Get Over the Halfway Line Scrimmage: Sample Activity from the Volunteer Soccer Coach


Session #15: Introduction to Getting Numbers in the Attack –
End of Practice Scrimmage: Get Over the Halfway Line!


Time: Approximately 30 minutes (or whatever is left of practice).

Area: As per the diagram, extend the 18-yard box out to the sidelines. This makes for a shorter, but wider playing area – perfect for working on crossing and finishing.

Activity: Use (or make) a halfway line and state that all players (except the goalkeeper) must be past it in order for a goal to count. This simple rule, more than anything, has the ability to teach players to get up and support the attack. Don’t scream and shout at your players to “push up” over the halfway line. Just watch and listen. The first time that a team scores a goal and it doesn’t count because one of the attacking team’s defenders was in his own half, players on that team will start telling each other to “step” and “get up”. It works like magic! Play even numbers and arrange teams in a formation that reflects your desired game day formation.


  • If you catch a member of the opposing team in their attacking half, the goal counts double.
  • Add a neutral(s), so the attacking team is always numbers up (producing more scoring opportunities).
  • Put field players on touch restrictions (e.g., 3 touch max).


Volunteer Soccer Coach Image

Are you a volunteer soccer coach with a full time job outside football? Then this book is for you! Minimizing jargon and looking to maximize the limited contact time you have with your players, The Volunteer Soccer Coach is a must-read practical book for coaches of all levels.  Utilising a game-based approach to soccer – where individuals actually play games rather than growing old in semi-static drills – author James Jordan offers 75 cutting-edge exercises across 15 detailed session plans which help players develop an attacking mindset, improve their skills, and, most of all, nurture a love for soccer.

Finishing in the Box: Sample Activity from the Volunteer Soccer Coach


Session #5: Finishing in the Box
Activity #3: 2v1 Continuous*Stacked


Time: Approximately 20 minutes.

Area: If you have a marked 18-yard box, use it and then mark out another one with cones to create a 36 x 44 yard (L x W) playing grid.

Activity: Divide the players into 2 even teams. Have one team line up opposite each other (see the diagram) behind the 2 cones level with the edge of the 6-yard box. Have the other team do the same on the other side. The balls should be divided equally and diagonally (per the diagram). To begin, you can play the ball into the middle. Players go to the other line once they have had their turn (e.g., attacker goes to the other attacker line). Any time the ball crosses a line (side, end, goal), the team whose possession it would be restarts the game from their side with a new pair (the defending pair stays in). Also, any time a ball crosses the end line from a shot (including a goal), the shooter must run around the corner while the 2 defenders drop out (the attacking team now becomes the numbers down defending team), and a new attack begins by 2 forwards to make it 2v1 (with the recovering defender who just shot the ball running around the corner). Play first team to a set number of goals (e.g., 5, 7, 9) and give the losing team a consequence. After the consequence, you can ask the guided discovery questions, while the players catch their breath. This game will take a few rounds for the players to understand. It is very important that you are consistent with the rules. I find it helps to communicate early and often; for example, if the ball goes out of play, I will say “red team’s ball.” Also, if someone forgets to run, I will remind that player (e.g., “Janie, you have to run”). If she influences the play, I will award a penalty kick to the other team, which will transition back into 2v1 continuous immediately following the kick.    

Possible Progressions:

  • Move the balls to the other side (move the players, too, so the wide player is always on the “weak side”).
  • Give 2 points for first time finishes (encourages combination plays, crosses, etc.).


Volunteer Soccer Coach Image

Are you a volunteer soccer coach with a full time job outside football? Then this book is for you! Minimizing jargon and looking to maximize the limited contact time you have with your players, The Volunteer Soccer Coach is a must-read practical book for coaches of all levels.  Utilising a game-based approach to soccer – where individuals actually play games rather than growing old in semi-static drills – author James Jordan offers 75 cutting-edge exercises across 15 detailed session plans which help players develop an attacking mindset, improve their skills, and, most of all, nurture a love for soccer.

Latest Book Now Available: It Pays to Win on Defense


My latest book, It Pays to Win on Defense: A Game-based Soccer Training Approach to Developing Highly Effective Defendersis now available from the Amazon Kindle Store.

In It Pays to Win on Defense, I profile new players and have added some new games to the ones I offered in It Pays to Win on Offense.

Basically, It Pays to Win on Defense is a book for soccer coaches who are looking for the most effective way to engage all of their players all of the time in order to teach them how to best keep the ball out of their own team’s goal! The book provides an all-encompassing framework for instilling the skills and mindset necessary for highly effective defenders. By combining educational theory and making everything a competition, coaches can maximize their practice time and teach that defending concepts are not just limited to certain players (e.g. the centre backs or the defensive midfielders). As I tell my teams, when we don’t have the ball, EVERYONE is a defender. Therefore, EVERY player on your team needs to know how to defend and defend well!

Whether you are an experienced coach or a volunteer parent just starting out, there is something for everyone in this book. “It Pays to Win on Defense” includes 50 games that bring defending situations to the fore, hundreds of guided discovery questions, and many regressions/progressions to tweak every activity to match your specific training needs.

Let me know if you have any questions.


The Use of Small Sided Games for Technical and Tactical Development in U6-U10 by Adrian Parrish


The content of this post is excerpted from an NSCAA coaching webinar presentation write up. The NSCAA is the world’s largest soccer coaching organization. Find out more information about the NSCAA at

About Adrian Parrish, Technical Director, Kentucky Youth Soccer Association

Adrian joined Kentucky Youth Soccer in October of 2005 as the Association’s third full time Director of Coaching. In this role, Parrish is responsible for the Coaching Education Program and the management of the Olympic Development Program. Adrian was the former DOC for Amherst Soccer Association in Buffalo, and Coaching Education Instructor for New York State. Adrian, a native from Louth in England has played extensively at youth level and played with Boston United, a semi-professional team playing in the league below the Football League. Adrian possesses a USSF “A” License and the US Youth Soccer National Youth License. He is currently the US Youth Soccer Region II Coaching Chair, is a Region II Boys ODP staff coach, a USSF Coaching Educator and on the US Youth Soccer National staff.

Summary of Presentation

At the start of Adrian’s presentation he compared two common terms one hears regularly in coaching – a ‘drill’ and a ‘game.’ Adrian suggested that a drill is associated more with a regimented activity that has a definitive and prescribed response, often with players waiting in lines for their turn. With young players it is important to play games and stay away from drill-like activities. Similar to the other presenters, Adrian mentioned a coach should be prepared to see large disparities in player ability and cognitive understanding between individuals in the same age group.

Adrian mentioned the idea of a slanting line approach – whereby a coach is able to offer challenging activities to children of varying abilities within the same session, by manipulating variables such as differences in technique and pressures of time and space. Another concept he introduced is anchoring an activity – an approach where the coach remains in the same space, but manipulates different components of the game to change the emphasis and challenge to the players. Before describing the practical activities, Adrian referred to ‘marrying techniques with tactics’ – suggesting that a coach can find opportunities to teach basic tactical concepts while focusing primarily on technical training. To do so, he suggested that a coach should use low order and high order guided discovery questions.

Adrian shared 6 activities that progressed in complexity and challenge.

Common to all activities however were a number of objectives:

1. High-energy – in the vast majority of occasions, the best approach with young players is to get them active as quickly as possible and to manage the session in short duration bouts of high-energy activity interspersed with drink breaks and short rest periods.

2. Soccer realism – a responsibility of the coach is to correct movements that are not realistic to playing the game. For example, in the first activity – tail tag – Adrian suggested that players should be encouraged to face each other as it is unrealistic that in a game a player will run aimlessly with his or her back to the play.

3. Become a storyteller – being able to relate to young players is essential particularly with the U6 and U8 age groups. To this end, Adrian advised coaches to become familiar with activities built on characters and stories children watch and listen to on TV and in books.

4. Technical emphasis – Adrian provided a cautionary note suggesting that we should avoid getting caught in a trap as children moved from the U6 to U8 and U8 to U10 age groups. Some coaches transition too quickly with young players from almost exclusive focus on technique to spending an inordinate amount of time working on tactics and correcting issues with game performance.

5. Challenging activities – finding the right balance between activities that players can perform too easily and those that invariably result in failure is important. It should be noted that a growing body of research suggests young players need to be challenged and in doing so they will experience necessary failure as they strive to reach a higher level of performance.

6. Move from simple to complex – it is easier for coach to manipulate variables to increase the difficulty of an activity than try to recover from setting the bar too high for the players at the beginning. Once the coach becomes intimately familiar with the ability levels of individuals and the group, it also becomes easier to select content that caters for the majority of players.

7. Add a scoring mechanism – challenging players to complete a set number of repetitions, beat a time restriction or better a previous score are all ways to help players focus and add a modicum of pressure.

Coaching 4-10 year olds: An Overview from David Newberry, ELearning Coordinator, NSCAA


Below is a nice overview of coaching 4-10 year olds. I particularly like how David Newberry discusses “developmental stages of development,” as opposed to age or grade levels. Also exciting is that this is the age group where the most gains can be made!

“This series is written for coaches working with players who

are between the ages of 4 and 10. It is however important

to consider development does not typically follow the

convenience of school years or age groups, but instead

player development occurs on a continuum where physical,

cognitive, emotional and psychological readiness is more

important than the chronological age of the child. Due to

significant differences in the development pace of young

players of the same age, I prefer to focus on developmental

stages than age of players when planning coach training.

The series provides director for Coaches, Directors

and Administrators with varying levels of knowledge,

experience and qualification who are responsible for

teaching and nurturing youth soccer players. In the series

the presenters detailed an approach to coaching – a

concept known as ‘Player Development’, which is an

education philosophy that has gained a great deal of

attention. Essentially, the critical years for shaping a child’s

successful participation in soccer are between the ages

of 4 and 10. The speed and capacity for pre‑adolescent

players to learn are high and the gains in performance

and understanding the most dramatic. It is essential that

children receive coaching that considers the developmental

stage of each child and that coaches focus on individuals

before the team. Players should be competent in:

• Basic soccer skills, such as dribbling, turning,

creating space and passing.

• Understand the essentials of attacking and


• Perform fundamental movement skills, such as

running, jogging, jumping, skipping, throwing and


Players must develop competency in these essential

elements before graduating to large-sided games (8v8+).

Elementary skills and techniques not only provide the

foundation for soccer, but also provide the basis for

participation in most other sports.”

Changing the Game in Youth Sports


Check out the following TED talk on youth sports participation:

Some takeaways from the speaker, John O’Sullivan (former professional soccer player and D1 college coach):

  • The single greatest effect on performance is an athlete’s state of mind
  • Youth sports used to be about children competing against other children; now it is often adults competing against other adults through their children
  • Children play sports because it is fun; winning comes in way down the list
  • Children quit sports when they don’t get to play, and when winning becomes more important than enjoyment
  • 90% of children would rather play on a losing team than sit the bench on a winning team
  • Competition is important, but being competitive comes from putting the needs and priorities of our children first
  • We can all start changing youth sports for the better by learning five simple words (watch to learn what they are)

Do You Know What is Developmentally Appropriate for U10 Rec Soccer Teams?

Do you know what is appropriate for U10 teams?

Do you know what is appropriate for U10 teams?

Players are now starting to become capable of understanding and implementing some more complex team-oriented as well as individual tasks, but don’t expect them to “stay in their positions,” or to know what you’re talking about if you want to implement a “passing style of play.” Again, at this age and level of play, you will see “the pack” or the “beehive” a lot. Try to explain to your players that it’s a good idea for at least one player to be to the right of the pack, one to the left of the pack and one behind the pack. Continue to rotate all players in all positions. At this age, a typical session should follow this basic structure (not to exceed 75 minutes):

  • Technique-based warm-up where each player has a ball or each player works with a partner (5-15 minutes)
  • Directional games where players play to multiple goals, targets and/or zones (20-25 minutes)
  • Small-sided game where you form 2 teams with goalkeepers and let them play (25-30 minutes)
  • Cool down (5 minutes)

 Developmental Information:

Psychomotor (physical)
At this age, boys and girls begin to develop separately (with girls often developmentally ahead of boys). Their ability to stay physically active is increased from U8. Gross and small motor skills are becoming more refined. [Gross motor skills are bigger movements—such as rolling over and sitting—that use the large muscles in the arms, legs, torso, and feet. Fine motor skills are smaller movements—such as picking up small object—that use the small muscles of the fingers, toes, etc.] There is a greater diversity in playing ability. The “bigger, faster” kids start to dominate because of their physical maturity.

Cognitive (learning)
Some children will begin moving from the concrete operational stage to formal operational stage (which means that they are starting to develop the ability to understand abstract concepts). However, the majority of your players will not be developmentally ready to implement “possession” soccer or playing an “offside trap.” Most of your players will still be thinking about things very concretely (literally); for example, there’s the ball, I should go over and get it – hence, “the pack.” Nevertheless, some players will start to understand some fundamental tactical concepts, such as changing the direction of the ball (e.g. to the “weak side”). They are starting to demonstrate increased responsibility (e.g. carrying “own stuff,” tucking in jersey, tying own shoelaces).

Psychosocial (emotional)
Continued positive reinforcement needed. They are becoming more serious about “their play” and they may initiate play on their own (e.g. set up their own game, practice moves they learned during practice on their own). Peer pressure is still very significant – they still want to be liked by their teammates. Team identification is important and they are starting to become more team-oriented. An adult outside of the family (e.g. you, the coach) may take on added significance. 

Age-appropriate technical aspects to focus on during the course of the season:

  • The majority of sessions should be focused on activities that encourage development of players’ passing and receiving skills, dribbling and ball mastery, as well as turning and
  • 1v1 attacking should continue to be heavily emphasized, while 1v1 defending can be introduced (try not to confuse the two, though; e.g. do an activity for 1v1 attacking, then do an activity for 1v1 defending. It can be the same activity, but make it clear the focus has changed).
  • Continue to have the players juggle at every available opportunity (before/after practice and during breaks in the session).
  • Introduce players to shielding the ball, as well as some crossing and finishing (in the flow of games).
  • Many sources advocate for teaching “headers” (heading the ball) at this age; however, outside of some very basic “throw the ball up to myself and head it,” I would wait until the players are a bit older. With all of the research that is coming out on concussions, I would advise against spending time on headers and do not berate a child at this age for not heading a ball during practice or a game.

Age-appropriate tactical aspects to focus on during the course of the season:

  • It is now appropriate to introduce (do not expect competence or mastery!) limited attacking principles (e.g. add support, width, and creativity to penetration, or “to the left/right/behind of the pack”). 
  • Introduce the idea of possession (do not expect more than 3-5 passes at most) and remember that the majority of your players are still very concrete in their thinking – is the goal to get passes or score goals? Try not to confuse them.
  • Introduce combination play (at this age, wall passes are appropriate and achievable for some players)
  • Introduce some limited defending principles (e.g. pressure and delay). You will have a hard time telling a player not to try win the ball if (s)he is that way inclined; similarly, it will be difficult to tell a player not inclined to “tackling” to change his/her mind. This will come in time (hopefully!).