designed by Jay
U17 National Team Coach
USSF National Coaching Coordinator
This clinic was created by Jay Miller, U17 National
Team Coach and USSF National Coaching Coordinator. Jay Miller taught a speed of play
session at the Georgia Soccer AGM, 11 January 1997, held at the Gwinnett Civic Center in
Duluth, Georgia. Jay Miller repeated the session, with new variations and new insights, at
a coaching clinic hosted by Jacob Daniel, Georgia Soccers state coaching director,
for the ODP coaches and coaching license instructors. The second session was given at
Parkview High School, 12 January 1997, at Lilburn, GA.
I compiled and transcribed my notes from both
clinics. Although Jay Miller worked with U16B ODP, I used the sessions to teach speed of
play for U12G and U15G. The material worked really well, and U12G were playing one touch
for 20 and 30 second stretches on the very first day.
I called Jay out at the ARCO Training Center in
Chula Vista, and he was kind enough to look over the following lesson, beginning with Purpose,
to phone in the typos, and to give permission to distribute the session to interested
soccer coaches who would be willing to take the material right to the field. What a great
Putting it to Use
Read the Introduction section several times to get
a feeling for the material. Note that the fast passing required is really very fast
passing, passes with a great deal of pace, even at fairly close range, hard enough that
players will fall down sometimes. See the importance of working the players past their
comfort zone in order to make progress. Laugh at the mistakes to "authorize" the
kids to try new stuff and to enjoy the challenge, it will be fun.
Note that open body shape is crucial. Open to play
and ready to play on first touch. Glancing around to know where to play the ball just
before receiving is important. Communicating continuously and effectively is also very
important to success.
How to Improve It
On the training session after teaching from the Jay
Miller - Speed of Play session, I taught a defensive pressure progression derived
from the Umbro Pro Training Skill Factor CD. The progression focused on small
group defending by rapid change of shape to keep pressure on the ball. As I observed
defenders pressuring in a 5 v 5 to goal lines in a 25 x 40 yard space, I noticed that the
attacking players were playing very quickly to beat the pressure, using what they learned
in the Jay Miller - Speed of Play session to keep possession and to progress to
the goal line.
So, after you start teaching your team to play
faster when in possession of the ball, increase the level further by teaching your team to
change shape faster and pressure the ball more intensely and vigorously when not in
possession of the ball.
Train players to react mentally and physically more
quickly and to play faster.
Teams from other countries play much more quickly
than US teams. This has been a long standing problem. Top teams have speed of thought,
speed of play, athleticism, and awesome technique. Coaches have to speed things up in
training sessions. Attitude is very important, as is expectation level and attention to
detail, which makes the difference.
- Quick Feet - Feet must move fast,
like runners who run downhill to make feet move more quickly.
- Intensity Level - Should work at
the highest possible physical and mental intensity level during exercises. Better to work
15 minutes at full pace than 30 minutes at half speed. Can not play half speed in match.
Play with full intensity, then extend period over time as players adapt.
- Accuracy and quickness - efficient
technique to play fast.
- Over Hitting Passes - players must
speed passes to give receiver time to clean up pass and turn. Slow pass gets receiver
killed. Too strong a pass is better than too soft or too short - defenders can clear
passes played in front, and attackers then have to recover. Passes too long go into
corner, but are safe.
- Body Shape and Team Shape - are
both crucial to playing fast. Player has to fight for a good body shape and position to
support quickly. Player has to think quickly and think ahead. Cant disengage
mentally when the ball is out of play.
- Attitude - to stretch limits, must
challenge team to get quick play going, characterize slow play as boring. Goofing around
is OK, but when players step on field they have to be ready to start training seriously
- Beyond Comfort Zone - To develop
speed of play, players have to train outside of their comfort zone in order to develop
speed of play. Anything that is comfortable is a waste of time. Coach must insert players
into an challenging environment. Not an unrealistic environment, as this discourages
players, but uncomfortable. Training should be just outside comfort level, but not way
out. Players have to learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable.
- Challenge - To reach outside
comfort zone, players must be challenged. Competition is challenging. For example, 1v1 to
goal with keeper. Add pressure to make it real. Increase pressure to increase discomfort.
Coach must keep expectation level moving ahead of players ability.
- Seriousness Training - should be
all business as soon as players step onto the field. Social time stops when the touch-line
is crossed. No social stuff on field.
- Competitiveness - have to make
Technical Warm Up
Each practices technical warm up should
contain new, fresh, innovative, interesting, and demanding material. Duration of 40
minutes is typical.
Warm Up Exercises:
- Two players with one ball, 6 feet apart, one touch
passing, quickly. Increase the pace of the pass to make it more challenging. Goalkeepers
doing same exercise. Points:
Do it perfectly each time
Test your partner but make realistic passes
Dont get caught flat footed - play on toes
- Two players with one ball, 7 yards apart, passing.
Player receiving must clean up pass and take off line of play on first touch, and must use
a fake first.
- Two players with ball. Juggle 4 or 5 touches, pass
to partner, move to new space after passing.
- Partners at 10 to 12 yards, one ball, striking
passes to each other as hard as possible to feet. First player to make three mistakes
Challenge partner with hard pass
Clean up each pass received and make it come ready to play a foot in front or so, not
between legs (play ball out of feet).
- Partners with ball, 10 yards apart, as server and
receiver. Server randomly strikes ball hard, challenging partner, or passes softly so that
receiver has to move to the ball quickly, drop ball, recover space quickly. Change roles
after 15 or 20 balls.
- Partners, 6 feet apart, passing quickly and striking
ball firmly. Coach times for 15 or 30 seconds, players count passes. Check results,
announce, challenge pairs to do better than previous best, repeat.
- 5 v 2 Possession in 10 x 20 Grid -
Player who causes loss
of possession goes into the middle.
Players in middle must win possession of the ball, not just kick it away.
Challenge - As exercise progresses, add restriction: if a player on the
possession team uses two touches, the next may only use one touch.
Challenge - Time team with ball to see how long possession can be
Body shape - players must open body shape and be ready to receive and to
play ball on first touch. At the highest levels of play, details like this make all the
Exercise mechanics - requiring defenders to win possession makes
continuous play possible with no pauses to shag cleared balls. Rectangular space shape
gives exercise direction.
Support - defenders work to trap ball in corner, so support must appear
on both sides of ball instantly, and supporting players have to open their body shape so
as to be able to receive a hard pass to feet and to be able to play a one touch ball.
Splitting defenders - player with ball must try to split the defenders
after they are attracted to ball and start to close down player with ball.
Intensity - encourage players who choose increase the intensity of the
exercise on their own, like trying to play one touch.
Adjust intensity by changing the number of touches allowed. (Editors
note: Probably can adjust space as well.)
- 3 v 3 v 3 in 20 x 30 Grid -
Play for possession, 2 teams v
1. Team causing loss of possession transitions to defending immediately.
Defending players must win possession in bounds to become attackers.
Limit possession players to two touches. Can add goal - 12 passes completed forces
defenders to do push-ups.
Shape - individual body shape and team shape determine quickness and
Quickness - emphasize getting team shape quickly to support ball.
Toes - play on toes, be ready to play on first touch.
Hard Passing - passing must be hard - fast to feet.
Pace - coach should push the pace of play.
Split Defenders - two adjacent players should work to draw defenders by
interpassing, then split defenders with pass.
Perfection - improvement only happens at this activity when perfection is
On the Floor or Move - dont give lofted pass unless you move to
support a one touch pass or semi-control from receiver.
Note to Coach - small group tactics is a major area of need for US teams
now, including 4v4 play and smaller sided. At full-sided tactics, US teams have reached an
- 4v4 + Helper for Attackers + 4 Target
Players in 30x40 Field -
with ball gets point by playing ball into target players at one end and then successfully
reaching target players at other end with ball.
When team gets goal at one end, team can score immediately by reaching other end.
Play is continuous. Opponents transition to attack when they win ball.
Target players work for whichever team has possession and can score and pass to each
other. Team with ball uses target players to change point of attack.
Target players are allowed unlimited touches at the beginning of the exercise, then
restricted to two or one touch later.
With larger space, can play 5v5 plus 2 players working for team with ball.
Body shape - and position is most important component. Player must be
available to ball instantly and must fight to get to good position. Running to support
angle pass opens space too.
Position - even 2 or 3 feet of difference in support position makes a big
difference in ability to support.
Fight for position - Supporting players must fight to get best possible
supporting position. They have to work very hard.
Vision - encourage players to look up and to see the whole field.
Move the ball - Dont let the ball stop. Stationary ball is easy to
Stop Exercise - Give players a rest by stopping the exercise. Coach can
not ask for maximum performance too long, and can not just continue for 45 minutes at 75%
level, because learning to play at 75% pace is useless. Need to develop ability to play at
full pace for longer intervals, finally reaching 90 minutes.
Defense - Coach defenders during the last 5 minutes to help them. In this
exercise, emphasize sending 2 players to close down ball, leaving two players to deal with