Street Soccer

I just love this picture



Small Sided Games

Question to coaches: When organising small sided games are you randomly splitting your players in to teams / games or are you setting up one game amongst one group of equal ability and one game amongst players of a different ability?

Pros & Cons to each; does playing against a better play enhance learning or does it restrict?

FA Video: Kids perspective on pitch sizes

I really like this video which scales up a full size pitch in the context of a 10 year old and then adult coaches play a match on it.

Football Coaching Session: Playing through the thirds U9s

As I’ve posted in previous blogs we’ve been doing a bit of work with our U9s to help them pass the ball better and be able to put together a passage of passes in a game so the sessions recently have had a possession theme to them.

I saw a few tweets earlier this week regarding a session which we’re all familiar with and would best be called “Playing through the thirds”. I’d followed the conversation which had focused on the benefits of the session (positional play, build up, approach etc) and the cons of such a session (limiting creativity and freedom) so out of interest I used the session with our boys tonight.

We’d done the warm up and then set up the pitch (probably slightly shorter than a typical 7-a-side pitch) with it split in to thirds, i.e. as the image below.


The boys were informed of the structure and we set about the game, stopping it every few mins to rotate players in the different positions.


  • Remain in your zone
  • Play through each third
  • Progression: One “midfielder” allowed to enter attacking third when striker has ball under control

So, how did it go?


  • Any player in the striker position had to work very hard to find space. Some were capable and did well whilst others struggled but it was useful for making players play facing the game.
  • The players in the middle zone couldn’t always go forward (as I often see in SSGs or matches) so they had to look at options behind or to the side, which I see as a positive. This was also true of defenders who were sometimes having to play sideways.
  • The goalkeeper had to roll it in to the first zone so no long kicks up the pitch and the defenders then needed to look for a player in the middle zone.
  • The quality of passing had to be better and was better than I’ve seen before as players really started to focus on their passes. Especially true when playing in to the forward.
  • The layout provided a good way of playings moving between positions and each position provided a different challenge


  • Very limited action for goalkeepers due to 2v1 in favour of defenders
  • Players restricted to zone, not realistic to match situation
  • Scoring restricted to end zone, not realistic to match situation


A useful activity which I think had benefits from a possession and attacking movement perspective but it’s not something I’d do frequently at this age group because it can be quite rigid and it isn’t at all realistic to a game situation so you could develop habits you don’t wish to develop.

The boys enjoyed it and didn’t get bored or frustrated with it but next week it’ll be back to ball skills and small games which is what we’d normally do.

Weekend thoughts, U9s

It was an interesting weekend for with our Under 9s and I’d tweeted about it but thought I’d share on this blog as it’s good to write it down to help digest and review thoughts.

We had a game on Saturday morning which we lost but despite the 3-1 defeat I was particularly ecouraged by our performance as we’d actually played some good football and the boys are starting to put some good passing moves together (along with some impressive individual skill). Our goalkeeper was rolling or passing the ball out for the most of his time and although we conceded a goal doing this, as we did a couple of weeks back, it’s encouraging that the boys are doing this unprompted.

What was pleasing was how the opposition coach remarked to me how impressed he’d been with how we played out from the back, said it was “very brave” and “something we need to work on next season”.

The boys do take the result to heart and were down but we didn’t dwell on any negatives and let them know how pleased we were with the way they had played and that they were doing the right things. Results will come!

Then we had the news that another team in our age group had directly contacted the mother of one of our players and asked him a long to play for them. I find this incredibly frustrating and it makes me quite angry. This is a results based recruitment and isn’t about player development, of that I’m sure. Why does a U9 manager see fit to entice a player away from his friends just so that he can improve their results?

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with this particular player and he’s developing very well so I’ll be gutted if he does in fact decide to move away from us when there’s so much more I want to cover with him.

So that’s that, an interesting weekend and now thoughts turn to training on Wednesday night and ensuring a fun and appropriate session!

Broadening skills or limiting them?

I posted a series of tweets earlier today regarding a small topic I covered at training last night as I was interested in what other coaches thought of the situation / scenario.

To start the session I set up a standard passing practice for our U9s with a series of gates through which they would pass in their pairs. I allowed them free play before then asking them to control with the sole of their foot and then with the instep, taking the ball in the direction of whichever foot they received the ball on (right instep take it right etc).

What I saw was that players found the latter form of control very difficult and this was a surprise as I haven’t previously observed that they have a difficultly receiving the ball on the floor (in the air is a different story).

This led me to think – am I right to open up new ways of controlling a ball to them or am I restricting them and therefore making it more difficult for them to control the ball?

I thought it was important to demonstrate to them that they can use alternate parts of the foot and that ultimately, at a time when we want them to do a bit better in possession, they need to be able to receive the ball appropriately to keep possession (i.e. away from pressure).

The way in which they found control with the instep difficult was surprising so it begged the question, is it something to continue to work on or do you let them work with a way of controlling the ball in which they are comfortable and let them discover their own ways?

Four week session plans

Our U9s manager and I went out for a couple of pints over the weekend and had a good chat about where we currently are and some of the challenges we have with the team. In amongst other items (rotating players, impact of players not playing in the first game etc) we talked about training and how to get the most out of our sessions.

I had observed that, partly due to my absence sometimes through work, the sessions often varied in topic from week to week which I think doesn’t help to embed knowledge in our players and their learning becomes a bit sporadic.

Therefore, I suggested we pick a topic and work with it across a four-week period and then review the outcome of that focus at the end of four weeks; will we notice a difference in the game after the 4 weeks (or indeed, in games during that period).

We recognised that there’s a need to ensure that sessions aren’t repeated and that we as coaches must find different and enjoyable ways to get our point across over the 4 week period but that it would give us a better chance of improving our players by this level of focus.

We’re going to start with finding/creating space from this week (in fact, we started on Saturday) and then look at another topic in month 2 which would again be a specific topic.

It may not work, some coaches may not agree with the method or chosen topic but we’re going to work with it and see what the results look like. At worst, it will be an interesting approach and the players will get continued coaching on one specific point.

I mentioned this on twitter yesterday and one response provided an interesting metaphor on the difference between weekly versus sustained topics; are you fire fighting (based on the previous weekend’s performance, or farming (sewing the seeds for future development) – this is something I love and I thin perfectly emphasises the point.

I’d be keen to understand if other coaches have adopted a similar approach and what they learned in the process?