Posts tagged ‘Passing’

Relating Diamond Drills to the Game

I use diamond passing drills as often as possible in my sessions because of how closely they resemble the shape of the game. They relate to every age and and every level of the game.

They are the most powerful when you’re able to connect the passing movements in the drill with the movements on the field in a game situation.

This progression of exercises increase in complexity and finishes by putting the patterns on a field using the formation the team will be using in the game.

Diamond Drill – Passing & Turning
In the following diagrams, five players are lined up in a diamond formation 20 yards apart. Each drill begins with X1 starting with the ball.
• X1 begins by passing to X2 and follows the pass
• X2 moves away, first to create space in front, and then checks back
• X2 turns with the ball around the OUTSIDE of the cone
• X2 then passes to X3, and follows the pass
• X3 moves away and then checks in
• Repeat sequence

Diamond Drill Passing &Turning – Variation
Players must now Continue reading ‘Relating Diamond Drills to the Game’ »

Five Goal Warm-Up Game

Lately I’ve begun many of my training sessions with a game. Not necessarily as a Whole – Part – Whole practice progression but just as a way to engage the players from the start and get them energized and excited to at training.

This is a game that I’ve used as a warm-up and in the main part of the session. I like it because of how many different things you can coach depending on your focus. As with most small-sided games, the kids really enjoy playing it so they get a lot out of it.

Here is how the field is set up:

The size of the field and goals can vary based on the Continue reading ‘Five Goal Warm-Up Game’ »

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’ »

Improving Possession Play

Getting our players to make runs off the ball is difficult if they don’t know where or how to run. Giving the players options to choose from will take some of the decision making out of the process.

I’ve started to teach my young players three different runs that create the foundation of our player movement. They are also somewhat progressive so that if one doesn’t create an option then they can move to the next one or the one after that before coming back to the first one again.

This concept is from David Goldstein’s Improving Your Team’s Possession Play.


The three runs that this session focuses on are checking, drifting and Continue reading ‘Improving Possession Play’ »

Using a Tag Progression as a Warm-Up

This week I want to share a warm-up that I’ve used with every age group I coach. It’s a fun and dynamic game that can be used to prepare for many different types of sessions.

It’s based on a simple game of Tag. The first thing I do is have all of the players give me their ball and move into the penalty area. I give one player a scrimmage vest to hold with instructions to just play ‘Tag’. This is a game that every kid is familiar with and requires little or no explanation. THey know that the person holding the vest is it and they need to stay away from them while staying in the area. There will be players that start to ask questions and I usually just say, ‘Play Tag’.


I have the ‘It’ player hold the vest so that they can hand it to the person they tag but I’ll show the ‘It’ player as a different color in the diagrams for clarity.

I ask all of the players to at least be jogging even if the ‘It’ player is not  chasing them. If there is not enough pressure on the players I will either make another player ‘It’ or limit the space to only half of the penalty area.


Next, I’ll have the players each get a ball, including the ‘It’ player. They play the same game with the same rules but now they are each have to focus on controlling a ball. This makes it much harder for the players who are ‘It’. I emphasize that the best way to avoid being tagged is to change direction away from the pressure because you’ll be able to move faster than the ‘It’ player since you know where you’re going and they don’t.


I increase the pressure on the dribblers by taking the ball away from the ‘It’ player. Now they try to touch the ball with their foot rather than tagging a player with their hand. This means that they dribblers are avoiding the pressure just as they would in the game. I encourage them to face pressure and beat the ‘It’ player if they can or turn and protect the ball by shielding it if the ‘It’ player is too close.

With less experienced players I will give them a move that they can do to make them immune from being tagged if they try it. This is great to use with moves or fakes that the players may have learned recently. They know they will be safe if they try it so there’s no fear of making a mistake. As they improve I’ll say that the ‘It’ player can catch them in the middle of the move but if they complete it they can’t be chased. That means that they have to perform the move early and explode away from pressure.

Another option is to require the ‘It’ player to ‘take’ the ball, not just touch it. This encourages the players to fight to keep the ball even if the defender touches it. It also forces the ‘It’ player to win the ball and not just poke it away.


As a final progression I’ll designate two ‘It’ players to work together and try to win the ball and pass it to me. If they do this the ball is out of the game but the player who lost it stays in the area to help their teammates by showing for a pass if they are under pressure. I emphasize that they need to help players who are under pressure and not just pass the ball with a player when their is no defender around.

This naturally progresses from individual possession to a game of keepaway where you can talk about passing the ball to the player with the most space  and always moving it away from pressure.

Can you suggest any additions or changes that you would make to teach other techniques or tactics? Please share them in the comments section below.

Have a great day!



The Top Clubs in Europe Do this in Training ….Do You?

This week’s post comes to us from Bob Warming, the Head Men’s Coach of Penn State University. Warming ranks third among active NCAA Division I coaches with 441 wins. He has been voted Big 10 Coach of the Year for two out of the last three years.

Coach Warming has traveled the world examining the training methods of the top teams and coaches. The innovative training system he describes below is something that most of us don’t use and will certainly help take your team to the next level. 

First of all, don’t feel bad if you haven’t been doing this type training. And…if you are not doing this…don’t feel alone! In my experience, very little of this type training is being performed in American soccer training sessions. It’s not being taught in our coaching schools and yet it is prevalent throughout top teams in the world. If the academies and first teams at major clubs are doing this type training…shouldn’t we be doing this type training in the USA?

I believe that we can add an important component to our youth training in America. I have seen this training develop quicker feet, quicker minds, and a transformation on my own players about thinking, combining and playing in Triangles. I only wish my players had started doing these type exercises when they were younger! And that is the main reason for this article.

Since we began using this methodology as part of our training, we have Continue reading ‘The Top Clubs in Europe Do this in Training ….Do You?’ »

Combination Play Exercise

A large part of teaching combination plays is teaching timing. The challenge is that timing is developed through an understanding of the basic principles and then getting the number of repetitions necessary to get a feel for the timing.

It’s best to first teach the patterns of movement and basic principles of each combination play separately. The ones I focus on with young players are the give-and-go, overlap and layoff.

Once these have been learned and understood then I like to combine them into a pattern that allows for a lot of repetitions on both the left and the right side.


This setup is one that can be used for many passing activities from Continue reading ‘Combination Play Exercise’ »

Teaching Possession Play

Telling a team that they need to, ‘Keep possession’ is such an abstract and nonspecific concept for so many young players. Teaching them what it takes to keep the ball gives them specific things that they need to do in order to ensure that the team has the best chance to retain the ball.

In David Goldstein’s book, ‘Improving Your Team’s Possession Play‘ he outlines simple system that can be taught to players at any age or level of play. The core principle is that the player with the ball must have a, ‘Left, Right and Split’.

Here is an excerpt that explains this and the other important concepts of the book.



So what is left/right/split support? It is simply that the person with the ball has someone on the left of them for support, someone on the right of them for support and someone working to Continue reading ‘Teaching Possession Play’ »

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!