The most important soccer skills to teach young players

Soccer players need a lot of different skills, and it does not matter for most of these skills whether you teach Skill A or Skill B first. However, there are some skills that are absolute “must-haves” for any player- and are so important that you probably will want to teach them first.

These are basic ball-holding skills (receiving and shielding); basic ball-stealing skills (defence); and basic take-on skills (attacking). Most kids naturally seem to have a few basic defensive skills, even if they were never formally taught. The other two areas require instruction to accomplish with even minimal competency, so there is a good argument to start first with ball-holding skills; move next to take-on skills; and then to get to ball-stealing skills.

Why ball-holding before take-on? Simple. Once you get possession, the other side is going to try to take the ball back. If you can hang onto the ball under pressure, you’ll have time to make better decisions (including finding an open teammate to pass the ball to). Also, if you are confident that you can hold the ball, you are much less likely to blindly try to simply whack it away and let someone else worry about it (a technique commonly known as “passing the responsibility rather than the ball” or the “hot-potato phenomenon”). What are ball-holding skills? Most folks refer to them as receiving and shielding skills. The first step (receiving) is to bring the ball under control quickly. Then, you use your body/legs to get between the opponent and the ball to protect (shield) the ball. It includes really basic stuff like simply stepping over the ball when somebody is coming in, as well as somewhat harder stuff (but still easy) like rolling/pulling the ball back behind you or to your side. The rolling/pulling of the ball requires some work, as you need to learn to use both feet – and to switch feet. However, one of the key ingredients is to learn to bend the knees; get the arms out; and use your weight to push back into the opponent. As kids get more advanced, they can learn how to spring off of an opponent (or roll off of him by using a circle turn). However, at the very beginning stages, they are fine if they can simply get their bottoms down; get those knees bent; push hard back into the opponent; and get enough weight on their support leg to be able to free their far foot and use it to roll the ball around. Along with these ball-holding skills, you will want to introduce some basic receiving skills, so that they can bring the ball under control quickly (which is essential if they are going to have any hope of shielding it).

How to do this? Start with two equal-sized players with a single ball in a grid about 3-yards square and have them work on holding the ball by using simple rolls, pullbacks and other touches to shield the ball. If you teach your players ANYTHING, teach them the skills to keep possession. Once they realize that they have the skills to keep an opponent from stealing the ball, they will gain the confidence to lift their heads up and find another player to pass off to. Before they gain this confidence, you can expect terrible passing simply because they will get flustered at the first hint of pressure (and might even “feel” panicked at pressure which is 10-20 yards away). Until your players can hold a ball 1v1 in a grid about 10 feet by 10 feet for a count of around 7-8, they are not going to have enough confidence to do very well on the field.

After learning some basic shielding/receiving skills, the next thing to learn is some basic dribbling skills. Different coaches have different philosophies on how to teach dribbling. Many coaches spend a lot of time trying to teach young players a lot of fancy moves which were made famous by noted international stars (who, incidentally, only perfected these fancy moves after years and years of hard work on the basics). This approach works for some kids who are naturally graceful and quick. However, it can have the unfortunate result of convincing an awful lot of kids that “I can’t dribble” when they simply are still growing; are a bit clumsy; and cannot get their big feet and/or unwieldy bodies to do all of the ballerina stuff.

What these coaches don’t realize is that a player only needs to know about 3 basic moves to be able to dribble very successfully–and that virtually all top-notch players use these same 3 moves about 90% of the time when they are dribbling the ball. ANYBODY CAN LEARN THESE 3 MOVES (and this includes the coach)!

The moves are the check (a/k/a “magic hop” in some Vogelsinger videos); the simple cut/explosion using the outside of the dribble foot; and the chop (cut with the inside of the foot). If they can master these three moves, and learn the standard, straight-ahead dribbling technique (i.e. knee over the ball; front of dribble foot pulls the ball along so it stays on/near the foot at all times), they can learn to beat a reasonable number of defenders especially if those defenders are coming in at speed.

The key to take-on skills is getting the head up to watch the defender which is dependent on having enough ball-control that you know where the ball is and what it is going to do without needing to look. Then, as soon as the defender tries to stab at the ball, you can take advantage of his “dead leg” (weight mainly on one leg) by attacking the outside of the dead leg and going around him. Piece of cake!!

Of course, once your players become convinced that they can dribble, they probably will want to work on “cool moves”. This is a great warm-up. In fact, it can be great homework (Coach at end of practice: “Johnny needs to learn a new move and teach it to us at next practice; anyone who uses it in the scrimmage gets a lollipop”). But don’t put the cart before the horse. Convince them that they can dribble and the fancy moves will take care of themselves.

The next thing to learn is basic defence including simple delay as well as ball-stealing. The first thing to teach is simple delaying tactics by use of good footwork to get in the attacker’s way. Time is the defender’s friend, and speed is the attacker’s friend, so you want to delay and delay and delay to allow your teammates to come and help. Once you’re “numbers up”, it’s easier to steal the ball! The second skill is the standing tackle followed by the shoulder charge.

Of course, after you’ve taught these very basic skills, you’ll need to work on passing technique and kicking technique since most kids won’t be able to pass accurately or do a laces kick or a chip without instruction (although most will toe-kick just fine). Whatever you do, please don’t teach your kids that the “proper” way to score is to break the net with a hard shot. Many kids get the impression that they cannot play forward unless they have a very hard shot. This is garbage. Most goals in games will be scored by passes, not by blistering shots on goal (pull out your WC tapes and watch – this is universally true for most goals, except for set plays). So, get them used to scoring by simply passing the ball into the net and their future coaches will thank you. Nothing wrong with scoring by a kick, mind you. Just don’t get them into the mindset that their spectacular dribbling run through 6 defenders needs to end with a bullet shot as they’ll inevitably put the ball out too far in front of them to get the shot off and the keeper will make a meal of it. On the other hand, they most likely would have scored if they had simply kept the head up; watched the keeper; and pushed it past him.

Depending on your age group, the next stage is often to introduce wall passes but these take lots of ball control/receiving/passing skills which often are not present at younger ages or with newer players. You’ll also want to introduce the basic cutback or drop at some stage, as well as the square pass. The cutback or drop (where the on-ball player takes the ball to the goal line and cuts it back to the penalty mark) are common support options. These are all basic 2v1 options for support – and I haven’t even added the overlap!

There is not much point in even adding much in the 3v1 or 3v2 attacking category until your kids have mastered the basic jobs of the on-ball player and the player who is closest to him (the 2nd attacker, in coach-speak). Once the kids have figured out how to keep the ball; take somebody on; and provide simple 2v1 support; add in the concepts of basic triangles for support and focus on the job of the off-ball players to promptly move so that the on-ball player always has 2 safe, short passing options. Along with improving first-touch and some more basic take-on, finishing and defending skills, this should be quite enough to occupy your team (and you) through the next World Cup.

Along the way, expect them to make mistakes in deciding what was the “best” support option. Expect them to go to sleep from time to time, and not move into a good support position. Expect their first-touch to fail them. But, if you work them in these basics and push them to learn these simple rules, they are likely to be among the best players on the field in a few years.

Five indoor coaching games

Indoor soccer coaching brings challenges.

Obviously there’s less room, so some of the soccer games and drills you use outdoors simply won’t work.

On the other hand, there are benefits to be gained from training indoors.

One of them is the surface underfoot. It’s good for soccer skill development to practise on a nice, smooth floor rather a bumpy and sometimes muddy field.

Use these soccer coaching tips to maximise the benefits and minimise the problems associated with indoor coaching.

To get you started, this article suggests some simple games that always work well in a gym.

Warm up with the Wall Game

Place your kids in the centre of the gym. Identify the four walls as North, South, East and West (with very young children you could use colours or place different objects at each wall).

Tell them “I will call out a name of a wall and you have to run to it, touch it and run back”. You could make anyone who runs to the wrong wall perform a penalty, such as press-ups, but please don’t make the last one back perform a penalty – it’s not fair on the slower kids.


  • Ask the kids to skip, sideways run, etc (but not run backwards – falling over on a hard floor hurts!)
  • Give the walls numbers rather than names.
  • Point to wall; call a different one (always works!!)
  • Tell them to run to the opposite wall (you call ‘North’, they have to run to the ‘South’ wall).
  • Dribble a football to the wall and back.

Shuttle races and relays

Until the age of 13 or 14 you can adequately stretch kids’ muscles with basic soccer drills using shuttle races or relays. If you make sure the drills include elements that involve turning, bending, acceleration and stopping they will also improve aerobic fitness.

A big plus is that kids love the competitive element.
Start without a ball and then get your kids to do the runs with a ball at their feet.

Spiders and bugs

Divide your children into two equal teams. Each team should stand alongside the centre line, about two yards apart and facing towards the ends of the gym. Name one team Spiders and one team Bugs (or anything else).

When you call ‘Spiders’! or ‘Bugs’! that team has to sprint for the end line nearest them. The other team tries to tag them. Anyone who is tagged joins the other team. Continue until there are only a couple of children left who haven’t been tagged. Don’t carry on the soccer drill until they are all exhausted!).


This is great for encouraging support play and communication. Just make sure the kids play to the rules.

3v1 Keepaway

When the three make a mistake or get to a certain number of passes, bring in the next set of three players.

Make this soccer drill competitive by seeing how many passes each team can string together.

Pre-season training


Dolanby Eamonn Dolan (Reading FC Academy manager)

first published on BBC Sport

A good pre-season is a must for all professional players in the Premier League and Football League – but is also hugely valuable for all amateur and junior players.

Here Reading FC Academy manager Eamonn Dolan describes how he would begin to prepare a youth soccer team for the new season.


Regardless of age and ability the basic principles of a pre-season stay the same.

Every training session should start with a good warm-up but for the first one of pre-season I would probably make it a little longer than usual, perhaps 20 minutes.

I’d be tempted to lead the first part of this, with five minutes of jogging followed by five minutes of static stretching (which involves holding a position).

Follow this with another five minutes of jogging and five minutes of dynamic stretching (using speed of movement, momentum and active muscular effort to produce a stretch).

The jogging gives the players the chance to have a bit of a catch up if they have not seen each other for a while and allows you to make an initial assessment of the fitness your squad is in.

Running is good for aerobic conditioning but can hit the body quite hard, so I would not do too much of this.

pre-season trainingAfter the warm-up set up a ball circuit. Players are always motivated by sessions with the ball – and not only find it more enjoyable but tend to work harder than drills that do not involve any ball work.

Mark off a square with each side four metres in length and position a player at all four corners. Use two footballs for this drill.

One player dribbles at his own pace from one corner to the next, where a player without a ball takes over and dribbles to the next corner.

Players can regulate themselves during the drill dependent on how fit they are feeling and a coach can see when a player is fatiguing.

There are lots of variations available using this square – for example if the players are looking in good shape you can always get them to dribble to two bases.

Next I’d consider working on basic skills. Split the players into pairs, one serving and the other working on his first touch. Work through all the key surfaces like the foot, inside and outside, both knees, chest and head.

Finish the session with a small sided game, perhaps dividing your players into two sides but using a relatively small area.

When using a smaller area players can naturally take a rest if they are feeling tired.

Ensure the players warm down properly.

During the first week try to make sure that the players do not over exert themselves as their enthusiasm after several weeks off can often get the better of them.

Another key issue is hydration. This is really important. Make sure that all of your players have some kind of water bottle and are drinking water throughout the session. If they do not they will not perform at anywhere near the level they are capable of doing so.


As always, I would start with a decent warm-up and then work on passing technique – which is very important.

I would suggest breaking down the players into pairs. Get them to pull the ball across their body with their first touch and then pass to their mate.

passing drills and games

They should use the side of the foot for accuracy and the instep for power, then bend the ball with the inside and outside of the foot.

Dependent on how well this session is going, incorporate an element of pass and move. This is excellent for conditioning without players actually realising how hard they are working.

I would also think about introducing an element of possession, which is a massive physiological conditioning tool and great for technique.

Use one ball and if, for example, you had 11 players, you could break down the session into seven versus four. Play for two minutes, challenging the four players to dispossess the seven.

The bigger the area, the more difficult it becomes for the four players trying to win the ball. If the four players are winning the ball easily, make it harder by setting two against nine.

Before warming down finish with a game.

If you have 16 players you might consider two four-a-side matches rather than one bigger game with eight players on each team.

The smaller game will give players more touches of the ball and therefore improve their conditioning and be more football specific.

As with many of these drills, you can shape the game to whatever you want. If you think your players are performing well you could even try two against two.

How to prepare for a soccer tournament

Football tournaments can be a lot of fun.

Your players get to play different formats of the game, play against players they’ve never met before as well as get to eat lots of ice cream!

But coaches who take their teams to summer tournaments need to plan the weekend very carefully. It’s all too easy to make a mistake that will spoil the event and waste the (sometimes very) expensive entry fee.

So what should be on your tournament checklist?

1. What’s the weather going to be like?

If your players are going to be outside in hot, sunny weather all day, you need to make sure that they have plenty to drink.

While you might think parents will use common sense and bring plenty of fluids for their child, will they bring the right fluids?

Sports drinks are better than plain water. Plain water contains no carbohydrate or electrolytes, causes bloating and discourages further drinking. It also stimulates urine output and therefore is inefficiently retained.

And make sure your players drink to a schedule, say every 15 minutes, whether they feel thirsty or not – thirst is not an accurate indicator of fluid needs.

You should provide somewhere for your players to get out of the weather (hot sun or driving rain!) and rest between games so a gazebo or tent will be useful. If you don’t have one big enough to hold all your players, find a parent who has or hire one for the day.

Ensure parents bring sunscreen for the players and that it is applied every time they have a drinks break.

2. Know the rules!

Tournaments often play to non-standard rules. Slide tackling may be prohibited, goal kicks may be taken from the goal line, the ball might not be allowed to go over head height, etc. So make sure you check them and tell your players about them before the first game kicks off, not after!

3. Player preparation

a) Warm-ups

A series of short, intense matches requires good player preparation.

Warm-ups should be brief, intense, and take place before every match (not just the first one) so that your players are prepared physically and mentally.

Aim to finish each warm up with a game of keepaway or Swedish Handball a few seconds before your players take the pitch.

b) Player rotation

Tournaments are an opportunity to give every player in your squad an equal share of playing time. You simply can’t play your “best” players in every game – it’s unfair on the players on the pitch (who will quickly become exhausted) and the players on the sidelines (who deserve to play, not watch).

As soon as I can, I get a copy of the tournament fixtures and write a team sheet for every match, making sure every player gets a fair share of playing time AND gets to start in at least one game.

4. Coping with finals

Your team has played well and you’re through to the final stages of the tournament. Your players are understandably excited and some are clearly nervous.

How are you going to help them play to their potential in the big match?

Seeing your way to success

For some years now, I have used a psychological technique called visualisation to help my players overcome nerves and play without fear, no matter how important the occasion.

Visualisation will not give a player technical skills that he or she didn’t have before but it will make them believe they can play well and help them relax.

You can use the technique with players as young as eight or nine but the older they are, the more effective this technique will be.

I have used it with U11s who were so nervous before a final that they were couldn’t sit still and U15s who were terrified of letting themselves down in a final against their biggest local rivals. On both occasions, my players took to the field eager to play but calm inside and they played some great football.

For more soccer coaching tips and products visit Soccer Coaching Club.

Example soccer coaching practice plans

These are two examples of the sort of practice plan I write before each coaching session.

The objective of the first session was to improve general ball control and shooting skills. I had sixteen 10 and 11 year old girls of varying ability and one assistant who mirrored the activities I was running.

Warm up  Need one ball each
Explode (15 minutes)

Set up large circle of cones with poles set up about 20/30 yards away

Dribble round circle, heads up.

Use inside/outside of foot, left only, right, etc.

One whistle – exchange ball with another person.

Two whistles, explode. First one back to me with ball stopped and under control wins.

If not enough balls, sharks and minnows and/or a quick game of War!
Split kids into age/ability groups
My group: talk about shooting: attitude (if you don’t shoot, you’ll never score). Talk about/demonstrate good technique (pick target, preferably bottom of far post, look at ball, ankle locked, hit it hard with head over the ball and weight forward, follow through). Pretend you’re passing hard to someone standing at far post.
Build up game

2 go for goal (players stand in two lines opposite a goal plus goalkeeper. I stand on side line, serve ball in, first 2 players race to see who can score first). Emphasise importance of good first touch, shooting technique.

Or… 3v3 one goal. Emphasise possession play and quick, positive shooting.
End game

Four goal game

The next plan is a ‘standard’ lesson plan that I use once a month or so.The objective is to improve ball control and encourage good teamwork.

Warm up

Bugs and spiders and/or the Zipper drill

Build up games

3v 3 one goal or

Three team keep away

Start with two teams of equal numbers and three soccer balls. On whistle, players try to possess as many balls as possible.

On second whistle the play stops and the team in possession of two or more balls wins. Repeat several times.

In this game, players must be good passers of the ball to keep possession. They must also make decisions on where to run when they don’t have the ball, when to pass or dribble, and whom to pass to.

2 Go For Goal

Players form two lines on either side of the coach who is standing 18 to 20 yards from a goal that is any size. The coach serves the ball toward the goal line while pairs of players race to win the ball and shoot. As skills improve, add a goalkeeper. Encourage correct shooting technique and a good first touch on the ball.

End games

Set up four 2 cone goals in each corner of a 20 yd x 30 yd grid. Divide players into two equal teams. Players may score at any of the four goals. This is an excellent game for encouraging teamwork; getting heads up and discouraging bunching round the ball.

Could try this using both halves of the practice pitch instead of the usual end game.

The offensive team has two more players than the defensive team. Teams can be 6 vs. 4, 5 vs. 3, or 4 vs. 2 depending on the number of players.

The offensive team tries to score on the goal. The defenders try to pass the ball through either of two small goals on the centre line.

Play starts at half field with the ball given to one of the offensive players or from a kick from the goalie.


“Spread the defence out” – offensive players should be near the sidelines.

“Make smart passes” – with a two person numerical advantage, the offensive team shouldn’t lose the ball easily. Encourage team-mates to get into position to receive a pass before the player with the ball gets into trouble.

“Clear the ball wide” – when the defenders win possession of the ball.

“How can they pass to you if you are standing there?” – show players without the ball where to be to best support team-mates.



Require offensive team to complete three passes in a row before shooting.

Defenders have only one less player than offenders (e.g. 3 vs. 2, 4 vs. 3, etc.)

Coaching indoors this winter?

Cold nights, wind, rain, sleet, snow…

At this time of year, many youth football coaches are thinking about moving their coaching sessions indoors until the weather improves.

But indoor football coaching has its own, unique, set of problems that have to be considered when you are planning your sessions.

The main one, of course, is the relative lack of space but you can overcome this by organising your activities using the Magic Rectangle.

The Magic Rectangle was devised by top Dutch coach Bert-Jan Heijmans. It is a simple but amazingly effective coaching technique that allows you to work with four small groups simultaneously.

The Magic Rectangle also helps you use every inch of space in your hall as effectively as possible.

You can conduct a full coaching session in the rectangle: Warm your players up, do some technical work, practice technique in 1v1 or 2v2 situations and even play SSGs.

Every player is involved all the time, transitions are fast and there’s very little need, if any, to pick up or put down cones.

These are a few games that you can use in the MR:

Up in The Air

Players throw a ball in the air, sit down, stand up and catch it before it lands. Then throw the ball up and control it with feet (or any other part of the body) as it lands.

Small Group Passing

Pair players up and get them to pass the ball to each other in their grid.

Make sure the passer moves immediately to a new space and the receiving player passes back to his partner’s feet.

Start with three-touch then move to two-touch and finally one-touch.

Now make one of the players a defender and the rest of the group keep the ball away from her. Then call “change” and the defenders run to a different group and try to stop them passing. If it’s too easy, add a second defender.

Change the defender every minute or two and make the game competitive by seeing which defender can win the most balls in a set time.

Ball Tag

Three players pass the ball in their rectangle. The fourth player (the defender) ties to tag the player in possession. Play for a minute or two then rotate the defender. Then add a second ball.

Line Soccer

Play 2v2 in each rectangle. Pairs of players have five minutes to get the ball to their opponent’s end line as many times as possible. At the end of the five minutes, rotate the players so that the winning teams play each other.

Coaching note: Any 2v2 game can be progressed to 4v4 by simply removing the dividing line between two of the four rectangles.

For some more ideas, why not have a look at 64 Small-Sided Games.


A regular ball can be difficult to control on a hard floor and you will find that your indoor coaching games work better if you use futsals (or futebol de salao) instead.

If you have to use regular balls, it is a good idea to deflate them slightly to reduce the bounce.

Managing the end of session scrimmage

At the end of your coaching session you want to play a “match” using the entire hall.

But you can’t let all your players play at the same time.

I’ve found that the best way to manage this situation is to play 4v4, winner stays on, one goal wins the game.

But what do you do with the teams that are waiting to play?

If the hall is big enough you could play two 4v4 games across the hall.

Another option is to line the waiting players along the sides of the hall where they act as side supports, receiving passes and playing the ball back to the team that passed to them.

A third way of managing the waiting players was suggested to me by coach Derek.

He numbers all his players, for example, 1 to 16.

The first “match” begins with players 1 to 8. After two minutes, he swaps player 1 with player 9, player 2 with player 10 and so on.


Coaching football in small spaces is challenging for any coach.

But with a bit of thought and organisation (and a bit of magic!), coaching indoors can be productive and fun. And it’s a lot better than being outdoors on cold winter evenings!

Choosing the size of your playing area

So you thought that size didn’t matter….

Well, in soccer coaching anyway, it definitely does.

The size of the playing area you use when coaching can have a dramatic impact on the outcome of your soccer coaching drill session.

Basically, the larger the area the easier it is for your players to experience success. So when coaching young or inexperienced players you should always set up a relatively large grid when, for example, you’re playing games like keepaway.

A good starting point is 10 yards or meters of length for every player in the team or group. For example, a 4v4 soccer coaching drill designed for young players should be 40 yards or meters long.

The width is determined by the type of game you’re playing. ‘Soccer like’ games such as keepaway should normally be played on a rectangular pitch so that they are realistic. So your 4v4 game of keepaway with young players would be played in a 40×30 grid.

But sometimes you will have an objective in mind that requires a different shape.

For example, a really good game for encouraging players to get their heads up and pass quickly is the Four Goal Game (see below).

This game is most usefully played on a pitch that is wider than it is long in order to increase the number of decisions your players have to make.

When your players begin to experience success during a soccer coaching drill, it’s time to make the playing area smaller. This puts them under more pressure and helps them develop their soccer skills further. you can also impose restrictions such as making therm play two-touch at the same time.

So now you know what size grid you need and you’re ready to set out your cones.

But before you do that, check the field for hazards especially holes, broken glass and dog excreta.

Then place the first cone down in line with another object behind it such as a tree.

Then walk backwards, keeping the first cone and the reference object in view. Drop a cone every 5 to 10 yards until you get to the end.

When you get to the end of the first line, turn 90 degrees and drop cones as you’re walking backwards again and you’ll end up with nice straight lines and a properly sized grid!

Four Goal Game

Objective: To develop passing and encourage players to play with their heads up and switch play quickly. It’s also good for teaching pressure, cover, balance in defence.

Age group: U8s upwards.

Equipment: cones, bibs and a football.

Number of players: Whole team.

Set up: use a square grid suitable for the number of players and their skill level. For a 5v5 game with eight year olds, I would use a 40×40 grid. Place four small goals in each corner. No goalkeepers.

How to play: Each team defends two goals at one end and attacks the two at the far end. The players attempt to ‘pull’ the bulk of the defenders over to defend one goal before switching the ball suddenly towards the less well-guarded goal and trying to score there.

Progression: (a) Play one- or two-touch soccer. (b) award extra points for goals which come directly from the team switching play.

What’s the plan?

“When Johan started as Ajax coach he had a vision in which he continued to believe, even when things didn’t go so well.”
Frank Rijkaard

In order for a coach to coach he needs to recognize when things are going wrong. To do that he needs some idea of when things are going right. He needs to have in mind a picture, a plan of the team playing well. Any deviation from the plan is what will concern him.

The plan is the collective understanding and agreement as to how the team will approach the game. It involves the distribution of tasks and responsibilities so that the team stands the best chance of winning.

It involves key moments when certain players will have to work together to achieve their tasks. This, in turn, involves the analysis of the expected demands and resources available to meet them. It is what we must do, how we will do it, who is responsible, and when it will be done.

The why is to provide a degree of predictability, a standard, to the game. It is the image of the team playing well in the two main moments. Without this the players and coach can have no clear idea by which to evaluate their efforts.

The plan has limits and is affected by a number of factors. The abilities and limitations of the players and the opponents. The meaning of the game, is it a cup final or a casual kick around with a football. The score and time remaining. Being 1-0 up at the start is different then being 1-0 up with two minutes left. Substitutions can wreck a plan; the new player may not be able to fill the task as well as the one he replaced. Weather and field conditions can play a part in making a plan. Parents, spectators and the referee can have an influence on the match. The coach and players must keep in mind which of these factors they can influence, and which ones they can’t. Control the controllable.

While there are a number of factors that both soccer coaches and soccer players must consider, the steps in how they do it are the same.

1) They make assumptions. Everyone does it, it’s what you start from. Coaches guess which opponent will be dangerous. Player’s size up their immediate opponent and build expectations. If the assumptions are accurate, good, if not they need to be changed quickly.

2) The predictions. Assumptions just sit there. They need to be analyzed as to what they mean. Simply assuming that your immediate opponent is faster then you, what does that mean about the game? This step involves taking the assumptions and calculating the probabilities. What is likely to happen?

3) The decisions. When the coach and players have arrived at their predictions about the game they can decide what they want to do about it. Which ones deserve consideration and which don’t? The decisions will be coloured by the coaches soccer experience and insight.

Plans precede the game. Some coaches mistake a line up, a system of play as a plan. It is not. Nor is the plan something like “a flat back four.” This deals with one line in one moment. It is not general comments like “pass the ball wide” or “apply pressure in their half.” These are elements of the plan, they are contained within it but fall short of being it.

Plans primarily go wrong when any one or more of the above factors are incorrect. When the assumptions are wrong a correct prediction won’t follow. If the assumptions are correct but the predictions are wrong then the decisions will have to be changed. If both the assumptions and predictions are correct a coach can still make a poor selection for solving the problem. When a coach is correct in what he assumes about the game, and he correctly predicts events, and has enough insight and understanding about the game, it’s problems and solutions he is in the best position to make a good plan. Things may still go wrong, but it will be something either unforeseen or uncontrollable.