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Premium Q&A part 1

Premium Q&A part 2

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Level 2 final assessment

Am about to do my final assessment level 2 on the above subject and would just like some general pointers on delivering my subject please. 

On technical, I will start using 1v1 concentrating on angle and speed of approach and shape. Then go to 1v2 trying to get the second defender to follow shape of first defender and to communicate to influence the collective defending, show him line, inside, get tight etc.

On skills I will move to 3v3 one side attacking the other defending, thus bring a third player into the defensive organisation, coaching squeezing play. Getting tight and communication leading to good team work.

SSG will be 4v4 one goal for attackers to score in and end zone for defenders to pass into. I will use one keeper and one receiver at the end zone. Attackers 121 Defenders 211. I will also intend to coach the keeper to sweep. 

Any thoughts would be gratefully received. David

Bill's answer

Hi David
Steve has passed on your enquiry to me regarding your level 2 assessment.
Having looked at your ideas I have to say you have things very well planned. Your progression will give you the opportunity to coach all of the major coaching points on roles of the defenders - pressure, cover and balance.
I would encourage you to have a look over the relevant Technical Syllabus files in Premium. Be content to communicate your points gradually as you go through your session, coach what you see and don't be tempted to force things to happen. Your candidates will give you plenty to coach.
From experience some of the most common defensive errors that you will observe in your session are likely to be...
First defender not getting tight enough - In a real game situation this allows the player on the ball to make a through pass beyond the defender. We need to keep the opposition playing in front of the defence
First defender diving in, defenders need to balance aggression and determination with patience.
Half-hearted efforts by first defenders to "show" the player on the ball inside or out. Usually the 1st defenders have to be content that they will not actually win the ball if they are going to "show" the attacker towards the line or towards their supporting defender. Often they end up doing neither.
Lack of good communication by second defender - never under-estimate how important this is.
And very important, if the player on the ball makes a pass to their supporting attacker it is VITAL that eh 1st defender drops off instantly to cover space and support their team mate who should have stepped up quickly to press the ball.
There are plenty more but these things come up every time unless you have an especially talented group; make sure by the way you select your participants that you don't!
One last thing that I always find helpful, remember that football is a game of opposites, what is good for attackers is bad for defenders and vice-versa. So try to get your defenders to see the game from the point of view of their opponents. Use  Q & A to help them see how they can make better decisions and make their opponents life more difficult.
Good luck, by the sounds of your plan you will do fine, please let us know how it goes.
Yours in sport
Bill Blyth

How to evaluate players

Q: "My name is Stephen Kennedy and I am the Coaches Coordinator and a coach for the McKenzie United Soccer Club in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. For Indoor Season I had our club purchase a license for the site and I can tell you that the coaches that have used the site have loved it!

I am wondering if you can help me a little. I have also now become the head of our clubís Technical Committee  and one of our first orders of business is to look and at change our pre season player evaluation system. We have to put our older kids onto the appropriate teams (u10 and up) for the upcoming season.

Our evaluation sessions usually run 2 hours and we try to place between 30 to 50 kids on teams in one of these sessions. We are also trying to be consistent with our evaluation plan across all age groups. We try not to get the coaches involved in picking their teams as we believe that the kids should play at the level where they are best suited based on their skills as opposed to possibly being placed on a team because the coach picked them. 

In the past our system has for the most part been okay and for some age groups has been pretty accurate in determining the players level. But in some cases it has failed. Here is how we have been running it.

1 V 1 We set up approximately 20 stations with 2 small goals and the players play 1 v 1 for a minute being able to score into either of the two goals. After the minute the winner typically would move left and the loser would either stay at the station or move right (we have done both ways) Typically we do 10 rounds and track everyone. In theory the top players should all end up at the top of the ladder so to speak. (We have also tried just moving one player left every time).

After the 1 v 1 sessions we go to  3 V 3 sessions with the teams randomly selected and evaluators watching one field. 
I think the problems that we have run into are the following.

In the 1 V 1 drills some players have started goaltending more than being aggressive and as a result they tend to do well in the drills based on opportunity.

In the 3 V 3 some players just donít get noticed (they either hang back and donít get involved) or they just donít stand out and we donít get a lot of comments on them. 

Do you know of any documentation that we can look at to revamp our evaluation process or so you have any suggestions on some drills we can use to see players easily and identify their skills? Perhaps an example of how one of your clubs does their player evaluations? 
Some of our Age Group Coordinators are a little more gung ho than others. For example I ran 4 evaluation sessions last year for U12 girls, 1 session we had 5 skill stations that the players went through, the next was our normal process, and the third and fourth sessions was for girls that we either didnít get enough information on or who had missed the first two sessions. I think that I was pretty good at sorting my players out. But unfortunately due to our climate (unpredictable snow and rain) and scheduled season start (End of April) we canít always get in lots of sessions. 

I would be happy to hear of any suggestions that you might have for drills or games that we can use. I have also downloaded some Evaluation and Tryout documents from other clubs and am trying to put together a system that we can be consistent with." Stephen Kennedy

Bill's answer

Hello Stephen,
Sounds like you have your work cut out this spring trying to sort out all those players. I like the way you are trying to base your selections on objective data rather than managers preferences. It's always a challenge to make these sort of decisions in the best interests of players and teams.
I think it would be difficult to devise a single system that will be equally effective with a whole range of age groups. Having said that my suggestion would be to use a small number of tests that will give you information on different aspects of play. A few years ago I ran trials to select an under 17 squad for Berwick Rangers our local professional team in the Scottish Football League. I have attached a couple of files that I used then, perhaps they will be useful to you. I started with noting down which playing position each candidate was interested in. It soon became clear for example whether potential strikers were actually willing to take chances to shoot or defenders had good basic technique or midfielders had good passing ability etc.
Of course with younger children I would not include some of the physical tests that I included with the 17s.
Like you I used a ladder type competition but in my case I went for 4 v 4 in relatively small grids. 4 v 4 allows players opportunity to demonstrate movement, positioning and decision making. We played for a few minutes and then moved 2 players up, 2 down and 4 stayed on the same pitch with new teams. The scoring system is on the files.
From the data I made up a summary of players I definitely wanted, those who would not make the first team and those who were possibilities. We then held a competitive trail game on a separate evening to look at the lads performance in a proper match. Interestingly the outcomes from the game confirmed the data from the technical trial, there were few surprises.
There are a number of games and drills in Premium that would work in this sort of trial but he ones in the attached files worked very effectively on that occasion.
I hope some of the attached is useful, call it a free bonus from Premium just don't tell everybody else!
Please let me know how it goes
Yours in sport
Bill Blyth

the trial results (zipped up .xls)

The drills (zipped up .pdf)

Drills for younger players

Q: "I have just recently joined the above website and I think the material is very good. I just have a quick question I currently coach mostly 5 year olds and I have been coaching them for about 18 months. I coach at an International School so we have many different languages and I am trying to find some relatively simple drills to assist with the First Touch and Control TS program. I tried the criss-cross drill last week with limited success partially because the other coaches have never coached and played football and partially because of the language. I will do this drill again this week but was interested in your thoughts on some other age appropriate drills. Most of the drills appear to be for 8+ year olds." Tim

Bill's answer

Hi Tim

Glad to hear you are enjoying the Premium package. I also work with some very young children during one of my regular sessions and, it has to be said they are a special challenge. 

I would recommend that at 5 years of age our main objectives would be to encourage the fundamentals of movement, agility, balance and coordination, and individual ball skills. Personally I spend plenty time letting them work with a ball each so they get comfortable in possession and can move with the ball with their head up. Activities like Drill 52 "Ten" is one I use often and adapt the various skills to their age and ability. I also find it worthwhile to include football "homework" when introducing new skills. Although there is nothing wrong with teaching the basic technique of passing and touch with five year olds there is little chance they will use these skills in a game; they are not yet programmed to cooperate in team games. For this reason I tend to focus on running, dribbling turning and shooting until they are a little older. 

I recommend putting plenty emphasis on games rather than drills at this age; their attention span is very short. All of the 20 "Early Learners" activities are ideal both in developing technique and basic movement skills. From the main drill index I would suggest 34 - Knockdown, 41 - Shoot on Sight, 43 - Open Goal, 49 & 50 - Tractor-Trailer, 51 - Bill's gates, 57 - 3-2-1, and 58 -  The Numbers Game as especially suitable. 

I usually find there are a group of players at this age who are more advanced than the main group. Why not try experimenting with this group for short period of times to see how they cope with some of the more challenging drills for 10 or 15 minutes during the session? It is a lot easier than trying to communicate with a large group of very mixed abilities. 
Please remember too that the coaching points are the mini thing. The games and drills are the tools we can use to help layers learn and refine these basic skills. The more we can encourage players to play with a ball away from formal practice sessions the quicker they will develop. 

Please let us know how it goes, I will have a look at working specifically on first touch with my own group over the next few weeks and get back to you on how we get on. 

Yours in sport 

Bill Blyth

Defending as a team at 11 a side

Q: "I am after a little bit of advice, currently coach an U11ís team in there first year at 11 a-side. We seem to be having problems defending as a unit from midfield to defence.

My back 4 are constantly being left exposed by the midfield causing the to panic and make careless mistakes to the extent that my GK has now been man of match 3 out of 5 games and if not for him we would be conceding a lot more than the usual  4 Ė 5 at present. (Example from the last game the opposition scored when I looked back towards the halfway line they watching was one of my central midfielders with both wingers.)

Can you suggest anyway of making my midfield more defensive minded without them loosing the attaching aspects of the game." Chris

Bill's answer

Hi Chris 

Getting your midfield four to work together is a major challenge, especially when it comes to defensive duties. Midfielders sometimes don't view themselves as defenders; it's a challenge to help them realise that when we lose the ball we have 11 defenders on the pitch. I reckon young players in particular tend to want to be the one who gets the counter-attack and the glory. Of course it's easy to assume it's about laziness but it may be that some players genuinely don't yet understand how they are supposed to react. 

It's an issue I am currently working on with my ladies squad, when I took over the team this season there was no evidence of cohesion in the midfield it was like four individuals dong their own thing. I have addressed it by by getting them to think about being "a team within a team" I think they are getting sick of hearing this phrase but it's starting to pay off. Help them to take a sense of pride in the performance of their own unit within the bigger team. The same principle can be applied to other units in the team. Every time we lose the ball I expect the four of them to react quickly and get back together with their three other team-mates behind the ball; nearest player presses the ball and holds up the attack while the other 3 drop off and provide cover and stay compact. I make it a "match goal" for the one or two midfielders who still lack concentration. Obviously fitness may be part of the problem but mainly it's about teaching them to anticipate changes of possession better and learn to read the game.  

I would use specific examples of players they admire and encourage them to watch them carefully next time they see a match live or on TV. Encourage them to think about the positions or units they usually play in and take note of what they are doing in different phases of play. Ask them to pay attention to how they react when their team loses the ball. Observe how they get compact as a midfield unit. Notice how they track runners and how they get back and help the fullbacks so the central defenders can stay in the danger area in front of goal, and so on. Of course it doesn't help that none of my ladies tam actually watch any football! One of the ways I have tried to communicate this is by recording matches on my PC and printing a few selected images of typical scenarios. 
In training, Drill number 43 "Open Goal" and 63 "Man Marking" is the kind of thing that may help improve their alertness and ability to anticipate changes of possession. 

No doubt about it, 11 a side is a challenge for youngsters, it will take a while to learn but breaking it down into "teams within a team" and talking about their role in attack and defence is a method I find helpful. 

Best wishes 

Bill Blyth

First to the ball!

Q: "I have a new under 14 team this season and one of our problems is that we rarely win any first ball challenges. Opposition goal kicks and drop kicks invariably are won by the opposition. Can you please offer any advice on drills I may be able to use in training to coach this point?" Dave

Bill's answer

Hi Dave 

Good to hear from you.

I would be interested to know if it's a boy's or girl's team you are working with.  

Although it can be an issue with boys as well, in my own experience girls often lack the assertiveness and hunger that is need to challenge physically for 50:50 balls. 

The issue is probably more psychological than technical, they need to want the ball more than the opposition. Sometimes it's about giving them permission to want to beat their direct opponent; my own daughter always tended to look as if it would be bad manners to get to the ball first! 

I would suggest adapting a practice like drill 41 "Shoot on Sight" It was designed to encourage players to take early chances to shoot but could easily be adapted for your purpose. Try to vary the serves and reward the team who get the first touch on the ball. Perhaps make it a challenge that the ball should never be allowed to bounce.  

I would address the psychological aspect as well. Players need to think about what kind of person they choose to be when they cross the white line. Perhaps comparing it to an actor going on stage may help. I know players who are quiet and reserved in normal life but become aggressive and competitive on the pitch within the laws of the game. Playing sport can be a great opportunity for players to express themselves and play a role that is different from their normal life. The England national ladies squad went on the pitch in a match recently with a key word or two written on their wrists to help them re-focus mentally.  

Hope these thoughts help, let me know how you get on. 

Yours in sport

Bill Blyth

Soccer homework

Q: "I have just been reviewing your drills and practices which I can see are going to be a tremendous help to myself and all of our coaches.

Here in Canada we always struggle with touches on the ball. Already our weather is changing and once winter hits there is very little opportunity for kids to play outside and have the extra touches necessary to develop great ball control skills. I have in the past given some soccer homework and awarded those who completed it with stickers and things (that was at U8 I am currently coaching indoor U10 girls). In the past I've included learning a specific move as well as turns, roll backs, toe taps, etc. Essentially anything you can do in a small area in a home. Do you have any suggestions on what you would consider the essential skills that I should assign a group of U10 girls (We have 3 levels of indoor competition A, B and C, these girls fall into the B category)? Also any suggestions for motivating the girls to do this soccer homework?"

Bill's answer

Hello Dave, 

Good to hear from you, I'm delighted to hear your club are finding the resources helpful.  

I strongly agree with your philosophy of encouraging players to practice away from formal sessions - "football homework".  In my experience girls in particular don't spend nearly enough time with a ball away from club activities. Some of the boys play a lot of casual football after school with friends which greatly improves their skills and confidence on the ball. I know the Soccer Patches that Steve has available through the Footy4kids website have been a great success in motivating young players to achieve measurable goals in developing specific skills. 
At all ages I often include lots of individual ball skills as you describe as part of a warm-up or cool-down. It's good to encourage them to show off new tricks they have learned from one another or from watching their football heroes. My focus though is to encourage the mastery of skills like turning with the ball and dribbling and to connect these in the minds of the young player to other parts of their game. 

For example, I tend to spend a lot of time with players from under 10 upwards in learning to keep possession of the ball as a team. What does a player do though when they receive a pass and there are no available options available to them the way they are facing? By demonstrating how they can use a variety of simple turns to create space and find support, we help them to see how turning with the ball is a natural development of simpler passing and possession skills. In the technical syllabus on Premium there is a section on turning which contains descriptions of a number of simple turns each of which can be used for personal goals for players. 

Similarly we can connect dribbling with the basic technique of shooting. i.e. How do we create opportunities to shoot? If we are in a 1 v 1 situation can we try taking on the defender and getting a shot on target? Again the technical syllabus describes some basic dribbling techniques that players can be given as homework, and which hopefully will begin to be observed in their game. 

One of the ideas I would like to explore in time would be to provide some short Flash videos demonstrating these and other skills - something else for my "to do" list! 

I have attached a file that I have used at my own club and which I intend to develop further and make available through Premium Soccer Coaching in the near future. It can be used to help assess a players current level of ability in various activities and used as a basis to set achievable goals for further progress. Clearly it would have to be used sensitively and in a way that will help build a young players confidence. It would be interesting to know whether you feel it potentially useful?  

Many thanks for your feedback, please keep in touch 

Yours in sport

Bill Blyth