Soccer netball

Age group: All ages

Set up: This is a small sided team game (3v3 4v4 or 5v5) that uses netball-style play to develop soccer (football) skills.

Set up a goal at each end of a small square, circle or triangle. The shape of the playing area doesn’t matter, in fact an unusual shape makes the players think a bit more. The size of the area depends on the age and number of players. Just make sure they have plenty of room to play. For ten year olds, I would suggest 40 by 30 yards.

How to play: The aim of the game is to pass the ball among your team WITH HANDS, keeping possession and working up the field in order to score a point. Each team scores by placing the ball (or throwing the ball down) in their opponents’ goal or on the end line.

Alternatively, teams score by making a successful pass to a team mate who is stationed on their target end line.

Players pass the ball by throwing it. Once a player receives the ball they cannot run, they are frozen (or can take a limited number of steps depending on their age and ability) and then must pass to a team mate.

The opposing team can only intercept between passes – they cannot grab the ball out of players’ hands. If the ball goes out of the playing area, award a throw in to the opposing team.

When a goal is scored, the team that scored must try and keep possession and can’t score into the goal. If they do, the goal is disallowed and a goal kick is awarded.

If the other team equalise and make it 1-1, either team can then score to make it 2-1. To win the game, the team in the lead has to keep possession until the final whistle.

Coaching points

You may need to mark a ‘no entry’ zone a few yards from the end line or enforce a 1 or 2 defender rule. If you don’t, defending players tend to just crowd around the goal area.

Rattle

This game is named after the great English conductor, Sir Simon Rattle.

This is a short warm-up game that you can use with any age of player.

You play the role of a conductor and your players, who are the orchestra, must concentrate and pay close attention to what you are saying or doing.

How to play Rattle

All your players stand facing you in a semi-circle or straight line. They should be about 10 yards away.

Their objective is to listen (and watch) for instructions and carry them out immediately.

Call sequences such as:

  • Sidestep left.
  • Sidestep right.
  • Jump.
  • Touch the grass.
  • Run on the spot.
  • Run forwards.
  • Run backwards.

Commands should start slowly then increase in tempo until you’re changing the instruction every two or three seconds.

Variation

Make some of your instructions visual rather than spoken. Point to your left or at the ground instead of saying “go left” or “touch the grass”.

Stand in front of your players, perform the moves and tell your players to copy what you do. Then ask them to do the opposite: if you sidestep left, they sidestep right.

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

Pass, move, pass, move

This is a great warm-up to use before a training session or a match.

It gets your players into the habit of moving immediately after they pass, works on their ball control and is a good physical workout too.

Age group: U8s to U13s.

Set up: Create a circular playing area about 25 yards across. Divide your squad in two.

Place one half of your players inside the playing area and the other half around the outside of the playing area.

The players on the outside have a ball each.

How to play: The players on the inside run to an outside player, receive a pass, return the ball and move quickly to another outside player and repeat the process.

Switch the inside and outside players after a few minutes.

Progressions:

  • Receive the ball and return it with one touch.
  • Receive the ball with the left foot, return it with the right and vice versa.
  • Receive with ball with one surface of the foot (inside, outside, sole, etc.) and return it with a different surface.

Coaching points

Discourage your players from watching their passes, they should turn and run to the next player as soon as the ball leaves their foot.

This exercise should be done at speed. Do not allow players to walk around.

Encourage players to call for the ball as they approach a player on the outside.

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

Let’s go!

warm up

Let’s Go! is an example of a classic warm-up activity that is used by many professional clubs.

It will help your players prepare mentally and physically for matches. If you play it for about 10 minutes, just before kick-off, your team will start matches at top speed!

warm up

Set up: Divide all your players into two teams, wearing vests.

In a 30×40 yards area (or half a pitch), they play a possession game: Team A keeps the ball from team B.

Rules

No tackling allowed – avoids needless injuries in the warm-up.

If ball goes out of bounds, the opposite team kick it in.

Award a point for five consecutive passes. The first team to get three points wins.

Variations

Play one-touch, two-touch, etc.

Every second pass should be played long.

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

Spot the space

Objective: Spot the Space helps young players get into the habit of moving after they pass the ball. It’s also a good warm-up before a coaching session or a match.

Set up: Create a square playing area about 30 yards across. Split it into four with flat cones so you end up with four squares.

Divide your players into three teams of three wearing different coloured training vests.

If you have spare players set up another game of Spot the Space or adjust the size of the playing area and/or the number of ‘spaces’. If you have 12 players, for example, use four teams of three and divide the playing area into five spaces instead of four.

Each team has one ball.

How to play:
Each player occupies a square but only one player from each team is allowed in any one square – you can’t have two players in the same team in the same square at any point in the game.

On your command, the players with a ball pass to a team mate and run to the square that doesn’t have one of their team mates in it.

Coaching points:

Make the game competitive by challenging teams to perform the exercise at pace and without making a mistake for two minutes.

Look for players calling for the ball, passing accurately and moving quickly. No walking!

Progression:

Restrict the number of touches to two or, for advanced players, one touch.

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

How to warm up your players before a match

Why do our players need to warm up before a match?

Physically, effective warming up increases blood circulation to a player’s muscles, ligaments and tendons. This not only reduces the risk of injury, it improves the body’s efficiency and speed of reaction.

The increased blood flow to the muscles also helps the body remove unwanted by-products of anaerobic exercise (such as lactic acid) and thereby reduces the risk of post-exercise soreness.

Psychologically, warming up before training or a match puts players in the right frame of mind for the task to come. A well-designed warm-up routine will focus your players, remove distractions and help them to start matches quickly and positively.

How to warm your players up

Young children (up to the age of eight) hardly need to warm up at all – some jogging, swinging of the arms, twists of the hips or other movements to loosen up will suffice.

Most coaches of older players do try to warm up their players before kick off but I’ve seen many coaches use warm-up routines that are ineffective. I’ve even seen some warm-ups that are downright dangerous to young children.

How can a warm up be dangerous?

Asking players to start the warm-up with some static stretches – it’s important not to do any stretches before your players muscles are warm.

So if you are going to do some stretches (and don’t do any stretching exercises if you’re not sure how to do them properly) do some gentle jogging first.

Research has shown that static stretching can be detrimental to performance and doesn’t lead to decreases in injury. Dynamic stretching (stretching muscles while moving) is much better.

Examples of dynamic stretching

  • Lunge Walk – loosens up the hips. Lunge walk is when you take large steps keeping the chest up, looking straight ahead and moving the arms and legs together.
  • High Knees – for hip flexor and ankle strength. Extend up to the toes and lift each thigh to a parallel position with the ground as you move forward.
  • Calf Walk – for lower limb strength and Achilles flexibility. Extend the ankle on each step will warm up the calf muscles and Achilles tendons.
  • Sideways running – for lower limb strength, agility and flexibility.
  • Backwards skipping – same as above and works on strengthening quads and calf muscles.

Tip: Do not confuse dynamic stretching with ballistic stretching! Dynamic stretching consists of controlled leg and arm swings that take you (gently!) to the limits of your range of motion. Ballistic stretches involve trying to force a part of the body beyond its range of motion and can be harmful to children.

What’s next?

As soon as your players are warm, move on to some ball work. Don’t wait until they get cold again!

This is a warm-up I often use with my U9s:

To begin, every player dribbles a ball in the penalty area. I give a variety of instructions, including: Stop, turn left/right, change direction, accelerate and slow down. Then I ask them to dribble again until I say “leave the ball and get someone else’s”. This part of the warm-up gets them moving and thinking about playing football.

Then I move on to a game of Swedish Handball. The goalkeeper can join in or get an individual warm up from an assistant coach or a parent.

Goalkeeper warm-ups

Tip: Never line your players up in front of a goal so they can shoot one at a time. There shouldn’t be any players standing in lines before a game. They aren’t warming up for a trip to the cafeteria!

It’s now about 10 minutes to kick off.

Time for a quick drink and to announce the starting line-up.

You should have already decided on the starting line-up and have it written down. Try to stick to it. Remember that during the course of the season, all players should have the chance to: 1) play in different positions, 2) be captain, and 3) start and finish games. These things are important to your players.

It’s now five minutes to kick off.

Don’t bother with a long pep talk. Your players should know what they have to do and if they don’t, it’s too late to tell them now. Two minutes is ample time to tell them to go out and enjoy themselves.

It’s now time for your players to take the field and play!

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

Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters

Objective: This game is a good warm-up for a training session or a match.

It’s also a great way to improve dribbling skills, ball control and physical co-ordination.

Set up: Create a 20-yard square for every 12 players.

Each player has a ball.

GhostbustersHow to play:

Inside the area, 10 players have a ball while the two remaining players are the ghosts.

The players with a ball dribble around in the area and try to stay away from the ghosts who attempt to tag the dribbling players.

Once a player has been tagged they freeze and stand with their feet apart holding their ball above their head.

See how many players the ghosts can freeze in one minute.

Alternatively, the pair of ghosts who can tag all the players in the quickest time wins.

The last two players to be tagged become the ghosts in the next game.

Progression:

Allow free players to unfreeze tagged players by playing the ball between the frozen player’s legs.

The frozen player should shout ‘Help!!’ or “I need a ghostbuster!!”.

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

Chase

chase

Objective: For older players (13+) to improve fitness. For younger players, to improve flexibility and co-ordination.

Age group: U6s to U16s.

chase

Set up: Create a playing area large enough for your players to move around in safely.

For twelve 10-year-olds, it should be about 20×15 yards.

Place a pole or distinctive cone on each side of the playing area, about five yards from the sideline.

Split your players into two teams.

Each player tucks a training vest into their waistband. Use a different colour for each team (e.g. team A has red vests, team B has yellow vests).

Send each team to opposite ends of the playing area.

How to play:

On your command, players try to take a vest from a player on the other team and drop it on the ground.

If a player loses his vest, he must run around one of the poles outside the playing area and rejoin the game, picking up his vest and tucking it into his waistband as he returns.

Play for one minute. The winners are the team who have the most training vests when you call “time”.

Play best of three.