Working on Communication

This month on the Modern Soccer Coach Worldwide Mentorship Programme we have been looking at communication and how it is an essential tool for any successful coach.

Following on from defining our Coaching Philosophy last month, the communication piece has been both challenging and hugely interesting at the same time.


Effective Communication

I have always tried to make a conscious effort to think about what I will say to players before a session, and to also about de-brief questions to ensure the players understand the session objectives.

Same applies for match days, I would have a couple of simple points that I want to get across to the players pre-match, then we always de-brief at the end of the game.

Post-game Huddle

What this month has made me more aware of is that there are so many more opportunities to effectively communicate with players. Whether that’s general chit-chat before training, before getting on the bus for match day or even taking 60 seconds before a game to explain clearly to a player what my plan is for him or her in the upcoming game.

Especially with younger players, those informal chats before a training session helps to give an opportunity to better understand the player, see what teams they are watching and generally to engage in football chat together. This in turn helps give me an idea of the type of football they enjoy and which players they may aspire to be like which contributes to my future planning.

Every interaction with a player is equally important and how we handle those opportunities can determine whether players buy in to what you’re trying to do.

Communication on the pitch

Youth Football - Communication

Our first Webinar this month was with Gérard Jones where we looked at “Communication on the pitch”.

Gérard spoke to us about:

  • How to define a game-style
  • Coaching vocabulary
  • Improving player communication
  • Consideration for non-verbal cues

One thing which I found interesting about this discussion was creating Game Calls. A common language between coaches and players that relate to your style of play.

For example, we would often use the cue “Open up” with our players. They understand that this means to open their body shape and look for width on either side of the pitch.

By developing a common language it helps to get your philosophy across and provide clarity for everyone involved.

Communication off the pitch


Our second webinar was with the excellent Donna Fishter where we discussed off-field communication.

We looked at the concept of “People first”, “Person next” and “Player last”.

Donna spoke about how every human being needs Safety, Mattering and Belonging. By getting to know our players as “People first” and taking time to listen to them it helps give them as sense of purpose and self worth within the group.

“Communication is connection”
Donna Fishter

A simple thing which I took from the webinar was to always speak to the player by name. Consciously make an effort to welcome each individual player to training and on match day by
quite simply using their name.

“They have to buy into you before they listen to what you teach”.

Putting it into practice

Communication is difficult, it can often include having tough conversations which sometimes are easier to avoid than to deal with.

One of the main benefits of the MSC Programme is having a mentor to chat with about your day to day coaching and learning from their experience.

I had a great discussion with my mentor Bobby this month about being clear with players about their roles on match day. This is something I have already been able to put into practice and has been well received by players.

In addition to the content from the MSC Programme this month I have also been reading The Future Coach by Tom Bates which has tied in nicely with the communication theme. A great read, I would highly recommend it!

We’re coming towards to business end of the season so there are plenty of sessions and games to look froward to.

Looking forward to getting into our next topic on the programme for March.

Thanks for reading.


Defining my Coaching Philosophy

The first task for our Modern Soccer Coach Mentorship Programme is based on defining our Coaching Philosophy.

My Coaching Philosophy

The process of defining a Coaching Philosophy

It’s something I have thought about but never taken the time to actually document what sort of coach I want to be and my coaching influences.

We started with a Webinar on “Designing a Philosophy” with Gary Curneen, the Coach behind the Programme where we discussed how to define a Philosophy and looked at examples.

Notes from "Designing a Coaching Philosophy" Webinar with Gary Curneen

About my Coaching Philosophy

I’ve broken my Philosophy into three areas:

  1. Me, the Coach
  2. Style of Play
  3. Developing the Young Person.
  4. 1. Me, the Coach

    In the first section I have defined who I want to be as a coach, the attributes I want to develop and also look at some of my coaching influences.

    2. Style of play

    Within the Style of Play section I look at the teams and players that influence my desired style of play and then break it down to look at how I want my teams to play in possession, out of possession and in transition.

    Chris Colhoun Coaching Philosophy - Style of Play

    3. Developing Young People

    The final part of my Coaching Philosophy looks at Developing Young People. As a Youth Development Coach I feel it is important to think of more than football and encourage good values and respect in the players I coach.

    To be continued…

    The process of defining my Coaching Philosophy has been interesting and enjoyable. While I have always had a good idea of how I want my teams to play, I have never and actually taken the time to document this.

    I have learnt so much more about my Coaching Philosophy through this process but it has made me realise that while many of my principals will stay the same, my Philosophy will evolve over time.

    Now I have a starting point and will refer back to it on a regular basis but I will continue to develop my coaching style and with it my overall Coaching Philosophy.

    Surround yourself with good people

    Thank you to all the coaches I have spoke to throughout this process. I’ve had a chat with several people based in various parts of the world, many for the first time, and have learnt a lot from our discussions.

    If anyone would like to chat about my Philosophy or coaching in general please feel free to get me on Twitter or drop me an e-mail.

2018 Modern Soccer Coach Mentorship Programme

Modern Soccer Coach LogoI was delighted this week to find out I have been successful in my application for the 2018 Modern Soccer Coach Mentorship Programme.

Here’s what the Programme is all about:

Modern Soccer Coach Worldwide Mentorship program is an exciting new initiative designed to develop young, ambitious coaches and give them access to elite coaches from a different soccer background, who have experience at the highest level. The program is specifically designed where the mentees will get guidance, support, challenges and have the opportunity to bounce career-related ideas off someone they may not have otherwise met.

My Mentor

I have been teamed up with Maryland based coach Bobby Puppione who will be my mentor throughout the program.

Bobby is the former Director at Cincinnati United/ CUP and USSF ‘A’ Licence, a highly experienced coach and I’m looking forward to learning from his experience.

What does the programme involved?

Over the next 6 months I will be working on a 6-month structured programme aimed at providing opportunities to develop my Philosophy and coaching delivery.

I’m really excited for the opportunity and I’m looking forward to getting started!

Possession and transitions

Description: This session is designed to focus on passing technique when under pressure. Throughout the session players should be encouraged to be comfortable in possession, to support the player on the ball and to be communicating at all times.

The session will develop to introduce scenarios, the team may be 2-1 ahead and need to see out the final 5 minutes of a game. They should be comfortable in possession on a match day.

Coaching Points:

  • Accurate passing technique
  • Be confident in possession
  • How to support player in possession
  • Control the game – see the game out and do not panic in possession

Warm up – Passing squares (10mins)

Passing Square

Description: Groups of 5 or more, practice basic passing around a square. Repeat for both feet and progress to introduce combinations if necessary.

Rondos (2x3mins with 2mins rest in between)

Description: Within the same passing squares, players form a circle with 1/2 defenders in the middle. Progression from previous activity in order to develop passing technique when under pressure.

Rotate defenders with whoever looses the ball. Work for 3 minutes with 2 minutes rest, then work for a second 3 minutes.

Possession – Transition game (20mins)

Transition Possession

Description: Teams start in their own 15x15m area, coach starts play by passing into either team. The team without the ball must send 2 defenders in to make a 5v2. Team in possession must keep the ball, 5 passes = 1 goal. If defenders intercept the ball they can transfer the ball without pressure. Team who lost possession then repeats.


  • Add pressure – When team looses possession they can now try to re-gain possession before the ball is transfered
  • Limit touches

SSG – Large goal v Target goals

Playing out from the back Small Sided Game
Playing out from the back Small Sided Game

Under 12 three team session

Description: Session designed to work with a large group of players. Approx 18-21.

Warm up – Three Team Skills Challange

Skills Challange Warm up

Technical practice – Three Colour Passing

Three Colour Passing

Progressions – Three colour possession

Three Colour Possession

SSG – Corner Possession

Three Colour Corner Possession

Free play

Free Play - 8v8

Under 12 Switching Point of Attack

Description: Building on last week’s WIMPS session we will work on variations of passes and how they can be used to switch the point of attack in a game.

Coaching Points:

  • “Width in attack”
  • When to switch play? (When the game is compact)
  • Types of passes to switch play
  • Using Possession to switch point of attack
    • Warm-up

      Description: Technical warm-up based on ball control, dribbling and turn technique.

      Turn variations:

      • Inside hook
      • Outside hook
      • Cruyff turn
      • Drag Back
      • Insides/toe taps

      Technical – Passing Variations

      Passing Variations

      Description: Activity to develop variations of passes, looking at when to use which pass in a game in order to switch the point of attack.

      Players split into three teams, one team in either end zone with the third team in the middle with a ball. Player in the middle must play a 1-2 with one end player who then plays a long pass to opposite end zone. Middle player then repeats.

      Passing Variations:

      • Punch pass: Using the instep, drive through centre of the ball. Most accurate.
      • Driven pass: Using the laces, knee over the ball and drive through centre of the ball. Most powerful/quickest
      • Curled pass: Using instep, wrap foot around the ball to add spin.
      • Lofted pass: Using laces/instep, strike under the centre of the ball. Can be quick and evade defenders when used appropriately.

      SSG – 2 Goals

      SSG - Wide Play

      Description: Max 6v6, two teams each have two goals to attack. 1 Point for goal in either net. If a team can quickly switch the point of attack and score they will receive 3 points.

      Develop understanding of WIMPS, can we always have someone in support deep and ahead of the ball? Show how to use possession to quickly switch the point of attack as well as various passing techniques.

      Free play

A Guide to Running a Session

One of the best resources for Youth Coaches out there, The Coaching Manual has just published an article on how to plan a session, straight from the Southampton Academy.

The Coaching Manual

A great insight into how sessions are planned at a Premier League Academy, plenty to take into your sessions at grassroots level.

Follow @CoachingManual on Twitter and read the Two Part article on

Implementing a style of play

Reading time: 5 minutes

When you work with youth teams at grassroots level, producing consistent performances can be very difficult as players often only have one or two hours playing together each week.

Soccer Tactics Board

One way to help youth teams produce consistent performances is having a style of play.

Here are a few things I have found helpful in developing a style of play:

1. Be clear about what you want from your team

Do you want to play on the counter, dominate possession, build from the back or play more direct? There’s no right or wrong way, you may need to change your style of play to suit your players but it is important to know as the coach what way you would like your team to play.

2. Talk to your players

Whether you are working with U9, U11 or senior players it is important that they understand how you would like them to play. They may only be 10 or 11 years old but nowadays kids watch a lot of football on TV. Try to relate your desired style of play in their language:

  • “Have you seen how Messi and Ronaldo will take on defenders?”
  • “Watch how Barcelona play out from the back, that’s how we’d like to play out from the keeper”
  • “Who has watched La Liga recently? Do you see how most teams like to move the ball quickly?”

Don’t be afraid to talk to your players about style of play, if you’re trying to implement a style throughout your club it is important to start this with your youngest teams early.

3. Position specific Roles and Responsibilities

Now your players understand how you would like them to play as a team, it is also important they know how they each fit into the jigsaw.

Where should they be when you have the ball? How should they react when you don’t? Rather than bombarding players with information, one or two tips to an individual before a game or at half time can give them a focus. “If our winger can’t play forward, see if you can find space to provide him with an option to keep possession”.

Allow players time in various positions, this will help develop a more rounded player as it will present them with challenges they may not get if they play in the same position every week.

4. Development over winning

Central to developing a style of play is ensuring players have the environment to learn without fear. If for example you are learning to play out from the back, your players will make mistakes and sometimes concede goals, maybe resulting in a loss. It’s important that your players know that you trust them to keep trying, and as they learn they will develop the skills which will benefit them in years to come.

5. Patience, and practise

Be patient with your players, organise your training sessions around the basic techniques which will translate into their style of play on game day. Plan your sessions to be fun, with a specific purpose and let players know how this will help them in a match.

For example: “Today we are going to work on our passing and receiving, this will help us to be more comfortable in possession on Saturday”.

Practise makes permanent!


As coaches we should be moving away from turning up on match day, picking a team and hoping for the best. If you have a common goal which coaches and players understand, and one which everyone buys into, it can be the key to producing consistent performances.

Be clear on how you want your team to play, then talk to your players and get them to buy in to it. Let your players know what their role is in the team and give them the freedom to learn and make mistakes free from scrutiny. Finally, be patient with your players, developing a style of play will take time and lots of practise.

Good luck!

Spacial awareness

Description: Main focus on the session is to help players understand “Spacial Awareness”. This session can also be related to “Playing out from the back”, how can we create options for kickouts when being pressed by opposition.

Warm-up / Arrival – X and O’s Shooting game

Fun game which can be used as a warmup and arrival activity. Two teams play in standard 9v9 nets with no goalkeepers. Have a whiteboard with 9 different types of ways to finish, once a team scores a goal they get an X or an O if that type of finish is on the board. Play continues until one team gets three X’s or O’s in a row.


Passing and Receiving


Two team, both with a ball passing and moving from target play to target player. They must aim to play forward when possible and keep possession when there is interference from the other team. Encourage good movement to support, constant scanning and verbal communication.

Progress to 2/3 touches.

SSG – Possession


Remove one ball, game now becomes a directional possession game. Same coaching points as previous activity. Players will get a point if they can successfully get the ball from one end player to the other.

Team in possession can go back to target player to maintain possession if no options are available.

Coach types of movement to provide support, slow your marker down, move him away then check back to provide an option.

How can we relate this to a Saturday?


Standard 7v7 with goalkeepers, set up a 5 yard zone in front of both goals. First 10 mins teams must go short into this zone to provide options for the kick out.

After 10 mins, encourage short kick outs but show how good movement can open up space further from goal to allow for a more direct kickout. Can we use the width? Where is the space.

Finishing session

Sessions using Coerver practices focused on Passing and Receiving technique.


Coerver - Passing and Receiving Warmup

Setup: 8×6 Area, three groups with one ball.

Description: Each team starts with one server who has a ball, all other team mates are on opposite of area in a line facing the server. Players take turns to receive a pass and return the ball to the server, once they have played a pass they join the back of their group. Change server every 60 seconds, can use hand signal for this to ensure players look up.

Change types of passing and receiving based on ability. Variations include:

  • 1 touch with instep of right foot, 1 touch with instep of left foot
  • Receive with left, pass with right
  • Receive with right, pass with left
  • Outside of right/left (change direction of ball) and pass with same foot.
  • Half volly
  • Thigh and volly(right/left)
  • Chest and volly
  • Head back
  • Control with head and volly

Competition: When you have worked through progressions and find a technique all groups are comfortable with put 60 seconds on clock and see how many complete passes each group can make. If ball goes outside their grid it does not count.



Coerver - Speed 4 (Turning + Finishing)

Setup: As with previous activity

Description: First person from each group stands on the receiver line, when the coach starts play the opposite player must make a pass to the receiver. They must then turn and dribble to the end of the three large cones before shooting into the open goal. The ball must not hit the ground before the net for the goal to count, the team who scores first wins a point.


  • Slalom through cones

Coaching Points:

  • How to receive – Half turn, let the ball run
  • Communication – Tell server where you want it
  • Finishing technique (At speed)

SSG – Diamonds are forever


Setup: 30×20


Free play

Free play - 6v6