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Training Session: Defending (Pressure/Cover Base) that Builds to Small Side Game

By Nate Baker I first want to thank the Arlington Soccer Association for asking me to be a part of such a cool initiative.  I also want to thank U-17 Arlington Strikers More »

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Champions League Preview: Bayern Munich vs. Real Madrid

By Nate Baker I’ve watched the first leg in Madrid twice, and although I didn’t take notes, I was very interested in studying two managers who are considered the best in the More »

cover socmm

SocMM’s New Vision

By Nate Baker It’s been a little over a year since SocMM held its last seasonal session (Winter 2013), and it has been about a year and half since SocMM held its More »

Nate Baker at the 2012 Fall Workshop

A Letter from SocMM: SocMM Cancels Summer Camps and Future Sessions

Note: The following is a first-hand letter from the founder of Soccer Mean More, Nate Baker Dear SocMM Family, When I started SocMM almost two and half years ago, my goal was More »

Summer Camp Weeks are Here!

SocMM Announces Two Summer Camp Weeks

SocMM is proud to announce two full-day summer camp weeks for the motivated player.  The camps will receive age-specific training that will improve each player both on-and-off the ball, while also including More »

Training Session: Defending (Pressure/Cover Base) that Builds to Small Side Game

 
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By Nate Baker

I first want to thank the Arlington Soccer Association for asking me to be a part of such a cool initiative.  I also want to thank U-17 Arlington Strikers Red for having the right mentality and giving their full-effort and focus to the session.

Look forward to helping out again next year!

Session Preface:

The session was meant to be a 45-minute primer before the group scrimmaged 11v11.  The topic I was instructed to train was defending, so I tried to build from the base of 2-man defending (pressure-cover) and then build into a bigger small-side game.  At Navy, we are really big on pattern-play when building team agreements when we are IN possession, but within the last year, we have taken that same mindset and applied it to how we train our team defending.  For me, this helps us build a base before even bringing the ball into the session.  It allows us to train the defensive movement of the team on a micro (2-man) and a macro level (entire eleven players within team shape).

Part 1 of the Session (Step and Cover Pattern Work)

We had ten players, so we broke the group into pairs. If you have bigger numbers, you can put three to a group and have one guy take a break in between sets.  The distance of the cones are about eight yards, but you can change that depending on workload and preference.  The coach starts each group in “Steady State” and then shouts “Left” or “Right” to get them to close down the metaphorical cone that represents the 1st attacker (player with the ball), while the weak-side defender provides cover.  As soon as coach shouts “left” each group simultaneously moves into their next position with the covering 2nd defender closes down his corresponding cone (becoming 1st defender), while the original 1st defender falls into a covering position (becoming 2nd defender).  It is the coach’s choice as to how long he makes each set.  The goal is sharp simultaneous movement with the proper technique and body movement.

1st defender’s role is to close the ball with pace and use good body positioning (low athletic stance) to push the 1st attacker (his cone) towards the 2nd defender.  The 2nd defender’s role is to provide cover to intercept a split pass or be able to step and press 1st attacker if 1st defender is beaten off the dribble.  The transition from being 1st defender to 2nd defender (and vice versa) is vital.  Players were expected to work hard to cover the ground with everyone working together in unison, so it would look a piston,  hungry for the coach’s next shout.

The cross-over step should really be a point of emphasis.  I forgot to mention it in the diagrams below, but you should encourage both 1st and 2nd defender to use a crossover step to initiate their movement into the next space.  For me, it is the quickest/efficient way to cover ground when pressing or covering.  Make sure your players never back pedal into space when covering.  Back-pedaling is a less-efficient way of covering ground and should be discouraged.

The below picture shows three groups of two working in unison, which will be different than the two pictures that follow that show stages of the process with one group of two.  I know that might be confusing, so I apologize.

 You can then build in the pattern shouts of “Give-Go” and “Overlap”.  Again, we are building defensive agreements within the team. For the purpose of the exercise, you have to just envision that the two cones your players are closing down are attackers who are literally just passing the ball square, back and forth.  That becomes clear when you think about the press/cover work above, but now we have to imagine the cones trying to “give-go” and “overlap” and paint a picture for the players.

As you can see above, you start the set with your “right” and “left” shouts for however long you want, but when you yell “give-go” the 1st defender will “find the mark” with his hand and establish an inside lane that allows the tracking defender to win the return pass, while quickly tracking with his eyes and body shape where the ball is in case a return pass is ever played (once this is done, you can go back to steady state to start the next set).  The 2nd defender’s role when “give-go” is to close down the square-pass that starts the give-go.  Notice the movements of the two defenders as they move from stage 2 (Left) to stage 3 (Give-Go) and follow the color coordinated arrows to see the movements in depth.  Remember, what you are seeing above is one group moving through three movements, not three groups of two players doing different movements.

Same goes for “Overlap”.  This will probably be the more difficult of the two for the players to conceptualize, but again notice the progression above and the corresponding movements.  Let’s look again at stage 2 (left) and soon as overlap is called, the 1st defender(orange arrows) must move in his defensive stance on a backwards shuffle to account for the weakside cone (2nd attacker getting around for the overlap), while the 2nd defender must now step across and close down the cone with the ball (red arrows).  It is extremely important, each player shouts his responsibility when they diagnose the overlap is coming by shouting “Got Ball” or “Got Overlap”.

Part 2: 4v2 Step and Cover

The next exercise puts the pattern work to practice.  Focus on the step and cover technique that was practiced earlier.  There are two sets of players in each 4×12 yard end zone.  Their goal is to connect as many passes as possible (on the ground) to the group in the opposite end zone as the two in the middle use proper step and cover techniques to win the ball.

It’s important that the two in the middle work together and in unison.  It is the coach’s decision on when to call for a new group of two defenders (and the end zone players) but my suggestion is to just make sure you aren’t stopping it every second to change people in and out.  Leave the end zone guys in for awhile, so you you don’t disrupt the session.  If defender wins the ball, have him quickly pass it back to the end zone players, so the drill can start again quickly.  Any ball that goes far from the grid, reinsert a new ball from coach on side.  The most important thing to stress to your defenders is to not get split and that is a joint effort.

A good way to avoid the split is by introducing the “baseball glove technique”.  Both defenders need to think of the inside of each of their feet as baseball gloves that can intercept any ball played below waist level to their right or left.  Most opportunities to intercept will come from the 2nd defender in a covering position.  I think this exercise is a really good teaching exercise and can be done in a normal training environment for as long as 30 minutes.

I usually start with the endzone players having mandatory two touch, which gives the defenders a half-second more to do their defensive duties.  To make it more challenging, you can allow one-touch.

Part 3: Small-side 7v7 (3-3-1) to Central Targets:

We only had ten players for the session, so I shrunk the space and made it 4v4 to targets and put each team in a 2-1-1 shape, which allowed the pressure-cover themes to come out.  Also, within a small-side set-up, defending give-go’s and overlaps now became new issues that the two defenders didn’t have to deal with in the previous exercise, so I would definitely be looking for an opportunity to show a proper (or improper) example of give-go and overlap defending and refer back to the partner-pattern work they did at the beginning of the session.  The team in possession scores a goal by connecting with the target on the opposite end of the field. The targets always play one-touch if they can, and always play to their own team (rotate targets during natural breaks, ball out of bouds).  Ball should be restarted by a coach on the outside at midfield.

A key element that can be introduced at this phase is “weak-side”.  Weak-side is the 3rd defender’s role in tucking towards the ball, while being able to get to his “man-responsibility”.  I put down three cones centrally to split the field vertically to give them a gauge on when a weak-side player needed to tuck to balance the team.  Just think bigger picture: How would a right-back position himself if his left winger is the first defender?  Setting each group into a shape like a 3-3-1, provides context to how an entire team moves within a defensive shape.

I started with unlimited touch, but I found that playing two-touch allowed for clearer opportunities to spot give-go’s and proper pressure-cover defending.  Although, you potentially sacrifice your ability to bring out an overlap defending opportunity within the game, I think it was for the best.

At Navy, we play a lot of “2-touch. 1-touch” which basically means you can use a max of two touches unless it is a transition (i.e. intercepting a pass from the other team, play restarted from the coach).  I used this rule with the boys and what it did was allow them to see why they were doing all this defending work in the first place…to have the ball themselves!  It’s a very important coaching point that the players learn to have the presence of mind to retain possession once they have won it, and putting a one-touch restriction on transitions forces them to think faster and one-step ahead.

Hope this helps all the coaches out there as they prepare their defensive-themed training sessions.  Feel free to contact me by clicking here if you have any questions on the session.

Champions League Preview: Bayern Munich vs. Real Madrid

 
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By Nate Baker

I’ve watched the first leg in Madrid twice, and although I didn’t take notes, I was very interested in studying two managers who are considered the best in the world who have proactive and gifted team.  It was always going to be interesting to see how they would adapt to challenges presented by both.

Carlo Ancelotti set his team up in a 4-4-2 looking to break on the counter.  I didn’t see the Copa Del Ray Final, but apparently they set up this way against Barcelona as well, and according to the Guardian, he plans on setting up the exact same way.

Pep Guardiola set his team up win a 4-3-3 shape that looked to retain possession for long periods.  The center-midfield of Lahm, Kroos and Schweinsteiger worked almost as a three-man pivot, stretching into the seams at times to out-number in central areas.  Schweinsteiger looked to power forward when the ball was penetrated further up the field, in particular when wingers Robben and Ribery received the ball in wide positions in the final third.

In the end, I think Pep got criticized a bit too munch for the team’s performance and the lack of clear cut chances Bayern created.  Every minute leading up to Madrid’s break through was dominated by Bayern, and they did have chances (there was a Kroos blocked shot from close range just before Benzema’s goal).

I do think Pep does make some tactical changes moving into tonight’s heavily anticipated second leg, and if we are to believe Real Madrid will set up the same way, then this second leg is very much about what Bayern will do tactically.

Pep is the best manager in the world, so it will be interesting to see what he does, but below are five things I think we all can look for tonight, and are changes that I believe will give Bayern the upper-hand in tonight’s match.

1. Changing the shape of the center of midfield

I don’t think we will see the triple-pivot that we saw at Madrid.  Pep set up in this manner to keep possession for longer periods, sacrificing attacking opportunities but also limiting Madrid’s ability to counter-attack.  That strategy did and didn’t work in the end, but now Bayern have to chase the game a bit. I would expect Muller to come into the line-up and play higher up the field.  This will provide a goal-scoring threat in the space behind Mandzukic, and a central target to penetrate to within the build-up.  Muller is also such an intelligent player who can interchange with Robben and Ribery (a point, I will hit on in a moment).

2. The role of the Outside Backs in the build-up (Alaba’s Role)

The one thing I heard harped on when leg 1 finished up was Pep’s decision to play Lahm in midfield, and how this is the sole reason, why Bayern were unsuccessful getting forward on the flanks.  I disagree with this notion.  I thought Rafinha performed better than Alaba, and did his job well.

One thing, I don’t understand in regards to Bayern’s build-up play is the role of Alaba.  You can use your remote numerous times, pause your television and find Alaba in-field and higher than any of the three central midfielders.  Alaba is such a good player and has has obvious qualities in his pace, left foot and his ability to stretch the field horizontally and at times vertically. He and Lahm (who i believe will start at right-back) need to stay wide in the build-up to stretch Madrid’s outside mids.  The main reason they need to do this feeds into maybe the most important tactical change, I think Pep will look to make.

3. Robben and Ribery need to find find the ball centrally on the weakside

Too many times Bayern’s wingers received the ball wide in the final third, which played into Madrid’s hands.  This allowed them (with the OB taking a more narrow position) to double each winger in possession wide with two players (the Madrid Strong-side outside back and outside midfielder).  It was easy to contain for Madrid and was one of the main reasons Bayern was forced into so many crosses.

Bayern was most dangerous when the outisde backs opened up the field’s width, spread out Madrid’s midfield block and allowed Bayern’s wingers (Robben in particlar) to pick up the ball in central pockets and run at the heart of the defense looking to combine in and around the box.

In the 80th minute, Robben did this exact thing after a patient build-up which allowed Goetze and Muller to combine for a shot that went just wide.  Muller also had the option to kick it out wide to an advance Alaba who was deep and provided and option wide.  For me, this is the most important facet of tonight’s match.  Do they look to keep the wingers wide or do they look to penetrate centrally…

4. Bayern’s line-up

The only changes I see happening is Lahn being pushed to righ-back for Rafinha. I also Schweinsteiger and Kroos sitting deeper with Schweinsteiger looking to more work defensively and dropping the deepest of the midfielders in the build-up (similar to his role last season), and as alluded to above, I see Muller playing higher up the field with the rest unchanged.

5.  Subs if Bayern still needs goals late

Martinez can sub in Kroos, and look to push forward in possession similar to his role in last year’s Champions League.  He will add a more aerial threat going forward, sacrificing Kroos is ability to circulate the ball.

I also think Goetze can find pockets of space centrally like he did when he came on for Ribery last game.

 

My prediction is that Bayern will win 2-0 and advance to the final.

 

 

 

SocMM’s New Vision

 
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By Nate Baker

It’s been a little over a year since SocMM held its last seasonal session (Winter 2013), and it has been about a year and half since SocMM held its final Free Workshop for 160 children with all different backgrounds in the game…

And it was about 11 months ago when we decided to indefinitely end all SocMM programs.

We didn’t end all the programs because of participation issues, a lack of funding, a leadership breakdown or even because of a lack of motivation.  In the two-plus years the program was around, we were making a difference and provided a great product that allowed us to train, teach and prepare the complete player/person.  We had to end the program because I no longer had the time required to give SocMM what it fully deserved… to keep it growing, while not sacrificing the company’s mission and product.

My new position as Navy Men’s Soccer First Assistant has been a dream position for me.  I get to work and learn from one of  the one of the countries’ best coaches, at an awesome place that isn’t to far from my roots in Bowie, MD, but I’ve always wanted to give back to my community. So even though, we still aren’t able to teach your children in person…I still want to help.

So moving forward, I will try my best to provide resources online for the motivated player.  These can be anything from articles to training videos that could not only be useful to the motivated player, but also coaches, parents and fans of the beautiful game.  We plan on having numerous writers with fantastic backgrounds in the game who can provide their expertise and opinion to website.   Please check out the About Us section to read more in depth about our new vision.

Also, Contact Us and let us know what you’d like to see focused on.  I no longer have my finger on the pulse of youth soccer like I once did, so your ideas for stories will be very useful in framing the material on the site.

Thank you once again for your support, and remember Soccer Means More!

A Letter from SocMM: SocMM Cancels Summer Camps and Future Sessions

 
Nate Baker at the 2012 Fall Workshop

Note: The following is a first-hand letter from the founder of Soccer Mean More, Nate Baker

Dear SocMM Family,

When I started SocMM almost two and half years ago, my goal was to start a program that molded children into great soccer players and people, while creating curriculums that were fun, engaging, instruction-based, demanding and affordable.  In two years through SocMM, we have run numerous seasonal sessions and three thrilling community workshops that allowed players of all experiences levels to enjoy the beautiful game.  I am extremely proud of the work our staff has done to affect the children in such a positive way, and thankful for the parents who trusted us to teach their sons and daughters.

In January, I was hired as the first assistant for the men’s soccer program at the US Naval Academy.  My work with SocMM both on the field and behind the scenes has allowed me to make a smooth transition to my new position, but with this new position, it became evident that the time I had to help SocMM continue to build and progress was no longer there, and I hated to think of the program becoming watered down or less effective because I couldn’t give it my full attention.

So I decided, in the best interest of the organization, to cancel this years’ summer camps and postpone indefinitely future seasonal sessions and community workshops.   In the mean time, we will just be offering individual training opportunities with our staff coaches, while continuing to post articles, videos and other useful resources on the site that will allow players the opportunity to get better on their own.

I wanted to thank a few people/organizations who have helped us make an impact these last few years.

First, I want to thanks Holy Trinity Episcopal Day School and John Reger for allowing us to call HTEDS home.  Your facilities and reputation gave us instant credibility, so thank you.

Secondly, I want to thank Sam Bishop for being the architect of our awesome website. Thanks for all your help in giving SocMM a strong online presence.

Next, I wanted to thank my friends and the staff who have coached or volunteered time to help us run sessions or put together the workshops.  It takes a lot of people with a single vision to have accomplished what we did in two years, so thank you.

Also, I wanted to thank my wife Brittany and my brother Ryan who were there from Day 1.  Without you two, SocMM wouldn’t have ever been able to happen.  Ryan created everything from the off-the-ball curriculums to the SocMM logo, and Brittany was able to give context to my vision, while showing me the best ways to create lasting relationships with our customers.

Finally, I want to thank every player that we were lucky enough to train.  Just about every player who walked through our doors was respectful, worked hard and eager to learn.  That combination of traits is a coach’s dream, so thank you for buying into the entire program.

Best Regards,

Nate Baker

SocMM Announces Two Summer Camp Weeks

 
Summer Camp Weeks are Here!

SocMM is proud to announce two full-day summer camp weeks for the motivated player.  The camps will receive age-specific training that will improve each player both on-and-off the ball, while also including leadership seminars, flexibility programs and game breakdowns that will help develop the complete player.

The camp will be run by our co-executive directors Daryl Ferguson and Larry Mark along with Strength Coach Ryan Baker and a host of other fantastic coaches who have played at the some of the highest levels professionally in this country and have years of coaching experience.

Both our camp weeks will take place at Holy Trinity Episcopal Day School, Upper School Campus (11902 Daisy Lane, Glenn Dale, MD 20769) and will run from 9-4PM.

Week 1:

Date: July 22-26, 2013; 9am-4pm every day

Ages: 8-13 (pre-high school)

Tuition: $300

Week 2 (High school Prep Week)

Date: July 29-August 2; 9am-4pm every day

Ages: 14-18 (Incoming Freshmen to Seniors)

Tuition: $300

 

To register online for one of our summer camp weeks, please click here.

If you have any questions, contact us by clicking here.

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