How to Teach Soccer Players to be Tough
Soccer Drills that Will Train Players to be Tough

Why the word "Brave" is better than "tough" or "aggressive". Use the word "Brave" instead of "tough" or "aggressive" -- it sounds better to kids and their parents and is a positive word with positive connotations. Some parents might not like you trying to make their kid "tough" or "aggressive", but everyone likes bravery because heroes are brave.

  1. Really encourage and reward bravery and improvement (i.e., tougher play). DON'T focus on criticism or embarrassing the timid players -- instead, encourage and reward the brave players and the timid players when they do something brave. Praise brave behavior during practice, during games, at half-time and at the end of games. Let your praise be so everyone hears it and name the player you are praising. Try to get the attention of the player you are praising when the bravery occurred or soon after so they get immediate positive reinforcement. Say their name first to get their attention and say things like: "John, way to go, you're brave". "Bill, that was really brave." "Mark, way to fight for the ball." "Sam, way to block that shot - you're really brave." When a kid does something brave tell him at half time or after the game in front of everyone something like: "You are SO brave." Or, "I'm really proud of you, you're really brave." At halftime or after the game, when everyone is listening say things like "I'm so proud of you guys, you were really brave today and played hard."

    I think the word "brave" gets a better response than the word "tough". Everyone wants to be "brave" -- it's a positive word -- whereas "tough" doesn't sound so positive and some parents might not like you trying to make their kid "tough" or "aggressive". Use the word "Brave" instead of "tough" or "aggressive" -- it sounds better to kids and to their parents and everyone agrees that bravery is a good thing.

    You want bravery to become a quality your players take pride in. You want them to always be brave and to do their best and give their all.

    Make a BIG DEAL out of Bravery. Every kid can't be great, but all can be brave. Buy some special patches (choose one such as the Red Star) and ONLY give that patch for bravery. Give this patch at a special ceremony after each practice AND after each game in front of ALL players and parents. When a player does something brave during a game or practice, make a point of getting their attention ASAP and giving the praise (a thumbs up or something they know means they did good and you're proud of them). If the players can iron the patches on their jersey, Great! But if not, put them on a bag or on a practice shirt or just save them. The point is to give them a cool, special reward and public recognition for being brave. That will let everyone know that bravery is important and will be recognized and rewarded.

    By stating your expectations in a positive, presumptive way, I think your kids will start to believe they ARE brave and start to play to meet your expectations. It's a positive, supportive, encouraging approach that is consistent with the SoccerHelp Philosophy. If you follow this approach it will work and you will be proud you have taken a positive approach, and the players and parents will think you're a great coach. I had to learn this by trial and error � you can avoid my mistakes and have faster success than I did.

  2. Read "Bravery No. 2" on Premium. Here are some tips from it -- there are links in the article:

  1. Play the Premium "Shoulder Tackle & Strength on the Ball" Practice Game at every practice.

  2. Play the Premium "Win the 50/50 Ball or Be the First Defender 1v1 Attacking and Defending"" game at every practice.

  3. Play "Dribble Across a Square" as a warm-up to start each practice. This will improve dribbling, reactions and get them used to traffic.

  4. Teach "Passing to Space" and play the "Dribble Around Cone & Pass Relay Race" Practice Game a LOT to teach "Aggressive Receiving. This is VERY important.

  5. Go to "Video Clips" on SoccerHelp, scroll down to "Training Girls and Women to Win 3-DVD Set", click the Red Link and then click the link to the "Combat game". This is an excellent game for toughening up players and it's good conditioning too.

  6. I would test my very weak players and see if any of them might be a decent Goalie -- how to test them is at "Goalkeeping" in Premium. Basically, throw the ball at them to see if they have good hands and see if they can punt. I've had several large players who weren't good field players but had good hands and could punt and were decent Goalies. If you have a Goalie who could be a great field player, you might be better off with that player at Forward and a Goalie who is decent but who would be a weak field player.

  7. Tell your MF's NOT to go into YOUR Penalty Box -- that way they will be in position to win the balls your FB's clear. Your MF's MUST shift from side to side with the ball so they are in position to win cleared balls. Teach your FB's to clear the ball straight ahead -- that way your MF's know what to expect and you don't risk kicking the ball to your weak side as could happen if the ball is cleared diagonally.

  8. Teach your players how to Shift and Sag -- read "Shifting -- Importance Of" on Premium . For how to teach Shifting and First Defender/Second Defender, see no. 3 and no. 4 of Quick Team Improvement Program.

  9. Teach "Coaching Rule No. 3 -- it's worth 2 goals per game and is easy to teach.

  10. You cannot put scared kids at Fullback or you will get killed. Your 2 aggressive but uncoordinated players might be good at Fullback. Teach them to Clear the ball by kicking it hard straight ahead. You can use the "Chips/Lofted Passes Game" to teach this. Also try the "Longest Kick Game" and "Kick a Crossed Ball Game". Hopefully, you can teach some of the other kids to be brave so they could play Fullback. All you are requiring of your FB's is 2 things: bravery and the ability to clear the ball by kicking it straight ahead.

  11. When your goal is under attack, make your Forward stay Pushed Up a long kick from the ball -- that will keep the opposing FB's off your Half and put your Forward in position to Win cleared balls. Teach your Forward to shift from side to side with the ball so he is in position to win balls that are cleared straight ahead.