Think and Move

By Mike Smith

Players win or lose games. Coaches either put their players in positions to be successful or not, and a coach can and should certainly impact the game. Still, the guys and gals with the boots on ultimately determine the outcome. Because of this fact, teams whose players are actively thinking and reading the game together will have an advantage. This series of activities not only helps with conditioning, but also encourages the players to work together and think to create a positive outcome for their group.

Lesson 1

Cone Relay

Set Up
If your squad is under 20 players, divide them in half with each side having a relative balance of speed. This drill can be run with 3 or 4 groups as well. For purposes of explanation, I have used 8 player sides. Place two soccer balls on a line to mark starting places. Step out 10 yds and then place two even lines of 8 cones each. On the coaches signal, the players race to a cone in their line, pick it up, bring it back and the next player goes. The first team to get all their cones across the line wins. I usually make the winning team do 5 of some sort of exercise ( push up, crunch, etc..) and the losing team do 10. There is no set order. It is the teams responsibility to figure out the order and which cones are picked up first or last. The answer is what works for the group: Send fast players to the farthest cones first? Get the close ones first with slower players? Work the middle and leave far and near cones for the end and the fastest players? The team has to figure out what works.

Coaching Points
The idea here is for the teams to work together to figure out their strength. The coach should encourage this process. After several rounds, give each player of each team a ball and make them dribble the ball up and back with them as they get the cones.

Lesson 2

Diagonal Relay

Set Up
On a half field, pick one side of the touch line to be the starting position. Use the center spot, far corner of the half line, far corner, and the corners of the penalty box as relay positions ( as shown ). Don’t be confused with all the lines on the diagram, the idea is the starting players ( it is a race so both go, I only showed lines for one side to prevent diagram line overload) run to a team mate, slap their hand and run back to the starting line. The player whose hand is slapped runs to another one of their players, slaps their hand, and returns to the starting line. This process is repeated until one team has all their players back. Just like in the previous activity, it is up to the teams to decide the positions and patterns. No rewards beyond a simple win here. Give the team recovery time and repeat. A ball can be added as a progression.

Coaching Points
Encourage the players to work together and beyond just sheer hustle, figure out a plan which gives them an advantage over their opponent.

Lesson 3

Build an Advantage on the Way to Goal

Set Up
Extend the corners of the penalty box with cones toward mid field to cover most of one half of the field ( as shown ). Use this area to make two rectangle boxes. In the box closest to mid field, place 3 attackers and 3 defenders. In the other box, place 2 attackers and 2 defenders. The keeper is in and starts the drill by serving the ball into the far box. An additional team of 5 neutrals patrol the outside of the cone box and immediately send any way ward balls back into the box.

The idea is for one team to win the ball inside the box, make sure every player on their team in that box touches the ball, and then advance into the other box. Here, they combine with their additional 2 team mates and once those players have touched the ball, all 5 attack goal inside the 18. The remaining 2 players from the box at the top of the 18 may enter the 18 and try to defend here . IF the team with two players can win the ball back in the second box or the 18, they send it back to the 3 players in the first box who start the process over. The original 3 players from the dis-possessed team can return to the first box to try and defend.

Ideally, this activity should become a 5 v 2 to goal inside the 18. The coach should start a 5 second countdown once a team of 5 has entered the 18. After the shot, the attacking team stays on, the neutrals come in as the defending team and the original defending team steps off to become neutrals.

Coaching Points
Figuring out how and when to move is the idea here. The numbers are even to start, so the combinations of short and long passes, compact and wide formations etc… will make the difference and build the numerical advantage. Also, quick thinking, movement and communication on any turnovers will be important in this drill. The coach should reinforce all of these aspects as the teams play. Use a few natural stoppages to show different options if the teams aren’t seeing things. As the drill progresses, reduce the number of seconds the attacking team has in the box to score, and even add an additional defender ( back up keeper) into the box as a team attacks.

By Mike Smith
Currently the Head Coach for University Heights Academy Boys Soccer in Hopkinsville, KY , Mike is in his 14th year as a high school head coach with 23 years coaching experience overall  and 34 year as a student and fan of the game. He holds a USSF D License.