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FineSoccer Drill 92 - Shadow Play for Goal Kicks

Many teams don't know how to prepare goal kicks and punts from the keepers (for either team) so even though these are two situations that teams will see quite often over the course of a game, they don't do anything to prepare for it.

One way to practice for these situations is through shadow play (see below for more information on shadow play). Here is a simple way to work on goal kicks (attacking and defending) as well as punts (attacking and defending).

Start 11 v 1 using 3/4 of a full field with the 1 player being a keeper for the opposing team. Any time there is a stoppage of play, the ball goes to the opposing keeper who alternates between taking punts and goal kicks. When she punts the ball, the other 11 must play as if there is opposition and NOT let the ball bounce but instead, must attack the ball. Also, while one goes for the ball, the others around her must provide proper support (see the article on winning the second ball, below) for proper support on long balls). As soon as the ball is brought down and controlled (frequently meaning brought down by one player and controlled by a different player), they then attack the goal at full speed to get used to proper supporting runs and passes. As soon as they get a shot hit (whether it results in a goal or a save or a goal kick) the 11 players must sprint back and prepare for the next ball. One of the things this activity does is get them in the mindset of getting back quickly and into proper spaces. It also is a way for keepers to work on their kicking game.

After a while of doing this, you can do the exact same thing but this time the punts and goal kicks are coming from the attacking teams keeper. This requires different positioning and different ways to receive the ball so must be practiced as well.

Once you are happy with a teams handling of these balls, the next thing to do is put some more opposition in. Don't go 11 v 11 at this point but rather, start with 4-5 players so there is still success but now it's done under some pressure. Gradually build up to 11 v 11 with the same thing taking place.

A game can be played where each team gets 10 goal kicks and 10 punts and they see who can score more goals. Anytime the ball goes out of play, the next punt or goal kick occurs. While this might not seem like it, if you play this game correctly, there is a LOT of conditioning built into it because you get your keepers playing balls quickly and you have players sprinting back into position before the balls get played.

Shadow Training

Shadow training is one of the greatest tools available to a coach. Unfortunately, I don’t think many coaches or players understand the tremendous value in doing this and therefore lose out on one of the easiest ways to teach shape and balance and movement. Also, too many players don’t understand the purpose of shadow training and therefore don’t get the full benefit of it when it’s used at a training session.

The way shadow training works is to put 11 players on the field in positions, and have them move the ball (and themselves) without any opposition to start with. In other words, they are competing against their shadows. The reason for doing this is it allows the coach and players to see where all movement should go based on everyone’s movement off the ball. For example, if you want to work on switching the ball around the back, you would have the players in position and it’s an easy way to see that the support is going to be behind square at all times and that the central midfielders are constantly supporting in triangles. Even if a coach talks about this type of movement off the ball, until the players actually see it and do it, they wont really understand how this is done. By utilizing shadow training, they can all see the movement as well as participate in the movement without regard for worrying about whether it will be successful at first since without opposition, it should almost always be successful.

If, during your preseason, you are trying to put in a whole system of play that involves switching the ball around the back, overlapping runs and near post/far post runs, they can all be tied together in a shadow training session by having the ball start with an outside midfielder, she plays the ball back to a marking back who proceeds to switch the ball around the back to the other marking back who plays it up to the outside mid and then overlaps around her. The ball can be played to an inside mid who then finds the overlapping runner and then the ball is taken down to the end line and served to the near post/far post/12 yard runners. (see diagram below to see this movement)

shadow training

By doing this pattern repeatedly without opposition, the players will be able to see all of the movements and see what is expected of them.

The next step is to add 4-5 opponents against the 11 players (I actually do shadow work 11 v 1 with the one always being a keeper so that we always end up with a shot). This way, the 11 should still experience success but they have to pick up the pace. Once this is being done correctly, go to 11 v 7 and then finally end up with 11 v 11 and see if they can keep the patterns going against real opposition.

I use shadow training more then most coaches because I feel that there are so many benefits to it with very little negatives. One negative is that it’s easy for a coach to lose a teams interest if there is too much talking going on during the shadow work. It’s not unusual for a coach to freeze a team during a pattern to make a point but do this sparingly and get right back into the pattern so you don’t lose the interest. The other negative is that it’s hard to get the intensity up during the shadow work so it’s vital for the coach to be very high energy in order for the players to realize the importance of the shadow work.

If you are not currently using shadow training in your practices, I strongly encourage you to do so. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Winning the Second Ball

This section subject deals with providing support on long balls in the air (punts, goal kicks etc). To use a keepers punt as an example, if the ball is going towards your central back, too often, the rest of the team stops and watches to see what happens when she heads the ball. The problem with doing this is that they usually end up losing the second ball (which is the ball after this central back has headed the ball). Winning the second ball is one of the things that separate the top teams from the middle teams.

The obvious question is "how do you win the second ball?" The keys are to first try to win the first ball and at the same time, to put your team into position to win the second ball. Assuming there is a long punt that the central back is going to try to win, two players MUST try to get behind the central back on 45 degree diagonals in case the ball goes over her head or she slightly miss-times her jump and the ball skims off the top of her head, the teammates must be prepared to win the second ball from behind. Another two players should be getting in position in front and on diagonals of the central back to give options for winning the second ball in front of the central back. Since people frequently talk about supporting in triangles, think of this as a triangle in front and a triangle in back for proper support. If the player going to win the first ball KNOWS where her support is, that makes her job that much easier. She knows that if she wins the ball, she can play a ball on a 45-degree angle in any direction and it will go to a teammate. This means she doesn't have to be worrying about where her teammates are while trying to win the ball and also that she doesn't have to worry that if she messes up, she will be in a lot of trouble since she has support behind her ready to help out any way possible.

The absolute first thing needed for a team to win the second ball is to first go after the first ball (if you don't try to win the first ball, you probably wont have a chance of winning the second ball). The player who decides to fight for the first ball needs to put a name on it (meaning she must call for the ball to let her teammates know she is going for it). If a player does NOT hear her teammates call for the ball, she must assume that SHE has to go for the ball. Once the team hears one of their teammates call that she would go for the ball (and this is done by yelling "Lisa's Ball!" and NOT "my ball"), the players must immediately run into position to provide support at the proper angles. The next communication would be the players calling "you have support behind" and "I'm to your right" to let the player fighting for the ball know where her support is without having to look around.

Doing things like always providing support on long balls and communicating in these types of situations are what makes the difference between success and failure.

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