Guest Session by Ben Bartlet The FA – Building Attacks


Ben Bartlet – The FA

Ben works for The English Football Association as a Regional Coach Development Manager, a role in which he supports the development of coaches working at a range of levels. Ben holds the UEFA ‘A’ License.

You can follow ben on twitter: @BenBarts

Session: (to enlarge click on image)

Guest Session – Lee Johnson Ex Chelsea FC Academy – 1V1 Attacking in a Conditioned Game

Lee Johnson – 1v1 Attacking in a Conditioned Small Sided Game

Lee has been working for Chelsea FC coaching within their youth academy since 2006. He previously worked for Crystal Palace FC Academy working closely to develop the clubs youth development program. He holds a UEFA B Coaching Licence, FA Youth Modules 1,2,3 and is a registered Learning Tutor for the English Football Association. His philosophy is to create a learning environment that allows young players to play with creativity and imagination developing self-confidence and belief that they can achieve personal success. Recently Lee has been coaching for insidesoccer.

You can follow Lee on twitter @leejohnson80


Guest Session by Tony Taylor – Burton Albion FC – Getting the Full Backs into the Attack

Tony Taylor – Burton Albion FC Academy Coach

Tony Taylor is a coach at Burton Albion FC Academy.

He has the UEFA ‘B’ License and is currently working towards the UEFA ‘A’ License.

You can follow Tony on twitter @Tad690

Session – Getting the fullbacks into the Attack

Q&A with Mike Skubala – Assistant Coach of the England Men’s Futsal Team

Who is Micheal Skubala?
Michael Skubala is the youngest ever appointed national coach at the FA. At the age of 27 was appointed Assistant Head Coach to Pete Sturgess, for the England National Futsal Team. He is also Head coach for the England Futsal Development squad (U21’s Equivalent) and Heads up the Great Britain Universities Futsal team.  Michael is also Assistant Head coach for Great Britain Universities football team, where they achieved a silver medal in the world university games last year in china. Which made them the most successful football team in a FIFA accredited tournament since the 1966 world cup. Michael also is head of futsal development at Loughborough University and Head coach for the International Futsal Academy (IFA) at Loughborough.

 1/What are the main benefits of Futsal for youth soccer/football players?

For me the main 3 benefits of futsal to youth football players are simple really. First of all I think the first one must be decision making. Futsal puts every decision you make under the micro scope and magnifies good, bad or indifferent decisions of the field of play. For example in football you can play and move as an attacker and if you make a poor decision or a better one could have been made it can result in a turnover of possession but not always a scoring opportunity. Whereas in futsal as a pivot if you dont make the best decision it could result in a scoring opportunity for the other team. Futsal allows players to make better decisions and the game highlights this where I don’t think football can do the same. The next main benefit for me has to be playing under pressure. In futsal teams need to work hard as a four and a individual to play under pressure, and this means getting relaxed even in tight situations, which for me is what’s missing sometimes in the 11 a side game. It is not easy to train dominant response of panic in tight situations where they have not always worked or been exposed to it. However if youngsters growing up are exposed to these tight situations under competition then for me they are more likely to develop a dominant response like the Brazilians or Spanish where they understand that if they are pressed there must be space somewhere else. It’s just a case of keeping calm and making the best decision in a given situation. Which is what futsal is all about. The other one for me would be individual and group tactics. Futsal on face value can seem like a group of players just kicking a ball around but when you pick the game about its actually very tactical and can change within in blink of an eye, dependent on triggers, clues and cues. But the speed of which this generally happens is much quicker than eleven a side. Although there are some positive and negative transfer to the two games and it is important coaches understand these, then I feel these are the most beneficial parts to the game. But of course there are the technical aspects of the game that most are aware of but not all cross over into football.



 2/ What is better for youth to play Futebol de Saloa or Futsal?
For me personally I would say futsal. Its a FIFA recognised version for a reason. Thats not to say there is not a place for technical development strategies such as Futebol de Saloa or Coerver coaching, but my personal view is we need to teach the kids the game and if it’s futsal we are teaching then we need to be playing futsal and if it’s football we are teaching then futsal is the closest thing to the eleven a side game that would get the most realistic game returns for players. After all we are trying to improve our players to become the best guessers they can be on a futsal or football pitch, if we don’t expose them to these situations that are fluid and vastly moving within element of real competition how can we ever expect them to get better.



 3/ How important is it for youth players to play Futsal/ small sided games?
I think it has to be done if players are to become all round accomplished players and develop in to athletes that can make quick, skilful decisions in the blink of an eye. It’s no surprise to be that Spain are top of the world football rankings and Brazil have been dominant for so long. Players may not formally play futsal in these countries but recreationally they are growing up with the game playing in schools and learning within it. Then when they get to a certain age they choose their exit route. It’s amazing how Spain have not lost a game of futsal in open play for 6 years and also so dominant in football right now. You could also see Manchester United’s and Barcelona’s development of youth as they both work hard throughout the age groups in 4v4s which in essence is futsal on grass. It’s great that the new football programme here in England is making children play small sided games till older age groups as if nothing else players will be getting around 33% more touches on the ball like in futsal, which we know is a big part of learning. That’s without talking about all the other benefits we have been chatting about.



 4/ Do you think the popularity of Futsal is growing in England?
For sure. Futsal is growing slowly but shortly and for me will keep moving. As long as adults and coaches take the time to fully understand the game and not look at it and view it as just 5 a side which is what a lot of coaches at all levels do sometimes then it has to get bigger. The learning practitioners already see great value in it and the Premier League and other football clubs are starting to write it into their programmes which is only a good thing as youngster’s coming through will be exposed to the game and inevitably learn from the game. The bigger challenge for me is changing a culture and the adult mindset which differs within every county, I always ask coaches do you know what futsal is or do you think you know? But like I say this for me is Futsal’s biggest challenge because at the end of the day ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’.



 5/ Is Futsal the main reason why Brazil and now Spain have been dominant in world football?
I’m not sure I buy into the argument that futsal is main reason for Brazil and Spain’s success but I’m sure it has an impact. Is it measurable, no! And at the moment in football we want to measure everything. I do however think it is one of the strong elements that has played a massive part in individuals development. What is more, we can not ignore the facts such as Spain being number one in the world in both sports, the 6 out of the top ten futsal nations are also in the top ten as football nations in the world. There is for sure a competition correlation. If you also look at the best gifted players in the world that play football so autonomously, they seem to have had futsal in their life one way or another. Again we can not dismiss this as coaching practitioners.

To find out more about the International Futsal Academy ran by Michael, click on Logo below:

Overload Exercises – Playing back to play Forward

2V1,3V2,4V2,4V3 Overload Games – Playing back to play Forward

Here are some exercises that encourage players to play back to open up to be able play forward. Each exercise works on reaction time, speed of play, awareness, first touch, decision making and also defensive principles.

The exercise can be excellent for GKs to feel more comfortable at playing out with their feet. Also the 4v2 and 4v3 exercises can be great to work with Defensive Midfielder in a 4-3-3 (1-4-1-2-3) for 11v11 or 7 v 7 (1-2-3-1).

2v1, 3v2, 4v2, 4v3 Games:

















Fake, Take & Break 1v1 Exercises


Here are a number of 1v1 Exercises that  encourage reaction, speed of play, turns, fakes, breaking into space (acceleration). All exercises can be used for all ages. It is important to make all games competitive. With all exercises encourage players to do fakes to create space.

Fakes – examples: Scissors, Step Over, Double Scissors, Snake, Ronaldhino etc.

Coaches can give players points for scoring goals and for using fakes to score, Encourage creativity.

1V1 Games Below:



















Q&A with Dan Abrahams – Soccer/Football Psychologist


Dan Abrahams is a global sport psychology consultant and coach scientist. He regularly consults with footballers across Europe, most notably in the Premier League. He has had some successful case studies over the past decade including helping Carlton Cole go from forgotten West Ham reserve team player to England international in just 18 months. He has delivered to a range of governing bodies including the Premier League, the FA, the PFA, the LMA and has presented at the Grassroots Conference and at the World Science in Soccer Conference.He is passionate about de-mystifying sport and performance psychology and has recently written his first book on the psychology of football called ‘Soccer Tough.’

His website is at

You can also follow Dan on Twitter: @DanAbrahams77

To buy the book please click on the front cover of Soccer Tough (Below): 

Questions from….

1/ What can a Sports Psychologist do to help soccer players ?

Where do I start? A sport psychologist provides a range of services, helping soccer players with challenges on and off the pitch. Off the pitch a sport psychologist can help a player develop emotional intelligence/toughness and social intelligence. By emotional intelligence I mean being able to cope with tough times, being more self-aware and being able to develop self-belief. Socially, being able to fit into a group, handle conflict and manage relationships with coaches, parents etc. On the pitch a sport psychologist can help with performance challenges such as lacking confidence, managing distractions, improving focus, and managing intensity levels. To my mind a big part of the job is helping players bridge the gap between training and playing – so helping develop structured (and confident) thinking on a day to day basis leading up to a game, helping deliver deliberate practice/training and helping devise a pre match routine. Perhaps an underestimated role the sport psych has is in working with coaches – helping coaches (and managers) develop a culture of excellence, helping build a team, and helping coaches deliver training sessions that improve cognitive skills such as awareness, focus and pattern recognition. I always say the sport psych fits somewhere in between the coaching staff and the players.

2/ How can a coach deal with team motivational problems?

That depends on how you are defining motivation. If you have a ‘lacklustre’ team you may need to set individual and team process goals. If everyone’s noses aren’t pointing in the same direction then have a team meeting and get them to set attitudinal rules and also targets for the end of the season.

Motivation is determined by importance and confidence, so as a coach your job is to raise these two attributes.

3/ Most players have experienced nervousness before a big game, how can coaches help this?

Help players develop a pre match routine that helps them pinpoint their focus and build their confidence. I always advise players to treat their physical warm up as a mental warm up and give them a few triggers and behaviours to get them into the correct mindset. It’s about sitting the players down as a group and getting each of them to write a plan that starts an hour and a half prior to kick off.

4/ How important is mental imagery?

It’s very important for a player to MANAGE his mental imagery. Every player images to some degree…but not all players know how to manage their images. In my new book Soccer Tough I teach players small ways to be able to do this. For example, asking yourself a question eg “What does my best game look and feel like?” This question opens up a catalogue of positive images related to your game. This influences how you feel about your game and subsequently influences how you perform on match day.

But lets put this into context. I’ve heard some consultants (most often trained in ‘NLP’) preach the benefits of imagery. It does indeed help and there is some solid science behind the mental technique. But it isn’t a replacement for physical practice and its benefits shouldn’t be taken out of proportion.

5/ A lack of self-confidence will have adverse effects on performance how can coaches help this?

Help a player to manage his/her self talk day to day. Soccer Tough devotes 3 chapters to this. I think how a soccer player speaks to him or herself on a daily basis is an important mediator of success. A coach must ask him or herself “What are my players rehearsing in their mind everyday?” The perfect place to manage this is on the training ground. Help players leave the training ground with their strengths in mind…with what went well in training in mind.

6/ How important is Goal Setting?

It’s very individual specific. I’m not convinced by outcome goals. I think people have to hold onto something meaningful…’meaning’ is more important than ‘goal’. Wanting to be a professional soccer player ultimately comes down to wanting to be happy, accomplishing something tough etc. Outcome goals are out there for everyone anyway…I’m not sure you need to write them down.

I think process goals are important. I help players set them for training and matches. But I don’t call them goals…I call them your ‘training script’ and your ‘match script’ because I think they drive your self talk on the pitch (hence the term script.) Again Soccer Tough has a couple of chapters dedicated to setting your match script.

7/ Should players practice concentration as a skill?

Yes…on the pitch! I’m not really into meditation as a route to improve in-game focus because I don’t think that type of practice is specific to the soccer environment. Meditation or mindfulness are great things to do…but as exercises to develop resistance to stress more so than improve specific soccer concentration (I am of course happy to be proved wrong…but I don’t think researchers will ever be able to do this.)

Focus in soccer is complex. Quirks of the brain make it difficult. The brain is attracted to the most important thing in its environment – the ball. So players will always be distracted by the ball. The brain also loves to focus on problems. So players will always be distracted by a bad refereeing decision or a mistake they’ve made. Soccer players need to consciously play ‘in the moment’ and focus on the things they can control – but it takes conscious effort everyday, and you still won’t master it. Soccer Tough addresses plenty of in-training, in-game ways to improve focus.

8/ What factors should coaches take into account when building a team?

Everyone counts. As tough as it is time wise you need to get around everyone and chat t them individually…tell them what you want from them individually and as a team mate. Make every player feel special – especially the ones with least ability. A coach should imagine every player has a tattoo on his or her heart saying “Make me feel great.”

The other aspect would be communication. In your training session coach, develop and demand great communication. You can’t insist on this enough. Have players work on this every single training session.

Guest Session with Aaron Danks – Academy Coach at WEST BROMWICH ALBION


Aaron Danks is a UEFA A Licensed coach at West Bromwich Albion. He also does performance analysis for the club. He works with players from the age of 6 to 18 years old. You can follow Aaron on twitter @coachdanks

Here is a Crossing and Finishing session done by Aaron for

Note: Click on session to make image larger

Is it Leagues or Culture that Affect Players Development… or both?

Is it Leagues or Culture that Affect Players Development … or both?

I have worked both in England and the US watching players develop and become great players. However i have also seen too many players drop out of the game to quickly. I always think if there wasn’t too much of an emphasis on winning, would all players play. Being a coach myself i always want to be successful. But what is success?

Is success producing a top player who goes on to be a top professional player’s? success  watching kids play with a smile on their face and improving week in week out? or is it winning a league, trophy, medal etc?

Do not get me wrong it is great to win but it is how teams/coaches go about winning that can discourage a players development. I recently did an article on Performance over potential (Is Englands problem Player Identification) and it stated that potential can be over shadowed by performance. My questions are.. does setting up Leagues at youth level hurt long term development? Are there coaches out there that are playing the strong physically dominant players every minute of every game to win the game? Does the style of play get affected because teams/coaches think they have to win and in turn hinder a players development?

Each coach has their own philosophy and i believe that each person sees the game in a different way. This is fine however, do coaches see success as winning or developing players to play at the highest level they can?

In both the US and UK there is a winning mentality and a culture that is inpatient to development. There are many great coaches out there who (in my opinion) try to teach the right things and don’t sacrifice development over winning a game.

Landon Donovan is a great example of Player Development in the States.

“It’s amazing to me that people put so much emphasis on trying to be tactical and worry about winning when it doesn’t matter when you’re 12 years old,” Landon Donovan

Setting up a league sets up expectation. There becomes an expectation that a lot of parents want to finish top of the league. Emotions become part of the game because now there is added pressure. Pressure to perform to win the game and many youth players if its 6 yr olds to 15 yr olds cant handle.

I am a huge believer that a coach creates the environment on the sidelines (for the good or the bad). Coaches are a example for the parents. If coaches become so engraved in winning then parents do. If a coach creates a teaching environment than parents will see what the coach is trying to work on.

Another question i ask is do players play with freedom and express themselves. Do they want to take the risks that they would do in the park playing with their friends etc… Or does the game mean so much to coaches and parents that the players become robotic. Soccer/Football in my opinion is about making good decisions in the right areas of the field. However too much command style coaching can lead to predictable robotic players because coaches are thinking of getting that win.

Parents can also affect a players development…

Parents who allow and trust the coach’s to coach to improve their child’s game allow the development process to happen slowly. Parents who get caught up in the winning and coach from the sidelines want an immediate result are hurting their child. At my club we have a parent contract that all parents have to sign. No coaching on the sidelines is a huge one for us. This is vital to allow a player to concentrate on the game and play with no fear or distraction. I believe Parent education is just as important as player education. Constant communication with parents about what you as coaches are working on is huge as it allows parents now to see the game differently. If coaches and parents do not interact than it becomes a guessing game for the parents. Why is Jonny passing the ball back to the GK? Why is he playing Defender now? Why is coach bringing him off? etc.

Here is a link below to Positive Parenting by US Youth Soccer:


I believe there are so many factors to hurt player development and creating a league could be one. However as mentioned before its is the coach that creates a learning environment. Coaches have a responsibility to teach players the enjoyment of the game and not games to become pressured environments that youth players cannot handle.

Do we need to implement leagues?

It is great to be competitive however in my opinion leagues should be catered to certain age groups. Young players cannot sometimes handle the pressure. When should winning matter and leagues be in place. I would love to here some feedback if leagues should be in place? If they should should they be catered to level of teams players? What age groups should league start?

Here is a powerpoint from the Dutch FA (KNVB) on player development. They create leagues but what is the culture of their nation. Holland amazes me as the population is only 16 mill people and they produce top international players on a regular basis.

dutch vision on development

Do their coaches create a learning environment instead of a winning at all costs one? Do the parents create a learning environment instead of a winning one? Do they play the physically dominant players to win games?

The FA and USSF are working hard on player development and also coach development. Consistent education to players, coaches and parents has to happen. A culture has to change. To have change people need to allow change and have a open mind to it. If parents, coaches, players become impatient then a nation that could fulfill its potential will always be trying to run before it can walk.

The views are my own, i would love some feedback…

Thanks for reading, Jamie

Possession Exercisies

Here are some Possession Exercises working on Movement, Awareness, ball control, decision making:

Warm up activity:










Conditioned Passing Games