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: 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:


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.

Simple session on 1v1, 2v2 and defending

I used a really simple session with our U9s tonight as I wanted to start working on a few basics of defending but I was also aware of the weather and wanted to keep them moving at all times. With this in mind I went with a setup (see low quality image below) which meant we worked on the basis of continuous 1v1s which allows for lots of dribbling & experimenting with skills on an attacking point and with the setup it also had the boys thinking about defending space as they had two goals in which they could score.

The setup:

  • 8 players
  • 2 “zones”
  • 4 goals in each zone
  • 1v1 – players had to run through the goal and stop the ball to score a point



How I managed / progressed the session:

  • Began with 1v1s, the only conditions were that you had to stop the ball between the goal posts to score a point and I wanted to see LOTS of skills used. I always encourage players to learn new tricks and practice them.
  • Players rotated partners / opponent every 3-4 minutes, new partner = new challenges (both as an attacker and defender)
  • I stepped in to encourage dribbling at speed as young players can end up walking quite slowly with the ball and I wanted the attacking players to be positive and ensure they introduce a turn of pace
  • I then worked on defensive positioning and I worked on their body shape. That is, “skateboard” position, defending side on. I provided an example and then had the players try it unopposed to make sure they could actually do sidesteps moving backward
  • We then continued the 1v1s but with the focus almost completely on the defenders body position, which they picked up pretty well and almost immediately found it effective
  • We continued to rotate players, I praised where I saw excellent defending side on and I also helped players work on changing their positioning – e.g. not facing the same way at all times and being able to rotate as the attacking player moved
  • The session then progressed to 2v2s, but with a slightly longer pitch area. Again, focus was on defending position but it also gave opportunities to coach where two defenders were leaving a player free or not doing any defending at all.
  • Further rotation of 2v2 and then the session ended in a game

Very simple, very easy to progress, continuous dribbling and 1v1, 2v2 defending practice with focus on defending in a side-on body shape. Good session, enjoyed by players and very little time spent standing around listening to me!


FA Level 2: Day 5 Summary

 Another testing day today as we had to put on our small-sided-games and with real emphasis on our understanding of technical points and the coaching process. As with Tuesday, everybody put on a good session and I think everyone succeeded in improving & affecting the quality of both the individual and group during the session (although I had an AP on this).

I’d been given “Deep Defending” which I’d planned last night with some support from the coaches on Twitter but I was nervous about the session as it hadn’t been demonstrated by our tutor during the course.

I was on in the afternoon and the session went as follows:

  • I’d laid out a pitch which was too small (35 x 20) so the tutor asked me early on to adjust it and it was adjusted to something like 45 x 30. I think I’d made it on the small side to allow some success for the defending team (my focus) but the size prohibited any chance to play I behind which was one of they key coaching points.
  • I’d used two cones on the side of the pitch to represent an offside line of sorts and that was the area I wanted my two CB defenders to protect but the tutor then suggested I place a number of cones across the pitch to better represent and identify the zone which we wanted the defending team to protect.
  • This adjustment meant that we were actually asking the defending team to play a high line and press higher up the pitch so I think the topic could be better worded; if not to help the defending team better understand their objective.
  • Other than the adjustments my feedback was pretty positive and I had two action points. These were:
  1. Ensuring the size of the pitch is appropriate to the session
  2. Ensuring I also affect players off the ball and thinking about how I demonstrate where they could be (e.g. Q&A, self-correct or demonstrate myself).

It was a fairly difficult session to put on but obviously the point is to experiment and to learn, both of which have been achieved this afternoon.


My football knowledge has improved incredibly in the last 5 days and it’s changed the way I watch a game of football – be that an SSG or match on the TV.


Our 6th and final day tomorrow, then starts the work to embed what we’ve learnt.

Coaching Day 16: 1v1s

We returned to training last week with our players a year older, the coaches a year wiser and both appeared energised from a summer break. We have a fixture list this season as we’re now at the under 8 age-group and I had thought that might mean we’d have a squad of 14-16 players but we actually ended up with our usual 20-21 players.

As mentioned in a previous blog I’m planning to do a lot more 1v1, 2v2 and ball mastery this season having had last year to get used to the players, settle as a coach and learn a bit more about coaching this age group. I therefore used this as the basis for the session last Wednesday and our session ran like this:


  • The players lined up along the side of our mini-soccer pitch with a ball each
  • They dribble across the pitch with no conditions
  • They they dribble across the pitch under the following conditions:
    • Right foot only
    • Left foot only
    • Both feet (e.g. dribbling by moving the ball from left foot to right foot and back to left foot)
  • We then introduce a defender and the players dribble across the pitch, trying to avoid the defender. If the defender makes a tackle the tackled player becomes a defender. This continues until only 1 player is left and we repeat 2-3 times.
We then split the groups in half with each coach taking one set of players. As I wanted to start using 1v1 games to develop dribbling, turning & comfort on the ball I used the following game…
  • I had a mini-goal set up with 1 player in goal
  • I had 7 outfield players who I rotated between being either a defender or attacker
  • Coaching points:
    • Encouraged the defending player to make sure they played a good pass to the striker
    • Encouraged the attacker to take the defender on
    • Encouraged the defender to keep their eye on the ball (otherwise they have a tendency to hack at U8!)

The game worked well. I took brief time-outs so I could have a quick chat with the attacking team and got them to think about how they could beat the player and also spoke to the defending team to emphasise the importance of a good pass and to get them ensuring they watched the ball.

The only downside was that there were times where the inactive players lost concentration and this is something which is difficult to avoid unless each player is actively taking part in the session. I kept the rotation happening quickly to keep any waiting to a minimum.
I also had an interesting occurrence whereby a player started to cry when it was his turn. “What’s wrong XXXX?”, I asked. “Why do I always have to play against YYYY?”, he said. Player YYYY is quite a good player, both technically & physically and I hadn’t noticed that player XXXX had been paired with him each time and had no doubt not had much success which caused this frustration. I changed it around so he had a different partner and he was happy to continue but this was yet another reminder of the importance of fairness to players of this age and the need for me as a coach to be aware of who is/isn’t having success during a game.
Whilst we were doing this the other half of the players were playing a 4v4 game which allowed them the obvious benefits which come with an SSG, such as lots of touches & dribbling/passing/shooting opportunities. It was just a shame I couldn’t observe the two groups to see if there was any difference between the group who played the SSG before 1v1 and those who played after, i.e. did the group after attempt more dribbles or have more success?
We then ended with a game which we always use as an opportunity to coach & encourage the players within a match situation.

Macclesfield Town’s dynamic defensive warm-up

I thought I’d kick off 2011 by blogging about a defensive drill I watched a Macclesfield Town coach performing with his back-four during their pre-match routine at the recent League 2 game between Oxford United and Macclesfield Town. I’m an Oxford fan but my seat usually dictates that I’m closer to the away side’s warm-up routine than I am that of my own side and, on occasions, I’ll try to get in to the ground early so that I can watch how each club does their warm-up.

Generally I’ll see most sides doing the same sort of stuff during their warm-up but I noticed Macclesfield do something a little different with their back four which is why I wanted to blog about it. It’s not ground-breaking and indeed, it might be well-known to many experienced coaches but I found it interesting because the drill looked short, controlled & effective.

Dynamic back-four warm-up

Objective: Get the back-four working together as a unit and performing some match-specific actions which prepare them for the game ahead.


  • Coach with 1 football
  • 3/4/5 defenders  (you could do this with any number of defenders)
  • Coach approx 5m from players
  • Players position themselves in narrow back-four positions (i.e. able to touch the next player with out-stretched arms)

The coach varied the task but would typically perform three different kinds of exercises during the routine.


  • All players would be on their toes as a starting position
  • The coach would pass the ball in to one of the players
  • The coach would weight the pass so the player had to come out and meet the ball before returning the pass to the coach
  • The player would then drop back in to his defensive position
  • The coach would then repeat with another player



  • As with passing but this time the coach would throw the ball in the air and the player would come and meet it, returning the ball to the coach with a header
  • The onus is once again on the defender to step out of the back-four (as it was on this occasion), win the header, and get back in to position


Heading whilst retreating

  • During the Passing and Heading routine the coach would be facing the defenders
  • If the coach turned his back on the players they would jog towards the coach until he turned around
  • At the point the coach turned around the players would retreat but still face the coach
  • The coach would then drop a ball over the defenders so one of them would have to head it whilst running backwards
  • Again, the requirement was for a defender to win the header and the defenders would then ensure they were in position, on their toes and the appropriate distance from their coach


Other points:

  • This drill lasted for around 5-10 minutes which gave the coach ample opportunity to mix the tasks up, keep the defenders engaged and keep them moving.
  • One of the defenders was responsible for talking to the other three at all times. For example, ensuring they got back in to position (i.e. “get up”).
  • The coach would occasionally move toward or away from the defenders and they would need to follow suit. For example, if he moves 1m towards them they would need to drop back 1m which again, kept them moving at all times.

I thought this made for a very useful (yet brief) exercise for any defenders to run-through prior to a match. You could see it getting them in to the right habits before the game, functioning as a unit and communicating with each other so it’s something I’d certainly look to use in the future.

Hope you found this useful and apologies for the quality of my diagrams!