Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Ricky Clarke Master Coach


Ricky Clarke is director of coaching at Mission Valley United (MVU), in California USA, with sixteen years of soccer coaching under his belt its not surprising that Ricky has a host of coaching qualifications including gaining a distinction when passing the NSCAA Masters Diploma in 2010, but still keen to learn he passed the USSF youth license in 2011.

He believes that as coaches, educators and parents we have an enormous responsibility to create an environment where passion, education and creating a love for the game is at the centre for everything we do. "I want to provide all players with a firm grounding in the fundamentals of the game, with emphasis on maximising ball contact within a structured session. I want to teach the techniques and tactics necessary to construct a highly skilled, possession-based game. This promotes confidence in the player’s own ability and further facilitates their soccer and overall education. I like to coach a team in a style that I’d like to play on. When I was a player, I wasn’t really big into rules and I’m still not. I’m not into rules or meetings. I’ve always liked how words and quotes can have a massive effect on people. Creating beliefs and values helps develop cohesion, support and direction. I think it’s something that everyone buys into and feels a sense of belonging. Soccer gives us the ability to create life learning and life changing experiences. Life Skills through soccer at the youth development level should be geared towards stimulating the player's ability to create and appreciate the beautiful game."

The clubs goals are to grow players both as individuals and as soccer players. "For our players the environment needs to be challenging, motivating and fun. It will require a serious commitment on their part and the parents must be prepared to support their childs commitment. Our goal is to prepare our players for the future, both on and off the field. We teach them the fundamentals of soccer, Ball handling skills, passing and positioning on the field is stressed over and over again, as these techniques are critical for success in all levels of the game. Equally, if not more importantly we re-enforce non-specific soccer skills such as communication, teamwork, time-management, responsibility, discipline and respect for all players."

Parents are encouraged to support each other, the club understands that many players have siblings playing other sports, so things like carpooling are encouraged. Ricky adds "Our belief is that solid, committed players who benefit from positive coaching, an atmosphere of respect and teamwork, and strong parental support will ultimately result in a winning program. Its our teams belief that with strong commitments from our players and parents our club will continue to develop and grow."

The chosen system of play at MVU for 8v8 is  a 1-3-3-1 system. Ricky says "The soccer formation you choose can have a huge impact on how well your team plays. Although coaches are given the flexibility to change this as they see fit in accordance with trying to be competitive in all games. This formation allows teams to play with balance, support and creativity. It also provides us a smooth transition from 8v8 to 11v11. Teams are encouraged to play with a style that reflects a developmental approach"

MVU have identified key factors to support their philosophy:


  • players are expected to be able to defend as an individual and as a team
  • players are encouraged to react quickly in transition, offensive and defensive
  • teams are excepted to play out of the back
  • teams are expected to understand position rotation and interchange during a game
  • teams are encouraged to play forward, making passes that take teams out of the game
  • teams encourage their players to express themselves, however at the right time and correct areas of the field

The long term development model used at MVU identifies five areas for player development - technical, tactical, social, psychological and physical. Coaching plans should clearly incorporate all five, with a change of emphasis at each development stage. The model provides recommendations for minimum and maximum coaching time at each stage. Equally important to the players development is the quality of coaching, so regular assessment of developmental objectives for both players and coaches ensures they receive the correct level of instruction and support. Small sided game formats are seen as being extremely effective in the development of ball skills and game awareness, as players have increased opportunity to have contact with the ball. In the later stages of players development coaches can use this format to introduce phases of play without the pressures of 11v11. Here is an example of a typical training plan for stage 3 of the model:



Developing the Early Cross - U12 Boys





Sunday, 5 February 2012

Taking on and Beating Opponents


Objective: To encourage players to take on opponents in 1v1 situations

The set up: Magic Rectangle - I set up each rectangle as 10 yards wide by 15 yards long. Overall pitch size of 30x45, but make it appropriate to your players age and ability.



Warm Up: Ball Mastery - You will notice then when setting up the pitch I have set up a goal at either end of the pitch to set the direction in the players mind. The ball mastery is completed in the middle third. Players are asked to go and stand along either the red line of cones or the blue line of cones - their choice. Players are then asked to dribble the ball across to the opposite line of cones performing the feint or change of direction move (examples here) at least once. Players work back and forwards between the lines of cones and change to the next skill on the coaches request. Allow them at least 4 or 5 attempts at each skill.before changing. 


Work in small groups: 1v1 To goal or the corner - In this set up a small goal has been placed along the goal line of each grid. Split players into pairs. Players stand opposite each other, the defender in between the small goal in each of the four corner areas, use the central areas if you have more then four pairs. The defender passes the ball to the attacker, who is then trying to beat the defender and dribble through the small goal, or take the ball to one of the cones on the goal line. They get two points for going through the goal and one point for dribbling to the cones. The attacker is trying to dribble the ball across the defender and between the cones. If the defender gets the ball they just have to dribble the ball to the attackers start line. Get the players to rotate roles after three turns of being the attacker.

If you have a group of three, get them to play 2v1, don't have one standing out, or taking turns. Have 2 players play as defenders or attackers.



Work in small areas: 2v2 To goal or the corner- This is just a simple progression of the previous activity. The pitch is deliberately small to produce more 1v1 opportunities.



Group Work: 4v4 To goal or the cornerThe players are then split into two teams, 4v4 or 6v5, whatever suits your group. The four central cones and the small goals used for the previous drill are removed.



The game is played the same as before but with the use of the whole pitch and the support of extra players and no goalkeepers. Players score two points for dribbling the ball through the goal and one point for dribbling the ball to the corner. You can award extra points for players beating players 1v1, or where they have actively got their head up and looked for the best space to attack.

Follow this with a normal game. Focus on the skills learnt in the session, giving particular praise to players taking the players on 1v1.