critical to the club’s recent success.  From a profile of the manager and summary of the club’s overall Continue reading ‘FC Barcelona – Style and Domination’ »