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1 v 1 to two goals

 I picked up this game from a book decades ago and I play it every season with any age group from U8 on up. Depending on the level of your team you can use it as one way to comprehensively assess the individual abilities of your players.  Anson Dorrance uses the 1 v 1 game it as a component of his "competitive cauldron." Players played a 1 v 1 tournament against all the other players on the team and eventually crowned a champion. His philosophy is rooted in the idea that the best team wins a majority of the 1 v 1 duels in a game.  At our level, players need to gain confidence in dribbling past a defender or winning the ball from an attacker without kicking the ball away. The best way to do that is put them in repeated 1 v 1 situations after practicing some of the skills needed to be successful in attacking (controlling the ball, setting up a move, making a move and then accelerating away) or defending (close down the dribbler, don't dive in, choose when to try and win the

Cones CAN be used to teach dribbling skills

 When I took my National Youth License back in 1999, one of the big revelations I had was the concept of 100% participation. As a coach, I was comfortable having players wait their turn to participate in an activity. What I learned was that waiting reduces opportunity and breeds misbehavior. Players who are not participating in an activity are losing opportunities to learn and they are far more likely to engage in misbehaviors that distract others or get themselves into trouble. We learned the motto "no lines, no laps, no lectures." While each of these deserves it's own essay, this essay is focused on one area of coaching practice that I have always found particularly disappointing, the dribbling through cones activity.  It is a staple of practices throughout the U.S. and it features rows of beautifully spaced cones and players waiting in line to dribble around the cones and then back. It has so many features that I find disdainful, but I do have to acknowledge that it do

A good game spoiled

 Picture a beautiful spring evening, sunny and not too warm. A great game is being played between two evenly matched U12 teams. While this is a game between two recreational teams, many of the players from both teams would be comfortably playing at the academy level. The game is close throughout and late in the second half one team breaks through and scores the only goal. As the director of this program, this is really the best that I can ask for in terms of player development and having an environment where players are challenged to do their best and grow from the experience.  Unfortunately, because of scheduling issues brought on by spring weather and a chronic lack of referees in youth soccer, I am also refereeing this game. In my job description, this falls under "other duties."  Each season, I end up refereeing a few games and usually it is not a problem. My coaches and parents generally understand how they are supposed to behave and even if they don't normally act t

U8 season goals

Since we moved to a large group training approach for the U8 in 2018, we have developed a set of season goals for the age group that are developmentally appropriate. I have listed them in sections below and then added some detail about the most important elements.  Skills :  Passing control of bouncing balls dribbling skills- pull back, outside foot push, inside/outside, inside/inside Team shape Head/ Wings/ Tail Tactical goals Head stays high (in the attacking half of the field) Find the head- complete a pass to the head.  Team goals Bananas split- concept is to keep players from bunching up.  Visual cues: if your teammate has the ball, don't go towards the ball.  Individual goals:  when the ball is in a clump of players, pull back dribble around defenders, not through them.  Go to the side, not forward first.   In making the transition from U6 to U8, we move from One player and her ball Find the ball, go to the ball to a team shape for the first time (Head, Wings, Tail) where the

"Get Outta Here" The best game ever

If you are looking for a game that can be used to emphasize a technical skill like passing or to present players with a more tactical focus like solving problems in groups of 2-3 or creating space in the final third, then look no further than GET-OUTTA-HERE. This game has all the skill elements you need and most of the tactical elements you will need up to 4 v 4. In addition it is a competitive game that always gets your team motivated. Finally, players are forced to communicate both on and off the field to ensure success and if they cannot communicate effectively, their team will lose, so there is a real penalty. The setup of the game is simple. Break your team into two approximately equal level groups. Assemble them on the sideline on either side of you with all of the balls next to you. Give each team a goal to defend. I usually start out with 2 v 2. Set a time limit of 2-3 minutes for the game and play up to three rounds. The team that wins two out of three rounds is the winner

The "show my skills" pinkie promise

American Soccer has long been derided as little more than "kickball." We have a large number of players, but produce relatively few truly outstanding players compared to a country like the Netherlands which has a much higher success rate at developing young talent. There are tons of reasons why we lag behind other countries including the lack of infrastructure and the lack of a "soccer culture" where people had grown up with the sport and therefore have parents with prior experience. Our parent coaches are often transplants from other sports that are primarily coach directed like football and baseball. Employing the same coaching strategies in soccer is not very effective due to the player-centered nature of the sport. The problem As the director of coaching for a recreational program, my most persistent problem was finding coaches for U5 and u6 teams. When I did find these coaches, they had little idea of what to do with the kids during a training session o

The golden rule of free kicks

In a U10 game, a player is offsides. It happens all the time because 9 year olds, like the rest of us have difficulty understanding (or accurately calling) an offsides infraction. The other team gets a free kick. The coach calls out a player to take the free kick and then has most of the team move up the field. The player taking the free kick gives it a big run up and kicks the ball as hard as possible. Most of the time, it goes directly to someone on the other team and immediately, the team which, moments before had the advantage, is now in scramble mode. They just ran up the field for the free kick and now they run back down the field to chase the other team and try to prevent a goal. Does that sound like a familiar scenario? I see this regularly every week. In addition to free kicks, it happens on throw-ins, goal kicks and almost every time the goalkeeper gets the ball. There is a rush to get the ball down the field as quickly as possible. Next time you watch a game, count how man