The Gate Dribbling Game: Sample Activity from the Volunteer Soccer Coach


Session #1: Dribbling to Keep Possession:
Activity #2: The Gate Dribbling Game with Pressureactivity2_session1

Time: Approximately 15 minutes.

Area: 25 x 25 yards (L x W) or larger depending on how many players you have.

Activity: This activity is a progression from the previous one, which will allow you to give your players a quick water break and then get straight back into action. This time, start with a “bandit” whose job is to stop players from dribbling through the gates. Change the bandit every 30-45 seconds (get them to keep score of how many balls they kicked away).

Possible Progressions:

  • Add a restriction whereby players can only dribble with their left foot (or right foot).
  • Add another bandit (2 bandits at a time).
  • Replace some of the gates with pinnies (or different colored cones) and say that players must go through a cone gate followed by a pinnie gate (or different colored cone gate).
  • Add another bandit (3 bandits at a time).
  • Make the gates smaller and/or reduce the number of gates.
  • Add another bandit (4 bandits at a time).
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 Coachis 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.


Player Testimonial for Game-based Soccer


David O’Shaughnessey

I coached David O’Shaughnessey for two years. He was a standout high school basketball player, who went on to play the sport collegiately at the D1 level. As a soccer player, he transformed from being an average utility guy to a true soccer star. I asked David (or “D.O.” as everyone calls him) to write a few words about my methods, specifically, how he felt my “game-based” approach helped him. As always, he went above and beyond:

From my experience, whether in basketball or soccer, I always improved the most under coaches that structured practice as competitions. I grew up playing defense and center midfield. During my junior year, Coach Jordan moved me to Center Forward. I thought it was a stupid move, and that I wouldn’t be any good because I was terrible at taking people on. I felt so out of place at first.

I remember several distinct changes in Coach Jordan’s coaching style between his first and second year. At times the first year I felt that practice got too drill/technical oriented, and that we spent a large majority of practice conditioning. I personally thrive of off competition and get bored doing non-competitive drills, so at times I would get frustrated with the practices and not enjoy them. However, Jordan’s second year practices had a different structure. We didn’t do nearly as much technical (i.e. footability) training or direct conditioning. Instead of starting practice with a 12 minute run, we usually opened practice playing intense games of target ball, which instantly got the competitive juices flowing. Most parts of practice revolved around some type of competition; it could be a 1v1 tournament, small-sided games, possession games, or large field scrimmages. I thoroughly enjoyed practice that season because we were competing the whole time. Usually the losing teams had to run sprints, which provided some incentive for less competitive people to give 100%.

I know that having more competitive and “live setting” practices drastically improved my attacking ability. I became much more comfortable with the ball at my feet and playing in tight spaces, since that’s what a large amount of practice involved. I also became more comfortable taking people on in games. The footability-type drills from the year before could only get me so far, and the daily experience of going at defenders in a live setting not only grew my technical ability, but it also increased confidence.

Not only did I enjoy soccer more Jordan’s 2nd year, but I feel like I made more improvement in that season than the previous 3 seasons combined. I went from being an average starter and scoring 8 goals to team MVP and scoring 25 goals in one season. Our team won the state championship the 2nd year. We were not as talented as the team the year before, and we were probably the 4th most talented team in the state. I attribute this to the change of focus on practice and the increase in competitive, game-like simulations. All of the players enjoyed the sport more, which can go a long way to improving as an individual or team.

The 2 minute clip above shows highlights from an all-important region game (2008) with everything on the line. Fast forward to 1:11 to see what D.O. was all about.


It Pays to Win on Offense: Game-based activities that will immediately improve all of your soccer players’ attacking instincts and abilities is a 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 attacking soccer concepts. The book provides an all-encompassing Game-based Soccer framework for instilling a relentless, attacking mindset in players. By combining educational theory and making everything a competition, coaches can maximize their practice time and teach that attacking concepts are not just limited to certain players or limited to specific positions on the field.

James Jordan is a professional educator and a soccer coach. He holds the NSCAA Premier Diploma, USSF National Youth License, and a Doctorate in Education. Using Game-based Soccer techniques developed over the past decade, his teams (boys and girls) have won six high school state championships and one Classic 1 boys’ club championship.

Possession is King? My Liverpool-Man United Match Analysis

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 10.16.41 PM

LUFC vs. MUFC Match Analysis on 3.22.15

Manchester United beat Liverpool 2-1 on Sunday in a well-fought match. According to some analysis I cribbed from FourFourTwo’s Stats Zone, Man United dominated in a number of key areas:

  • Goals scored (the big one!)
  • Passes completed (over 100 more passes than LUFC and with a higher completion percentage: 81.9% vs. 75.1%)
  • Passes completed in the attacking third (almost double LUFC’s number and with a higher completion rate: 68.8% vs. 55.9%)
  • Possession (58.4% vs. 41.6%)

Although MUFC attempted more take ons (19 vs. 15), LUFC had a higher percentage of successful ones (60% vs. 52.6%). Furthermore, when you look at take ons in the attacking third, LUFC attempted double MUFC’s (12 vs. 6) with a higher percentage of successful ones (33.3% vs. 16.7%).

In terms of crosses, MUFC attempted more (14 vs. 8) and had a higher percentage of success (14.3% vs. 0%).

All in all, MUFC dominated possession of the ball (ironically, more so in the first half when LUFC had 11 players!), while LUFC had the edge in take ons (1v1 offensive duels). Whether you think MUFC deserved the win, they scored more goals and missed a late penalty.

How do you train your teams to create and score more goals? Check out my latest book, It Pays to Win on Offense: A Game-based Approach to Developing Players that Score and Create lots of Goals.

Light crew: What to do when only a few players turn up to practice?


At some point, it’s happened to every coach at every level: only a few players turn up to practice. After the practice plan goes out the window, how do you still put on an engaging and meaningful session in which your players can get better?

This happened today at one of the sessions I visited. We played World Cup the entire practice with just 5 u10 players.

With one player going in goal (and rotating after each game), we started with every player for himself, sometimes rolling two balls out at a time (initial rounds were played to 2 goals).

After a few rounds, we played with two teams of two and went through the following progressions/tweaks after each round:

– First team to score 2 goals
– First team to score 2 goals, but goals could only be scored with left foot
– First team to score 3 goals; goals with left foot counted double
– First team to score 3 goals; goals from outside the 6 yard box counted double
– First team to score 2 goals; goals can only be scored with a first time finish
– First team to score 3 goals; goals scored off a first time finish count double
– First team to score 3 goals; goals scored from outside the 6 yard box count double; goals scored off a first time finish count double; first time finishes from outside the 6 yard box count triple

We played with each set of rules 1-3 times (to allow rotation of goalkeeper and mixing of the teams) with a lot of success. I asked guided discovery questions at water breaks or in natural breaks (e.g. After a goal had been scored or between rounds).

I would recommend this set up for 3-7 players and it is very easy to implement.

What sessions do you run when you have a light crew?


“New Ball” Scrimmage Game for U6 and Below


New BallArea: Full field (if you have it), or half field (put a cone goal on the halfway line).


  • Whenever a ball goes out of play or a goal is scored, a coach announces “New Ball!” and rolls another ball into play.
  • The ‘new ball’ should be rolled to neutral space or toward the disadvantaged team.
  • After a goal, roll the new ball in near the center of the field toward the team that was scored against.
  • Do not bounce the “new ball” as it is difficult for these players to judge a bouncing ball at this age.
  • Favor the team on the wrong end of a one sided game.
  • Favor individual players who are not becoming involved in the game.
  • Have parents retrieve lost balls and return them to the coach who just rolled the new ball in so he/she now has 2 balls once more!
  • Play 3-4 minute halves with a halftime break.
  • This is a fast paced game and they will tire! Remember to put the players in different color pinnies/bibs.
  • Modify as necessary!

Guided Discovery Questions: To be asked one at a time to give the players a rest, or during a water break.

  • Great goal! What part of your foot did you use to score it? Can anyone else do that? Show me!
  • Great move? Show me again. Can anyone else do that? Show me!
  • How did you score that goal? Did you run fast or slow?
  • How do you stop the other team from scoring? Show me!

Red Light, Green Light: Fun Soccer Activity for the Youngest Players


Red Light, Green Light

Applicability: You can use this activity every single practice because it focuses on coordination, movement, and basic dribbling skills.

Area: 20 x 20 yards (W x L).

Activity: Each Player has a ball and finds a space inside the grid. When you shout “Green Light,” players begin to dribble around the area. When the coach shouts “Red Light,” players stop the ball, then keep this foot on the ball and put their arms out to the side for balance. Continue.

Guided Discovery Questions:

  • What part of your foot can you use to move the ball fast? Show me!
  • What part of your foot can you use in this game to stop the ball? Show me!
  • Should we always take big touches or little touches? Why?  (depends, but the rule of thumb is little touches to maintain better ball control)
  • How do you stay inside the grid?
  • How do you not run into other players?


  • “Yellow Light”: players do another command, be creative! For instance, players must put both knees on the ball
  • “Blue Light”: players pick the ball up, hold it on their heads and run around making as much noise as possible. Like a police siren!
  • “Monster Truck”: when the coach shouts, “Here comes the monster truck,” he/she tries to steal the players’ balls before they can safely get outside the grid (or designate a safety zone (e.g. behind the goal)

Guided Discovery Questions after you have added Progressions: 

  • How do you put both knees on the ball? Show me!
  • What is the fastest way to pick up the ball and put it on your head? Show me!
  • How can you escape the monster truck? Show me!

2v1+1 to Goal with Counterattack Gates

2v1 to goal with the added complexity of another defender and counterattack gates.

2v1 to goal with the added complexity of another defender and counterattack gates.

In my last post, I discussed the importance of “numbers up” when teaching offensive concepts. This post continues that theme, but adds extra conditions that make the activity even more game-like.

Applicability: Playing numbers up on offense is a great teaching tool because it allows attacking players to experience lots of success. On the other hand, it is good for defenders, too, as they struggle to deal with a numbers down situation they are forced to figure out what works best, as well as the importance of pressure and angle of approach. Additionally, this is a shooting drill, but under game-like conditions. 2v1+1 increases the difficulty for the attacking team and encourages even faster speed of play to capitalize on the “numbers-up” situation.

Area: If you have a marked 18-yard box, use it; otherwise, put a cone 5 yards to the side of each post. After that, put a cone facing it approx. 18 yards away.

Activity: Divide the players into 2 even teams. Have the defenders line up behind the 2 cones level with the posts. Have the attackers line up in 2 lines on the edge of the box (far cones) facing them. The balls should be with the attackers. To begin, have one of the attackers dribble towards the goal and try to score. As soon as the attacker takes his/her first touch, one defender can come out to pressure her (but not before). If the attacker passes the ball to her partner, then the second defender can enter the play (from the other side) and they play 2v2. Players go to the other line once they have had their turn (e.g. attacker goes to the other attacker line and defender goes to other defender line). Give them a time limit (e.g. 75 seconds) to score as many goals as possible (keep count) and then have the two teams switch roles. Review guided discovery questions points, and repeat as necessary, then add progressions one by one.

Offensive Guided Discovery Questions:

  • Is it easier for you and your partner to beat the defender when you go slow or fast? (See what they say and ask why)
  • What is the best way to eliminate the defender from the drill? (See what they say and ask why – dribble straight at defender and then pass it before she she can recover/dribble past her or the second defender can impact the game)
  • If you pass the ball to your partner, what is the best type of pass and why?
  • When you receive the ball, where should you look to take your first touch? Why?
  • What types of shot can you employ to be successful in this drill?
  • How does shot selection pair with which foot you favor?
  • If you lose the ball, what should you immediately do? Why?

Defensive Guided Discovery Questions:

  • Do you want to pressure the attacker quickly or slowly? Why?
  • Do you want to defend high up the field, or near your own goal? Why?
  • Why is it smart to show the attacker away from her partner? Why?
  • What is a good way to tackle the attacker without over-committing and getting beat? (Poke tackle)
  • What can and should the goalkeeper be communicating during this activity? Why? Give some examples
  • How does the game change when the attacker makes a pass? What are the challenges in this situation? What are the opportunities?


  • Move the balls to the other side (move defenders over, too)
  • Move the starting positions of the defenders/attackers (e.g. more centrally/more to the side, start the attackers closer/further away).
  • Have the coach play the ball to the attacker.
  • Add counterattack gates for the defenders to score through.
  • Allow both defenders to enter the game on the attacker’s first touch (which makes it a traditional 2v2 activity)

Guided Discovery Questions after you have added Progressions:

  • How has moving the balls to the other side changed this game? What are the challenges? What are the opportunities?
  • How has changing the starting position of the defenders/attackers changed this game? What are the challenges? What are the opportunities?
  • What has changed now that the coach is playing the ball in? What do you now have to ensure with your first touch? What are the challenges? What are the opportunities?
  • Now that counterattack gates have been added, how has the game changed? (e.g. if the goalkeeper catches a ball, she can roll it out to her defender or thrown/kick it directly through a gate) What are the challenges? What are the opportunities?
  • How has the game changed now that it is a 2v2 situation? What are the challenges? What are the opportunities?

Numbers Considerations: Again, this activity can easily accommodate 20 players; however, if you have access to another big goal, I would make two fields, as this will increase the number of repetitions/opportunities players have to participate.

Additional Notes: This activity can be used on its own and/or as a progression to 3v2, 3v3, or one of the “continuous” games. It is an important activity because it not only gives your players shooting practice, but it teaches the benefits of the overload in soccer.