Coaching Soccer Weekly is a podcast that gives you an in-depth look at the methods, strategies and techniques used by a youth soccer coach working full time with players of every age and skill level. This includes training plans, team management and planning ideas, the latest trends in soccer coaching and education, as well as approaches to deal with challenges. The podcast also includes..
I only had one team playing last weekend. My U17 girls competed in the Presidents Cup tournament. For those not familiar with how the state tournaments work in the U.S.; the top teams in each age group compete in the State Cup for a chance to win and go on to Regionals. The winners of Regionals move on to the National Championship.
A few years ago US Youth Soccer created the Presidents Cup. The tournament gives teams that are not quite competitive enough for State Cup a chance to compete in a state tournament with a chance to move on to a regional and national tournament during the summer.
Spoiler Alert: I’m free this summer. I tell you all about it in this episode.
Today’s question comes from Stephen. His question is about strength training.
Stephen says, “My question is about strength work. I have coached this team of boys for 4 years. Starting when they were U10s. This year, at U13 there has been a major uptick in injuries. We have players with pain resulting from physical growth. We have players picking up injuries in games, practices, at school or from goofing around with friends. Many of the players on my team are playing a lot of additional sports including soccer for other teams.
While I have been disciplined with including warm ups (like you describe on your podcast) and a few minutes of stretching as we debrief at the end of the session, the injuries are definitely more common.
I have noticed, that during the regular season, the training sessions are always based in technique, mental and tactical aspects. And for some players, that means almost every day. In a typical week, for example, a player will:
– practice at school Monday afternoons, then with at the Club in the evening.
– Tuesdays will be travel team practice.
– Wednesday’s may be a school game (or practice) and then an evening session at the Club.
– Thursday school practice and then an evening Club Academy session.
– Friday a school game, and then a travel practice or a Club practice.
– On Saturdays a travel game.
– On Sundays a Club game.
All the practices are play based, on the field and involve ball work, almost exclusively.
How important is it to include strength work (and rest) into a player’s routine? How do you see differences play out across age groups? And what approaches have you seen work well, when younger, growing players have such crammed schedules across different teams and with different coaches?”
Thanks for the question Stephen!
You’ve described a schedule that has the kids training or playing everyday and sometimes twice a day. They’re not getting injured because they aren’t strong enough. They’re getting injured because they’re overtraining.
Professional adult player for whom soccer is a job don’t train and play as much as you describe. Our Development Academy teams only train four times a week and they don’t play every weekend.
They should have at least one full day off per week and they should never train twice in a day. I think you’re going to continue to see injuries as long as the players are training and playing the way you’ve described.
The players in our club do not play for any other teams. Our club and high school seasons are separate. They are never playing both at the same time.
No, I don’t think two training sessions in a day make sense for youth players at any age. All training has to be balanced with recovery. When training and recovery is out of balance then you get decreased performance and injuries.
I encourage my players to participate in the SoccerFIT program that I’ve spoken about on the podcast in the past. Look for the episodes with Scott Moody for more about their programs. The ‘FIT’ stands for, “Functionally Integrated Training”. They use some weights with older more advanced players (U15 and above). Most of the exercises are done with body weight only.
I’m not a strength and conditioning specialist so I send the players to SoccerFIT because that’s their focus.
In This Episode
Two of my teams are finished for the fall season. The other two play in a tournament this weekend that will be their last outdoor games of the fall. Today I’ll look back at my season and talk about what went well, what I learned and what I’ll change going forward.
I encourage you to provide your players with evaluations at the end of each season. I’ll talk about why I think these are important and the tools I use to provide feedback to my players next week.
One of my teams had two interesting and very different challenges this week. During their first game of the weekend they played a team that they were clearly better than but were just coasting their way through the game. There was on urgency or intensity in their play. They knew they could get by on 50% effort so that’s how they played.
In the beginning I let them play and watched to see if they would pick it up. When they didn’t I started to encourage them to ‘Go For It’ and ‘Play Quicker’. We talked about the issue at halftime and we picked it up a bit but we were never firing on all cylinders. We ended up winning the game 2-1 but could have easily given up a goal or two due to sloppy, unfocused play.
Our second game was played in cold and raining conditions. I’m talking COLD. It was about 45 degrees (F) and raining. I was miserable and I was wearing waterproof clothes!
Before the game I told the girls that they could play however they wanted in this game; the goalie could punt the ball, they could take goal kicks long, they could play long balls into the other team’s half and then play soccer there….whatever they wanted. I said, “The handcuffs are off, just go play, do your best and enjoy it as much as you can.”
There was a bit of ‘kickball’ in the game but most of the time they were looking to connect even if they were playing longer balls than we normally would. They were also really creative in and around the other team’s box. We ended up winning 3-1 and scored a couple of very nice goals.
Today’s question comes from Cesar. His question is about the difference between coaching boys and girls.
Cesar says, “My name is Cesar and I am a soccer coach for a girls 2006 team this year. I’ve coached for about 7 years now. Last year I had the opportunity to coach a 2006 boys club team, that was my first experience as a high competition coach and it was a great experience. Prior to that I have been coaching in recreation league around my area. This year I had the the great opportunity to coach girls. My question is, is coaching boys different than coaching girls?
I have been part of many teams but the majority have been just boys and this year I’ve giving myself the chance to coach all girls. I have found that coaching girls has been easier for me.
I’ve heard a saying from a great baseball coach not long ago. He said, “Girls need to feel great to play good and boys need to play great to feel good”.
I want to know your opinion in this topic. I found that theory to work for me when coaching. There are many sides to coaching but I found this theory interesting.
Thanks for the question Cesar!
I definitely think that there’s a difference. I also agree that coaching a good group of girls is easier than coaching a good group of boys. That’s not just my opinion but I’ve spoken with many coaches who feel the same way.
The quote I like about coaching boys and girls is from Anson Dorrance. He says, “You drive men and you lead women.” If you try to drive women you lose them because they don’t think you care about them.
I’m only coaching girls teams this year after coaching both boys and girls teams during the same season for many years. I’m enjoying it and the girls are developing from one week to the next. It sounds like your team is also doing well.
In This Episode
This is the second of three episodes focused on the 5 v 2 to Score game that I discussed last week. This is a game focused on decision making. I introduced it to the players last week but I didn’t feel like they completely grasped the concepts so I’ll let you know how it went this week along with the things that I changed and how they effected the session.
Next week I’ll finish up the three part MicroCycle on 5 v 2 to score. I’ll describe how I’ll change the session to challenge the players and see how they adapt.
Last weekend was another tournament weekend. It was local and it was nice to play a tournament close to home especially because the forecast was for rain all weekend.
I had three teams in the tournament which may seem like a lot but it was manageable because it was spread out over three days.
Friday was perfect, it was a great evening to play. The rain didn’t start until overnight.
Saturday morning was stormy. The earliest games were canceled and recorded as draws. That’s not great if it happened to your team but at least they didn’t make the teams sit around all morning waiting to see if it would clear up. The afternoon was drizzly when my teams were playing but nothing that the kids couldn’t handle. I was done by 6 pm so I wasn’t effected by the stormy evening.
Sunday stormy morning but the afternoon was decent. I got to meet Jacob and the guys from St. Louis Steamers when my U11’s were scheduled to play them. The game was called after 15 minutes because of lightning in the area. That was a shame because they have a good team and I was enjoying the matchup between two good teams that were playing good soccer. Hopefully they’ll bring their team back to town next spring or we find out way to St. Louis.
Today’s question comes from Charles. His question is about playing two games in a day.
Charles says, “I coach a u12 girls club team in Louisville Ky. Knowing that teams at that age play multiple games in a day, I find that the play during the 2nd game is usually at a much lower level(technically and tactically) We have talked about the right nutrition and rest between games, but it seems like a fitness issue. We have talked about focus and decision making when tired. I don’t want to focus on fitness at such a young age.
Thanks for the question Charles!
What you’re describing could be a combination of physical and mental fatigue.
My suggestion would be to have the players complete repetitive dribbling, passing or shooting activities that require the players to be in almost constant motion to challenge them physically before putting them in a series of small-sided games. End with a regular game or scrimmage with another team if possible to force the girls to compete when their already tired.
I would see how the girls react to this method of practice and decide if it’s more of a physical or mental issue.
In This Episode
The more closely matched the teams, the harder it is to generate good quality scoring chances. If the defense is solid and not giving much away then your players need to be able to pull the defense apart. There are a number of ways to do this. Today I’m going to describe a practice that I used this week to help teach my players different ways that they can combine to unlock a good defense and create goal scoring opportunities.
Here’s a video that shows how the 5 v 2 to Score activity works:
5 v 2 to Goal - YouTube
Please keep the ideas for future episodes coming. Each week I receive one or two really good ideas that I add to my list.
I only had three games again last weekend; one Friday, one Saturday and one Sunday. The teams all played very well. It doesn’t always work out that way so it’s fun when it does.
We’re at the point in the season where I’m seeing the results of what we’ve worked on in training. It’s great to see them applying concept to games under pressure.
Now it’s time to add on to that. For me, that means spending more time in 1 v 1 and 2 v 2 environments to help the players develop solutions to the problems they face in the game.
They understand the framework that we’ve set up to play now they need to be able to improvise and create. I’ve talked about this in the past. Some coaches start with the skills and then work on the structure. I look at it the other way around. I want the player to understand how music is played before they start to improvise. I don’t think one way or the other is necessarily “Right”. This is just what has worked well for me over the years.
Today’s question comes from Alan. His question is getting forwards to work together.
Alan says, “I’m a girls high school JV coach and I have a senior and a freshmen forward who have never played together. They don’t pass to each other and try to dribble through two or more defenders. Any suggestions on how to fix this. Drills or exercises?”
Thanks for the question Alan!
I would suggest playing 2 v 1 and 2 v 2 games where your two forwards are paired together. Then they’re forced to play together in order to accomplish a common objective. I would also use pattern play to show them how they can work together to break down the defense. Hopeful forcing them to work together will show them how much more effective they can be together.
In This Episode
This week’s topic was suggested by a listener, Ryan. He suggested that I discuss “Game Coaching”. So I’ll share my game day process. I’ll discuss everything from how I prepare for games the night before to how I handle the post-game team talk.
This week’s episode was inspired by emails that I’ve received from coaches that send in suggestions. If you have a topic that you’d like to hear more about on the show, please let me know.
It seems that I’m always talking about the crazy weather we’re having this spring. Last week was our third weekend with snow this spring. I ended up only have one game because of thunderstorms on Friday and bitter cold and snow on Sunday.
I helped referee some tournament games on Saturday night. The snow was blowing in sideways! The goalkeeper couldn’t take a goal kick because the ball wouldn’t sit still long enough to play it out. They had to have a defender come into the box and hold it in one place with their foot while the keeper approached it.
It was pretty obvious that the players were miserable and couldn’t wait for the game to be over.
This week’s question comes from Dan. He’s asking about the Play-Practice-Play training model.
“I have a U16 Girls team and I would like to implement more of the play-practice-play model with them. Are there any sample training plans available or ways to reuse existing small sided games and drills to fit this model?”
Thanks for the question Dan!
I’m not aware of any books that provide training sessions that use the play-practice-play model.
I use the same small-sided games that I always have and then do through drills that I’ve used with progressive training sessions before returning to another small-sided game. My suggestion is to do this with the activities you already use with progressive training sessions. You’re basically just mixing up the order in which you do them.
In This Episode
I was introduced to a new term this last week: Bio-Banding. I may be behind the curve but I hadn’t heard of it before I read the release by US Soccer about its new initiative. Today I’ll talk about what Bio-Banding is, how it’s used, what the purpose of it is and whether or not it’s something you should look at using with your club.
This was a pretty easy weekend for me. I had one game a day over Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I almost didn’t know what to do with all my extra time.!
During these games I was thinking about the way I change the positions that players are in during games. The way I used to do it was to have everyone play the same position for the first four games of league play and then rotate the attackers and defenders. This was far to long between changes for a kid that really didn’t want to play where I had him/her. In recent years I’ve rotated players much more frequently.
Earlier this year I was changing the position of the players at halftime. This was partially because I wasn’t quite sure how all of the pieces fit together since three out of my four teams are new ones for me this fall. Doing it this way ate up a far bit of the halftime interval leaving less time to talk to the players about their performance.
Now I’ve started to rotate the players through the various positions game-by-game. I want the players to experience different positions but I think giving them an entire game in one spot will help them begin to understand each role a little more deeply.
Today’s question comes from Chris. He’s having a problem with his team’s performance in the second half.
Chris says, “ I’m having an issue with my u13 boys team. So far we’ve played in one tournament, and have played 3 league games this season. In every single game we’ve played, we have a big drop off in the second half. Our past two league games have been 1-1 and 1-0 at HT, and we’ve given up a total of 7 goals and scored 2 in the second half of those two games.
I am a very new coach, but I believe the problem may be a combination of two issues. Fitness may be at the root of it, but there is most definitely and attitude problem within the team. We react poorly when we give up a goal, and usually another one isn’t too far off because of it.
After reading this back, I’m not too sure I know what I’m asking you. I’m an assistant coach on this team, and I’m really struggling and frustrated, myself, that I don’t have an answer for the issues, and I feel as if I’m letting the boys down. Of course I keep that frustration to myself and I react as positively as possible around the team.
I apologize for the long email. I know it’s impossible for you to diagnose this situation, but I guess what I can ask you is, have you ever been in a situation where you’ve had some issues you’ve struggled to correct?”
Thanks for the question Chris!
I’ve had that issue in the past and it’s usually come down to one key issue that we needed to solve in order take care of the other little things.
You’re very early into your season from the sound of it so fitness maybe that issue. If you’re U13 then this may be the first time they’ve played 11v11. A whole new level of fitness is required to manage the added space.
Make sure that you’re incorporating fitness into your small-sided games and technical activities. Make areas bigger and distances between cones farther to require more running while also achieving other technical and tactical objectives.
The attitude issue you describe is a tough one to overcome. My suggestion for that one would be to play a, “Goal Up / Goal Down” small-sided game. Play a five minute game where one team is a goal up and the other is a goal down. Focus on the team that’s a goal down and work with them on strategies that they can use to get a goal back. Practicing this positive attitude in a no risk environment like practice may help them deal with those situations better in games.
In This Episode
My oldest team, U17 girls, was having trouble converting possession into quality goal scoring chances. We were doing well defensively and possessing the ball through midfield but we ran out of ideas in the final third of the field.
The training session I’ll describe today has helped to give the players some ideas that have begun to transfer over to game situations.
Here’s the video on the hourglass passing pattern that I described.
Hourglass Passing Pattern - YouTube
Hopefully you were able to follow my description of the pattern play activity but if not, here’s an animated drill video that should clear up any questions you have.
Pattern Play to Develop Attacking Ideas - YouTube
I have a number of topics and interviews lined up for the coming weeks thanks to helpful suggestions from listeners. Let me know if there’s a topic that you’d like me to discuss on a future episode.