Category: Soccer | Soccer Coaching

Soccer Tough - Soccer Psychology Book

Soccer Tough by Dan Abrahams | Chapter 10: Kevin’s 10,000 Hours

It wasn’t a gift from birth that helped him score 62 goals as a youth team player in a single season. It was Acton Park, or more precisely the thousands of hours he spent there with his two brothers practicing and playing football. The park in Acton is just a stone’s throw away from Loftus Road, the home of QPR FC and whenever Kevin Gallen went out to play with his brothers Steve and Joe he could see the top of the stadium’s floodlights glistening in the sun. His motivation was visible at all times! Kevin went on to have a successful career as a Premiership striker, a career largely as a result of the amount he practiced and the manner in which he trained. Recent science is showing us that the way we practice determines how good we become at something. This chapter explores the art and science of training and how to develop the soccer game of your dreams. 10,000 hours There is one figure that lays on the lips of many of the world’s finest sports coaches right now – 10,000. It is this number that is believed to be one of the secrets to success. Practice soccer for 10,000 hours and you give yourself a great chance of becoming world class at what you do. But not all soccer fans should get too excited yet. There are, of course, rules and regulations to those 10,000 hours. Some of which I’ll talk about later. It was a…

Soccer Brain Book Cover

Soccer Brain by Dan Abrahams | Chapter 1: The Roots of Creativity

‘The Wizard’ glared at his players. This was first practice, he knew what to say: “I'm not going to like you all the same. You won't like me or each other all the same either. Nor will I treat you all the same.” At first glance this was an obvious opener. ‘The Wizard’ had a mixed set of players – two black, two white, one from a Jewish background – a diverse, All American camp who had to become a team. But these words arrived from experience. This was October 1963 and he had been head coach of the UCLA Bruins basketball programme since 1948. His self-development was in full flow and it was time for moderate success to grow. Certain barriers existed. ‘The Wizard’ lacked magical facilities. A leggy three flights of stairs to a small and squalid gym was hardly inspiring. The practice area itself was more gymnastics than basketball with chalk from the pommel horse having to be mopped up or brushed aside before training. But ‘The Wizard’, also known as Coach John Wooden, was too engrossed to notice the neglected provisions. He had a team to shape, to mould, and to introduce to excellence. As a set of individuals they weren’t fancied. None of them were over 6 foot 5 inches - short in a game of height. But, as it turns out, the opening practice session scheduled in October 1963 saw him take a first glance at what was to be his ‘Potential Team’ –…

Let's Talk Soccer: Using Game-Calls to Develop Communication and Decision-Making in Football

The Future Soccer Player by Gerard Jones

When working with a player today, prepare them for the game of tomorrow. Often in education, like in the coaching of sports, we only prepare the learner based on the world of today… not tomorrow. The danger is that when the learner arrives in the world of tomorrow they find it difficult to adapt and perform at the required level due to how different the world has become. Does this sound familiar in soccer? Certainly! We often see certain groups of players coming through our academies who are failing to impact on the world of tomorrow. What is the solution? Do not prepare players based on what the world (in this case the game of football) looks like now, prepare them for where you think it will be in the future! As discussed in Chapter 8, it would not be a complete surprise if soccer players in the future are so technically and tactically flexible that they become almost positionless in the sense that they may start playing in one position and finish in another. The player of the future will almost certainly be so highly skilled that they can adapt to any shape and formation the opposition play, and the team they represent starts with. As the game progresses it may be the players who shift the system into one that cannot be easily recognised as the conventional 1-4-4-2 or 1-5-3-2. https://youtu.be/SXdCgcMXGxA Over recent years, the game has become much faster, and players are quicker when compared to previous…

Coaching Psychological Skills in Youth Football: Developing The 5Cs

Coaching Psychological Skills: Introduction and Sample Soccer Coaching Exercises

The Role of Psychology in Football Once again you’re stood, frustrated, in the technical area as the ball nestles into the back of the net. Despairingly you gaze up to the sky before looking back to the pitch to see your opponents celebrating - their team spirit and togetherness as evident as the scoreline. Your goalkeeper and central defenders are slumped on the floor dejected, whilst a few other players solemnly trudge back to the half-way line, refusing to make eye contact with each other. A feeling of disbelief takes over; it’s happened again. There’s barely any time left for the re-start. Your heart sinks as the referee brings the game to an end. Once more you’ve allowed your opponents to get back into the game. You’ve switched off and conceded late on. Again it’s cost you the game. All the hard work and perseverance you showed has been shattered and all that’s left to give is the same debrief you feel you’ve been giving week after week: “We can’t keep going on like this. We can’t keep giving the opposition chances to get back into the game. We can’t keep falling apart when we’re under pressure. You need to be tougher than that… …Above all, how have we ended up losing a game we should have won?” https://youtu.be/SXdCgcMXGxA The widening role of the modern day coach Terms like ‘psychology’ or ‘psychologists’ have tended to divide opinion within the football industry. Within the field of coaching, it is understandable that…

Coaching Psychological Skills in Youth Football: Developing The 5Cs

Coaching Psychological Skills in Soccer: Sample Football Exercises (Part 2)

<< page 1 Introducing the ‘5Cs’ of Soccer Psychology It should already be clear that there are a wide variety of behaviours and responses on show during training and matches, and not all of them are desirable. One of the main aims of this book is to help you as the coach identify these behaviours and recognise their potential impact upon performance. Then, through conscious effort and a targeted approach, you will be in a better position to have a more positive and consistent impact on your player’s psychological skills. Take a moment to look back again at the colour coded list of behaviours shown by the player during training and matches. Invariably, these behaviours and responses bear close similarities to each other and can be grouped based upon their relation to a player’s level of commitment, their communication skills, their ability to concentrate, their self-control, and their overall confidence, as shown below. Fig 1.3: Player behaviour and responses shown in training and/or match play can be grouped together based on their relation to commitment, communication, concentration, control or confidence Collectively these are known as the 5Cs and represent what we consider to be the important components of positive psycho-social development in players. When one considers a player who is thriving in the game, then this is most probably a player who is highly motivated, able to regulate their emotions and their attention appropriately, and a player who has good interpersonal skills. These characteristics may indeed underpin mentally tough and…

The Way Forward: Solutions to England's Football Failings

Early Specialisation in Soccer (Chapter 10)

“Early specialization is a phenomenon created by self-interested and financially motivated adults” Mike Boyle. In the past few chapters we have looked at the golden age of learning, issues with the technical development of young players, and concerns about grassroots football. So far we have focused centrally on football yet, as this chapter will discuss, football is not the only sport a young player needs if they wish to become an elite player. It is not just ‘football skills’ which young players need to develop - learning different ‘physical movements’ is even more important. In turn, it has been found that too much football may be detrimental to the future development of young players. Developing fully rounded players may require less football and more of something else. It is the all-round development of young children which is essential for developing footballers for the future. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_1Xa2VKX00 The dangers of pre-academies In the world of football academies, where each professional club is desperately searching for that ‘special’ player, the needs of the player and child are often overlooked in favour of the future benefits of the academy. Because of the poor quality of grassroots football, professional academies started to develop their own ‘pre-academy’ centres. The argument behind this is similar to what was discussed before: allowing players to work with more educated coaches enables more players to be developed. In theory this sounds like a good idea and yet we have a problem. Firstly the level of the coaching is not that much better when…

Winning Your Players through Trust, Loyalty, and Respect: A Soccer Coach's Guide

High School Soccer Programs: Pregame Mental Preparation

How do you address your soccer team before a game? Is it laced with the word ‘winning’? Should it be? In our sports-minded society, it seems winning is the only thing that’s important. Players and coaches are judged on whether they win (or not) and coaches are often fired when they lose too many games. Players’ abilities are often questioned when they don’t win enough. How about your soccer team? Do you catch yourself saying, “We really need to win this game tonight!” Is winning more important to you than your players? Do they really know how important a particular game is? My guess is yes. So, with that in mind, do we overemphasize winning before the game and at halftime? By reminding players about the need to win, are we adding to the pressure and inhibiting their ability to play? https://youtu.be/SXdCgcMXGxA In my view, certain words and phrases add to the pressure. This is a huge game. Tonight is a must win. Lose and we go home. Everyone is counting on you. Remember, no mistakes tonight. We’ve never lost to this team. Pointing out anything negative is never helpful before a game. In addition, emphasizing bad moments from the past can be destructive, such as: Don’t make the passes you did in the last game. Let’s play better than we did on Monday. Our defending was terrible the other night. Keep the ball on frame, unlike the ones in practice. Whatever we didn’t do in our previous game (or…

Winning Your Players through Trust, Loyalty, and Respect: A Soccer Coach's Guide

High School Soccer Programs: Do You Trust Your Players?

Are you able to trust your players in a game situation? Do you give them opportunities to make mistakes? Do they know you trust them? Or do you feel the need to be in control of practically every situation? I witness coaches, every day, who scream instructions continuously from the sideline during a game. For some, it’s intended to be meaningful information. For others, it’s a way to let go of nervous energy. Why do they feel the need to verbally control every pass, every run, every aspect of the game? It’s expected behavior in basketball games as coaches run up and down the sideline, but what about other sports in large outdoor venues? A player on the other side of the field has no chance to hear exactly what the coach is shouting. What about on the job? How would we react if a boss was running up and down the hall screaming instructions to his or her employees every second? We’d think it was absurd. So why is it that coaches struggle, from time to time, with trusting their players? Is there a way to let our athletes make the majority of decisions during a contest? It all depends on your style of coaching. How can a coach get on the path to building a program that enables players to make sound decisions during a game? Here are some steps to take. https://youtu.be/SXdCgcMXGxA Establishing a Program of Trusting Our Players: TEACH / TEACH / TEACH - Begin in…

Soccer Training Blueprints: 15 Ready-to-Run Sessions for Outstanding Attacking Play

Free Soccer Exercises for Busy Football Coaches

Three free soccer sessions from James Jordan - 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. https://youtu.be/SXdCgcMXGxA Soccer Session #1: Dribbling to Keep Possession - Activity #2: The Gate Dribbling Game with Pressure 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). * * * Soccer Session #5: Finishing in the Box…

Soccer Tactics 2014: What The World Cup Taught Us

Soccer Tactics: Back 3 and Back 5 Formations

“A man with new ideas is mad – until he succeeds!” (Marcelo Bielsa) If the large-scale presence of 4-2-3-1 was no surprise at the 2014 World Cup, the proliferation of teams playing with three centre-backs was. The 2010 event in South Africa offered very little indication that this would be the case. Sure, in Italy’s Serie ‘A’ in recent years there has been significant use of the 3-5-2 formation, particularly with Juventus as they claimed the Scudetto using the system under Antonio Conte. At the World Cup Chile, Mexico and the Italians themselves all seemed likely to use variants of a back three. Several other nations were to follow this path also; something we will look at over the coming pages. https://youtu.be/SXdCgcMXGxA It was as much of a surprise that Italy chose not to use the 3-5-2, considering the success of the formation under coach Cesare Prandelli when reaching the final of Euro 2012 (of the sixteen teams that took part in the European Championships finals that year, Italy were the only ones to play with a back three). With the resurgence of the system in Italy, Prandelli reverted to it for the only time in their must-win contest against Uruguay in their last game in Group D. Although Italy are renowned for being especially flexible tactically, they were unimpressive in their opening games against England and Costa Rica, and their World Cup campaign was to cost Prandelli his job after the competition. Italy's 3-5-2 versus Uruguay In their final…