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At the end of each season the coaches in our club complete evaluations on the players in their team. The evaluations focus on the four key areas of player development: technical, tactical, physical and psychological. We make comments in each area about the strengths and weaknesses of the player and give them feedback on their progress.
We use a website called ZoomReports.com to complete evaluations for more than 60 teams in our club. The online format allows each coach to have a record of the evaluation and gives the players and parents an opportunity to comment on it as well. This whole process can be overseen by age group directors to make sure that the players are receiving the kind of feedback that will help them to develop.
This week I want to share some of my favorite variations on diamond passing exercises. This is a popular format for training passing technique as well as movement and body positioning but it can get stale and boring if you just do the same exercise over and over.
Keeping technical exercises fresh and interesting for your players ensures that they will be more engaged during training. If they’re able to see how the exercises they’re doing are related to the game you’re also more likely to see the technical work you do in training cross over to the next game you play.
Opening Up from the Middle
After each pass the players move to the middle of the diamond. Before they are to receive the ball each player moves to the cone, opens up and receives the ball before passing to the next player.
This allows you to coach the players to time their run and open their body when they show for the ball.
Two to a Corner
Whether you use cones or triangles, having two players at each corner gives the receiving player an actual person to check away from so they can open up to receive the ball.
You can also incorporate the extra player into the passing combination if you’d like.
Most diamond passing exercises involve the players moving around the outside of the cones. This movement trains the players to turn inside using the inside or outside of the foot.
Showing from the Other Side
I like this pattern because it involves both of the wide players each time. You can also work on passing across the body to a supporting player.
By using only four players you can add dribbling to the exercise. You could also have each player in line have a ball so that the next ball can be played while the last player is still dribbling to the end of the line. This will speed up the activity and correct for poor passes more quickly.
Splitting the Diamond – Dribbling Outside
Creating two triangles gives the players more repetitions while also creating more possible ways of combining. This pattern requires two through balls and a move to go past the cone / flag / mannequin.
The players should switch sides each time so that they complete the exercise using both feet.
Splitting the Diamond – Dribbling Through
This combination works on passing and dribbling to penetrate a defense. It’s easy for players to see how this activity can be related to the game.
Splitting the Diamond – Give-and-Go Through
This pattern creates two opportunities for give-and-goes to break through the defense.
This is a simple variation that adds turning to the pattern. You can have the players complete any of the combinations on the outside before turning the ball to join the other diamond.
Diamond Around a Square
I found this exercise on the Keepitonthedeck Facebook page. I suggest you like this page if you are active on Facebook. They share a lot of great drills and exercises from teams around the world.
I like the format because it involves the diamond shape while working on playing through the last line of defense.
Different Actions at Each Cone
With more advanced players I like to have them complete a different combination play at each cone. This keeps them focused because they have to remember which one they perform at each location. Changing the activity also makes it more similar to the game and less repetitive.
Finally, if your players are up for it, have them decide what they do each time. The receiver can check to the ball or open up. The passer can support and ask for the ball back or move inside for a give-and-go. They could even tell the receiver to hold it and overlap him. The possibilities are only limited by the player’s decision making.
I don’t believe that we should be teaching our players new and ever more complicated exercises each week. If we do then we’re going to spend more time teaching them how to do the exercise than we do on the important technical and tactical coaching points that are going to make them better soccer players.
Using variations on key exercises like diamond passing will keep the activity fresh in the eyes of the players while allowing you to coach the game in a familiar format that will help your players relate the skills back to the game environment which will improve their ability to play the game successfully.
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In the Next Episode
I want to share a training session that really helped my players make better decisions about when to pass and when to dribble.