Archive for August, 2011

We won our season opener against a rival team at home in front of 295 fans (a good sized crowd for our college).  This session is going to be used to help us prepare for our next opponent, currently the #10 team in the country, who presses a lot in the middle third of the field to create counter attacks.  The boys have been training real hard and are mentally preparing for the long stretch of nationally ranked opponents that we have this month.

Topic: Attacking Out of Pressure

Objective: Help the players recognize when to play a penetrating pass and advance the attack.

3:30 Keepers with GK Coach: Reaction Saves

3:45 Technical Warm-Up: Rectangle Passing

4:00 Technical Activity: Continuous Passing

-Two grids 30×40, two teams per grid with colors.  Each team has one ball.  Teams will pass the ball one touch continuously inside the grid to their teammates.  Be aware of the other team in the grid and play accurate and properly weighted passes.  Progress to sequence passing in teams (1 passes to 2, 2 passes to 3).  Progress by having to pass to player on opposite team.

-Coaching points: Play the ball the way you’re facing.  Head up as the ball travels to you, make your decision before passing.  Get body ready for the ball and next pass.  Move off the ball for one another.

4:15 Small Sided Activity: Four Goal Game

-Two grids 20×30, four gates set up diagonally inside the grid’s four corners.  Two teams of four players, one team waiting to get on.  Teams can score by either passing or dribbling through the gates.  Teams must “open” scoring first by going through a gate, and then they can score for each gate they go through after that as long as they have possession.  Once the lose possession they have to re-open scoring, but score picks up where it left off.

-Coaching points: Move off the ball for teammates to quality passing angles.  Ability to dribble out of pressure and create a quality pass.

4:30 Expanded Activity: Six Goal Game

-Two grids 30×40, six gates along the two end lines.  Two teams of five players, subs waiting at diagonal corners with balls at their feet.  Teams can score by either passing or dribbling through the three gates they are attacking.  Keepers stand behind each end line, they can act as support for their team.  Progress to finding target players before scoring.  Keepers act as target players, have two touches to lay the ball off.  Can only score through the gates off of a lay-off by target players.

-Coaching Points: Pick your head up and advance the ball as soon as possible.  Look for when to penetrate.  Focus on player’s decision making, but encourage them to go forward.  When target players are added focus turns to supporting runs, third man runs, etc.

5:00 Match Play: Middle 3rd 10v10

-Full field with a 40 yard zone running across midfield.  Two teams playing 11v11 including keepers.  All 20 field players have to play within the middle third zone, defending team is allowed to come back and receive the ball from their keeper.  Attacking team is allowed to attack into the attacking third only, no defending.  Progess to allowing defending team to drop and defend the attack.  Progress to open play.

-Coaching Points: Looking for creativity and ability to break the pressure and play a ball through to start the attack.

5:30 Cool Down

Pre-season is wrapping up and classes begins tomorrow.  We wrapped up our final week of 3-a-days with a Blue v. White Scrimmage in Rapid City, SD (home town for several of our players, and a city that has no college soccer teams within a three hour radius).  The team kicked off the weekend with a cookout hosted by one of our wonderful parents, and the guys had a great time meeting families and enjoying good food.  We booked a youth camp for the team to stay at, and we were able to take the boys through a low ropes course.

The low ropes course was a great oppoturnity for the players to compete outside their comfort zones on elements that challenged their thinking, communicatuion, and team work.  We had some fun too!  In the debriefing we discussed how we could learn from the challenges in the course to help us with the season.

The next morning we were scheduled by the hosting soccer association to run a youth soccer clinic.  Mid-morning half the team went down to Mt. Rushmore to play tourist for the day, and the other half went down and watched a few high school games.  Our scrimmage was hosted by the local soccer club in Rapid City, Rushmore SC, and they helped to bring in a decent crowd for our scrimmage.  We ran through a couple game management scenarios, and let the boys play for a period as well.  After the scrimmage it was fun to watch the players signing autographs for some of the kids that stuck around.

The first road trip is always fun, and I loved how we were able to make this trip a great team bonding experience.  I think it’s important to get the players away from campus and secluded with one another before classes begin and the life of college slowly pulls the team’s attention away from one another.  The camp experience was a great one too, staying in bunk houses and making memories with each other on the low ropes course was a definite plus.

Right now we are less than a week away from our first varsity match of 2011 and we definitely have some weaknesses.  Some of our game management scenarios opened our eyes to the fact that we need to work on when and how to press higher up the field in a goal down situation.  We still struggle to keep possession in the middle third of the field and need to work on the decision making of our boys when to pull the ball back and when to push forward into the final third.

First match is five days away, we have one more exhibition match against a great opponent that should give us the final tune-up we need.

In the next few months I’m going to be writing a summary of our season and what we’re doing.  This is my life as a coach, the regular season is the destination that we aim for the other nine months of the year.


Training camp starts with a day of planning and meetings for the leadership council.  Our four council members and two captains got together to plan team building activities, discuss our small group sessions, and to review the objectives and goals we have for the season.


The upperclassmen get together early and wait to help the freshmen move into their dorms.  Team leaders are asked to meet up with the new players that they have been assigned to on their teams.  Players are welcomed on campus with a watermelon social in the campus plaza put on by our student life staff, and we have our first team meeting that night.  The meeting consists of ice breakers and an overview of the schedule and objectives.  The first day is capped by a friendly scrimmage between the new arrivals and the returners.  This year’s returners won 5-1.  It’s interesting to watch the new players and the team dynamics.  Who will step up to lead their team, what shape do they use, who will communicate, can they take ownership?  We played two 45’s and the new players did very well in the second half to slow things down and find opportunities to go forward and they built up an attack and put away the finish.

The rest of the week is intermixed with fitness testing, going over defensive principles, and lots of team building and fun activities.  This year we had 12 of the 34 not pass the fitness testing standards that we set, so I think we’re definitely further ahead than last year.  The players are drafted into six teams by the leadership council, and these six teams compete against each other several different competitions (small sided games, fitness testing, soccer golf, soccer tennis, a laws of the game test, etc).  The premise behind these teams is for the new players and returners to focus on getting to know eachother in a small group setting, and then expand to developing team unity in the larger numbers.  Our match analysis session was over the USMNT v. Mexico friendly, Jurgen Klinsman’s debut as a coach, and the objective is to start teaching players how to be a student of the game and look at games in more of an analytical sense.

Week 2

Start to introduce our principles of building an attack.  With the skills sets of the team we have right now we are leaning more towards a counter attacking style.  But right now our technical and tactical sessions are very fundamental in nature and can be applied to any style of play.  Players who did not pass the fitness test are required to attend a conditioning session in the morning, and the rest of the team has two practices and a team meeting to attend.

Team meetings are focused on developing a team identity and better communication to work together.  We go through a personality profile and discuss team goals for the season.  Players are then asked to come up with individual team goals based on the team objectives.  We also start to break down team roles and responsibilities in the three phases of the game (when we have possession, when we don’t have possession, and the transitions between possession).  After team philosophy and style of play are analyzed players break into lines and define the traits and responsibilities of their specific lines with the coaching staff.

The first team scrimmage against outside competition in during week two.  This year we were able to scrimmage Iowa Lakes Community College at home.  I think in general community colleges give schools like ours a great look at building an attack against a team that presses high up the field, and how well we do defending against athletic and technically sound players.  The exhibition was broken up into three periods, and line ups for each period were pre-determined by what we’d seen in practice so far.  We wanted to see certain players play together and see how chemistry factored into specific line ups with different players.

NOTES FROM EXHIBITION:  Our returners did a great job applying our system defensively and created a lot of opportunities to counter through winning the ball in the midfield.  Forwards were making solid runs and midfielders were finding them on the other side of those runs.  As we started to go deeper into the bench we could see a lack of experience, and the knowledge to play our system right now.  Lots of good things we can take away from this scrimmage to improve on this week before our next exhibition.

Good overall first two weeks.  Pleased with where the guys are physically, and I think the team is really coming together quickly.  We’re struggling with complimentary runs off the ball and being organized on our zonal defending.