Corners – how to practice?

I helped run the training session for our senior team the other night, which is largely where any of my current “coaching” experience has come from [this should change in the next few weeks] and we did a drill on corner taking.

The drill was meant as more of a time-filler because a) the players were all very tired and b) we had a full size goal set-up so it seemed to make sense to make use of it. Anyway, the format was mixed up by using a couple of variables – corners being taken from the left & right, plus we had some free-kicks swung in from a deeper angle.

It was fun, fast and furious but thinking about the session afterwards I realised that it lacked purpose and it lacked an objective which got me thinking; how would I run a coaching drill on coaching if it were my session, or my team?

So, a few thoughts on what I might consider if I were to run a session on corners:


  • Who are my defenders?
  • Which player is responsible for organising the back line?
  • Does he/she know what they’re responsible for organising?
  • Are they going to mark in zones or man mark?
  • What’s their starting position?
  • Are we having players on both posts?


  • Who are my attackers?
  • Am I placing a player in front of the goalkeeper?
  • Where are the heading players going to start?
  • Who’s running where? [Front post, far post etc]

Corner takers

  • Inswinging or outswinging corners?
  • Signal to state type of corner?
  • Variation of pace?
  • Opportunity to try something new

I find this type of thought process interesting because taking a corner could be seen as one of the simplest aspects of the game and in many regards it’s very much treated like this. You don’t often practise corners, especially not at a grassroots or lower senior level (based on my experience) because everyone likes to think they know what they’re doing. I think the closest I’ve ever come to seeing some kind of planning for a corner was to inform a player he was to stand on the ‘keeper when attacking, and which defenders were to cover the posts when defending.

But to get back to my comment, I find this interesting because as soon as you start to dissect the various components of a corner you find that there is indeed quite a lot to it. I’ve classified three key elements to a corner but I’m sure there are more that I don’t know about and I’m sure there are more finer points to coach then I have listed above.

To me this highlights everything which I’m finding interesting at the moment about football coaching, or at least the reading I’m doing – the sheer depth to every single part of the game. It’s completely engrossing me and I’m hugely fascinated by it.

Next time we practise corners I shall try to influence the drill with some of the thoughts I’ve had above. And, as with all of these posts at the minute, I shall come back and review my thoughts on corners with the benefit of experience!


The new Ronaldo? 6 year old French wonderkid.

This is ridiculous, is it even real? I’m jealous. The video’s from 2008 so it might be wheel invented but worth sharing anyway…

Training: The importance of a cohesive session

Over the past couple of seasons I’ve helped out a few times with the training sessions for my Sunday side (adults team) and this week I was asked to help out again. It’s enjoyable being able to do this and the focus is almost entirely on enjoyment & fitness rather than any attempt to improve the lads technique or team play.

I’ve found that just the act of needing to identify drills which are new and will appeal to players at a senior level has enabled me to finding some interesting coaching websites and you also begin to build an understanding of what the players enjoy and what they find dull.

What I’ve also needed to take in to account is how complex the drill is and whether I’m going to lose their attention in the process of explaining it because as soon as I lose their attention I find it’s very difficult to get it back.

However, above all else the single biggest challenge I’ve found is the necessity to keep the session cohesive, ensuring it’s well planned and you that I’m able to try to prevent unexpected stoppages or periods of time where the players are waiting around because this visibly has a detrimental effect on the session AND puts pressure on the coach.

I’m hoping to continue to be involved in our training sessions on a more frequent basis because I think any experience in planning & organising a training session is going to be good experience at the moment, irrespective of age group or ability.

FA Coaching Level 2 or Youth Award Module 1?

I stated in my first post that I intend to do the Level 1 FA Coaching course in August and then follow this up by starting the Level 2 course in September. I’d aimed to do the two in quick succession for two primary reasons; 1 – the Oxfordshire FA are running an L2 in Oxford (they seem to be like gold-dust) and 2 – the content intrigues me.

However, it’s recently been pointed out to me that the FA Youth Award Module 1 might be a better second step instead of taking the Level 2 course so I’m currently trying to understand a bit more about the Youth Award in order to make a more informed decision.

From what I understand the courses have these objectives:

  • Level 2 coaching – look at coaching in more detail, specifically mapping techniques & drills to core skills as well as looking at patterns of play.
  • Youth Award Module 1 – looking at the “softer” side of coaching. Motivating young players, supporting them & understanding how to maximise the effectiveness of your coaching.

As they’re different courses there is clearly going to be value in each so I guess my question is this – would I be better to gain experience and do the Youth Award before doing the Level 2 course or should I just do whatever’s available first? [There is currently no youth award scheduled in on the OFA website].

What do you, the readers, think? If you’ve been down either of the routes I’m thinking of taking, how did it go? And would you have done anything differently?

Coaching resources & links

Not an article as such but I thought I’d share some of the useful coaching information & websites I’ve found on my trawls recently. I find it’s always useful to share information and I shall aim to create  a page where I list all of the sites below plus any others I come across.

If you happen to know of any similarly interesting sites on the topic of football coaching please let me know via the comments option and I shall add them to the resources page once I’ve sorted it out.

Read more of this post

Values, from the top down?

Shared values?

The company I work for have a published set of values and these values are shared throughout the business, from the top down.

There are six values which were set by the Exec Board a number of years ago and they’re shared openly and widely, both internally and externally (with customers). The directors are expected to “live the values” and they in turn pass these down to department managers, group leaders and team leaders who then pass these on to the staff. Everyone at the company is measured against their ability to live the values and this forms part of an overall view of an employee which then ultimately impacts on their salary, bonus etc.

Now, I’m not qualified to talk about this if I’m honest because I’m not a coach, nor have I coached at a football club before (I’ve played for plenty and organised a few training sessions but it hardly counts). However, from the reading I’ve done it seems that there can quite frequently be a disparity between various people at a football club and most notably it’s between the coaching staff.

You would expect a club to be a collection of teams and more often than not it is the name of the club which carries an outward facing perception rather than an individual team within the club [i.e. I would expect all of Arsenals teams to play good football and all Leeds teams to be dirty*]. So with this in mind you would expect there to be unity at a football club, both with regard the way the club is run & managed and the ethos behind the development of players within the club.

I would imagine that disparity in the ethos of a club would hinder the ability for a child to develop as a footballer within that club, especially if coaches are assigned to age groups rather than teams. You can picture the scene – the U11 coach works really hard to develop his players technically and focuses on passing & movement before the U12 coach chucks all that out of the window and harbours intentions only of winning matches & playing directly [complete contrast helps the argument!].

Therefore, shouldn’t there be more happening at clubs to create a shared ethos that each and every individual connected to the club buys in to? The child, the coach, the manager, the secretary and the parent all bought in to one view of how the club approaches it’s football? “Player development over winning”, that sort of stuff…

Alas, I am new and naive so I may be talking in the land of the fairies but it is worrying to think that such a simple thing could have such an impact on young players.

Am I in cloud cuckoo land here? Am I making the problem sound worse than it really is? Or am I on to something with this perception I’ve built? Interested to hear your thoughts…

*P.S Only joking Leeds fans.

The most famous English coach you’ve never heard of

I came across a fascinating article about the development of young footballers in England and made a note to make sure I blogged about it. For those you who are part of the Soccer Coaching Forums [link to right] you’ll have seen this but for anyone else I think this is worth the 5 minutes it’ll take you to read the article because it offers an interesting & independent insight in to the way we’re developing players and what some of the fundamental problems are. Read more of this post

The English Disease

I spent part of yesterday afternoon watching an Under 11 tournament being run by my local youth club (who I used to play for) as I wanted to see what the standard was like for children in that age group.

You can probably picture the scene, a village recreation ground, an 11-a-side pitch, coaches & family surrounding the pitch, a BBQ on the go and more gazebos than you could shake a stick at.

Having watched for about 30 minutes I’d found it fairly easy to pinpoint one of the fundamental problems was with the development of our youth players – each player has at least three managers, and each manager is shouting a different instruction (usually at the same time!). Clearly, the managers are; 1. the actual manager, 2. the parent and 3. some other random person who takes an interest in the individual.

This just cannot be helpful or conducive to the successful development of young players. From discussing this today, it sounds like many good clubs & coaches are trying to help parents understand and get them bought in to the fact that they can be as unhelpful as they think they’re being helpful and there is evidence that this is a successful approach. However, it would be a fair assumption, I think, that this approach is in the minority.

The other problem I identified was a lack of comfort on the ball, both by the player and from the sidelines. Defenders in control of the ball were largely being told “boot it”, “get rid” or “get it up the pitch” by both team mates and people on the sideline. It is this rush, this pressure, that doesn’t help young players develop in to footballers who’re comfortable on the ball and who are happy to keep possession at the back. We seem to have a concern in England, something in our football DNA, which suggests that the last 1/3 of our pitch (that nearest our goal) is a danger zone even when our own team are in possession and a panic sets in which usually ends up in the ball being launched forward. This has to change.

I would have liked to have seen coaches, parents & players alike tell the young defenders to keep the ball, even if they lost it but let’s get them in to the right habits. Development first, winning second.

I heard some other shouts and instructions from the sideline which were as unhelpful as the next and I empathise with the good coaches out there, coaches who’re trying to develop players in the right way but once they move from the training ground to the football pitch their players are entering an arena which is productive and isn’t beneficial to their development.

Can you relate to this? Am I wrong? Tell me what you think in the comments section, I’d love to understand just how big a problem this is.

P.S If you found this interesting you might find this post interest too:

When starting out in coaching does it matter what age group you start with?

Something I’d like to do with this blog is record and share both the questions I’ve asked and the answers I’ve received so that it might help others who might be asking the same questions.

 I shall use different blog posts to do this, which should make the questions easier to find but will answer the first question below:

Q. When starting out in coaching does it matter what age group you start with?

A.  I asked the question of a couple of people and on various forums and the general consensus is that it would be more beneficial for all concerned to start with younger age groups. Young children are likely to be more forgiving and as a new coach you are (and I expect) likely to make numerous mistakes, which is all part of the learning process. The FA’s courses are also developed with the aim of developing young players from younger ages through to later teens and therefore their ethos matches the view of those I asked.

I think this is a natural question to ask, especially given the complete contrast you’re going to experience when coaching children ranging from U7 to U16. I had a view that older children, or teenagers, are more likely to make use of the practical sessions which I’m expecting to learn through the FA Training courses but it makes complete sense that it would be easier to start out with younger age groups. And what better way to develop, possibly, than maturing as a coach with the same group of players who’re maturing with you?

Why I want to improve the development of young footballers in England?

For a numbers of years now I’ve been moaning and complaining about the quality of football we play at an international level and how, quite clearly, our coaches are getting it wrong at a grassroots level. Without knowing it, this began to irritate me more and more as international tournaments came and went, and England flattered to deceive on every occasion; this is what fuelled my desire to get in to coaching.

I thought it’d be valuable to log what problems I think I’m going to help solve, how I think I’m going to solve them and record my football ethos (as it stands currently) and then be able to come back to this in the future. A reference point if you will, to see if my football and coaching values change over time.

So, what are my beliefs and ethos?

  • Young players today need to spend a lot more time developing their technical ability
  • Coaches need to find ways to develop the technique of young children and find practical ways to develop skills
  • Passing, control and an ability to use both feet are core skills for any player and must be improved at all levels across England / Britain
  • The need to develop must be higher than the need to win
  • Retaining possession, which often requires a player to pass backwards, should be seen as a positive, not a negative
  • The FA’s desire to have children playing Small-Sided-Games (SSGs) must continue, and the senior game must also see more training focussed on these types of sessions.
  • We must start developing players who are less rigid in their positions
  • Football is a passing game, and teams who pass the ball the best often have the greatest success
  • Success on a football pitch is equally about preparation, players and systems – these are the three pillars of success for any team

 Those are some of my views and beliefs on the way we currently develop and play the game in England, but I expect these to change. Coaching will provide me with a completely different perspective on the game of football and I expect to be continuously changing my beliefs and ethos as I develop and gain further experience.

Keeping possession of the football has, historically, been seen as a negative way to play the game but more and more teams are showing that possession, at pace, is the most beautiful form of the game and many of the most successful teams in the world are masters of keeping possession – in Britain, we need to change our mentality to align with this fact.