During the 1997 Orange Classic Tournament at Miami Lakes, Florida, I went out to see the U17G Stone Mountain team play a semifinal match one cold evening. When I got to the field, the match had been moved, so I watched a training session on a field near the parking lot. A trainer, 5 field players, and a goalkeeper trained on half of dimly lit field. I do not know the name of the trainer, the players appeared to be 17 to 20 year old men. I missed the start of the session, and had to leave before it concluded, but the portion of the session observed is recorded here.

The training session was in Spanish, and there was no place to sit close by, so I could not make out all the coaching points, but it was a very unusual session in several other ways.

  • The coach did not talk much at all, just a few short instructions.
  • Only three or four balls were used.
  • No cones, bibs, or flags were used.
  • Whenever a ball went out of play, the shooter sprinted to bring the ball back to the coaches feet. All other players would sprint with the shooter to the ball or to the goal and then sprint back to their line or area of play.
  • None of the exercises lasted more than 5 minutes, some shorter. Things moved swiftly.
  • The training session worked the keeper intensively, and the keeper gained as much from the session as the field players. The fact that each exercise was fairly brief allowed the keeper to play with full intensity, and to then defocus and rest between exercises.
  • Although the players had to stop and shag the ball often, and even though play stopped until the ball was returned to the coach's feet, the work rate was very high for all players.

Putting it to Use

Make your own practice with the Miami Lakes session in the middle. Provide your own warm-up to introduce the session, and select your own sequence of conditioned games and free play to follow the session.

For the simple exercises that have no pressure, introduce a defender to progress the exercise to a second stage with pressure.


Train strikers to fight to turn hips to goal before shooting, and to improve their ability to strike an accurate shot on first or second touch. Provide keeper opportunity to improve quickness at popping up to ready position to stop rebound shots.

Coaching Points

Strikers finishing to goal must fight to turn their hips to goal to be consistently successful in making an accurate shot on goal. Learning to move to the ball, to adjust the placement of the non-kicking foot, and to turn hips to goal before shooting will improve the quality of the shot and will open up more of the goal to the shooter.

Keepers need to be able to recover to a ready position to deal with rebounds and outside shots setup by a deflection or a drop pass. The keeper's footwork and forward stance, once up, are critical to dealing with the second shot.

Technical Exercises

For all exercises, when shot goes high or wide, all players sprint to goal and back to ready position, player who missed shot sprints to shag loose ball, even if ball boy is available to help. Play does not resume until ball is returned to coach's feet.

1 - Hips to Goal.

Hips to Goal

1. Hips to Goal Line of players 30 yards from goal, coach with supply of footballs (2-3) at 23 yards from goal.

Player at front of line sprints to coach, circles coach, 360 degrees. For example, player approaches coach to player's right side, does sharp left turn around coach, then, after rounding coach, receives ball somewhere on the side of the coach where the player originally approached.

Coach plays ball out to side, at a random angle and random distance between 1 yard and 10 yards from coach. Player adjusts to ball, turns hip to goal, strikes ball to goal with goalie.
2 - Keeper Recovery to Ready Position.

Keeper Recovery

2. Keeper Recovery to Ready Position
Coach at intersection of 6 and goal-line with supply of footballs. Line of players 25 yards out with footballs. Keeper in goal.

Coach serves ball to keeper, ball going sharply across goal area but going somewhat outward from goal, as if served to shooter just outside goal area. Keeper dives to save, cutting off service to imaginary shooter. Keeper pops up.

Shooter from 25 yards tries to score, keeper tries to recover to save. Shooter must start shot as soon as keeper touches ball served by coach.
3 - Preparing with First Touch.

Preparing with First Touch

3. Preparing with First Touch Coach with footballs in penalty area near edge of goal box, to one side of goal. Keeper in goal. Line of players inside half-way line. Coach drives long lofted pass toward half-way line. Player sprints forward, plays ball out of air with one touch kill or semi-control of some kind, shoots to goal with second touch. Variation: Serve to wing, players start on wing. Coaching Points:
a) Get on to the line of play early to enable all surfaces to be used to prepare shot.
b) Focus on making a good first touch that prepares ball for shot on next touch.
4 - Back to Goal Turning.

Back to Goal Turning

4. Back to Goal Turning Small line of players at center circle, each with ball, coach outside penalty area in center of field, back to goal. Keeper in goal.

An attacking player checks into the coach, then back to the ball at an angle. The first player in line serves a hard pass on the ground to the attacker.

The attacker, back to goal, opens shape in one direction, receives the ball and plays it with the inside of one foot across the line of play to the other direction. The attacker turns hips to goal and strikes to goal with the next touch. Coaching Point: Player must open to right, then use right foot to play to left, or vice versa. Player should use the inside of the foot. Variation: Player opens to right, uses outside of left foot to touch ball around defender, continues turn to right to get to space behind defender.
5. Small-sided Possession Play 3v2 or 3v3 possession in a 10x20 space in midfield. Players work on accurate passing, composure on the ball, and showing open to the ball. Coach encourages players to play in small area, and to use a lofted chip or scoop for about every third or fourth pass to play ball over opponents to team mate. Play should be spirited and energetic with a lot of communication. Hard tackling and clearing are inappropriate. The game should be continuous.

6. Seated Catching Coach does this exercise while field players are playing possession. Keeper sits upright in penalty area. Coach with ball provides services to right, left, over, and directly to keeper, including rolled balls, thrown balls, underhanded services, half volleys, volleys, and driven balls from ground. Coach adjusts distance and power, depending on technique.

Final Games

Add your own final conditioned games and final game. Here is a simple example sequence. Exercises selected should minimize dribbling and extended attacker versus defender sequences, and encourage early and frequent shooting. Limiting touches by attacking players, giving extra players to the attacking side, and using restricted areas where attackers have numbers up are all possibilities to achieving this goal.

Final Game 1 - Take it Back.

Take it Back

1. Take It Back Play 3v3 to one goal with keeper. Team gets ball on distribution from keeper, attacks to goal, either getting shot or losing possession. Opponents getting possession must take ball ten yards outside penalty area before attacking to goal. Limit to three touches and encourage quick support for player with ball.

Two Goals

2. Two Goals Set up a Coerver wall as a second goal about 30 yards from the full size goal, depending on the age of the players. Use a coach as the second goalkeeper in front of the Coerver wall. Play 3v3 to two goals with goalies. Encourage early shooting. On any missed shots, all players sprint, shooter to ball, others to post.

3. Four v Two 2v2 in penalty area, with two attackers outside the penalty area, going to one goal with keeper. Defenders may not leave penalty area. Strikers in area play one touch, but have a second touch to strike. Strikers must support each other so that each first touch is either a shot or a drop to player who can shoot.