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Soccer Drill Unpacked: Goalkeeper Reaction Dives

An icon of a soccer goalkeeper making a save.

Today we unpack the soccer goalkeeper development principles embedded in a reaction dive drill.  All drills in our  Soccer Goalkeeping Practice Book are assembled into practice plans to ensure that each practice offers the proper balance between the four pillars of soccer:

Technical Skills – Tactics – Physical Fitness – Mental Fitness

It is this balance, practiced over a season, that has led the tens of thousands of coaches who own our books to improve the performance of their goalkeepers.

Soccer Goalkeeping Drill

Download the drill here: Soccer Goalie Reaction Dives

From: Soccer Goalkeeping Practice Book

Soccer Drill Profile:

 

The profile indicates that this drill emphasizes soccer goalkeeping technique and physical fitness, with a strong element of mental toughness.

Set Up:

This drill does not require any goals and can be set up in a 10m by 5m area. In addition to the goalkeeper two ball servers are required. Ideally all three individuals would be goalkeepers. The first server rolls a ball through the legs of the keeper facing the server, 1m away. The keeper then pivots and dives on the ball. The keeper immediately recovers, gets up into ready position and makes a diving save of a ball thrown by the second server facing the keeper from 5m away.

Technical Skills:

The technical skill trained is diving. This includes the proper “get set” position for the keeper, remembering that the closer the in the shooter is, the lower the keeper has to crouch to get fastest maximum diving distance.

The first dive is straight forward, after a 180° pivot. This works on the technique of saving low shots directed at the keeper. There are different ways to go on the ground for a low ball, see Soccer Goalkeeping Basics

The second dive is a high sideways dive with the distance being varied. The drill progression suggests to throw the ball at various heights and varying distances to the goalkeepers body. This forces a variety of reaction saves, from quick parries to fully extended “flights”.

It is important for the keeper to execute the basic technique elements of “not rotating in the air and landing on belly or facing backwards”, of grabbing the ball securely with both hands (or punching it far away if it can’t be caught”, of landing on the quads and arms with one leg kicking up, etc.

 

Tactics:

There are no team related tactics involved in this soccer drill. The only tactical element is goalkeeper specific and relates to the proper ready position relative to the distance of the server.

Fitness Training:

This is a physically very demanding drill with the flexibility to vary intensity.

With the first throw the keeper trains flexibility by (1) rotating and (2) getting back up immediately after the save to face the second shot. The same is true after the second save – immediate recovery and getting ready to save the next short ball through the legs. The speed at which the servers throw the next ball determines the recovery speed of the keeper. At the maximum pace the keeper will get both an aerobic and anaerobic workout.

Repetitive diving will be challenging on all parts of the body that touch the ground upon landing, especially if the ground is a little harder.

The continuous crouching and recovery will challenge the quadricep muscles of both legs and help strengthen them. This will contribute to improved vertical leaps in the future.

Mental Fitness:

This soccer goalkeeping drill involves all Seven Speeds Of Soccer

Perception

The keeper has to see the servers and read their body motion quickly so they know how quickly to recover from a save and set for the next one.

Anticipation

 

In this drill the key anticipation is the timing and weight of both throws. On the first throw the goalie must pivot as soon as the ball is rolled/kicked through the legs and anticipate the pace of the ball. This will dictate the extension of the dive. On the second throw the goalkeeper must quickly anticipate the pace, height and horizontal distance of the throw, reading the flight of the ball immediately after it leaves the server’s hand.

Decision Making

The key decision is whether or not the ball can be securely caught, must be parried away, or requires a foot save.

Reaction

Once the ball leaves the server, the keeper must react to the direction, pace, and height of the throw. This is the essence of this exercise.

Movement With Ball

If the keeper catches the ball and has control, they must recover with the ball in hands and return it to the server while setting for the next throw. This is not easy and requires a lot of coordination and stamina.

Movement Without Ball

These movements are primarily resetting for the next save.

Game Action

This drill replicates game action in which the opponents have created a scoring chance in the penalty box, near the goal. The chance could have been generated by a cross, a corner kick, free kick, or a though ball setting up a 1v1 with the keeper. It does not simulate long distance shots.

Coaching Tips:

1. It would be great if you have three keepers to work together on this drill.

2. The crouching positions must be very low to explode into dive.

3. Vary the distance of the first dive from a short collapsing dive to a fully extended dive.

4. Vary the second throw from throwing it to goalie’s feet, chest, over top of head, to either side requiring little to full extension dives.

5. Insist on proper technique and stress the fundamentals of getting behind the ball and getting both hands on the ball.

It is important for the person working with the keeper(s) to build a rapport with them and to understand their strengths, weaknesses, and preferences. Use this knowledge to provide the keeper with lots of successes, but also with some “surprises” or challenges to improve performance and build skill and confidence. Relate exercises to game situations as much as possible, preferably to actual experiences of the keeper.

 

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Soccer Drill Unpacked – 7v7 Flank Attack

Today we unpack the player and team development principles embedded in a youth competitive (U3-U18) flank attack soccer drill embedded in an end of practice scrimmage. All drills in our  Youth Competitive book are assembled into practice plans to ensure that each practice offers the proper balance between the four pillars of soccer:

Technical Skills – Tactics – Physical Fitness – Mental Fitness

It is this balance, practiced over a season, that has led the tens of thousands of coaches who own our books to improve the performance and social environment of their teams.

Youth Competitive Soccer Drill

Download the drill here: Youth Competitive Flank Attack Scrimmage

From our book: Youth Competitive (U13 – U18)

Soccer Drill Profile:

 

The profile indicates that this is a fairly balanced soccer drill involving strong elements of tactics, physical fitness, and mental training.

Set Up:

This a full field 7 v. 7 practice game. Near each corner flag a 10m x 10m square is marked into which the ball is passed into the run of an attacking player. The attacker cannot be challenged and gets a free cross. Upon change of possession (goal, save, out-of-bounds) the previously defending team must now cross the center line and then attempt to play a pass into ANY of the four corner squares.

Technical Skills:

Passing, crossing, finishing and goalkeeping are the key skills developed in this drill. Defenders will train closing down passing options and intercepting passes. This is not a 1 v. 1 drill employing moves to beat defenders.

The team in possession is encouraged to play fairly short one/two touch passes. Passes have to be accurate and are either played to feet or into space.

Passes into the square can be long and high, diagonal or down the line, or they could be a last short pass after combination plays.

Within the grid ball receiving and control are essential to allow quick movement of the ball.

The goalkeeper will have excellent opportunities to come off the line to intercept crosses, to come off the line and cut the angle of the shot, or to stay in net and make reaction saves.

The attackers running into the box train one time shots/headers, timing of run, or one touch control of the ball followed by a second touch shot.

Tactics:

There are several key tactical elements in this soccer drill.

  • the first is to play a quality pass into one of the squares allowing the “incoming player” are very quick one or two touch cross into the danger area. Therefore the pass should be into the run of the player.
  • the second is a quality cross and importantly, proper runs of attackers into the box to get into a position to finish. The flight of the cross must be judged and the run timed to strike/head the ball with maximum accuracy and power. Likewise defenders have to be in position to prevent a strike.
  • the third is the quick transition after gaining possession to get the entire team across center into the other half. At that point the team must recognize which of the four corner squares can be reached quickest and allowing the defense the least amount of time to set up to defend the cross. A key coaching point is to make the team aware that once they cross center there should be space behind them in the half they just left, assuming the defenders came along with them. That indicates an opportunity for a quick turn around and attack of the space just vacated.

As a transition drill, as soon as the defending team gains possession they become the attackers. They have to switch mental gears immediately to set up a scoring play in the box. Likewise the attackers who lost possession must now transition to blocking/intercepting passes and defend.

Fitness Training:

When done correctly both teams will be in constant motion with frequent sprints to get across center to start a new attack after change of possession. This should be excellent anaerobic/physical speed training.

Mental Fitness:

There must be communication (verbal or non verbal) to ensure that only one player runs into a square for a cross. This soccer drill involves all Seven Speeds Of Soccer

Perception

The attacking players must perceive a path with sufficient space to pass safely into a square. Defenders need to perceive the same spaces so that they can close them. All players need to perceive a change of possession so that they can switch roles from attacking to defending and vice versa.

Anticipation

The player in possession must anticipate a team-mate’s run into a square to make the final pass before the cross. Players without the ball must anticipate which square a ball might be passed into and make the run.

All attackers must anticipate the cross and time their run to meet the ball in the danger area.

The goalkeeper needs to anticipate the cross.

The defenders need to anticipate every pass so they can react and intercept.

Decision Making

The attacker with the ball needs to decide if they should pass to a team mate within the grid or pass into a square.  They also need to decide if they should continue the direction of the current attack or make a quick turn and attack the goal in the opposite half (behind them). The attackers without the ball need to decide which one breaks into a square. Once in the square the attacker decides whether the cross is high/low, near post/far post or around penalty spot. The goalkeeper decides whether or not to come off the line to intercept the cross.

Reaction

The key players who need to react are the one going into the square for the cross and the goalkeeper. They have been anticipating the play and made a decision to act, and in the case of the attacker communicated that decision to team mates. They need to react to the actual pass and time their runs accordingly.

Movement With Ball

Given this is a one/two touch drill there isn’t much dribbling, 1 v. 1 or other movement of players with the ball. The movement that is critical is setting up a good second touch (shot, header, pass) with an excellent first touch.

Movement Without Ball

This is a critical element of this drill. Attackers in the grid must move into space to receive a pass and also to have an option to pass into the square with their next touch. Thus the recognition of space and anticipation of defenders’ positions are important. It is quite acceptable for attacking players to run into more than one square, giving the player with the ball options. If they make a run and the ball is not played to them, then they must adjust to join play in the grid or to go in for the cross. Finally, the attacker wanting to break into the square must sprint to the anticipated point of contact with the ball.

Game Action

This soccer drill is all about game action speed to set up and finish scoring chances.

Coaching Tips:

This soccer drill, as is the case with all of our over 500 soccer drills, has coaching points and progression suggestions.

In addition to those you can vary the numbers of attackers in the grid using up all available players evenly in two teams. You can also create unbalanced teams, playing 8 v 6 or 10 v 6 to increase scoring success, test defenders, etc.

Consider grouping players into functional units, i.e. defenders + defensive midfielders vs, attacking midfielders and strikers.

If the attackers are executing well, you can challenge them by allowing defenders to follow them into the square.

The perception of the opportunity to turn and attack the half the team in possession just left may be weak. Stop the drill a few times initially and point out where the space and opportunity was if the team missed it.

 

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Soccer Drill Unpacked – Pass & Shoot

Today we unpack the player and team development principles embedded in a youth (U9-U12) pass & shoot soccer drill. All drills in our  Youth Foundation book are assembled into practice plans to ensure that each practice offers the proper balance between the four pillars of soccer:

Technical Skills – Tactics – Physical Fitness – Mental Fitness

It is this balance, practiced over a season, that has led the tens of thousands of coaches who own our books to improve the performance and social environment of their teams.

Youth Soccer Drill

Download the drill here: Youth Pass & Shoot Soccer Drill

From our book: Youth Foundation (U9 – U12)

Soccer Drill Profile:

youth-pass-shoot

 

The profile indicates that this is a fairly balanced soccer drill involving strong elements of technical skill, tactics, and mental training.

Set Up:

Eight player plus goalkeeper play in an area extending the penalty box by 25m. In a 16m x 25m grid outside the box teams play a 3 v. 3 with a neutral player on each wing. The purpose is to pass or cross into the penalty box to set up a quick shot on goal. Defenders cannot enter the penalty box to defend the shot.

Technical Skills:

Passing, crossing, shooting and goalkeeping are the key skills developed in this drill. Defenders will train closing down passing options and intercepting passes. This is not a 1 v. 1 drill employing moves to beat defenders.

The team in possession in the grid is encouraged to play fairly short one/two touch passes. Passes have to be accurate and are either played to feet or into space.

Within the grid ball receiving and control are essential to allow quick movement of the ball. The neutral players have no pressure and therefore have time to set up an accurate cross to the target area.

The goalkeeper will have excellent opportunities to come off the line to intercept crosses, to come off the line and cut the angle of the shot, or to stay in net and make reaction saves.

The shooter running into the box trains one time shots/headers, timing of run, or one touch control of the ball followed by a second touch shot.

 

Tactics:

The key tactical element is to play a quality pass/cross into the penalty box and for a team-mate to time their run into the box. Ideally the passed/crossed ball and the shooter arrive in the target space at the same time so that a one touch shot/header is possible. If the ball is played through the middle then the ball should lead the shooter. If the neutral player is used then the shooter sprinting into the area to receive the cross must delay their run. They do not want to wait in the box for the cross, but must run onto the cross to shoot/head with maximum power. This also makes it difficult for defenders.

A key tactical decision is whether to pass through the middle or play the ball wide for a subsequent cross. That decision is made based on the gaps between defenders. If they are wide enough for a pass through the middle, then the direct approach to net is available. If the defenders are shifting and closing gaps then the wide option is preferred. One way to open gaps between defenders is switching play within the grid quickly. This is an excellent drill to teach young players the concept of space and constant movement to open up and use it.

The other tactic being trained is transition play. As soon as the defending team gains possession inside the grid, they become the attackers. They have to switch mental gears immediately to set up a scoring play in the box. Likewise the attackers who lost possession must now transition to blocking/intercepting passes.

 

Fitness Training:

Ideally this is a 15 – 30 minute drill in which all players sprint short distances constantly. As coach you need to encourage this movement as young players might have a tendency to stand and wait for a pass.

Mental Fitness:

There must be communication (verbal or non verbal) to ensure that only one player breaks into the penalty box for a shot/header. This soccer drill involves all Seven Speeds Of Soccer

Perception

The attacking players must perceive a gap in the defense to pass safely into the box. If the gap is not there then they need to perceive the neutral players. Defenders need to perceive the same gaps so that they can close them. All players need to perceive a change of possession so that they can switch roles from attacking to defending and vice versa. The neutral players must follow the play so that they are ready to receive a pass in the space in front of them.

Anticipation

The two attackers without the ball must anticipate a pass into the box for one of them to follow the pass for a shot on net. If the neutral player has the ball for a cross then the three attackers need to anticipate the flight of the ball such that the best positioned attacker breaks into the box for a shot/header. For example if the three attackers are spread out across the top of the box and the cross seems to be coming to the near post side of the target area, then the attacker on that side breaks into the box.

The goalkeeper needs to anticipate the pass into the box or the cross and make some key decisions (see below).

The defenders need to anticipate every pass so they can react and intercept.

Decision Making

The attacker with the ball needs to decide if they should pass within the grid, pass into the penalty box, or play to the wide neutral player. The attackers without the ball need to decide which one breaks into the box for a shot. The neutral player decides whether the cross is high/low, near post/far post or around penalty spot. The goalkeeper decides whether or not to come off the line to intercept the cross. If the ball is passed into the box the keeper needs to decide whether they can get to the ball before the player running in, or whether they should come out, cut the angle, and set to save the shot.

Reaction

The key players who need to react are the one going into the box for the shot and the goalkeeper. They have been anticipating the play and made a decision to act, and in the case of the attacker communicated that decision to team mates. They need to react to the actual pass/cross and time their runs accordingly.

Movement With Ball

Given this is a one/two touch drill there isn’t much dribbling, 1 v. 1 or other movement of players with the ball. The movement that is critical is setting up a good second touch (shot, header, pass) with an excellent first touch.

Movement Without Ball

This is a critical element of this drill. Attackers in the grid must move into space to receive a pass and also to have an option to pass into the penalty box with their next touch. Thus the recognition of space and anticipation of defenders’ positions are important. The neutral players must move up and down the side to be available for an easy pass into the space in front of them. Finally, the attacker wanting to break into the box must sprint to the anticipated point of contact with the ball.

Game Action

This soccer drill is all about game action speed in the center of the attacking third to set up and finish scoring chances.

Coaching Tips:

This soccer drill, as is the case with all of our over 500 soccer drills, has coaching points and progression suggestions.

In addition to those you can vary the numbers of attackers in the grid. If 3 v. 3 doesn’t generate many scoring changes, go to 4 v 2 or 4 v 1 even. In that case you cannot transition between offense and defense after change of possession, but that wouldn’t likely be successful anyways. Just change the players’ roles after a few minutes.

If the attackers are executing well, you can challenge them by allowing defenders to follow them into the penalty box.

You can also allow more than one attacker to enter the box for a shot.

As always, set up a grid at each end of the field to have all players busy.

At this age the perception of the opportunity to pass into the box may be weak. Stop the drill a few times initially and point out where the space and opportunity was if the team missed it.

This drill is also an excellent opportunity to evaluate players. You may be surprised and find a strong “finisher” amongst your regular defenders. Players are still young and need not be assigned positions for the rest of their playing careers.

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Soccer Drill Unpacked – Kids Coordination #6

This article presents a soccer drill from one of our soccer practice books and unpacks the player and team development principles embedded in the drill. All drills in each of our books are assembled into practice plans to ensure that each practice offers the proper balance between the four pillars of soccer:

Technical Skills – Tactics – Physical Fitness – Mental Fitness

It is this balance, practiced over a season, that has led the tens of thousands of coaches who own our books to improve the performance and social environment of their teams.

We will give you a download link to the soccer drill PDF page, a link to the book that contains the drill, and then explain the four pillars of soccer using a soccer drill player development profile chart.

Kids (U4 – U8) Soccer Drill

Download the drill here: Kids Coordination Drill-6

From our book: Kids Basic Skills

Soccer Drill Profile:

 

kids-coord-6-profile

The profile indicates that the emphasis of this soccer drill is on mental training and physical fitness.

Set Up:

 

Players with a ball in hand are in a 10m x 10m grid. Two players from outside the grid enter and then players with the ball try to “tag” the two by throwing the ball at their legs.

The goal is to improve coordination and awareness in a fun game, which doesn’t involve kicking the ball.

Technical Skills:

It is important to vary the content of practices for young children and inject some non-technical exercises that provide some fun and laughter. This soccer drill is not intended to develop any particular foot based skill. However, throwing the ball at a particular target can be viewed as introduction to throw-ins and goalkeeping.

Tactics:

This drill, as most drills in our Kids Soccer Basics book is not intended to develop tactical understanding. However, the concept of two players inside the grid running into space is an early introduction to movement without the ball. Also the concept of a target player is introduced.

Fitness Training:

In our Kids Soccer Basics book fitness training focuses mostly on agility, coordination, and flexibility. Endurance and speed comes from practice small sided games. This drill is designed to develop coordination and agility. The players with the ball need to move closely to their targets without dropping the ball. They need to work out the body mechanics to throw the ball at a moving player and learn to aim the throw below the waist. You will be surprised at the difficulty young kids may have initially and you may have to adjust the drill to foster success. The players entering the grid as targets need to be able to recognize their attackers and avoid being hit by the thrown ball. This requires changes of direction and if the ball is aimed at them a last second jump or side step to avoid being hit.

Mental Fitness:

By the very nature of this soccer drill all seven speeds of soccer come into play.

Perception

The players with the ball need to perceive the movement and position of the target players. The target players need to perceive the movement of 6 attackers. The players waiting outside the grid need to be aware of when their turn to enter the grid comes up. So they should stay focused on what is going on. The nature of this drill makes it fairly easy for them to be engaged.

Anticipation

The players with the ball need to anticipate new players entering the grid and the space they are likely to occupy so that they will throw the ball to the spot the target will be in, not necessarily where the target is at the moment. The target players need to anticipate the opposite – which player will throw the ball and to which location so that they can avoid it.

Decision Making

The players with the ball need to decide which target to go for. They can decide individually or communicate and work as a group of 6 going after one target or split into two groups each going after a target. The target players need to decide where the space is that makes it most difficult for the attackers to hit them.

Reaction

The target players need to react to the position of the attackers and more importantly to the ball thrown at them. If the ball is on target they need to react to avoid being hit. A quick side step or jump might do the trick. The attackers need to react to the movement of the targets.

Movement Without Ball

All players are moving without the ball at their feet and it is obvious how this is the key speed of soccer being trained in this drill.

Movement With Ball

Does not apply since players are carrying the ball in their hands.

Game Action

The application to game action is the recognition of space and movement and delivering the ball to a target player.

Coaching Tips:

This soccer drill, as is the case with all of our over 500 soccer drills, has coaching points and progression suggestions. It is important to keep players of this age engaged. Generally we don’t like players not being active in a drill, such as those waiting outside the grid. If it turns out that they are bored and are losing interest then modify the drill to set up two grids, each with more attackers than targets and rotate targets and attackers within each grid.

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Soccer Drill Unpacked – Transition Play #1

This article presents a soccer drill from one of our soccer practice books and unpacks the player and team development principles embedded in the drill. All drills in each of our books are assembled into practice plans to ensure that each practice offers the proper balance between the four pillars of soccer:

Technical Skills – Tactics – Physical Fitness – Mental Fitness

It is this balance, practiced over a season, that has led the tens of thousands of coaches who own our books to improve the performance and social environment of their teams.

We will give you a download link to the soccer drill PDF page, a link to the book that contains the drill, and then explain the four pillars of soccer using a soccer drill player development profile chart.

Competitive Pro Soccer Drill

Download the drill here: Competitive Pro Transition Drill #1

From our book: Competitive Pro – Fast Break

Soccer Drill Profile:

comp-pro-tr1-profile

The profile indicates that the emphasis of this soccer drill is on tactics,mental training and physical fitness.

Set Up:

Three groups of four are on a field twice the size of the penalty box, playing a 4 v 4 small sided game. One team is on the attack, one defends a goal, and the third is ready to defend the opposite goal.

Possession changes to the defending team if they win the ball (including goalkeeper) or the ball goes out of play. Plenty of balls should be distributed around the field for quick restarts. Restarts from the sideline are quick throw ins. If the ball goes out of bounds over the goal line the keeper rolls or throws the ball in quickly. No goal kicks.

The off-side rule does not apply.

The goal is to transition from defense to attack as quickly as possible once possession of the ball is obtained. At the same time getting ready quickly to defend after losing possession is critical.

Technical Skills:

Since this drill is geared towards competitive or professional teams it is assumed that the players possess all skills required to execute the drill. Two touch passing (i.e. touch 1 receiving – turning – touch 2 passing), ball receiving, shooting, etc. will be required and reinforced at high speeds. The small size of the field adds complexity and challenges ball control abilities. This drill is not intended to teach or train basic skills.

Tactics:

Due to the small field this soccer drill offers many opportunities to practice transitioning from defense to offense and vice versa. Also, a shot on goal is possible from virtually anywhere on the field.

Attacking Team:

Playing a possession game to set up the perfect scoring chance near the goal is not desirable. Rather, after gaining possession, the following plays should occur with no more than three passes/plays. This adds tremendous speed to this exercise and reduces the idle time for the third team waiting on the opposite goal line :

  1. Quick passes to a player moving into position with a direct path for a shot on target.
  2. A quick pass to a player running down a wing followed by a one touch cross to the front of the goal. The goal will be attacked by ALL three remaining players.
  3. A give and go to set up a shot or a cross.
  4. A quick overlapping run down the wing followed by a quick cross.

There is no need to switch the point of attack or pass backwards. The space is too limited for these plays and is designed to force quick ball movement.

The attack is over when the defending team gains possession, i.e. they win the ball, the keeper saves it, or it goes out of bounds. The attacking team must immediately sprint off the field and position themselves on the goal line of the goal they just attacked. They need to realize that the team that defended them now attacks the opposite goal and they must not interfere with their transition.

Defending Team

The defending team springs into action from their own goal line as soon as the the team that defended the opposite goal gains possession and attacks. Defenders need to sprint off the goal line and put pressure on the attackers quickly. Remember that the attackers are trying to get to a clear shot on goal with two or three passes. If the defenders are not pressuring quickly then there will be easy shooting opportunities for the attackers.

Basic defending tactics apply. One defender has to challenge the player with the ball while a second defender provides cover, positioned behind the challenger and angled towards the goal. The other two defenders cover the other three attackers in space and close down passing lanes. Once the ball is passed they try to intercept it or at least put pressure on the receiver. As a variation the coach can ask teams to switch between zonal defending and man marking.

Transition

The tricky part of this drill occurs when possession changes. The attacking team that lost possession must retreat to the goal line they just attacked. The team that gained possession must quickly change mindset and switch to attack mode, the team that is waiting on the goal line must sprint out. There should only be a couple of seconds when all three groups are on the field. The team getting off the field should leave the field at the closest exit point and sprint around the outside to the goal line they will defend. Ideally by the time they get there they will be required to break out and pressure the attackers. It might be a bit chaotic at the beginning but usually teams figure out the rhythm of the drill and adjust.

Fitness Training:

This drill has a high component of anaerobic training. Two out of the three teams will have short to medium distance sprints (the team leaving the field and the defending team). The team in possession is also moving constantly but not everyone is sprinting at the same time. This is likely the only period for recovery since they need to sprint off the field and shortly thereafter off the goal line to challenge. If the drill flows well then players will be breathing hard. The coach can stop play every five minutes to give quick feedback and corrections thus providing some additional recovery times. It is up to the coach to determine the speed of the drill and the work/rest ratio.

Mental Fitness:

By the very nature of this soccer drill all seven speeds of soccer come into play.

Perception

The team waiting on the goal line must perceive a change of possession at the other end of the field. The sooner they do, the sooner they will be able to pressure the attackers. The defending team must perceive when one of their players wins the ball or when the ball goes out of bounds so they can attack quickly (including restart plays). The attacking team must perceive when they lose possession so they can get off the field quickly.

Anticipation

The attacking players without the ball must anticipate passes to their feet or into space. The defenders must anticipate the same plays and get ready to react. The team waiting to defend anticipates the exact moment they can leave their positions and challenge.

Decision Making

The obvious but not so simple decisions are for all twelve players to determine when to switch roles – attackers get off the field, defenders to start an attack, and the waiting team to defend. Then regular decision making kicks in. Do I play one or two touches? To whom do I pass? Do I pass to feet or into space (into a run)? Do I shoot (path to goal is available)? Who challenges the ball? Who provides cover? Where do the other defenders position themselves? Who takes the restart play? And so on.

Reaction

Once the decision is made by each and every player they need to react to the actual play that happens. For example an attacker might decide to run down the left wing to receive a pass and cross it. In actual fact the play goes down the opposite wing. The left “winger” now needs to react and curl in towards the net to be able to receive the cross from the other side.

Movement Without Ball

This is critical since the field is small. Attackers can be closed down fairly quickly and hence they must move constantly into open space. For example if an attacker wants to receive the ball down a wing they might first “check in” (this is a fake run) towards the center drawing defenders with them. This might open up space on the wing into which the ball is played and the player checking towards the middle now “checks out” towards the side, receives the ball and crosses it in.

Movement With Ball

These will be very quick and short lived. Most of it should be two touch soccer. Only by exception would there be an occasion to play a 1 v 1, most likely to get by the last defender in the way of a shot or a cross.

Game Action

The entire drill is at game action speed or faster. There won’t even be much time for communication, players will mostly work off visual cues and their own perceptions.

Coaching Tips:

This soccer drill, as is the case with all of our over 500 soccer drills, has coaching points and progression suggestions. The coach might want to think about how to put together the teams. If there are more than 14 players available (12 plus 2 goalies) run the drills on two separate fields, but never less than three players on a team and never more than six. If the math works out to more than four players per team then increase the size of the field. Or consider running the drill as is with 14 players and have additional players working a different drill and rotate them in every five minutes. This might provide another opportunity for resting players.

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Soccer Drill Unpacked – Switching Play & Flank Attack

Today we start a new series in our free soccer resource blog. Every two weeks I will present a soccer drill from one of our soccer practice books and unpack the player and team development principles embedded in the drill. All drills in each book are assembled into practice plans to ensure that each practice offers the proper balance between the four pillars of soccer:

  1. Technical Skills
  2. Tactics
  3. Physical Fitness
  4. Mental Fitness

It is this balance, practiced over a season, that has led the tens of thousands of coaches who own our books to improve the performance and social environment of their teams.

We will give you a download link to the soccer drill PDF page, a link to the book that contains the drill, and then explain the four pillars of soccer using a soccer drill player development profile chart.

Youth Soccer Drill

Download the drill here: Switching Play & Flank Attack

From our book: Youth Foundation (U9 – U12)

Soccer Drill Profile:

youth-switching-play

 

The profile indicates that the emphasis of this soccer drill is on tactics and mental fitness. Certain technical skills will be developed and moderate fitness training is involved as well.

Set Up:

The entire team is involved in this full field soccer drill, making two opposing teams. However, there are three key players of the team in possession engaged at the critical points of the exercise:

  1. The player with the ball whom we will call the initiator
  2. The player who receives the first pass and then immediately plays the ball to the opposite side of the field – the pivot.
  3. The player making the run on the opposite side to receive the pass from the pivot – the receiver.

The goal is to switch the play from the current side of the field to the opposite side to set up a cross into the penalty box. Speed of execution is critical to utilize available spaces before the opponent closes them (and your players) down, thus preventing the cross and the resulting scoring opportunity.

Technical Skills:

Passing (crossing) and ball receiving are the key soccer skills developed in this drill.

The initiator must pass the ball to the pivot accurately, either to the pivot’s feet or into a space the pivot will run into to receive the ball. In order for the pivot to be able to control the ball quickly and set up the pass to the receiver, the initiator’s pass is preferred to be on the ground at a weight that delivers the ball at low to moderate speed to the pivot’s feet. This requires the pivot player to be relatively open when receiving the ball.

The pivot wants to control the ball with the first touch and pass it across to the receiver with the second touch. They must develop superior ball receiving skills and make sure that the first touch moves the ball into the direction of the ensuing pass. This also requires the pivot to turn their body between first and second touches. The actual pass across the field is likely a longer pass and will be in the air to go over top of opposing players and prevent them from intercepting a ground ball. It must still be properly weighted to arrive in the space of the oncoming receiver without going out of bounds.

The receiver requires to be able to control the ball at various heights while running towards it. Ideally they arrive in the desired space at the same time as the ball so that the ball is at it’s lowest speed and the receiver has a fraction of a second to get their body ready to control the ball. Then the receiver either dribbles close to the goal line to execute a cross into the target areas of the penalty box, or if the opponents prevent the cross, to stop and look for a supporting player to pass to.

Tactics:

The key is to execute the switch before the opponent has set up their defense, i.e. before the opponent achieves defensive shape and balance. Let’s assume the play is on the right side of the field from the perspective of the team in possession. Imagine the length of the field split into four lanes (like an Olympic swimming pool). Typically opposing players will have shifted towards the side of play with most players occupying the three right lanes. This leaves the fourth and most left lane open. The team in possession should not have a player occupying that space either.

The initiator, in possession and on the right side of the field, passes to a player to the left of them, the pivot. The pivot could be a central midfielder who is in space, or a defender moving up into space. The distance between the initiator and the pivot should not be too large. Rule of thumb is that the pivot is in the next lane. The pass from initiator to pivot is the signal for an opposite side player to start running into the left most lane. They must stay on side until the pivot passes the ball across. The pivot player does not need to know which player is making the run or when, they need to have the confidence that someone is making the run and will be in a position to receive the ball.

The receiver can be any player close to the most left lane. To avoid being predictable, receivers should vary between overlapping outside defenders, midfielders, or even a central striker.

Assuming that the switch is executed properly, attackers now move into the right positions to receive the cross and finish with a shot/header on net. The target area for the cross is a triangle from the corners of the small box (goalie box) to the penalty spot. The cross should come from as close to the goal (end) line as possible to get into the back of retreating defenders and into the run of the attackers for more power.

If the switch is not on because of poor execution or good anticipation and disruption by the opponent, then the player with the ball at the time must decide on a new play.

Fitness Training:

The receiving players on the opposite side will be sprinting repeatedly, anywhere from 20 to 50 m. The pivot player must be strong to shake off any potential challenge from an opponent and/or to shield the ball.

Mental Fitness:

There must be communication (preferably non verbal to disguise play) from the pivot player to the initiator so that the initiator knows where to pass the ball, either to feet of an open player or into space to a moving player. There must also be communication from the receiver so that only one player runs into the space and other players assume supporting positions.

The initiator needs to perceive space on the opposite side of the field. If the space isn’t there, the play isn’t there. It could also be that the opponent is shifting towards the side of the ball and space will be available shortly.

The pivot needs to anticipate the pass from the initiator and either be in free space or move into free space. Then they need to perceive the space on the opposite side and decide if the switch is still on. Even if space is available they need to perceive the distance of the pass, decide on the weight of the pass, and anticipate the opponent’s movements. These decisions are all made BEFORE the pivot receives the ball and confirmed after they turn to execute the pass.

The receiver needs to anticipate the switch and perceive available space and decide when and how fast to run into that space. Other players need to perceive the receiver’s intentions and move into supporting roles. Once the switch is made all players react as quickly as possible:

  • the receiver to get close to the goal line for the cross
  • attackers to move into the box towards the target areas of the cross. They may need to delay the run until the cross is made. They do not want to stand waiting for the ball but attack it at reasonable speed for a one time shot or header.
  • everyone must recognize when the play is disrupted by the opponent or poorly executed and then assume the appropriate team shape and balance to start a new play or pressure the opponent to regain possession.

Coaching Tips:

This soccer drill, as is the case with all of our over 500 soccer drills, has coaching points and progression suggestions. I always recommend to start with minimal pressure (no or static defenders) and lower pace (to get accuracy and timing right). Once the concept is understood and executed well, complexity can be increased.  The team should be able to be reasonably successful in a 15-25 minute drill session. In future practices the drill can be repeated with increased requirements.