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

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

activity3_session5

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

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

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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?

~James

2v1+1 to Goal with Counterattack Gates

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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?

Progressions:

  • 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.

2v1 to Goal: The Importance of “Numbers-up” for Teaching and Success in Youth Soccer

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2v1 to Goal

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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.

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 18 yards away (see diagram).

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, the defender can come out to pressure him/her (but not before). Players go to the other line once they have had their turn (e.g. attacker goes to the other attacker line). Give them a time limit (e.g. 75 seconds) to score as many goals as possible 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)
  • 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

Progressions:

  • 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.
  • Keep score and make it a competition!

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?

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 2v2, 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. Once you have exposed your players to this concept–that it’s far easier to create scoring opportunities when you are numbers up in the attack–you will be able to introduce it in other situations and your team will see the benefits of supporting the attack.

Target Ball!

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Target BallApplicability: I have used this as a fun warm-up game, as well as a stand-alone activity in the middle of a practice. It is effective because there are multiple targets, it gets everyone moving, and it is game-like!  

Ages: U12 and up.

Area: 40 x 50 yards (W x L) – make as big as possible!

Activity: Put a cone in each corner of the field, then 2 or 3 others (equally distributed) along each end line (see diagram). Balance a ball on top of each cone on the end line.  Divide players into 2 teams. The objective is to successfully knock a ball off the cone (with the game ball). Team A defends their side and attempts to score on the other end (vice versa for Team B). If a player shoots and misses, (s)he must run to retrieve the ball, while the defending team can take the ball off the cone that the attacker missed (meaning that they will be temporarily “numbers up”). Play first team to 3 goals, then review the guided discovery questions and move through progressions.

Regressions: If defenders are just standing by cones, say that 5 consecutive passes equals a goal. This should entice the defending team to come out and play.

Guided Discovery Questions for the Attacking Team:

  • Do you want to make the field bigger or smaller when you have the ball? How can you do this? Why should you do this?
  • What is the first question you should ask yourself when you have the ball? (Can I pass knock a ball off?!)
  • Given that you have multiple goals in which to score, what are the opportunities and implications for attacking? For team shape?
  • Because you are aiming to serve a penetrating pass to a specific end zone, what implications does this have for your team shape?
  • If you miss the target, what should you immediately do? Why?
  • What types of communications will be most effective in this game? When and Why?

Guided Discovery Questions for the Defending Team:

  • Do you want to make the field bigger or smaller when the other team has the ball? How can you do this? Why should you do this?
  • What type of team shape should you have in this activity? Why?
  • How does pressure, cover, and balance come into play here because of the five target goals?
  • How important is good communication in this activity? What types of examples are there?
  • Is it possible to transition immediately from defense to offense in this activity? How so?

Progressions:

  • Add a neutral(s), so that the attacking team is always at an advantage
  • Put all players on a touch restriction (e.g. 3 touch max)
  • Add a halfway line and mandate that to score, all of the attacking team’s players must be in the attacking half
  • Mandate a certain number of passes (e.g. 5 before a team can attempt to score)
  • Play transition (whereby once a team scores at one end, they then go and try and score at the other end).
  • Finally, mandate that “goals” must be first time (e.g. players must knock the ball off the cone with their first touch!)

Guided Discovery Questions after you have added the Progressions:

  • How does the addition of a neutral(s) change the game? Why? What are the challenges? What are the opportunities?
  • How do the touch limitations for the players change the game? Does this it make it easier or more difficult to score? Why?
  • How is the game changed by the rule mandating all attacking players must be over the halfway line to score? Why? What are the challenges? What are the opportunities?
  • How does the addition of “transition” change this game? What are the challenges? What are the opportunities?
  • How does mandating a certain number of passes before you can score change the game? Does it make it easier or harder to score? Why? What can you do to counter this?
  • How does the “first time finish” rule change the game? What are the challenges? What are the opportunities?

Additional Notes: There are a number of progressions you can run through that legitimately make this activity significantly different each time, so you can easily spend 30-40 minutes on it (including water breaks) and keep the players engaged.

Numbers considerations: Depending on your numbers (e.g. if you have 16 or more), you may want to go for two smaller fields in order to maximize players’ touches on the ball and exposure to learning situations. It is best to experiment and see what works best for your group.

Busy Bees Soccer Activity for U4-U10: Lots of Touches, Lots of Fun!

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Great game to get everyone moving and touching the ball!

Busy Bees: Great game to get everyone moving and touching the ball!

Ages: U4-U10

Applicability: Great warmup activity for the beginning of practice because all of the players are moving around with a ball, changing direction and pace…and it’s fun!

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

Activity:

  • Have the players “BUZZ” around like a bunch of bees (get them to make the noise!). Make sure you pretend to hear the bees and begin saying that you don’t like bees.
  • Have one of the Assistant coaches kick you with the ball and you fall down and yell “Ouch the bee stung me!” Be very dramatic and the kids will begin stinging you with their ball.
  • Make sure you move around and stop frequently. 
  • They really love this game. Ask if anyone wants to be the beekeeper (your role) and continue the game (go for 30-45 seconds max) and allow all players to have their turn as the beekeeper.
  • With the older groups and larger numbers, you may need to start with two beekeepers. 

Guided Discovery Questions:

  • Does the beekeeper stand still or move around? (moves around…unless too tired!)
  • How do you know where the beekeeper is? (keep head up)
  • How can you look at the ball and the beekeeper at the same time?
  • Is it easier or harder to sting the beekeeper when we kick the ball from far away? (harder)
  • How do we get closer to the beekeeper? (variety of answers, such as move fast, etc.)
  • Should we take big touches or little touches (depends, but the rule of thumb is little touches to maintain better ball control). 
  • What part of your foot can you use to “sting” the beekeeper (any, but more likely they will use toe, laces, and/or side of foot). 

Progressions: 

  • Add another beekeeper.
  • Mandate that players can only use one foot to dribble the ball (e.g. right foot only).
  • Mandate that they can only “sting” the beekeeper with one foot only.
  • Make it a competition to see who can get “sting” the beekeeper the most in a 30-45 second period. Get that person to demonstrate how they are able to get so many stings, and then see if the other players can imitate them. 

Lots of Shots: The Penalty Box Shooting Game

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A fluid game with lots of shots taken under pressure!

The Penalty Box Game: A fluid, competitive game with lots of shots taken under pressure!

Ages: U8s and up

Playing Area:

  • Utilize 18 yard (penalty) box
  • If you don’t have a marked area, make it yourself (18 x 44) (W x L).

Activity and Set up:

  • Put a cone on each side of the goal line (about 5-6 yards off of each post).
  • Divide players into 2 or 3 teams (if you have more than 8 players it is usually better to go with 3 teams). 12 players is ideal. 
  • Assuming 3 teams, 1 team defends (they will start behind the two goal line cones), 1 team will retrieve and replace balls, and the other team will be shooting.
  • All of the balls need to put outside of the 18 yard box about a yard or 2 off of the line.
  • The rules are simple: All attackers must start inside the box. Only 1 attacker may leave to get a ball. As soon as (s)he touches the ball, 1 defender may enter the box to try stop the attacking team from scoring. Only 1 ball and 1 defender are allowed in the box at a time.
  • Allow a couple of minutes for players to figure out the rules and rhythms of the game, then give each attacking team 75 second to score as many goals as possible.
  • Rotate attacking team to defense, defense to ball retrieval, and ball retrieval to attacking. Repeat as necessary. 

Guided Discovery Questions: 

  • On defense, how do you stop the other team from getting easy shots? (hustle out to the ball/show away from the goal).
  • On offense, how do you give yourself the best chance of scoring? (hustle to get the ball, take a quick touch to goal and shoot!). 
  • On offense, how do we make it harder for the defender to stop us? (spread out – show me what that looks like). 

After 5-10 minutes of playing, consider layering in the following progressions:

  • Mandate that the ball must be passed into the box before someone can shoot.
  • Mandate that once the shooter has taken a shot, he or she must run around the nearest cone (that the defenders are lined up behind). This keeps everybody moving and allows different people to take turns shooting. It also trains the shooter to take his/her first step forward after shooting (good for rebounds). 
  • Mandate that all shots must be “first time” – means they will have to set up the ball more carefully or do more crosses.  
  • Allow 2 defenders in at a time.
  • Add counterattack gates for the defenders to score through (at the top and corner of each end of the box).