Dribbling & Turning: Tonight’s U8s session

Tonight’s session had the topic of Close Control, Dribbling & Turns, so the session I planned & carried out was as follows.

Key objectives:

  • A ball with every player at all times
  • No player stood waiting / queueing at any time
  • Dribbling & turning both unopposed & opposed

Warm Up / Starting Session: Gates

Each player had a ball and to begin with we allowed them to dribble through the games and try/perform different turns as they went through the gate.

We then demonstrated and asked them to try the following turns/skills when going through gates (each time pausing to demonstrate):

  • Step over (inc exaggeration as if they were going to shoot)
  • Drag-back
  • Inside / Outside hook

Key points were the players were to also ensure they were keeping their head up whilst dribbling to see where other players were and to visit a different gate if another player was going to the same one. Lots of positive praise for good turns and where players were experimenting.

We then changed a player to be a defender who’s job was to tackle players and that player would then become a defender. Key for the attacking players here was to use the turns to avoid the defender.

Pirates of the pugg

Next we setup and played Pirates of the Pugg as described in the link above. The game continues to work on the players dribbling, with a defender in place but it also provides the defender with an objective as opposed to aimlessly kicking the ball out of play.

Each player who was tackled became a pirate until one player was left. We then rotated to allow each player an opportunity to start as a pirate.

So more dribbling under pressure & also a chance to test their knowledge of characters from Pirates of the Carribean.


We used the game Castles next as described in the link above. We asked players to turn in the inside box, avoiding the defender and had the first player to visit all four corners as the winner. Again rotating the defender in the middle and praising where good turns were used & also where they were being clever and waiting for the right time to enter the box and turn. It also requires the player to perform a turn and exit at a higher speed which is great practice for them.

3v3 SSG

We then ended with a 3v3 SSG.


This is a new group of players we’re working with so it’s important to build rapport at the beginning of the session which we did by asking how they’d got on at school that day, what they’d learnt at school, what clubs they played for, what they did at the weekend, what team they supported etc etc – light hearted and jokey.

We used a whiteboard to described the castles session & also had the players reflect on what they’d learnt at the end of the session and wrote it on the board to demonstrate what they’d learnt.

It felt like a fluid session which kept to the topic and the players enjoyed it – they were also very tired at the end despite regular drinks breaks.

I’ve put this session up as a) it might be useful for someone new to coaching this age group or b) more experienced coaches may be able to critique and question to help with my learning. I’d be happy to see comments from either band 🙂


Two footed tackles

The recent two-footed tackles from Kompany (sent off) and Glen Johnson (not sent off) have caused quite a lot of controversy and discussion this week in football circles with opinion seemingly divided regarding the decision to send off Vincent Kompany during Sunday’s FA Cup fixture versus Man United.

Given it’s a hot topic I felt like using a blog post to get across my opinion, and my opinion is that the referee was correct to send off Kompany on Sunday and Johnson should have been sent off last night.

I accept that tackling is a huge part of the game and I would hate for the physical nature of the game to diminish any further but we must draw a line somewhere and two footed tackles should result in a red card, intended force or not.

Firstly, we need to avoid the potential for there to be judgement to be made when a two-footed tackle is used – whether the player wins the ball or not should not be a deciding factor because you’re then opening it up for players to think they can use two feet to tackle. A two-footed tackle increases the chances of a player being seriously injured.

If I play in the Premiership and I break my leg I get immediate medical attention. I get first aid, I get oxygen, I get my leg seen to immediately and I’m on my way to hospital in a short matter of time. If I play in a local Saturday league (which I do) and someone chances their arm with a two-footed lunge which breaks my leg I’m not likely to get first aid, or oxygen or anything other than an agonising 30-45 minute wait for an ambulance or helicopter to arrive and take me to hospital – time which could seriously impact on my ability to play again.

Secondly, when is there ever a valid need for a two-footed challenge to be used? I accept that players need to leave the floor to challenge but two feet? I don’t think that’s needed and you only ever see a player use it where they’re really struggling to make a tackle, which is where the danger comes in.

We don’t have separate rules for grassroots football & Premiership football but it is for the good of the game and for the safety of players that two-footed tackles must be thoroughly discouraged and punished in the game of football.

FA Youth Development Proposals – Final Recommendations

The FA have recently released their final recommendations for young player development and I think the general consensus is that the proposals are positive and that’s certainly how I view them. I’m still to fully digest the proposals from the FA (there’s quite a bit of detail in there) but from what I’ve seen I think it clearly demonstrates that the FA have done their homework and for this they should take great credit.

My experience of youth football has mainly been limited to what I’ve seen & done so far which is U7 & U8 football but the proposals for these age groups make good sense.

Changing from 7v7 to 5v5 will ensure players are getting slightly more time on the ball, more touches and therefore this will hopefully improve decision making from our players and give them more time with the ball at their feet.

Having a retreat mark is also positive – my first impression when our U7s played their first match last season was that “a large percentage of goals are being scored direct from goal kicks”. The moves to allow a side to play out, even if it means you limit the number of opposition players allowed in an area will breed the right skills & mindset and will avoid some of the embarrassing and un-productive goals which are currently scored in football at this age-group.

To conclude this short post regarding the proposals, I also think it’s great to see the FA directing that football for young players is about development and fun and it allows clubs to get this over to parents and for them to hear it from an authority and from the experts, rather than via a club, local FA or coach.

There’s a lot to digest so I’m sure I’m not alone in needing more time to go over the proposals and the committee at our club will also be discussing during tomorrow’s meeting so I’m sure the proposals will ignite some passionate discussion in there!

Hopes & Aspirations for 2012

It’s only when you reflect back that you realise how quickly time passes. I first started coaching in Sept ’10 and we’re already in January ’12 and that’s felt like the blink of an eye!

As we head in to 2012 I’m primarily focussed on two developments – one being my Level 2 which I start in February and one being the Youth Award Module 2 which I’m going on in April. I’m trying not to rush through qualifications as I know experience is key but this is being balanced with a thirst to learn & improve!

Outside of the qualifications & courses I’m continuing to enjoy coaching our U8s and I think it’s even more rewarding now they’re playing matches as the things you teach them in training can be seen during a game. I’ll carry on coaching the U8s whilst also looking at outside opportunities to increase the amount of time each week I’m coaching and I’d also like to expand in to coaching at an older age group as we move toward the summer.

I hope that I can pass the Level 2 course and that’ll build my confidence and potentially open up other avenues but ultimately, if I’m allowing kids to enjoy their football, develop and do this in a safe environment then I’m achieving the main objective.

Good luck to your all and your teams in 2012.