Creative training games

I am sure most of the Coaches reading this blog have either done this drill as a player or as a Coach. I know I have done it as both. The Coach sets out two lines of cones facing each other about 20-25m apart. Now one player stands between 2 x cones on one line while their partner stands directly opposite between two cones on the other line. The drill is can you strike the ball to your partner 20-25m away.


Normally this type of drill is to get the players to practice striking the ball in the air. I can remember trying to make it a game by saying such things as you got a point if your partner could catch the ball without having to take a step or one bounce into partner’s hands without taking a step etc etc.


As often is the case with drills all the decision making and any awareness of what is around you was removed totally. The trick is how do we get players to strike the ball in the air in a small sided game. Personally this is something that up until a few years ago I seemed to completely neglect. All my sessions were encouraging the players to keep the ball on the ground and I gave the players few chances to practice striking the ball in the air. This now seems really stupid but if I am honest I had absolutely no idea I was doing it.


Last season I came up with the setup for the goals in the picture. I did it at various times with all the age groups in my technical program so players from U6 to U12. I found it worked really well and it is something I think I will use regularly in the future.


The players found the set up interesting and wanted to score in the top half of the goal. Obviously some players needed advice and for the majority that did all I needed to say was imagine you are sliding your foot under the ball when you hit it. I never once told anyone where to place their standing foot or to ‘lock their ankle’.


The games would be 3 v 3 or 4 v 4 and there were no GKs. The conditions normally progressed along these lines


1 – A goal in the Red goals worth 1pt. A goal over the Red goals and inside the height of the poles worth 5 pts.

2 – Same points but can only score in Red goals with your ‘other foot’.

3 – Only goals over the Red goals counted now. ‘Other foot’ worth 5 pts & ‘Usual foot’ now only 1 pt.


Obviously I used other variations but the progressions were built around these conditions.


Interestingly one player at the club who would have excelled if we had lined up players with partners 20-25m apart really struggled both times he did it. He has what most people would describe as a ‘sweet left peg’ but when he had to create the space in the right position to use it he found it quite difficult.


With this set up I particularly liked the players having to decide how to strike the ball in the air or how to score depending on their distance from goal. This meant we had a whole variety of ways to strike the ball in the air practiced from scoops to drives. I really liked players with the 2nd condition switching to the ‘other foot’ as they thought they were too close to get the ball over the Red goals.


Personally I found it a very simple set up that efficiently encouraged players to strike the ball in the air but I would love to hear from other Coaches. What conditions they would use with this set up or what small sided games they have used that encourages players to strike the ball in the air.


Love to hear what you think.

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Who knows best: Kids or Adults

I will admit when I was a Novice Coach I did this as part of the Warm Up for a game. I am fairly confident my thinking went no further than it seemed absolutely every other team seems to be doing this so I’ll do it too.

Before I tell you about what prompted this blog I think we need to cover why do we do a warm up. For me a warm up is to prepare the athlete both physically and mentally for the activity.

We get the body physically ready so it is able to perform at the correct level of intensity from the start and we prepare the player mentally so they are focused and ready to make decisions from the start.

Now let’s look at this exercise again with that definition in mind.

The majority of the time the players are standing still waiting their turn then do a short burst of activity (very short if they score or GK catches ball as they don’t have to retrieve the ball) then wait their turn again. Minimal physical preparation as players are not moving.

The players line up then shoot so the only decision is where to hit shot. Again minimal mental preparation as the players aren’t making decisions.

Now this is why I am writing this blog. Last weekend I was watching a visiting U8s team warm up. The Coach brought the team together had a quick chat then lined the players up for the above exercise. After all the players had had one shot I noticed the ‘big kid’ in the team Josh stood off to the side after his shot and instead of joining back of line jumped in front of next player and had another shot. All the players at the back of the line laughed and all the players at the front of the line complained.

Next all the players started trying it which meant the one ball they were using would sometimes get kicked sideways off the pitch and so would take longer to retrieve and there were even less bursts of activity.

After about 8/9 minutes the Coach looked at his watch and realised there was only a couple of minutes to go to kick off and so told the players their positions and put them in them taking the subs off with him. The players lined up but our side wasn’t ready and weren’t on the pitch.

So after about 10 seconds of standing around Josh left his position and got the ball that was left in the goal and they started playing a game. I think it was Josh and his mate against everyone else into their goal. The players ran around laughing and joking for about 2/3 minutes while our team got on the pitch.

The question now is for us as Coaches in terms of the definition above which one was the most effective warm up the adult led shooting exercise or the Josh led game.

I know which one I think was better preparation but interested to hear your thoughts.

Look forward to hearing from you

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They are still children

Sorry this is my first blog in a few months but I am studying for my A Licence and so thought it was better I spend my free time doing that than blogging. I have a few weeks between Part 1 & 2 now so I thought I would get down some thoughts.

Every season I see examples of adults involved in youth football forgetting that they are dealing with children but this year I was part of a conversation that I think tops the lot.

This particular conversation started because I met someone who was telling me that his son or grandson I cannot quite remember which was a decent player. I listened as he told me he was good with both feet, great dribbler and had an ‘eye for goal’. He was involved in most of the goals either scoring them or setting them up etc etc.

He told me he wasn’t at all happy with the club he was at because they hadn’t done any trials and so there were players in the team who simply shouldn’t be there. At training everything would break down because some of the players just weren’t good enough. Also the club wanted all the players in the age group to train together instead of separately in their own teams.

Most of this conversation I have heard a million times before I mean every Coach listens at some stage to a relative tell them their son/daughter/niece/nephew/grandchild is too good for the team they are in. However, the second part sounded a bit strange so I asked why did the club want them to train together only as a group and he said he had no idea but it was a shambles and he wouldn’t be going back. He then asked me when were the trials at the club I am at and I said approximately when they were meant to be.

I asked him what age group did the player play in and this is when he told me that the player was 5 years old but he was ‘playing up’.

I, honestly, thought we were talking about a teenager.

I am not sure how anyone can watch 5 or 6 year olds playing and forget they are watching young children play. Somehow he was able to block out that the players who needed help to wipe their own noses or who forgot which way they were playing or who stopped playing because a crisp packet blew on to the pitch.

Instead he thought what they needed was to be treated more like adult footballers.

Love to hear what you think.

Please leave a comment or email me

Or if possible leave a comment on Twitter @SeanDArcy66

Till next time