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Youth Soccer Coaching, Drills, Positions, Formations, Practices and Motivational Patches
Youth Soccer Coaching, Drills, Positions, Formations, Practices and Motivational Patches

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Great Advice for All Coaches from the winningest college men's soccer coach

Seven Ideas about How to Get Better Results at Soccer Practice >
1. Success in training increases confidence, which increases motivation.
2. Praise performance
3. Set Realistic Goals – Goals that are unattainable cause frustration.
4. Give positive and informative feedback
5. Practice should be pleasant, exciting, and filled with learning opportunities.
6. Give players recognition whenever possible for effort or achievements
7. Make it fun – Don’t make soccer “work”. Players will come to practice and keep playing soccer if it is fun.

The above tips are from an article by Dr. Jay Martin in the May 2017 issue of NSCAA Soccer Journal. Jay is a great guy, a great coach, and Editor of Soccer Journal - he is the winningest coach in college men's soccer history with a total of 680 wins. I encourage all youth coaches to join the NSCAA.
For Free No Lines Drills that are fun and train players twice as fast, visit
For 400 testimonials from Coaches about how they motivated their players see…/soccer-patches-reviews-testimonials

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Is Your Child Learning Much at Soccer Practice? How to Know and What to Do. Even if you have never coached, you can have one of the best teams by the end of the season if the other coaches are like the one described below –

Below is a recent post on this page by a parent and my reply >

“I sit at my kids practice just biting my tongue as they are in line drills. I timed it last week and with the line drill he touched the ball twice within ten minutes, and some kids got disciplined for starting to goof off in their down time waiting.”

My reply >

“Your story reminds me of 24 years ago when I was an assistant to a guy who was supposed to be a good coach. My job was to keep the kids from fighting while they stood in line to dribble around cones one at a time. I thought there had to be a better way, and that is how the SoccerHelp training program got started.

It is too bad about your son - he is in a very tough situation that could cause him to quit soccer. I would first see if his coach is open to suggestions. But if he isn’t, then I would try to move your son to a team that has better practices or think about becoming his coach. As you know, your son isn't getting enough time on the ball in practice. If you coached and used the SoccerHelp Practice Games at , at every practice your son would get about 10 times more touches on the ball, and over a season that makes a huge difference. Think about it. If you have time, just use the SoccerHelp Practice Games and read the tips on this page. And if you need more, subscribe to SoccerHelp Premium - here is a coupon to save $5 on a one year subscription 5offpremium

If you coach and the other coaches are as bad as your son's coach, by the end of a season you would have one of the best teams, and the following season you would have the best team or at least one of the top 2 teams. The reason is simple math – your players will be learning 3 or 4 times faster and will get better at every practice. Also, your players will have Fun and keep playing soccer – kids quit if it isn’t fun.

If you decide to coach, please email me here or at let me know how it goes.

David at SoccerHelp


21 Tips About Soccer Positions that Can Immediately Help Your Team – How to Keep Shape, Support Distance and Relative Positions, First Attacker/Second Attacker/Third Attacker, First Defender/Second Defender/Third Defender (This is for U8 and older. If you have a Developmental or Academy team, focus on skills, not tactics, and rotate positions).

For 21 practical tips that can immediately help your team, see . For example –

1. You SHOULD NOT put timid players in front of your goal because you will give up lots of goals if you do.

2. Keep your best players in the "Center" positions (Center Fullback, Stopper, Center Midfield, Center Forward). The team that controls the Center usually wins. Let your opponent have the "wings" (sidelines) - in fact, encourage it. They can't score from there and your team will always have time to "recover" and the opponents will run a lot more.

19. When your opponent is attacking your goal, your Forwards should NEVER come closer than a long kick from the ball because if they do you won't be able to clear the ball from your Defensive Third. Leaving a Forward Pushed Up will keep at least 2 of the opposing Fullbacks off your half of the field.

Players should be constantly moving with the ball to support each other, and not Bunch Up. That is what "keeping shape" means. Your players should ideally move as a "Team" and not just have players spread all over the field standing still - a simple way to think about this is that your players should move with the ball, even if they stay within an assigned area. But a lot of decisions involve Trade-Offs. For example, if your Fullbacks are fast enough to "recover" to defensive positions, then it makes sense to "Push Up" your Fullbacks when your team attacks because they can provide support to your attackers. BUT if your Fullbacks are slower than the opposing Forwards, you risk giving up goals on fast counterattacks if you Push them Up - so there is a trade-off.

Links to topics relating to Positions >
Soccer Positions Basics ( ), Soccer Formations Overview ( ),
Support ( ), "Shift and Sag" ( ), Support Distance & Relative Positions ( ), First Attacker/ Second Attacker/Third Attacker ( ), First Defender/Second Defender/Third Defender (read about this at ), on defense, you ideally want Multiple Layers of Defenders between the ball and your goal ( ).


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Soccer Coaches - 10 Ways to Stop Bunching Up, Train Players to Stay in Position, & Get Players to Spread Out on Offense - Coupon for Premium -

If you like this, please share it with other coaches.

10 ideas are below that work -

1. "Stop Holding Hands" - A great tip from Coach Mark - When his players bunch up, he tells them to "Stop holding hands". Coaches say this works for both boys and girls.
2. On Offense - Tell your players to stay a short pass away from the player with the ball. See for more.
3. On Offense - Teach your players that when a teammate with the ball is dribbling toward them, they MUST move away from the ball in order to create space for the ballhandler and to create a passing option. See
4. "Stay at Home" Idea to Teach Young Players to Stay in Position – “I told them where their 'Home' was, and showed them the big circle they could play in while in that position. They played SOOOO much better! The only thing I focused on during the game was to remind them where their 'Home' was, and to stay in their 'circle.' It was great - I'd call out 'go Home, Alexandra!' and she'd immediately drop back to where she was supposed to be.” Thanks to Coach Kim. See for more about how to teach positions.
5. "Stay Away, Stay Away, Stay Away" idea from Coach Troy - a Team Chant… The Coach says "When your teammate has the ball what do you do?" And the team replies: "Stay Away, Stay Away, Stay Away" - again and again. See more at
6. “Bunching Penalty” idea to get players to Spread Out on Offense - "I show the kids what 5 big steps looks like (or how many steps you choose). Then I tell them if they are on attack and get any closer than 5 steps to the player with the ball they are hurting and not helping their team, and I will call the Bunching Penalty, and the other team gets the ball. Generally, I only have to call it once. (from Ken who is a great coach). More about this is at
7. “Bunching Up, Spread Out To Attack, Create Space Practice Game”. Coach Bob said "We ran it in practice on Thursday and we saw immediate results. It is a winner!" - This is too long to post but if you are a Premium subscriber, check it out at
8. For Players U10 & Up - Use the Premium “Handball Soccer” Drill to teach spacing & movement off the ball. It is at - it is faster than normal scrimmaging and will let you focus on spacing and movement.
9. To Stop Bunching Up on Defense teach “First Defender/Second Defender”
10. “Support” means different things on Offense and Defense. See

#stopsoccerbunching #howtogetsoccerplayerstospreadout  

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8 Easy Ways to Have Fun Soccer Practices so Your Players Will Learn Faster, Play Better, and Not Get Burned Out –

The legendary college coach Jay Martin said in the May 2013 issue of the NSCAA Soccer Journal - "In the early years of youth soccer (ages 5-12) coaches should emphasize fun in every training session." and "The training sessions for these young soccer players should keep kids busy (no lines) and active…. Fun is the coach creating an environment where the kids will have fun learning.” (Coach Martin's college soccer teams have won 657 games).

Below are 8 easy things every youth soccer coach can do –

1. At Practice, think of yourself as a Teacher and Motivator.

2. Have a Positive Attitude and be encouraging.

3. Have a Practice Plan – You will achieve a lot more if you have a Practice Plan than if you don’t. Free Practice Plans are at

4. Use No Lines Practice Games that teach soccer skills, instead of line drills or games that are fun but don’t teach skills. There are free No Lines Practice Games for players U4 to adult at Every player is active in our Practice Games. You will see an immediate difference and fast improvement. Coach Hal said: "The concept of playing soccer games for drills at practice is brilliant because the girls now perceive practice as fun and not work."

5. Avoid “MVP” Awards – Soccer is a team sport. If every player improves, your team will improve. MVP Awards can be counterproductive and are often won by the best athletes.

6. Praise, Motivate, and Reward Individual Improvement in Skills, Effort, Attitude, Hustle, and Bravery (winning 50/50 balls, tough and aggressive play, and not being afraid of contact) – Praise, Motivate and Reward every player’s improvement – if every player improves, your team will get better. You want continuing improvement, week after week. Skills are important, but so are Effort, Attitude, Hustle, and Bravery. Our motivational iron-on patches are inexpensive and really work - you can read what 500 coaches say at

7. Ask yourself – “Is there a better way?” Check out what 500 coaches have said about the SoccerHelp Training Program at

8. Aristotle said “We are what we repeatedly do.” If your players get hundreds of quality touches on the ball in practice and Hustle and are Brave, that is how they will play. If your team is U8 or older, check out the “Win the 50/50 Ball or Be the First Defender 1v1 Attacking and Defending Practice Game” at Eric, a U8 coach, said "The 50/50 Win the Ball drill really taught aggressive smart play." and Corey, a U-12 coach, said: "The girls loved this game and I found this game brought out their competitive side more than any other"
#soccerpractice #soccertraining

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The 3 Most Important Things You Can Teach Young Soccer Players and When to NOT Teach Passing –

If your players have good basic Skills, Hustle and are Brave (meaning tough, aggressive play such as winning 50/50 balls and not being afraid of the ball or of contact), you will see good results and give your players a foundation to play at any level. Hustle and Brave Play are “Ways of Playing” and very important at all levels of play.

If you like this, please share it with other coaches.

To get the BEST RESULTS, keep in mind that you need to do 2 things – TEACH your players WHAT TO DO and also MOTIVATE them to do what you teach.

1. Teach Soccer Skills – Everything you need to know about teaching the most important soccer skills is at . The most important skill is dribbling and the second most important is passing (see no. 4 below about why you shouldn’t teach passing to U6). The best way to teach core skills is by playing the SoccerHelp Practice Games. These are NO LINES Practice Games that are exclusive to SoccerHelp and have been tested by thousands of coaches. Because there aren’t lines, players get more touches on the ball, learn faster, can play faster, have more confidence, and have more fun. You can try them free at and is a great warm-up – you will see improvement within 2 practices. There are many testimonials from coaches, such as - “We played Dribble Across a Square and Dribble Around the Cone and Pass Relay Race at every practice, and the results were phenomenal.”

2. Motivate Your Players to Hustle – Make Hustle a priority at BOTH practice and games, and Praise and Reward Hustle. Teach them “This is how we play”. Our motivational iron-on patches are an effective way to motivate hustle and are visible rewards of Hustle. They are as little as 34 cents each. You can see them at Use the Coupon Code fiveoff5 to save 5%.

3. Motivate Bravery – “Brave” is a more motivating word than Aggressive or Tough. Motivate your players to win 50/50 balls, to fight thru defenders, to not get pushed around, and to not be afraid of contact. There are Practice Games on SoccerHelp that teach these things. A free one is at and the “Win the 50/50 Ball or Be the First Defender, 1v1 Attacking & Defending” is at

4. When to Teach Passing - An article in US Youth Soccer says “One of the biggest mistakes youth coaches can make is to force a passing game on children too early.” When is the right time to teach passing? Coach Doug says “The age to teach passing should not be based on foot skills, it should be based on mental readiness to understand the complex decision-making that is required.” Most U6 players aren’t mentally ready to determine "when to pass and when NOT to pass" - trying to teach passing to U6 players can be counterproductive and can confuse them. If you coach U6, see a Soccer Journal article titled “18 Tips for U4 and U6 Soccer Coaches” at

#soccerskills #soccerdrills #soccerpassing #soccerdribbling

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7 Tips For Great Soccer Practice. 7 easy-to-do things that will quickly help your players -

If you like this, please share it with other coaches.

1. Use No Lines soccer drills that teach soccer skills. Try our free No Lines soccer drills and videos at You will immediately see the difference. It is a better, more efficient way to practice. Your players will improve twice as fast.

2. Free Practice Plans are at

3. At practice, everyone should stay active and participate. Avoid lines and players standing around. Maximize active practice time and minimize time that is wasted while you are setting up a drill. Strive for 100% activity all the time. Try to get 45 to 50 minutes per hour of active practice for every player (instead of 30 minutes per hour because of lines and waiting). A player who is getting 45 minutes of active practice is getting 50% more out of each practice than a player who is getting 30 minutes of active practice - that will quickly make a big difference.

4. Our drills for players U8 and older keep score. Keeping score causes players to practice as fast as possible. Players will play as they are trained to play - train your players to play fast, not slow - the team that can play faster will usually win. (If you coach U6, don't keep score - we have games for U6 at that teach soccer skills).

5. Have a ball for every player and maximize "touches" on the ball. At least 300 touches per hour for each player. The more quality touches per hour, the faster player’s skills improve.

6. Praise hustle, effort, bravery (such as winning 50/50 balls), and improvement, and give "tips" that will help your players improve.

7. You will get better results if you keep it fun and are encouraging and positive. No Lines, No Laps, No Lectures.

Free No Lines Drills, Practice Plans, How to Teach Positions and Formations, Rules, and hundreds of soccer coaching tips are at

1,000 Testimonials and tips from coaches are at

#soccerpractice #soccerpracticeplans #soccerdrills

Why the Fastest Way to Improve Your Team is to Improve Your Soccer Defense - 3 Lessons I Will Never Forget. Soccer defense is MUCH easier to improve than offense because it doesn't take as much skill - all you really have to do in youth soccer to make it hard to score is to slow down opponent’s attacks, not give up easy goals, and break up their attacks. So, if you are giving up too many goals, there are things you can quickly do to make it harder for opponents to score - there are lots of ideas on this page and on SoccerHelp. I'm not saying to stop teaching skills - skills are very important and should always be practiced.

I will give you an example and a few ideas -- When I coached U14 Rec we only lost one game in the Fall season and it was to a less skilled team. A big part of the reason we lost was that they had a Stopper who lacked soccer skills but was very fast and very aggressive. I was told later that he was a baseball player - he couldn't help them attack, but he was great at breaking up attacks. He was tall and the fastest player in our league. I had some good attackers, but we had a tough time getting past that Stopper and if we did there were 2 Deep fullbacks behind him who were there to slow us down so he could catch up. That defense made every goal hard for us - we didn't get any easy goals. 

They also had a great dribbler who my defense couldn't stop - the best in the league at dribbling thru traffic - he had been on a travel team for years, got burned out with travel, and was playing Rec for fun. He would penetrate, pull my defenders, and shoot or pass - there were always Second and Third Attackers there for rebounds and passes.
We had been scoring 6 goals per game and giving up one or 2, but lost that game 4-2.

I learned 3 lessons from that loss that I will never forget – 

1. The value of a fast, aggressive Stopper.

2. That having Fullbacks Defend Deep can be a smart Style of Play if your Fullbacks are slower than opposing Forwards and you have a great Stopper. When I first saw that the other Fullbacks were staying deep, I thought their coach didn't know what he was doing and that we would kill them, because everyone else in our league Pushed Up their Fullbacks when they attacked. But the other coach was smarter than me because he chose the Formation and Style of Play that gave his players the best chance to be successful - if he had used the Style of Play that everyone else used, his team would have lost..

3. How effective a great dribbler can be at breaking down a defense and creating scoring opportunities. (COACHES of U8 and older - Play the SoccerHelp "Dribble Across a Square" drill as a warm-up to start every practice and your players will quickly improve their dribbling skills. For U6, play the SoccerHelp "Hit the Coach" game - your players will have fun and learn to dribble in traffic while looking up, and how to kick the ball while running.)

See the October 9 post below for a simple way to teach defense.

For exclusive No Lines Drills that train players to play fast, tips, rules, formations, how to teach positions, and how to motivate players, see


The 8 Most Important Things Every Soccer Coach Can Do to Improve Your Players and Team - Parents can teach these too - A Coaching Philosophy - Soccer Journal article …

The article below was published in the Sept./October 2015 issue of the Soccer Journal on page 10. The Soccer Journal is published by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America ("NSCAA"), which has over 30,000 members. This is the fourth article I have had published in the NSCAA Soccer Journal, the first in 2003 - I have been a member since 1997. I highly recommend NSCAA membership.

This article was inspired by an article by Jay Martin in the November 2014 issue of Soccer Journal. The title of the article is "Playing vs. Competing" and it starts with Jay watching a college game between two top 10 soccer teams. One of the teams was clearly more talented and had better skills, but they lost to a team that had less skill but that played harder and had more "will to win". That article caused me to think about the "will to win" and what it takes to win. 

Most coaches prefer winning to losing, but as every experienced coach knows, winning is the result of a lot of things. You can't just say "We are going to win" and expect that to happen. Skills are important, but individual skills alone aren't enough - teamwork, hustle, the will to win, and other things also matter. Success results from doing the right things with the right attitude, but what are "the right things" and how can a coach teach the "right attitude"?

Below is a list of some things every youth coach can do to give his or her team the best chance to be successful. I have stated them as Sayings that I would tell my team like a Philosophy. It is also a good checklist to use for ideas about how to improve your team. You can motivate or teach all of these things. 

1. "We win because we are prepared." We practice and prepare mentally and physically.

2. "We win because we hustle." You can motivate hustle. Hustle is an attitude - it is how we play and practice.

3. "We win because we are Brave." We aren't scared of facing any team. When we fall, we get back up. We aren't afraid of the ball. You can motivate Bravery. 

4. "We win because we play hard and do our best." You can motivate this.

5. "We win because we improve at every practice and every game." Motivate your players to come to practice, and set achievable objectives for each player's improvement, and praise each player's improvement. Encourage and motivate your players to improve in some way at every practice and every game. 

6. "We win because we play as a team and care about the team." You can motivate this.

7. "We win because every player does his job and trusts his teammates to do their jobs." You can teach this.

8. "We win because we never give up." You can teach this.

Other Soccer Journal articles are at 

The Fastest, Simplest Way to Teach Soccer Defense. A better way than "Pressure, Cover, Balance" –

When I started coaching, I was told to teach "Pressure, Cover, Balance". I found those terms hard to teach kids. Fortunately, I found a better way. "First Defender and Second Defender" are terms that are MUCH easier to understand because the are self-explanatory. This is summarized below….

Keep it Simple - When teaching this, at first Keep It Simple and stick to teaching 3 things – 

1. When the other team has the ball, the player who is closest to the ball must be the "First Defender" and must bring "Pressure" on the ball. The First Defender must slow down the attack and not allow easy shots. The First Defender's job is NOT to try to steal the ball - it is to slow down the attack - a common mistake young players make is to rush at the ball or lunge at it, with the result that the onball-attacker easily gets past them. 

2. The second closest player must be the "Second Defender" and back up the First Defender (stay about 5 of their steps behind - show them how far) and stay between the ball and the goal. To Avoid Confusion - at first teach that there is only one Second Defender. That will at least give you a First Defender and a Second Defender. 

3. The rest of your team should "Shift & Sag" with the ball so they are between the ball and your goal (which creates "Multiple Layers of Defenders"), but of course they should maintain their "Relative Positions" and not Bunch Up. (See "Support" and the diagram at "Shift & Sag" in the SoccerHelp Dictionary, and for how to teach First Defender/Second Defender see number 3 of "Quick Team Improvement Program" on SoccerHelp Premium)

Over 50% of goals are scored when there is a lack of pressure on the ball.

MORE - I think it is best if you teach that there should only be one First Defender, otherwise you may have a problem of too many defenders rushing at the ball who can get in each other's way and a lack of Second Defenders, which could give your opponent a scoring opportunity (the exception to the idea that there should only be one First Defender is when your opponent gets the ball in your "Attacking Third", in which case double-teaming to try to steal the ball back is a good idea and there is no risk that the opponent will score due to a defensive error). There are often 2 Second Defenders (one behind the First Defender and one to the "goalside", as shown in the diagram at "Shift & Sag" in the Dictionary, or one on each side behind the First Attacker), but start with teaching that there is only one Second Defender, you can add a second one later. There is also a concept called "Third Defender". I have found that First Defender/Second Defender is easy to teach, but that the concept of "Third Defender" can be confusing to young players.  

FOR MORE - There is more about this and everything else about coaching youth soccer on

#soccerdefense  #howtoteachsoccerdefense
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