Football Coaching Session: Using Scenarios


I was skimming through some of the Youth Mod 2 content last week and came across a note I’d made about using scenarios in sessions as a way to get your topic across. I always try and use different sessions so thought I’d look at using scenarios/situations to continue our recent theme of defending (pressing or being compact).

I’ve heard coaches talking about using situations previously, perhaps at the end of the session or just to introduce a different angle to a game but having tried it last week I think there were good benefits to using this type of session.

Firstly, the setup. We had 12 players so it was perfect for 6v6 in the 35 x 35 area we have (we sometimes have 17 players which is hard work on such an area!) and to begin with they played a 10 minute game to get started. This gets rid of a bit of early energy and also allows me to see if the teams are evenly matched (they create the teams, not me). I also split the pitch in to thirds and asked them to “defend in two but attack in three”.

We then stopped it, allowed them to get a drink and I explained that we’d now play a 10 minute game where the situation was that one team had a 2-0 lead to defend. The team who were to lead were the team who’d lost the opening game so it was an interesting change of focus and challenge for them.

What I like about the situation approach is that it gives team’s a chance to set out a strategy or plan for how they play before the game and it gives you an opportunity to explore what they come up with via some Q&A. What I found interesting was their response to the challenge – they defended more aggressively than in the opening game, generally worked harder and actually won the game.

Before the first situation I was going to give each team the same challenge but due to the outcome of the second game I instead used the same challenge but this time spoke more to the alternate team about how they could change their approach to win the game.

To summarise:

1st Game: Team A beat Team B (by a couple of goals)

2nd Game: Team B beat Team A (Team B had started with 2-0 lead)

In the 2nd game there was no change in performance from Team A but Team B, as shown above, improved considerably.

Game 3 used the same situation but I spoke to Team A about their approach because I wanted to see how they’d react. They wanted to try and draw out Team B who’d sat in a compact shape and didn’t feel they should press because Team B were “going long”. Team B were happy with their approach from the previous game but felt they could be better in possession.

Outcome of Game 3? Team A won, comfortably. The difference? Team A scored an early goal and Team B’s work rate / belief dropped so they didn’t defend as aggressively and conceded soft goals. This provided an opportunity to talk about this with them after the game finished.

In the final situation I wanted to challenge a couple of players in Team A (as they’d won two of the games without too much challenge) so I changed Team A to 4 players and had 6 on Team B. I gave Team A a 2-0 lead and then asked them to discuss how they would approach protecting that lead. The result? The 4 players won the game by securing a 2-1 win.

The different perspectives to the game certainly opened up interesting decisions for them to make regards their game plan. It also altered their work rate and most noticeably, how hard they worked when out of possession.

In addition to this I also had players on Team B being responsible for organising their team’s defensive shape and that was given to a different player in each of the 3 games which gave them a separate challenge to think about.

All in all it was a really good session and a great way to discuss strategies to the game from both an attacking and defensive approach but with the main focus on the latter.

Football Coaching Session: Playing wide & Getting Feedback


As I stated in my previous blog post I spent a chunk of the U17s pre-season working on getting the ball wide because in the previous season we’d attacked very well centrally but hadn’t always been able to stretch teams.

Not only did I want us to think about getting the ball out to our wide players and working with the wingers, I wanted us to look to think about changing the point of attack from one side of the pitch to the other and be more patient when in possession.

I spoke to the players at each session about the principles of width & depth and used a session one particular week which worked very well and which I’ve shared below.

The session was not just interesting from a players point of view but I also asked a local academy coach to watch the session and provide feedback, more on that below…

The session isn’t new and I’m sure others have used it but I always like to share sessions which work well as someone may see it and find it useful. The setup was a full pitch width and we played from 18 yard to halfway with the pitch split in to thirds with the wide channels narrower than the middle section.

We had two teams of 5/6 and then had two neutral wingers. The neutral wingers obviously played for whichever team was in possession and they were encouraged to be positive and attack either goal when they received the ball. We said that it would be 1 goal if a team scored in the central goal or two in the wide goal.

What works nicely with this session is because the pitch is wider than it is long it forces play to go wide naturally and importantly, there were lots of opportunities for players to provide support behind the ball. Being able to provide support behind the ball isn’t always a movement which comes naturally to players when their desire is to get forward and score goals so this session was great in that there were lots of examples of this happening.

It’s important the neutral wingers are rotated often because there may be periods where they’re inactive so you need to get them involved. In the session I put on one team in particular were having more success so I changed it and asked one or two of their players to try and play one or two touch so that they were challenged whilst also giving the other side a chance to get in to the game.

We played for around 15 minutes and then did some Q&A, allowed teams to reflect, change formation & decide if they wanted to press the ball higher up the pitch or not.

There were examples where teams tried to play repeatedly down one side without success so we spoke about changing the angle of attack and shifting the ball from right-to-left or vice-versa – again, this session gives lots of opportunities for that to happen.

If you’re looking for a session which gives plenty of chances for players to get the ball wide, look at overlaps and change the angle of attack I’d suggest giving this a go as it provides all of that.

Playing wide

Getting Feedback

I’ve attended coaching courses and CPD events but apart from when on the courses I’ve never had any direct feedback on my coaching style and as I was keen to get some input I asked a local academy coach if he’d do it after he’d run a couple of goalkeeper training sessions for our adults.

He came and observed the session above & the feedback I got was very good but what I noticed is it’s incredibly hard trying to manage a session when a) you’re getting feedback actively and b) you’re thinking as much about what the other coach is thinking as you are about what’s happening in the session!

What I noticed from the feedback was that when I coach a session I’m very much observing the topic and asking “are they getting it?” and “what do I need to coach?”. The feedback I had on the session asked “Is one team getting more success than the other?” and “if so, what can I do to change this?”. We spoke about making it harder for players on the team who were getting success (asking them “Can you try and play 1 or 2 touch?”) and also discussed how we could change the dynamics of the session such as topics you cover on L2 (space, equipment, players etc) to either make it more difficult for a team or easier for the other.

We spoke about communication and the need to be concise. Get in, get the point across and let them get back to playing!

The feedback also looked at how you can communicate directly with players on a one-to-one level to pull them out & praise them, ask them questions and perhaps if required, lift their motivation levels if you see them drop.

There was lots and lots I wrote down but to summarise my main take-away points:

Key notes:

  • What’s the topic?
  • Is there success? (For each team)
  • If it’s easy, how can you challenge?
  • If it’s hard, how can you adjust it?
  • Communication, shorter – change of tone where required
  • Individuals – pull them out, challenge them, congratulate them, question them

I’ve tried to take all of this in to the sessions we’ve had since the feedback and it’s been really useful so far. You have to be open and a little brave to want feedback but it’s only going to help you improve as a coach.

Tired of hearing my own voice


I’ve had a slight change of tact with the style of my sessions recently because I felt it was needed from both my own perspective and the players perspective. With the U16s I coach I’ve tended to find that they can be quite reserved when we do a group Q&A which I think is a trait of that age. However, what I found is that this meant that I ended up doing all the talking because I wasn’t getting much back and therefore I’ve become a bit sick of hearing my own voice.

I also presumed that if I was getting sick of my own voice then the players probably were too! I’ve therefore moved my sessions to be more player lead and work more on the social corner (if considering the four-corner model as advocated by the FA courses).

These are intelligent young men doing their GCSEs so you know that they have valuable input and an ability to discuss any range of topics so I’ve tried to look at ways in which I can get more from them both in terms of verbal communication but also ownership & decision making.

Last week I asked them to setup the warm up, I asked them to set any conditions they wanted and then I gave them a template for a session but asked them to figure out how the rest of it would work (pitch size, teams, formations etc in a game where we had two matches being played both across the pitch and from end-to-end).

This week I did a 7v8 possession game (one I’ve used quite a bit) but I selected the 7 players as they were my defensive players (GK, defenders and defensive midfielders). I let them get on with the possession game and we stopped twice to do a bit of Q&A with them (one coach took the 8, I took the 7) to find out how the game was working, what they could improve in possession and what they could improve when out of possession.

This worked well as their input was very good and as expected the were on the money in terms of what it was they needed to correct. I had a little chat with them and explained that I was working with them directly because in games they might need to work out a problem they have defensively and whilst a team of 11, I wanted them to feel a sense of being a defensive unit.

I’m going to continue this as a theme and work on some more session ideas which allow me to work with different groups of players because what has also been evident is that when it comes to communication with groups of players it seems to be a case of divide and conquer!

Be interested to know if anyone else is going down a similar path, or has input/suggestions on this topic.

Football Coaching Session: Continuous Attacking Practice with U10s


I took one of the sessions from the Youth Award Mod 2 course and used it with our U10s tonight.

The session is as per the image below:

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It’s a great game because of the fact it’s continuous so nobody get’s bored, players got tonnes of opportunities to go in pairs or 1v1, the defenders were really enjoying it because they had a challenge (how often do you see defenders in this type of practice without a challenge) and there are goals!

The one thing I didn’t do was give the goalkeepers a challenge which was my bad, I should have told them that they could give the ball to a defender if they saved it to start a counter-attack. But we had the keepers rotating so they didn’t spend ages watching balls fly past them.

What’s also interesting is when you add the third defender. We started with two defenders and then you add a third who can decided where he or she goes to make it a 2v2. Players can start with a 2v1 but soon find themselves in a 2v2 situation. Sometimes the defender joined near the goal and other times it was higher up the pitch so the defenders really need to be aware of what’s going on around them.

I tried to do some group Q&A but it wasn’t happening because we couldn’t get them to stay quiet. So instead I was talking to the attacking pair (individual or trio depending on what was happening) and simply asking “What’s your plan?”. They were coming up with some great ideas regards different types of runs they could make and ways they could beat the defender (a lot of which were overlapping runs of some form).

Certainly a great practice and hopefully by sharing others can find it useful and use it in their sessions.

FA Youth Award Module 2 Overview – Day 2


Back home now after the second day of the Youth Award Mod 2 course and it’s been another day which has really provided a lot of thought with regards how I plan sessions, how I coach players and ultimately, how I can become a better teacher of the game.

Today was split in two really (partly due to outside circumstances) as we spent the morning inside working on theory and then spent this afternoon outside looking at different types of practice.

This morning we looked at some of the practices from yesterday and in particular we were looking at the trade offs each type of practice provided. That is, did the practice give lots of ball contact or minimal ball contact? Did it provide lots of technical development or low technical development? The same question was asked with a number of different cards which had everything from “Endurance” to “Trial & Error” and “Game Craft” written on them. Really, the message is – when planning your session consider what you’re providing lots of and as a result what that means you (well, a player) will get less of.

We also looked at ways in which a coach can support and recognise players who may need support due to where they are in their biological development and also how different types of sessions can or could effect players in this context, i.e. Starting to think that players may need rests or breaks or considering that a player going through a growth spurt may need some time working on constant technique practice as is ABC’s might be affected.

This afternoon we’ve gone outside and looked at four different types of sessions (all great to play in!) and in doing so we’ve looked at how we might deliver them with various age groups or ability, how we can progress them, what sorts of ways you could manage players within them (think stronger/weaker players) and then later on we ranked them again with the high/low scale to see what the trade offs were. We also looked at breaking down a move (say ball control) in to the before – during – after mechanics of it and recognising that we should consider all of these when coaching a player as all are important.

Key messages today have been thinking about the trade offs, thinking about what you really want to get out of your session and also considering the ways in which you can take a practice as a template and alter it for your players. There was a load of other stuff but as far as a summary that’s it till next weekend 🙂

FA Youth Award Module 2 Overview – Day 1


Very enjoyable first day on this course and within 2 hours you’ve got that many ideas running through your head that you know exactly why it was you signed up for it in the first place!

First part of the day was a bit of a recap of Mod 1 plus conversations around what makes a good coach, what people want to get out of the course and some interesting talk around that famous “warm up” you see of a coach laying off to strikers to score. This was taken as an example of looking at a form of practice, looking at the outcomes, asking are those outcomes realistic or relevant and looking at alternatives.

We were then tasked with creating sessions in groups of 3 and we had just 10 minutes to do this before two of the groups ran sessions. We looked at were they relevant to the age and level they were positioned at as well as talking around a lot of other factors but it was really about answering three questions; 1. Is the practice relevant to the game? 2. Is it realistic? 3. Does it provide repetition? This was under pinned with a need for a clear learning focus or outcome of the session.

The second part of the day looked at different types of practice; 1. Constant, 2. Variable and 3. Random. We looked at why you might use these, what players might get from it and how you might use them in your session. Very interesting and enlightening topic which makes you think a lot about your own sessions.

There was then a bit more discussion and that was it for day 1. Already taken loads from this course and that’s just 25% of the way through!

Bravo Lancashire FA, Bravo!


If you’ve been on Twitter today then you may have noticed the talk about Lancashire FA’s tweeting regards different aspects of the grassroots game, such as coaches conduct, parents conduct and a number of other initiatives which make the grassroots game all the more friendly and young-player orientated.

I’d thoroughly recommend taking a look back at their timeline from this month but if you’re not Twitter-savvy then take a look at the list below which are just some of the ideas and comments they made.

However lowly you rate your ref this weekend shake their hand and invite them back.That way they come back better rather than not at all.

Offside is often contentious in youth football but only to adults who put winning before enjoyment and development.Accept errors occur.

Can we have a Silent Weekend where no parents or coaches shout? If you agree tell us and we’ll promote it county wide. #letthechildrenplay

Parents. If you can’t attend this weekend will you ask your child if they won or whether they enjoyed the game?  #culturechange

Why not appoint 2 or 3 regular parents to welcome opposition parents this weekend & invite them to stand with you?#breakingdownbarriers

One club today excused disrespect to a referee on his failure to see pushes! Still lots of work to do to change outdated attitudes.

Coaches. Bored pushing the trolley in Tesco? Chuck in some sweets for your players to give to their opponents after the weekend game #respect

Just spoken to a girls coach who allows no coaching during the game, trusting the players instead. Could you do that? #whosegameisit

Coaches. Could young players put on brief sessions on your training night? Do they have an input into how your team is selected? #theirgame

How can you empower young people in your club? Player on your committee? Junior committee with CWO observing?  #theirgametheirsay

Will you welcome opposition parents today with a warm brew and stand with them? Youth footie no place for club rivalries #makingfriends

How nice for your kids to give sweets to their opponents after today’s match #changingattitudes

Coaches. Key point for this morning DON’T PLAY THE GAME FOR THEM #letthemplay

If both teams have subs organise a 2v2 or 3v3 so the kids are active, warm and ready to go in when called.

Challenge to all our coaches. Try putting four cones down this weekend and standing inside them. Bet you see more and act more calmly.

Do you have a couple of spare jackets if children getting excessively cold or wet? Be a forward thinking coach and help to prevent neglect.

If opposition adults behave badly, don’t reciprocate.Two wrongs don’t make a right.Show a proper example to impressionable children

Some clubs still tend to fall in behind parochial rivalries and excuse poor behaviour of adults by blaming opposition #dotherightthing

More reports coming in of youth games ruined by appalling adult behaviour last weekend.Ongoing crusade to challenge and change attitudes

One player today bellowing foul language all game on a pitch in a residential area.Is this acceptable? Who should take responsibility?

I think it’s excellent that they’ve taken to Twitter to back up and relay some of the messages that you see many involved with the game talking about and full credit for that.

Using zones in your coaching session


I was coaching the U16s last night and as part of the session I split a 60×40 area in to three zones (so it was 3 x 20 x 40 zones) with the focus of the session on quick passing. There were goals at each end and within each zone I had a 2v2 setup and the only restrictions were that players had to remain within the zone (initially) and I wanted goalies to throw/roll the ball out.

What I noticed as the session moved forward was that when the ball progressed from the defensive third (based on the team in possession) to the middle third, the players in the defensive third switched off as the focus of the play was then happening between the midfield and forward zones; this was also evident in the opposing team.

To address this I worked with the defensive group on both teams regards them supporting behind the ball, being active and ensuring they were always an option for the midfield zone.

However, on seeing this it occurred to me that this isn’t the first time I’ve seen it happen in such a session (albeit with U9s 6-8 weeks back) and therefore, is the fact that this setup isn’t fully match realistic causing the players in the “inactive” zone to switch off or does the setup actually highlight that the players aren’t inactive?

My views, having not used this extensively, is that it does enable you to focus your coaching point on players in a specific zone and that it does seem to highlight inactivity (i.e. they should be supporting behind the ball) but I’m not convinced players enjoy it (although I haven’t seen/heard evidence of this) because of the restrictions.

The game I used last night became a lot more dynamic once I allowed either team to move a third player in to either zone and that opened up further coaching points but moving forward I’m yet to decide if I’ll use a zone setup again or not.

I’d be interested to know your views on them, do you use them regularly or do you steer away from them due to the lack of game realism?

Visit to Brentford FC Academy


I was invited down to meet the guys at Brentford’s academy on Tuesday as (through a contact) I’d been asked if I’d be interested in doing some scouting for them in the Oxfordshire area.

I won’t discuss too much regards the academy but I must say it was absolutely fascinating being in that kind of environment for the 5-6 hours I was there. For those of us who volunteer in grassroots you generally haven’t seen inside the football world as you’re doing your day job and spending a few hours a week either coaching, playing or watching a local game.

I sat there listening to the conversations, observing all the football related work going on around me and generally feeling like “these guys are living the dream”. Of course it wasn’t glam, but to be in an environment where it’s your job to talk about & work in football is amazing and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.

Having spoken to their recruitment team about the scouting I then hung around for an hour (which spent listening/observing) before heading out to watch their U9s/U10s being coached. This was great, I took down lots of ideas which I’ll bring in to my coaching but thought the caliber of players, the level of information the coaches provided and the way in which they used Q&A was fantastic. The players were clearly enjoying it and the football they played when it came to a match situation was most impressive.

Again, to find myself mid-afternoon on a Tuesday in amongst U9s/10s being coached on one pitch, Under 15s (roughly) on another, Under 16s on another and then a game between the academy and some triallists on one of the main pitches was all a bit surreal, especially to a guy who works 9-5 in an office!

So anyway, they’re looking for a scout to work in the Oxon area and this is interesting because I’ve previously been critical of players being picked up at such young ages. It challenges my views on the topic because the challenge of being able to find good young players is an interesting one to me personally and I’m also not sure if I can be any good at it or not!

The effort required is obviously open to me, the more matches I watch the more chance I have of finding a good player.

I’m keen to take on the challenge and see if I can be of value, especially given the positive impression I had been given about their academy before visiting and the positive impression I took away having visited them. I’ll keep you posted with how it goes & what I learn along the way.

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Street Soccer


I just love this picture

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