No doubt, every play that warrants competition needs as much soccer training as it can get. Soccer is a sport involving teams and opponents, competitions and tournaments for championship trophies. As a result, every team or player who wants to get the best out of the game has to be willing to put the time and all the effort it takes into training to be the best. In this article, I will show you various ways by which, if you are a coach, you can train your team to be one of the best soccer teams the soccer world has ever known.
The Soccer Training Ground
The training ground is that area where you have mapped out on which you intend to take your team through thorough training in preparation for matches. Every activity engaged on the training ground will concentrate on your team’s skills as well as its fitness. The training ground, sometimes, is also known to form part of a club’s youth system because many clubs see it as an important thing to have very good facilities that will aid the development of their young players.
Your team’s training ground is not the stadium where you play the real competitive game. Although the stadium is also used by some clubs but, in order to avoid overusing the stadium’s pitch, it is best to have your own training ground with all the needed facilities. However, it is a common thing for teams to train in the opposing team’s stadium the day before a European away game. The reason why they do this is so that they can become familiar with the court and also for the benefit of the media.
Understanding the Basic Rules of the Game
There are seventeen rules in the game of soccer.
Rule 1: the field of play – that the field must be green grass, artificial or natural with regulated measurements;
Rule 2: the ball – that the ball must be spherical, made of rubber with the regulated circumference. The rubber is vulcanized – a treatment that improves its quality giving it strength, elasticity, and solvent-resistance ability;
Rule 3: the number of players – that maximum number of players must be 11 excluding the substitutes. 7 substitutes are chosen but only three can be made. If the team is unable to produce at least 7 members by the time the match starts, they would forfeit the game;
Rule 4: the players’ equipment – stating what players are allowed to wear and what would happen if they fall short. Every single player is expected to wear a jersey or shirt, shorts, shin guards/pads, socks, and cleats i.e. footwear. The rule states that the shin guards must be completely covered by the socks, made of plastic, rubber or something similar; shirts must be sleeved (short or long, both are accepted); goalkeepers wear distinctive shirts which are easily told apart from other players and the referees; undershorts may be worn but must tally in color with the shorts on top;
Rule 5: the referee – the authority on the field. He is the person charged with the responsibility of ensuring that no single law of the game is broken. Questioning a referee’s decision could incur discipline on the offender.;
Rule 6: other match officials i.e. the assistant referee – advises the referee but is subject to the referee’s final decision. The ‘other match officials’ actually refer to the two officials in charge of touchline patrol;
Rule 7: the duration of the match – divided into two halves of 45 minutes each. Each halve is called the half-time and has a 15-minute rest in between them which must not exceed 15 minutes. Based on the referee’s decision, an extra time could be added;
Rule 8: the start and restart of play – talks about the stoppage and restarting of a match, what can start it, what can stop it, and what can restart it;
Rule 9: the ball in and out of play – talks about what position the ball must be in to be considered in play or out of play;
Rule 10: the method of scoring – what is considered a goal and what is not;
Rule 11: offside – player on the wrong side of the field. This offense is not a foul or a misconduct although any play carried out after the commission of the offense is useless – it is not counted. The offender is not penalized, only cautioned;
Rule 12: fouls and misconduct – violent or inappropriate behavior that could cause a player to be sent off the field;
Rule 13: free kicks – direct or indirect kicks that are made to set a match in motion;
Rule 14: the penalty kick – given defending team when opposing team plays foul;
Rule 15: the throw-in – when ball rolls off the field and is thrown back in at the right spot;
Rule 16: the goal kick – the ball play that counts as goal. A goal is counted when the ball rolls out of the pitch crossing the goal line, on the ground or in the air; and, last but not least,
Rule 17: the corner kick – played by the offensive team when ball is played out of field by defending team.
Now that we have gotten the basics of the rules of the game, we can go ahead to simulate the training ground so that it looks like the real playing ground (except your training ground is the stadium where you are going to play).
As a coach, there are many ways by which you can prepare your team for the game ahead.
Soccer Tactics and Skills Development
I will divide the soccer tactics and skills development into two areas:
The Defensive tactics; and
The Offensive tactics.
The Defensive Tactics
Teaching The Fullback Play Their Defensive Responsibilities
A fun fact: one of the things that make soccer thrilling is watching fullbacks fly down the wings in order to get into a good forward position or in order to cross the ball. If the fullback is able to execute this act at the right time, he may actually be able to cross the ball or get into that good forward position he is aiming for. However, a fullback’s major role is to defend and he must not ever forget this. He is saddled with the chief responsibility of defending his own goal. If he can attack a flank striker, all the better because this is considered bonus, but he should be allowed to go forward only when the situation is right or he would lose at that point.
Basically, a fullback is a marker, a ball winner, and a supporter when it comes to the team’s defense and attack. He has to be an experience one in the positioning art. A fullback that is good would always find himself having to adjust to his position. However, if he wants to be not just good but great, then there is the need to pay utmost attention to the game such that he is able to detect dangerous situations as soon as they arise. The fullback is also expected to distribute to forward players; this is an important aspect of his position.
A good coach would learn the skillset of this opposition and be conversant with it. The more they play in the public, they easier it will be to discover their strengths and weaknesses. Once you discover them, you can use them to your and the team’s advantage. Place pressure on a skilled opponent with aggression so that he can be marked close when the ball rolls over to your fullback’s area of the court. Also, pay attention to how the winder plans to attack, identify his best foot, check if he intends to take you fullback on the inside/outside or to use another player for help.
Once you have successfully done this, your team will have an advantage over the opponent. Also, you have to take into consideration what the effect of the ground conditions is on the ball. If you can adequately solve these problems, your fullbacks will be helped greatly in at least two of their major responsibilities which are to mark and to win the ball.
Set up soccer drills, aggressive ones, that will help develop the techniques of winning the ball for your team. And, before you know it, your players would have developed a feel for all the situations and conditions.
The Importance of a Vocal Goalkeeper Cannot Be Overemphasized
In every team, communication is essential if they will be able to work well together. It is usually outrightly impossible for a player in procession to be able to take in what is going on around him. The teammates are the ones who will help in giving concise directions to him because they can see clearly what is happening. This help would be an invaluable one which would be impossible if there is not communication. The member of the team in the best position to see and also offer viable advice is the goalkeeper since he is responsible for most of the play that is taking place on the back third of the court. From his position on the field, he is able to and should take command.
However, if the defenders are not confident, they will not willingly receive any instruction from the goalkeeper much less carry out without hesitation. To this end, the goalkeeper has to work to earn the respect of not just his teammates but also his defenders. His defenders should have such confidence in his judgment enough to be able to take instructions from him on the field. He has to leave no stone unturned in clearing every doubt that may be in any of the player’s minds as to what he desires should take place. He should develop a firm and definite tone which he will use to dish out the instructions.
Everyone knows that instructions given in a firm tone usually yields the most desirable results. If the goalkeeper can master this skill, he will get the attention of not just his defenders but even the opposition.
It can happen, however, that a goalkeeper gives instructions that ends up distracting the opponent. In this case, the referee is allowed to penalize this instruction and introduce a safer call.
This trust between a goalkeeper and his players cannot be gotten in just one game. It will take time to develop but it will definitely develop.
A player wanting to take a ball away from an opponent can successfully do it through very good and skilled tackling. Although great defensive skills are a bonus here, however good positioning is even more essential. This is because a good tackler would be adhering to the fundamental rules of tackling which state that:
- They must always make a mark so that they are positioned between an attacker and their own goal
- They should always put a limit on the area in which their opponents will be able to receive the ball; and
- They must always give themselves a chance at obstructing the passing of a ball.
Marking close enough so that your player can tackle his opponent as he receives the ball is something that should be remembered, however, he shouldn’t be too close so that the opponent doesn’t lose your player when he moves into a dangerous position.
Timing is the most important factor in the tactics of tackling. Tackling should be made as soon as the player gets the chance and, even more importantly, at the exact time the opponent is receiving the ball. This is because at that exact time your opponent is receiving the ball, his concentration is all on how he can quickly gain control of the ball so, the tackle would be unexpected and would be successful. Tackling your opponent before he has gained full control of the ball is the way to go.
The Offensive Tactics
Teaching Them How to Isolate Defenders
Have you ever been in a situation where, after a game, you saw or you thought you saw that the opposing team had more players on the field than you? Well, first of all, that is technically impossible because the rules specify the number of players each team on the field must consist of. I believe what really happened is that they had more and better knowledge of the rules of the game when they found themselves in a 2 to 1 situation.
Notice that when you are watching professional teams, the team with the ball usually seem to have an extra player on the field. As a result, the player is given a choice to either make the goal shot himself thereby taking his opponent right on, or he can pass to a spare team player to make the shot. What I am basically saying is that the team created a situation whereby two players are directly attacking one opponent.
During any soccer game, there is usually an even number of players on each side. As a result of this, the game becomes a cat-and-mouse game where one of two things has to happen. It is either the player in possession of the ball makes a run at his immediate opponent or one of the players makes a sacrifice of losing his marking defender, howbeit temporarily, so that he can move in to support the player in possession of the ball. One easy way you can train your players on this is to try playing a two-against-one game in a 10-yard square. There’s a lot of movement involved in the game so it is very demanding. And, the other player that should receive the ball has to do everything possible to ensure that he is available to receive a pass. He has to be at alert so that he doesn’t get hidden behind the defender for too long. Timing is everything in this game.
If your players see this game as too difficult, you can always add another player to make it easier. It will become a three-to-one game and the same principles of the two to one game applies still. If you are able to get the idea, you will in turn be able to make the exercise more effective especially if the player in possession of the ball can get a run at the defender before he passes the ball. No matter the method used in a game, the principle will always be constant. There are numerous ways by which two players can beat one player. The defender will be forced to commit himself if he is attacked by the two players.
If the two-on-one game fails repeatedly, it is necessary to go back to the original practices if the timing is not perfect. The practice can be broken down so the one player can be marked by an opponent and also supported by a player holding a ball. The main objective here is for that one player to run away from the supporter as quickly as possible and to take the marking player with him. Then he stops to check back at his supporting player who has to pass him the ball at the exact moment he needs it. If the player delays, the marker will close in on him and it would be difficult for the player with the ball to make the pass.
Keep practicing this and, with time, they will get the hang of it.
Field Awareness: The Importance of its Development
Many players who venture into soccer do so because they watched, at one time or the other, their favorite soccer player playing on the field and they thought ‘hey, I want to be like that’. But, what they want to be is not just a player, they want the team, the field, the ball – they want everything that makes a player the player that he is. What I am saying in essence is that every player, in soccer or any other sport, wants to play for a team and not just a collection of individuals.
There is need for organization and team work in attack and switching the play or the attack for goals to be scored. To become very good at switching play, there is need for the players to possess their personal internal skill of being able to sense what is going on all over the field and also the ability to sense what the next move will be before it happens. For some young soccer players, this may take some time while it may not in some. But, sooner or later, it does develop.
To make them good, you can start by training in groups with three players in each group. Then, position three players such that they pass a ball to each other. Make sure their concentration is on hitting the passes very cleanly so that when they do face their real opponents, they will have enough power to reach the player the pass is intended for. Once the players have their feel of the ball, remove one of the players and have him stand some twenty yards away from the remaining two players on the group. The other two will continue passing the ball to each other. His own new job is to make a run and give a loud call for the ball. When he calls, the player with the ball is expected to pass the ball to him immediately; this he does accurately. Then he in turn takes the ball back to the two who then start passing it among themselves once again. The players can switch places so the drill can be repeated.
Go a step further give them four passes. This will help build their vision. Divide the group of four into two equal sides and play in the penalty area. This is done for the main purpose of scoring goals but the goals are only counted if and when they come after four passes by the side attacking. Once they four-pass game starts, the player’s vision will be put to test. A team work is termed ‘great’ if the team can link four passes together and beat the goalkeeper.
Making Your Runs at the Exact Time
We already know that the game of soccer is all about running, one must know that movement begets movement in soccer. A player must be willing and ready to position himself into positions that will threaten and hinder the opponent’s goal even when it is so obvious that he would receive the ball; he still has to make the run. For this reason, a soccer player will be very focused on his cardio training if he wants to move well and fast off the ball. Players should undergo good exercises that will encourage movement and nurture the ability to lose opponents in a movement known as ‘shadow movement’.
This training can be done with two players where one player is defended by his partner. They both move forward at a jogging pace, then the player in front of him will suddenly stop, changes direction in a quick attempt to get away from his partner, the defender. The defender in turn will try to follow as closely as he possibly could given the situation. This training will help the defender a lot since it is actually a reflex training aimed at helping the defender to be able to mark one particular opponent very closely.
You should get you player to understand that timing is everything. They need to keep one eye on the ball and one eye on the marker so that they can know the moment when they can lose him. And, as soon as they know, they should try to get away. Then he will be able to position himself to steal a goal shot if the ball is passed to him. It may take some time before your players get the full gist but they will. The effort is worth the wait because when they do, it would give them a great advantage on the field during the competition.
Starting Attacks from the Goalkeeper’s Position
A goalkeeper is aiming to take possession of a ball being passed after which he sets up an attack s soon as possible. The ball he just got must be either thrown down or kicked so that it can be easily controlled when passed over a short distance, or passed over to his team when it is played over a long distance. The goalkeeper distributes the ball depending on the ability of his players and the tactics the whole team is using.
When the goalkeeper is passing the ball over a short distance, the ball can simply be rolled on the ground. This is a very useful technique that is perfectly capable of starting attacks quickly. The short distance distribution will give a maximum speed and on-the-point accuracy making the ball reach the teammate on the ground and control easier.
The goalkeeper holds the ball in both his hands in front of him at the hips, the palm of the throwing arm will support the ball from beneath while the other one supports it from above and within. And, the fingers are spread wide enough to give total control. Then, instruct your goalkeeper to start moving by taking a forward step with the leg that is opposite to the hand he intends to roll the ball with. As he takes this step, he should move his arms a bit behind his body to the throwing side so that he can gather wing and his body will be propelled forward.
As he starts to swing the hand with the ball in it, he should transfer his weight to the front let; he should do this gradually and not suddenly. This way, the swinging hand will gather quick speed and the ball will leave the hand at right angles to the ground. He follows through with the hand giving a final thrust.
On the other hand, if he is passing over a longer distance, he will throw it from his shoulder and not from the hip like the short distance. To roll the ball, he does the same thing as in short distance above although instead of the hip, it will be over the shoulder with a bent arm. The leg and shoulder opposite to the throwing arm will move forward in preparation for the coming throw.
Then the arm with the ball is brought forward from the shoulder almost the same time his for arm is flung forward and downward. He throws the ball directly from his shoulder to the target player such that it gets there in the shortest time possible. If the distance is longer, he will throw it the way it is done in a cricket overarm bowling action.
Train on Dictating the Pace of the Game Play
There are many things that can be used to dictate the tempo with which a game is being played. It is usually on the teams without possession of the ball to dictate the tempo of the game and they can do this by putting pressure on the player in possession of the ball. The art of pushing pressure can cause the player to lose the ball or, if he is an expert, he makes quick movements to escape the pressure and see that it doesn’t affect his play. However, if the team without the ball can continue applying the pressure, then they may end up moving the ball even quicker than they want to and this move can eventually force them to make a hurried pass that can cause them to lose the ball.
Practice this with your team: set up a three-against-two game on a 12-yard square area. You are doing this so that the three players can pass the ball among themselves while two other players who will act as the opposing players will try to take it away. This training is not just about simple passing so focus should not be placed on that. Whistle and, on your whistle, the players will pass the ball quickly first and then slowly. You are changing the speed to slow down the pace of the game. The other two players, the opposing players, should attempt to steal the ball without changing their speed. With this, the three are placed under pressure. If they are inexperienced, they will lose the ball quickly. More experienced players are able to maneuver their way around the pressure and not let it affect their pace.
If it is possible, the quick passing should be practiced first before the slower pace. Both the defenders and the passers will try and create their own pace and pressure. At the end of the drill, ask you players about the tempo and pressure of the game, if it changed, and why it changed. This way, they will understand the importance of pace and figure out how they can maintain their hold on it.
Improving Your Team’s Attacking Play Range
The game of soccer lays strong emphasis on the need for team attack because there are more developed defenders than there are attackers. There are very few attackers in a lot of teams. It doesn’t mean that individual attackers are not needed anymore, though.
There are two attacking methods involved in soccer: individual and team attack. Individual attack is done when one player dribbles and shoots. Team attacks are done based on the team players’ ability to pass by kicking, heading, and positioning themselves to receive the ball at any point in time.
To train your team, make three players focus on maintaining a triangle while a movement is going on. Then, make sure the drill does not pass a 15-yard square and then bring in one defender. You are doing this such that two players who are off the ball are not hiding behind the defender. If the defender is able to intercept the ball, the last player who touched the ball will change positions with the defender.
This practice should be done while taking into consideration your team’s positioning technique. For more experienced players, another defender should be introduced making them two defenders. Also, make the area larger so that the game is played three players against two defending players. The defending players will switch places with the offensive players if and when the offensive players caused all three defending players to lose possession of the ball.
The main purpose of this soccer training is to avoid flatness in the team’s attacking actions and also to create more options for them. Once your players are able to realize the danger of being caught, you would have helped in adding a huge depth to your team’s attack skills. Also, you teach them how to maintain possession of the ball. These two skills are very important skills that every soccer player should possess, whether they are beginners, intermediate, or experienced. If your team has these skills, they are good to go.