Coach Development: Watching Oxford’s academy coaches at work

As part of my ongoing development as a football coach I’d decided I wanted to go and watch some of Oxford United’s academy coaches at work so that I could see how they ran a session. I wanted to see what they coached, how they coached and how they interacted with the kids.

So, following an email to Oxford’s head of youth development I was told I could go along and watch the U9s & U10s being coached on Monday night. I arrived and introduced myself to the coaches before retreating to the sideline with my notepad and pen in hand.

I was told the U9s were newly formed and there would only be a small number of players training but that the U10s would be going through a proper session. My notes and summary of the sessions I observed are below.


 Session 1: SSG

  • 9 players
  • Coaching point: Body shape when passing (open – don’t allow body shape to allow opposition to know where you’re going to pass it)
  • Allowed “dribble in” to play, rather than pass
  • Limited to 2 touches (not effective)
  • Added “spare man” for team in possession

 Session 2: Passing in 3’s

  • Players passing between each other in confined area
  • Coaching point: Be aware of other teams

 Session 3: Passing from A <> B <> C

  • Player B coached on receiving ball with body open, rather than with back to C (if receiving from A)
  • Coach demonstrated a number of times – including player moving towards ball when receiving
  • Coach also worked on the players needing to be ready to receive the pass and ensuring the pass had the right weight


The under 10s session was an enjoyable one to watch as the coaches had a larger number of players to work with and you could see it was a session aimed more at player development than player discovery/assessment (as with the under 9s).

 Session 1: Warm up

  • A circular area of approximately 20 yards x 20 yards was set out with white cones
  • The players began by running in and out (note: not through!) of the cones before progressing to running through the cones and to finally side-stepping between the cones. This demonstrated coverage of the fundamental movements as part of a warm-up.
  • The coaches then had the players making figure-of-eight movements between two cones and the coaches would hold a number of fingers up which the kids would have to shout out as they went up – i.e. to introduce movement whilst keeping their head up
  • The players then had to hop between cones, run backwards through cones and were then put in to pairs.
  • When in pairs the players were tasked with shadowing each other and at random intervals the coach would shout “Can you lose your player?” at which point the “leader” would need to move to a sprint whilst moving through cones to try and lose his “marker”.
  • <– Ball introduced –>
  • With a ball each, the player were then asked to dribble in a figure-of-eight movement between the cones and had to do this with both their stronger and weaker foot
  • This progressed to dribbling through different cones, with the coaches challenging the kids to run through as many as possible
  • Finally, the coaches introduced two defenders or “blockers” who were asked to tackle players whilst the players attempted to dribble through the cones

 Session 2: Attacking in pairs / Movement

  • The coaches laid out an area of approximately 30 yards x 30 yards with a goal/goalkeeper and a square of cones at the opposite end to the goal (red & blue in the diagram)
  • The players lined up about 10 yards out from the cones
  • Two players would start on the near cones and the player on a particular cone was informed that he was the decision maker (in fact, it was always the player on that cone who made the call for the remainder of the session)
  • The player would then decide if the pair were going to check or switch (check meaning running to the cone nearest the goal and back (blue to red to blue in the diagram), switch meaning switch with the player on the other cone (blue to blue))
  • Once they’d made a call a server (green dot in the diagram) would then play in a ball and the two  players would play one or more passes before having an effort on goal
  • After each player had a go the coach introduced two defenders (pink in the diagram) and this is where a number of coaching points were raised, such as:
    • Movement between the two “strikers”
    • Body shape of the defenders when defending
    • When to make the pass & when to dribble
  • The next progression was for the receiving players to return the ball to the serving player before then doing a switch/check and then receiving the ball a second time before playing
    • Coaching point: Quality of return to server, i.e. concentrate on pass before making move
  • The final progression was to introduce two wide-players (brown in the diagram). This created a 5 v 2 situation for the defenders and gave the attacking players a wide-option to use. The coaching points made here were:
    • If the defenders engaged with the receiving players (at the blue cone), could the receiving player check out and then come to receive the ball to make space
    • Quality of pass out to wide players
    • Finishing (i.e. coaches were “replaying” situations but with the strikers making a better choice of shot)
    • Use of serving player to support the attack
    • Use of “strikers” movement to take defenders away and create space for supporting player to shoot


The under 10s session kept me glued to it throughout. I could see how they were incorporating the fundamental movements in to the warm-up and at no point did any one part of the session last to long – there were no instances of the kids losing concentration.

I also observed how the coaches worked in unison. One would run the session whilst the other would set it up or talk to the kids who were waiting to play (in the latter game) – this ensured that one coach could focus on the key points for those “active” players whilst the other could keep the other players organised.

I could also see how the U10s coach was very effective at pausing the session where a poor pass was made or wrong decision made and then challenging the player to correct it, before starting again (is this level 2 type stuff??).

So all in all a very useful way to spend an hour on a Monday night and I’ll certainly be going along to watch more sessions in the future!


About Simon
Grassroots Football Coach

2 Responses to Coach Development: Watching Oxford’s academy coaches at work

  1. Dan says:

    Good write up. Some good ideas here, thanks for sharing!

  2. Pingback: Sample session from League 2 club Oxford United | A Coaching Life

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