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The Development Phase
Practices to challenge the 9-13 year old.
A regular question asked of coaches who have worked at the higher levels of the game is “ What are
the essential focus points for developing young players?
The truth is there is no magic formula for development to equal success. Development of players is
not necessarily a constant process, meaning some players may shine quickly, whereas others maybe
late developers and that could be for a whole variety of reasons.
However, many would concur that there are some fundamental principles that would almost certainly
help the developmental process.
CREATING THE ENVIRONMENT
One of the most essential components, in my opinion, to help players along the right pathway is for the
coach to set the right environment to have fun and possibly more importantly, if the objective is to “be
the best that they can be”, to ensure that there are opportunities for the players to learn.
That may sound odd to some because many might argue that its up to the coach to make sure players
learn. On the contrary, the players who develop to the higher levels will be the ones who take
responsibility for their own learning. That means having the correct attitude to wanting to learn both
at the training ground and with supplemental work at home.
The type of environment that coaches should try to create is summed up by John Allpress of the
England F.A. when he said in his superb article on smart coaching :
“ Coaches are not there primarily to show or tell players what THEY (the coaches) know; they
are there to create environments for learning that challenge the players, but also give them
enjoyment, security and support.”
The enjoyment will come from providing challenging practices that stimulate and motivate the
players, but as John says, that only represents one-third of creating the type of environment that helps
develop players to their maximum potential. They must feel comfortable to express themselves freely,
and be able to rely on the support of their role model - the coach - to give them support, guidance,
encouragement and help as and when needed. Players should neither be afraid to ask questions of
anything they are unsure about, nor should they feel anxious about making a mistake.
KIDS LOVE COMPETITION
Players enjoy working hard and many will be naturally competitive. So give a competitive edge by
adding some form of scoring, either points or “goals”, to the majority of the practices i.e. “have 10
goes each, which one scores the most points?” If the session is themed, reward 2 goals for using
“themed” method.e.g. If theme is “crossing & finishing”, goals scored in the normal fashion count 1,
but goals scored as a result of a cross count double. Coaches here have license to be inventive and
creative, but the skill, particularly with mixed ability groups, is to ensure that players perform against
like-for-like partners or groups so that the competition is challenging with a benefit to all.
DEVELOPMENT Vs WINNING
This is an age old argument about what is the more important. In an extract from Mark
Heffernan’s book “Player Intelligence - The Winning Factor”* an excellent book about teaching
players to think for themselves, he writes:
We can all recognize the coach who never stops talking and directs everything taking place:
“ Play Johnnie. Run with it. Take him on. Shoot. Rebound. DROP! DROP! “ Probably we shouldn’t
have used the term coach since puppet master may be a better description. The scary thing about
this though is that it’s incredibly seductive because if the goal is just winning, at a young age, and
the coach knows just enough to be dangerous, it will probably work. While teams at this point tend
to be very disorganized, the organized team with the puppet master pulling all the strings will
usually win. But if your goal is player development, in the long run it’s a disaster. As players get
older the game gets faster, spaces become smaller, and pressure becomes much more intense.
There simply isn’t time to listen to instructions and react. Only players who can read the game,
and can instantly and instinctively react will have any chance of maximizing their potential.
Soccer is a player’s game.”
Consequently allowing players to make their own decisions is an important part of development,
AND SOMETIMES THEY WILL GET IT WRONG! How coaches and players manage those
mistakes will also play an important part of development.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
Everyone has seen the KISS acronym: Keep It Simple Stupid, again I will borrow from Heffernan
where he suggests:- KEEP IT STIMULATING STUPID. If there is one thing that unites all studies of
the brain it is that players learn better, and better retain that knowledge, when they are cognitively
stimulated.
During a visit to the famous Clairefontaine facility (home of the French Federation), I was intrigued to
hear from their longest serving coach, Andre Merrelle, that the coaches didnt have an extensive
repertoire of complicated drills. On the contrary Andre worked with a tight, but proven selection of
practices, which were educational yet very simple. The players development came through repetition
and the controlled introduction of more complex exercises.
SUCCESS REQUIRES SACRIFICE
Eric Harrison, who is credited with lifting the likes of David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and
many others to top professional status at Manchester United, when asked what his top tip was to
develop players, said ; - “Thats simple, practice, practice and more practice!” Referring back to
our point of players taking responsibility for their own development, Harrison suggests that only by
dedication, hard work and sacrifice can players reach the highest levels. All players have choices, its
only by making good choices will players be able to maximize their potential.
The following 5 training sessions cover themes of topics suitable for helping develop young players
between the ages of 9-13. The sessions cover the 4 elements of technical/tactical/physical and mental
and designed to challenge and stimulate the players.
Although the sessions follow on from each other we are not suggesting that they should be performed
in any particular order. It may require one of the sessions, or individual exercises to be repeated a
number of times until the players are comfortable with the material before the coach moves on.
Coaches should absolutely feel free to mix any of the components.
Enjoy and good luck with your team.
SESSION 1: DRIBBLING & TURNING WITH THE BALL PART 1 WARM UP: THE X
FACTOR
OBJECTIVE: To improve close control and turning with the ball techniques

SESSION CONTENT:
• Area is 20 x 20 yards
• The first player from each group starts together and dribbles to the first marker
• Each perform the nominated turn
• Players must keep control of their ball and avoid hitting the marker
• Players return to back of their line
• Next four start
• 4 runs each using a different nominated turn each time
PROGRESSION 1:
• Players slalom dribble to and perform a turn just before the center cone
• Repeat using different turns
PROGRESSION 2:
• Players slalom dribble to center cone, perform a skill and accelerate to group on the right
• Players slalom dribble to center cone, perform a skill and accelerate to group on the left
• Keep head up and dont bump into anyone
Key coaching points:
• Keep close control keeping head up
• Slow on approach & bend knees to turn quickly
• Have ball rolling in opposite direction to accelerate quickly out of turn
• Use of disguise to unbalance an opponent
• Accelerate away from opponent
SESSION 1: DRIBBLING & TURNING WITH THE BALL
PART 2 BEAT YOUR OPPONENT
OBJECTIVE: To improve dribbling and turning skills in a competitive environment but without
being challenged.

SESSION CONTENT:
• Cones are placed 10 yards apart with buffer zones between grids
• Players work in paris and stand opposite each other
• One is nominated the attacker with a ball. the other is the defender without a ball
• Attackers try to beat the defender to either cone
• Defenders try to get their foot to the cone before or at the same time as the attacker
• Work for approx 30 seconds and change roles regularly
PROGRESSION 1:
• Make competitive by scoring points
• Rotate pairs and make a group competition
PROGRESSION 2:
• Place a third marker 5 yards behind the defender. The attacker now moves side-to-side and at any
time may move forward to beat the defender to the third marker
• No tackling, again the defender only needs to plant a foot to the side of the third cone to “prevent a
goal”
Key coaching points:
• Keep close control keeping head up
• Selection of chosen trick or skill
• Feint to unbalance defender
• Acceleration to get away from defender
• Be able to move both ways
• Decision making
SESSION 1: DRIBBLING & TURNING WITH THE BALL
PART 3 DRIBBLING AND TURNING TO SCORE
OBJECTIVE: To improve 1v1 dribbling and turning skills when facing and with back to an
opponent

SESSION CONTENT:
• Area is 30 x 20 split lengthways in half
• A goal and goalkeeper are in goal at opposite ends of each half
• Players split into 2 groups with 2 players being nominated as defenders
• An attacker starts in each area as shown, one ready to receive and dribble facing the defender,
the other receives with back to goal
• Whatever the outcome the attackers move around the back of the goal to join the other group
• Rotate defenders frequently
• Make competitive - which player scores the most goals
Key coaching points:
• Check away before receiving to create space
• Check over shoulder to see position of defender
• Positive attitude to dribbling
• Early selection of chosen skill
• Timing of trick to unbalance defender
• Create the space to take an early strike on goal
• Be able to move off both sides
SESSION 1: DRIBBLING & TURNING WITH THE BALL
PART 4 3v3 + 3v3 DRIBBLING & TURNING GAME
OBJECTIVE: To improve, decision making and individual dribbling and turning skills when in or
around the opponents penalty area

SESSION CONTENT:
• The area is approximately 50 x 30 yards split into 3 zones with a goalkeeper and goals at each end
• Each team has 3 attackers and defenders who stay in their end zone
• The middle zone is a no-go for defenders and one attacker may drop in to receive
• Defenders in one zone attempt to pass in to their attackers in the far zone. Defenders in that zone
attempt to prevent the attacker from scoring
• Attackers attempt to combine or individually dribble or turn to shoot on goal
• Change roles periodically
PROGRESSIONS OR VARIATIONS:
• Allow one defender to go into the middle zone to prevent the attacker from turning
• Allow one defender to move into attacking third to create a 4v3 overload
Key coaching points:
• Create space to receive
• Decision-making when to pass when to dribble
• Forward movement with and without the ball
• Positive attitude to dribbling and shooting
• Early selection of chosen skill
• End product
• Rebounds
FREE PLAY TO END PART 1 WARM UP: THE FIRST TOUCH
OBJECTIVE: To improve the ability to use all parts of both feet to control and pass the ball

SESSION CONTENT:
• Players in pairs about 8 yards apart stand behind a marker
• One acts as server the other is the receiver
• The serving player passes centrally for the receiving player to take a touch to the side of either
marker and pass back
• Players should respond to coaches commands
• Players should try to complete control and passes in 2 touches where possible
• Players should use both feet where applicable
• Rotate roles
VARIATIONS:
• Receive with INSIDE pass with INSIDE
• Receive with INSIDE pass with OUTSIDE
• Receive OUTSIDE pass with INSIDE
• Receive OUTSIDE pass with OUTSIDE
• Players make their own decisions
PROGRESSION:
• On coaches command to change, the server moves to receive position, but the receiver quickly
sprints to partner with another player
• Repeat the process of passing, receiving but changing partners. Who is the last player to find a
partner?
Key coaching points:
• For INSIDE / INSIDE using same foot, take first touch into the space in front and to the side
• For OUTSIDE / INSIDE take ball off the straight path of delivery in front and to the side
• For OUTSIDE / OUTSIDE take first touch across the body in front and to the side
• Decision-making of correct foot
• Weight and accuracy of pass
PART 2 THE NUMBERS SEQUENCE GAME OBJECTIVE: To improve passing, receiving and
awareness skills

SESSION CONTENT:
• Area is 30 x 30 yards split into two halves
• 2 groups in different colors start in their own half with one ball
• Number each player in each group
• Starting with number 1, the groups pass in sequence to the next number
• Every player must be on the move whether they are receiving or not
• Players should try to complete control and passes in 2 touches where possible
PROGRESSION 1:
• Add a second ball to each group (starting with nos. 1 & 4)
PROGRESSION 2:
• Groups intermingle and play across the full area
Key coaching points:
• Eye contact before passing
• Weight and accuracy of passes
• First touch control into the space
• Timing and angles of supporting runs
• Spatial awareness
• To feet or into the space
• Communication
SESSION 2: PASSING & RECEIVING
PART 3 THE 4v2 GAME
OBJECTIVE: To improve technique and decision-making to keep possession in an overload
situation

SESSION CONTENT:
• Area is 30 x 30 yards split into two halves
• 2 groups in different colors start in their own half with one ball
• Number each player in each group
• Players pass and move not in any sequence
• On coaches command, 2 players move across to become defenders in the opposite half
• The game is 4v2 and continues until coach shouts time
• Make competitive to see which group complete the most consecutive number of passes
Key coaching points:
• Create space - width and depth
• Eye contact before passing
• Weight and accuracy of passes
• First touch control into the space away from pressure
• Decision making to play quickly or slow the tempo
• Communication
SESSION 2: PASSING & RECEIVING
PART 4 RECEIVING THROUGH THE GATE GAME
OBJECTIVE: To improve speed, accuracy and combination play to keep possession

SESSION CONTENT:
• Area is 40 x 40 with gated goals (always have one more gate than number in each team)
• Teams play 5 v 5 and there are 2 neutral players who play for team in possession
• Players pass in normal way and a goal is scored if a pass is played through the gates to a
teammate
• Neutral players cant score and are restricted to 2 touches
• Play 4 minute games
• Rotate neutral players
PROGRESSION :
• A goal only counts if played through gates and set back on first touch to a supporting player.
The original passing player cannot be the one who receives the set back.
Key coaching points:
• Create space - width and depth
• Eye contact before passing
• Timing of run to receive / support
• Weight and accuracy of passes
• First touch control into the space away from pressure
• Decision making
• Awareness
• Communication
FREE PLAY TO END
SESSION 3: FINISHING
PART 1 THE HEADING GAME
OBJECTIVE: To improve technique of attacking heading in a fun game

• Area is 20 x 10 with a coned goal in the center
• 2 teams line 10 yards either side of the goal
• I team starts with a player in the goal
• The coach acts as server and alternates serves between each team
• After heading at goal the players quickly become the next goalkeeper for the other teams
header
• Play a game to 5 goals to see which team wins
• Key coaching points:
• Positive attitude to attack the ball
• Keep eye on ball
• Contact with forehead at top half of ball
• Aim downwards and and into the corners
SESSION 3: FINISHING
PART 2 PASS RIGHT OR LEFT TO SHOOT ON GOAL
OBJECTIVE: To develop movement off the ball and techniques to shoot from wide angles
• Players are in two groups out right and left approx 25 yards from goal
• One player acts as server passing through the gates for a striker to run onto
• Play down alternate sides
• Rotate groups and ensure players work both sides
• Rotate servers
PROGRESSION:
Add a defender to start central. As soon as ball is passed either side both forwards come out and the
defender recovers to play 2v1
• Key coaching points:
• Positive attitude to shooting
• Accuracy before power to hit target
• Head steady and eye on ball
• Non kicking foot alongside
• Contact mid to to half of ball
• Aim low and hard into the corners
• Decision making in 2v1
• Movement to create shooting opportunity
• Rebounds
SESSION 3: FINISHING
PART 3 SHOOTING WITH TRANSITION
OBJECTIVE: To develop shooting after combination play and be alert to transition
SESSION CONTENT:
• Area is approx 25 yards from a goal with a goalkeeper
• Players are in 3 groups (A,B and C) with a ball each
• Group A dribble and and shoot on goal, Group B then play 1v1 against the group A player
• Whatever the outcome, Group C nominate either A or B to be a teammate, the other player
defends 2v1 to goal
• After 2 goes through each team rotate positions
• Key coaching points:
• Positive attitude to shooting
• Accuracy before power to hit target
• Reaction to defending after shot
• Positive attitude to offensive 1v1
• Decision making in 2v1
• Movement with and without the ball
• Combination play
• Take shooting opportunities early
• Rebounds
SESSION 3: FINISHING
PART 4 SLIDE PASSES-IN TO GOAL GAME
OBJECTIVE: To develop forward movement with and without the ball
SESSION CONTENT:
• Area is approx 60 x 40 split into 3 zones with 2 goals and goalkeepers at each end
• All the players are in the central area
• Normal game, to score, the ball must be played into the end zone for a runner to receive and
finish on goal
• No defenders are allowed to track back
• Forwards have a maximum of 4 seconds when through on goal to finish
• Defenders can receive from the keeper in box to play out from the back
• Forwards standing in the box before the ball arrives will be deemed offside
PROGRESSION:
Allow a second attacker and one defender to track back into the box - 2v1.
Keep 4 second rule to ensure speed of attack
Key coaching points:
• Create space - width and depth
• Speed and accuracy of passing
• Forward movement with and without the ball
• Timing of runs into the box
• Decision making when through on goal
• Awareness
FREE PLAY TO END
SESSION 4: DEFENDING
PART 1 HAVING THE RIGHT APPROACH
OBJECTIVE: To develop approach and body position to force in one direction when defending
SESSION CONTENT:
• Area is approx 20 x 20 depending on numbers
• 4 players start as defenders, all other players have a ball each and move around freely
• On coaches whistle, the defenders run to close down any attacker, but dont tackle
• The defender stays with that player for a few seconds attempting to show one way.
• Repeat a few times and rotate defenders
PROGRESSION:
Play a game where the defending groups attempt to dispossess the players on the ball. Which group
wins all the balls in the quickest time?
Key coaching points:
• Angle of approach to to force in a desired direction
• Fast approach, then slow down with bent knees
• Adopt a balanced side on position
• Be patient with eyes focused on the ball
• Occasional feint as if to try to gain initiative
• Timing of tackles
SESSION 4: DEFENDING
PART 2 THE POKE TACKLE
OBJECTIVE: To develop an understanding of the timing and technique of the poke tackle
SESSION CONTENT:
• Area is approx 30 x 30 yards depending on numbers
• Cones are in a triangle randomly placed around the field as goals
• Players work in pairs at one set of cones. One is the attacker the other is the defender
• Attackers can score through any part of the triangle
• Defenders try to poke the ball away to safety
• Rotate roles on the coaches command
PROGRESSIONS OR VARIATIONS:
• Keep score and make competitive either individually or as teams
• Allow attackers to attack different defenders
Key coaching points:
• Correct distance from attacker
• Balanced position to force in one direction away from the goal
• Be patient with eyes focused on the ball
• Occasional feint to try to gain initiative
• Correct foot (nearest the attacker) to make the challenge
• Timing of challenge to “poke” the ball away from danger
• Ability to use both feet
PART 3 DEFENDING 1V1 TO GOAL
OBJECTIVE: To improve defending against attackers running to goal
SESSION CONTENT:
• Area is 30 x 30 with 4 mini goals along the side
• One defender defends each goal, the rest are attackers who can go to either goal
• Attackers start from central area allowing defenders to reorganize after each attack
• Rotate defenders regularly
PROGRESSIONS OR VARIATIONS:
• Keep score and make competitive
• Award defenders a bonus point if they can win the ball and pass back into the middle
Key coaching points:
• Move out to slow momentum stopping at correct distance
• Angle of approach to show away from goal
• Adopt a balanced side-on position to force in desired direction
• Be patient with eyes focused on the ball
• Occasional feint to try to gain initiative
• Timing of challenge
PART 4 PREVENT THEM FROM SCORING GAME
OBJECTIVE: To improve defending against attackers running towards the goal in a game situation.
SESSION CONTENT:
• Area is approximately 40 x 20 yards split into 3 zones
• Each end zone is split into 2 with a goal in each quarter
• Each team has 6 players and nominates 2 as defenders
• The others play 4 v 4 in the central area
• After 3 passes the forward in possession can attack a defender in their zone
• Defenders must stay in their zone
• Defenders can play out from the back and be used as support players
• Rotate defenders
PROGRESSIONS OR VARIATIONS:
• Play attack into defending zones after 1 pass
Key coaching points:
• Close space down quickly, then slow down
• Angle of approach to show away from the target area
• Correct position to force in desired direction
• Be patient with eyes focused on the ball
• Occasional feint to try to gain initiative
• Timing of challenge or block
FREE PLAY TO END
SESSION 5: LET THE GAME BE THE TEACHER
PART 1 END ZONE GAME
OBJECTIVE: To develop and encourage forward movement with and without the ball
• SESSION CONTENT:
• The area is 30 x 30 with an additional 5 yard zone at both ends
• Non-directional game with 2 teams of 6 plus a neutral player playing for the team in possession
• Teams keep possession and try to score by passing to a player entering the end zone.
• Ball and player must reach end zone simultaneously and must be controlled within the zone
• Goal does not count if player standing in end zone before ball is passed
• When in the end zone teams switch direction and play the other way
• Play 4 minute games and rotate neutral players
• Maximum 3 touches but players should look to play with 2 or 1 touch if possible
• Key coaching points:
• Weight and accuracy of all passes - correct side
• First touch - into space / tight / away from pressure
• Spatial awareness - width and depth
• Timing of movement to receive
• Decision-making
• Awareness - Play with head up
• Communication
SESSION 5: LET THE GAME BE THE TEACHER
PART 2 THE THREE GOAL GAME
OBJECTIVE: To develop offensive and defensive transition
• SESSION CONTENT:
• The area is 30 x 30 with three small goals at both ends
• Directional game with 2 teams of 4 attacking and defending 3 goals
• A third team act as neutrals around the outside
• Teams keep possession and try to score by passing into goal
• Attacking teams try to create 1v1 or 2v1 opportunities
• Rotate teams and play a round-robin to win
VARIATION:
• Play only a one-touch finish counts
• Key coaching points:
• Weight and accuracy of all passes
• First touch - into space / tight / away from pressure
• Spatial awareness - width and depth
• Forward movement with and without the ball
• All 1v1 defending techniques
• Communication
• Be alert to offensive and defensive transition
SESSION 5: LET THE GAME BE THE TEACHER
PART 3 THE 5-BALL GAME
OBJECTIVE: To develop an understanding of numbers up or playing with numbers down
SESSION CONTENT:
• The area is 40 x 40 with goals and goalkeepers at both ends
• There are 3 teams of 4. Two teams start and one team provide neutral players
• The two playing on the field play with the attacking team but cant score
• The two off the field play with the defending team to keep possession
• The attacking team attempt to score on goal. They have 5 opportunities
• After 5 opportunities change the teams around
• The team who score the most goals are the winner
• If a team scores all 5 goals they are awarded a bonus goal
• If defending team score a goal - 1 goal is deducted from the attacking teams’ total
• Which team wins the round-robin?
• Key coaching points:
• Speed and accuracy of all passes
• Create space to receive - width and depth
• Forward movement with and without the ball to create 1v1 and 2v1 opportunities
• Decision making - when to dribble when to pass
• Positive attitude to shooting
• All individual and unit defending principles
• Communication
• Be alert to offensive and defensive transition
SESSION 5: LET THE GAME BE THE TEACHER
PART 3 THE REVERSED GOAL GAME
OBJECTIVE: To develop forward movement with and without the ball
SESSION CONTENT:
• The area is 40 x 40 with 2 small goals facing back to play 8 yards in from each end
• There are 2 teams who set out there own shape to play the game
• To score a goal a team must get a player around the back of the defense
• Key coaching points:
• Speed and accuracy of all passes - long and short
• Create space to receive - width and depth
• Forward movement with and without the ball
• Decision making - when to dribble when to pass
• Timing of runs
• Quality of finish
• All individual and unit defending principles
• Communication
• Be alert to offensive and defensive transition

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Inside Soccer The Development Phase

  • 1.
  • 2. The Development Phase Practices to challenge the 9-13 year old. A regular question asked of coaches who have worked at the higher levels of the game is “ What are the essential focus points for developing young players? The truth is there is no magic formula for development to equal success. Development of players is not necessarily a constant process, meaning some players may shine quickly, whereas others maybe late developers and that could be for a whole variety of reasons. However, many would concur that there are some fundamental principles that would almost certainly help the developmental process. CREATING THE ENVIRONMENT One of the most essential components, in my opinion, to help players along the right pathway is for the coach to set the right environment to have fun and possibly more importantly, if the objective is to “be the best that they can be”, to ensure that there are opportunities for the players to learn. That may sound odd to some because many might argue that its up to the coach to make sure players learn. On the contrary, the players who develop to the higher levels will be the ones who take responsibility for their own learning. That means having the correct attitude to wanting to learn both at the training ground and with supplemental work at home. The type of environment that coaches should try to create is summed up by John Allpress of the England F.A. when he said in his superb article on smart coaching : “ Coaches are not there primarily to show or tell players what THEY (the coaches) know; they are there to create environments for learning that challenge the players, but also give them enjoyment, security and support.” The enjoyment will come from providing challenging practices that stimulate and motivate the players, but as John says, that only represents one-third of creating the type of environment that helps develop players to their maximum potential. They must feel comfortable to express themselves freely, and be able to rely on the support of their role model - the coach - to give them support, guidance, encouragement and help as and when needed. Players should neither be afraid to ask questions of anything they are unsure about, nor should they feel anxious about making a mistake. KIDS LOVE COMPETITION Players enjoy working hard and many will be naturally competitive. So give a competitive edge by adding some form of scoring, either points or “goals”, to the majority of the practices i.e. “have 10 goes each, which one scores the most points?” If the session is themed, reward 2 goals for using “themed” method.e.g. If theme is “crossing & finishing”, goals scored in the normal fashion count 1, but goals scored as a result of a cross count double. Coaches here have license to be inventive and creative, but the skill, particularly with mixed ability groups, is to ensure that players perform against like-for-like partners or groups so that the competition is challenging with a benefit to all.
  • 3. DEVELOPMENT Vs WINNING This is an age old argument about what is the more important. In an extract from Mark Heffernan’s book “Player Intelligence - The Winning Factor”* an excellent book about teaching players to think for themselves, he writes: We can all recognize the coach who never stops talking and directs everything taking place: “ Play Johnnie. Run with it. Take him on. Shoot. Rebound. DROP! DROP! “ Probably we shouldn’t have used the term coach since puppet master may be a better description. The scary thing about this though is that it’s incredibly seductive because if the goal is just winning, at a young age, and the coach knows just enough to be dangerous, it will probably work. While teams at this point tend to be very disorganized, the organized team with the puppet master pulling all the strings will usually win. But if your goal is player development, in the long run it’s a disaster. As players get older the game gets faster, spaces become smaller, and pressure becomes much more intense. There simply isn’t time to listen to instructions and react. Only players who can read the game, and can instantly and instinctively react will have any chance of maximizing their potential. Soccer is a player’s game.” Consequently allowing players to make their own decisions is an important part of development, AND SOMETIMES THEY WILL GET IT WRONG! How coaches and players manage those mistakes will also play an important part of development. KEEP IT SIMPLE Everyone has seen the KISS acronym: Keep It Simple Stupid, again I will borrow from Heffernan where he suggests:- KEEP IT STIMULATING STUPID. If there is one thing that unites all studies of the brain it is that players learn better, and better retain that knowledge, when they are cognitively stimulated. During a visit to the famous Clairefontaine facility (home of the French Federation), I was intrigued to hear from their longest serving coach, Andre Merrelle, that the coaches didnt have an extensive repertoire of complicated drills. On the contrary Andre worked with a tight, but proven selection of practices, which were educational yet very simple. The players development came through repetition and the controlled introduction of more complex exercises. SUCCESS REQUIRES SACRIFICE Eric Harrison, who is credited with lifting the likes of David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and many others to top professional status at Manchester United, when asked what his top tip was to develop players, said ; - “Thats simple, practice, practice and more practice!” Referring back to our point of players taking responsibility for their own development, Harrison suggests that only by dedication, hard work and sacrifice can players reach the highest levels. All players have choices, its only by making good choices will players be able to maximize their potential. The following 5 training sessions cover themes of topics suitable for helping develop young players between the ages of 9-13. The sessions cover the 4 elements of technical/tactical/physical and mental and designed to challenge and stimulate the players.
  • 4. Although the sessions follow on from each other we are not suggesting that they should be performed in any particular order. It may require one of the sessions, or individual exercises to be repeated a number of times until the players are comfortable with the material before the coach moves on. Coaches should absolutely feel free to mix any of the components. Enjoy and good luck with your team. SESSION 1: DRIBBLING & TURNING WITH THE BALL PART 1 WARM UP: THE X FACTOR OBJECTIVE: To improve close control and turning with the ball techniques SESSION CONTENT: • Area is 20 x 20 yards • The first player from each group starts together and dribbles to the first marker • Each perform the nominated turn • Players must keep control of their ball and avoid hitting the marker • Players return to back of their line • Next four start • 4 runs each using a different nominated turn each time PROGRESSION 1: • Players slalom dribble to and perform a turn just before the center cone • Repeat using different turns PROGRESSION 2: • Players slalom dribble to center cone, perform a skill and accelerate to group on the right • Players slalom dribble to center cone, perform a skill and accelerate to group on the left • Keep head up and dont bump into anyone
  • 5. Key coaching points: • Keep close control keeping head up • Slow on approach & bend knees to turn quickly • Have ball rolling in opposite direction to accelerate quickly out of turn • Use of disguise to unbalance an opponent • Accelerate away from opponent SESSION 1: DRIBBLING & TURNING WITH THE BALL PART 2 BEAT YOUR OPPONENT OBJECTIVE: To improve dribbling and turning skills in a competitive environment but without being challenged. SESSION CONTENT: • Cones are placed 10 yards apart with buffer zones between grids • Players work in paris and stand opposite each other • One is nominated the attacker with a ball. the other is the defender without a ball • Attackers try to beat the defender to either cone • Defenders try to get their foot to the cone before or at the same time as the attacker • Work for approx 30 seconds and change roles regularly PROGRESSION 1: • Make competitive by scoring points • Rotate pairs and make a group competition PROGRESSION 2: • Place a third marker 5 yards behind the defender. The attacker now moves side-to-side and at any time may move forward to beat the defender to the third marker • No tackling, again the defender only needs to plant a foot to the side of the third cone to “prevent a
  • 6. goal” Key coaching points: • Keep close control keeping head up • Selection of chosen trick or skill • Feint to unbalance defender • Acceleration to get away from defender • Be able to move both ways • Decision making SESSION 1: DRIBBLING & TURNING WITH THE BALL PART 3 DRIBBLING AND TURNING TO SCORE OBJECTIVE: To improve 1v1 dribbling and turning skills when facing and with back to an opponent SESSION CONTENT: • Area is 30 x 20 split lengthways in half • A goal and goalkeeper are in goal at opposite ends of each half • Players split into 2 groups with 2 players being nominated as defenders • An attacker starts in each area as shown, one ready to receive and dribble facing the defender, the other receives with back to goal • Whatever the outcome the attackers move around the back of the goal to join the other group • Rotate defenders frequently • Make competitive - which player scores the most goals Key coaching points: • Check away before receiving to create space • Check over shoulder to see position of defender
  • 7. • Positive attitude to dribbling • Early selection of chosen skill • Timing of trick to unbalance defender • Create the space to take an early strike on goal • Be able to move off both sides SESSION 1: DRIBBLING & TURNING WITH THE BALL PART 4 3v3 + 3v3 DRIBBLING & TURNING GAME OBJECTIVE: To improve, decision making and individual dribbling and turning skills when in or around the opponents penalty area SESSION CONTENT: • The area is approximately 50 x 30 yards split into 3 zones with a goalkeeper and goals at each end • Each team has 3 attackers and defenders who stay in their end zone • The middle zone is a no-go for defenders and one attacker may drop in to receive • Defenders in one zone attempt to pass in to their attackers in the far zone. Defenders in that zone attempt to prevent the attacker from scoring • Attackers attempt to combine or individually dribble or turn to shoot on goal • Change roles periodically PROGRESSIONS OR VARIATIONS: • Allow one defender to go into the middle zone to prevent the attacker from turning • Allow one defender to move into attacking third to create a 4v3 overload Key coaching points: • Create space to receive • Decision-making when to pass when to dribble • Forward movement with and without the ball • Positive attitude to dribbling and shooting • Early selection of chosen skill
  • 8. • End product • Rebounds FREE PLAY TO END PART 1 WARM UP: THE FIRST TOUCH OBJECTIVE: To improve the ability to use all parts of both feet to control and pass the ball SESSION CONTENT: • Players in pairs about 8 yards apart stand behind a marker • One acts as server the other is the receiver • The serving player passes centrally for the receiving player to take a touch to the side of either marker and pass back • Players should respond to coaches commands • Players should try to complete control and passes in 2 touches where possible • Players should use both feet where applicable • Rotate roles VARIATIONS: • Receive with INSIDE pass with INSIDE • Receive with INSIDE pass with OUTSIDE • Receive OUTSIDE pass with INSIDE • Receive OUTSIDE pass with OUTSIDE • Players make their own decisions PROGRESSION: • On coaches command to change, the server moves to receive position, but the receiver quickly sprints to partner with another player • Repeat the process of passing, receiving but changing partners. Who is the last player to find a
  • 9. partner? Key coaching points: • For INSIDE / INSIDE using same foot, take first touch into the space in front and to the side • For OUTSIDE / INSIDE take ball off the straight path of delivery in front and to the side • For OUTSIDE / OUTSIDE take first touch across the body in front and to the side • Decision-making of correct foot • Weight and accuracy of pass PART 2 THE NUMBERS SEQUENCE GAME OBJECTIVE: To improve passing, receiving and awareness skills SESSION CONTENT: • Area is 30 x 30 yards split into two halves • 2 groups in different colors start in their own half with one ball • Number each player in each group • Starting with number 1, the groups pass in sequence to the next number • Every player must be on the move whether they are receiving or not • Players should try to complete control and passes in 2 touches where possible PROGRESSION 1: • Add a second ball to each group (starting with nos. 1 & 4) PROGRESSION 2: • Groups intermingle and play across the full area Key coaching points: • Eye contact before passing • Weight and accuracy of passes • First touch control into the space • Timing and angles of supporting runs
  • 10. • Spatial awareness • To feet or into the space • Communication SESSION 2: PASSING & RECEIVING PART 3 THE 4v2 GAME OBJECTIVE: To improve technique and decision-making to keep possession in an overload situation SESSION CONTENT: • Area is 30 x 30 yards split into two halves • 2 groups in different colors start in their own half with one ball • Number each player in each group • Players pass and move not in any sequence • On coaches command, 2 players move across to become defenders in the opposite half • The game is 4v2 and continues until coach shouts time • Make competitive to see which group complete the most consecutive number of passes Key coaching points: • Create space - width and depth • Eye contact before passing • Weight and accuracy of passes • First touch control into the space away from pressure • Decision making to play quickly or slow the tempo • Communication SESSION 2: PASSING & RECEIVING PART 4 RECEIVING THROUGH THE GATE GAME
  • 11. OBJECTIVE: To improve speed, accuracy and combination play to keep possession SESSION CONTENT: • Area is 40 x 40 with gated goals (always have one more gate than number in each team) • Teams play 5 v 5 and there are 2 neutral players who play for team in possession • Players pass in normal way and a goal is scored if a pass is played through the gates to a teammate • Neutral players cant score and are restricted to 2 touches • Play 4 minute games • Rotate neutral players PROGRESSION : • A goal only counts if played through gates and set back on first touch to a supporting player. The original passing player cannot be the one who receives the set back. Key coaching points: • Create space - width and depth • Eye contact before passing • Timing of run to receive / support • Weight and accuracy of passes • First touch control into the space away from pressure • Decision making • Awareness • Communication FREE PLAY TO END SESSION 3: FINISHING
  • 12. PART 1 THE HEADING GAME OBJECTIVE: To improve technique of attacking heading in a fun game • Area is 20 x 10 with a coned goal in the center • 2 teams line 10 yards either side of the goal • I team starts with a player in the goal • The coach acts as server and alternates serves between each team • After heading at goal the players quickly become the next goalkeeper for the other teams header • Play a game to 5 goals to see which team wins • Key coaching points: • Positive attitude to attack the ball • Keep eye on ball • Contact with forehead at top half of ball • Aim downwards and and into the corners SESSION 3: FINISHING PART 2 PASS RIGHT OR LEFT TO SHOOT ON GOAL OBJECTIVE: To develop movement off the ball and techniques to shoot from wide angles
  • 13. • Players are in two groups out right and left approx 25 yards from goal • One player acts as server passing through the gates for a striker to run onto • Play down alternate sides • Rotate groups and ensure players work both sides • Rotate servers PROGRESSION: Add a defender to start central. As soon as ball is passed either side both forwards come out and the defender recovers to play 2v1 • Key coaching points: • Positive attitude to shooting • Accuracy before power to hit target • Head steady and eye on ball • Non kicking foot alongside • Contact mid to to half of ball • Aim low and hard into the corners • Decision making in 2v1 • Movement to create shooting opportunity • Rebounds SESSION 3: FINISHING PART 3 SHOOTING WITH TRANSITION OBJECTIVE: To develop shooting after combination play and be alert to transition
  • 14. SESSION CONTENT: • Area is approx 25 yards from a goal with a goalkeeper • Players are in 3 groups (A,B and C) with a ball each • Group A dribble and and shoot on goal, Group B then play 1v1 against the group A player • Whatever the outcome, Group C nominate either A or B to be a teammate, the other player defends 2v1 to goal • After 2 goes through each team rotate positions • Key coaching points: • Positive attitude to shooting • Accuracy before power to hit target • Reaction to defending after shot • Positive attitude to offensive 1v1 • Decision making in 2v1 • Movement with and without the ball • Combination play • Take shooting opportunities early • Rebounds SESSION 3: FINISHING PART 4 SLIDE PASSES-IN TO GOAL GAME OBJECTIVE: To develop forward movement with and without the ball
  • 15. SESSION CONTENT: • Area is approx 60 x 40 split into 3 zones with 2 goals and goalkeepers at each end • All the players are in the central area • Normal game, to score, the ball must be played into the end zone for a runner to receive and finish on goal • No defenders are allowed to track back • Forwards have a maximum of 4 seconds when through on goal to finish • Defenders can receive from the keeper in box to play out from the back • Forwards standing in the box before the ball arrives will be deemed offside PROGRESSION: Allow a second attacker and one defender to track back into the box - 2v1. Keep 4 second rule to ensure speed of attack Key coaching points: • Create space - width and depth • Speed and accuracy of passing • Forward movement with and without the ball • Timing of runs into the box • Decision making when through on goal • Awareness FREE PLAY TO END SESSION 4: DEFENDING PART 1 HAVING THE RIGHT APPROACH OBJECTIVE: To develop approach and body position to force in one direction when defending
  • 16. SESSION CONTENT: • Area is approx 20 x 20 depending on numbers • 4 players start as defenders, all other players have a ball each and move around freely • On coaches whistle, the defenders run to close down any attacker, but dont tackle • The defender stays with that player for a few seconds attempting to show one way. • Repeat a few times and rotate defenders PROGRESSION: Play a game where the defending groups attempt to dispossess the players on the ball. Which group wins all the balls in the quickest time? Key coaching points: • Angle of approach to to force in a desired direction • Fast approach, then slow down with bent knees • Adopt a balanced side on position • Be patient with eyes focused on the ball • Occasional feint as if to try to gain initiative • Timing of tackles SESSION 4: DEFENDING PART 2 THE POKE TACKLE OBJECTIVE: To develop an understanding of the timing and technique of the poke tackle
  • 17. SESSION CONTENT: • Area is approx 30 x 30 yards depending on numbers • Cones are in a triangle randomly placed around the field as goals • Players work in pairs at one set of cones. One is the attacker the other is the defender • Attackers can score through any part of the triangle • Defenders try to poke the ball away to safety • Rotate roles on the coaches command PROGRESSIONS OR VARIATIONS: • Keep score and make competitive either individually or as teams • Allow attackers to attack different defenders Key coaching points: • Correct distance from attacker • Balanced position to force in one direction away from the goal • Be patient with eyes focused on the ball • Occasional feint to try to gain initiative • Correct foot (nearest the attacker) to make the challenge • Timing of challenge to “poke” the ball away from danger • Ability to use both feet PART 3 DEFENDING 1V1 TO GOAL OBJECTIVE: To improve defending against attackers running to goal
  • 18. SESSION CONTENT: • Area is 30 x 30 with 4 mini goals along the side • One defender defends each goal, the rest are attackers who can go to either goal • Attackers start from central area allowing defenders to reorganize after each attack • Rotate defenders regularly PROGRESSIONS OR VARIATIONS: • Keep score and make competitive • Award defenders a bonus point if they can win the ball and pass back into the middle Key coaching points: • Move out to slow momentum stopping at correct distance • Angle of approach to show away from goal • Adopt a balanced side-on position to force in desired direction • Be patient with eyes focused on the ball • Occasional feint to try to gain initiative • Timing of challenge PART 4 PREVENT THEM FROM SCORING GAME OBJECTIVE: To improve defending against attackers running towards the goal in a game situation.
  • 19. SESSION CONTENT: • Area is approximately 40 x 20 yards split into 3 zones • Each end zone is split into 2 with a goal in each quarter • Each team has 6 players and nominates 2 as defenders • The others play 4 v 4 in the central area • After 3 passes the forward in possession can attack a defender in their zone • Defenders must stay in their zone • Defenders can play out from the back and be used as support players • Rotate defenders PROGRESSIONS OR VARIATIONS: • Play attack into defending zones after 1 pass Key coaching points: • Close space down quickly, then slow down • Angle of approach to show away from the target area • Correct position to force in desired direction • Be patient with eyes focused on the ball • Occasional feint to try to gain initiative • Timing of challenge or block FREE PLAY TO END SESSION 5: LET THE GAME BE THE TEACHER PART 1 END ZONE GAME OBJECTIVE: To develop and encourage forward movement with and without the ball
  • 20. • SESSION CONTENT: • The area is 30 x 30 with an additional 5 yard zone at both ends • Non-directional game with 2 teams of 6 plus a neutral player playing for the team in possession • Teams keep possession and try to score by passing to a player entering the end zone. • Ball and player must reach end zone simultaneously and must be controlled within the zone • Goal does not count if player standing in end zone before ball is passed • When in the end zone teams switch direction and play the other way • Play 4 minute games and rotate neutral players • Maximum 3 touches but players should look to play with 2 or 1 touch if possible • Key coaching points: • Weight and accuracy of all passes - correct side • First touch - into space / tight / away from pressure • Spatial awareness - width and depth • Timing of movement to receive • Decision-making • Awareness - Play with head up • Communication SESSION 5: LET THE GAME BE THE TEACHER PART 2 THE THREE GOAL GAME OBJECTIVE: To develop offensive and defensive transition
  • 21. • SESSION CONTENT: • The area is 30 x 30 with three small goals at both ends • Directional game with 2 teams of 4 attacking and defending 3 goals • A third team act as neutrals around the outside • Teams keep possession and try to score by passing into goal • Attacking teams try to create 1v1 or 2v1 opportunities • Rotate teams and play a round-robin to win VARIATION: • Play only a one-touch finish counts • Key coaching points: • Weight and accuracy of all passes • First touch - into space / tight / away from pressure • Spatial awareness - width and depth • Forward movement with and without the ball • All 1v1 defending techniques • Communication • Be alert to offensive and defensive transition SESSION 5: LET THE GAME BE THE TEACHER PART 3 THE 5-BALL GAME OBJECTIVE: To develop an understanding of numbers up or playing with numbers down
  • 22. SESSION CONTENT: • The area is 40 x 40 with goals and goalkeepers at both ends • There are 3 teams of 4. Two teams start and one team provide neutral players • The two playing on the field play with the attacking team but cant score • The two off the field play with the defending team to keep possession • The attacking team attempt to score on goal. They have 5 opportunities • After 5 opportunities change the teams around • The team who score the most goals are the winner • If a team scores all 5 goals they are awarded a bonus goal • If defending team score a goal - 1 goal is deducted from the attacking teams’ total • Which team wins the round-robin? • Key coaching points: • Speed and accuracy of all passes • Create space to receive - width and depth • Forward movement with and without the ball to create 1v1 and 2v1 opportunities • Decision making - when to dribble when to pass • Positive attitude to shooting • All individual and unit defending principles • Communication • Be alert to offensive and defensive transition SESSION 5: LET THE GAME BE THE TEACHER PART 3 THE REVERSED GOAL GAME OBJECTIVE: To develop forward movement with and without the ball
  • 23. SESSION CONTENT: • The area is 40 x 40 with 2 small goals facing back to play 8 yards in from each end • There are 2 teams who set out there own shape to play the game • To score a goal a team must get a player around the back of the defense • Key coaching points: • Speed and accuracy of all passes - long and short • Create space to receive - width and depth • Forward movement with and without the ball • Decision making - when to dribble when to pass • Timing of runs • Quality of finish • All individual and unit defending principles • Communication • Be alert to offensive and defensive transition