Youth Scene: Beating Your Opponent


Mick McDermott has professional playing and coaching experience both in the USA and Ireland having played for 8 seasons in the US 1st Division and one season for Lisburn Distillery in the Irish Premier League. Mick was an Assistant Coach with the Connecticut Wolves of the US 1st Division in 2002 under Head Coach Dan Gaspar (FC Porto). Originally from Belfast, N.Ireland Mick holds both UEFA ´A´ and USSF ´A´ Licenses and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach by the NSCA.


Beating Your Opponent: A Mentality to Attack


Developing a mentality to attack. Decision making in 1v1 situations.

Technical aspects:

Feinting, dribbling, changes of speed and direction.

Warm Up:

All players are positioned inside a 30×30 yard grid as shown in Diagram (a) below. One ball for each player. Cones are placed randomly inside the grid as shown.

Diagram A
Diagram A


Players move freely dribbling inside the playing area. Players must concentrate on avoiding each other as well as the cones. Allow players to build up the tempo of the exercise over time.
Players perform periods of static stretching throughout the warm up period.

Time: 6-7 minutes.


Players dribble towards a cone. On reaching the cone players must perform a feint / fake and accelerate quickly past the cone for 5-10 yards.The cone acts as a stationary defender.

Time: 4-5 minutes.

Coaching Points:

  • Emphasize the use of feints / fakes.
  • Changes of speed must be used.
  • Accelerate past the cones and into space.
  • Be positive in attacking the cones.

Activity #1:

Set Up:

Players are divided into 4 groups and are positioned at the cones as shown in Diagram (b) below. A flag is placed as shown in the center of the grid. One ball for each player.

Diagram B
Diagram B


Players (A) and (B) dribble towards the flag. Approximately 2 yards from the flag each player performs a feint to the left before accelerating to the right of the flag. On completion of the “move” the next two players (C) and (D) repeat the sequence.
Note: Players must fake to the same side and accelerate to the same side to avoid colliding (Ex) fake left, go right. Play is continuous for the designated period of time.

The following moves are encouraged:

  1. Dip and Go
  2. Scissors
  3. Double Scissors

Coaching Points:

  • Players should also be encouraged to use other “moves”
  • Burst of speed past the flag – Accelerate!
  • Be direct – drive towards the flag and then accelerate.
  • Players must communicate with the opposite group to ensure that they start at the same time.

Activity #2:

Set Up:

The squad is split into two teams (red and Yellow). The teams are positioned around the perimeter of a 20×20 yard grid as shown below in Diagram (c). A smaller central grid (6×6 yards) is created using flags as shown. A supply of balls is placed next to each group.

Diagram C
Diagram C


One player from the Red team (A) begins inside the smaller central grid and acts as the defender as shown above. The first player in line for the Yellow team (B) must attempt to drive at the defender, perform a “move” and dribble successfully through the central grid. If the player reaches his/her teammates on the other side the sequence is repeated with the next person in line. Points are awarded for each player successfully making it through the grid. The same defender remains in the central grid until he/she stops an attack.

If the defender intercepts or knocks the ball out of play, the roles immediately switch – the attacker becomes the next defender and must quickly react to the next attacker entering the play. In Diagram (d) below defender (A) has knocked the ball out of play. Player (B) becomes the next defender and must attempt to stop attacker (C).

The tempo of the activity must be high. Do not allow the opposition time to get ready – attack at speed. First team to 20 points wins. Repeat game as time permits.

Diagram D
Diagram D

Coaching Points:

  • Go at pace – accelerate past the defender.
  • Be positive in attacking.
  • Attack quickly – don’t delay the attack with a lot of “moves”
  • Take chances.

Activity #3:

Set Up:

A 4v4 is organized as shown in Diagram (e) below. Three mini goals are created with flags at each end of the playing area as shown. Repeat setup to accommodate the entire team.

Diagram E
Diagram E


Players compete for possession of the ball and attempt to score by dribbling through their opponents mini goals. Players are encouraged to take advantage of 1v1 situations – take chances, try to isolate and beat the defender.

Diagram (e) above illustrates player (A) isolating opponent (B) in a 1v1 situation. Player (A) should attempt to take advantage of the situation by driving aggressively to goal.

Activity #4:

An 8v8 plus goalkeepers is organized as shown in Diagram (f) below. Playing area is 44 yards wide x approximately 60 yards long. The pitch is divided into 3 zones as shown. The end zones (final third) are 18 yards from goal.

Diagram F
Diagram F


Both teams compete for possession of the ball and attempt to score in their opponents goal. The only restriction is as follows: If a player dribbles into the opponents final third of the pitch no passing is allowed. Therefore if a player enters the final third he/she must be direct and go for goal. At the start players may make poor decisions and dribble into the final third even when heavily outnumbered. This usually results in a loss of possession. As the exercise progresses players will begin to make better decisions in relation to the best time to attack.
Diagram (f) above illustrates a “good” time to attack. Player (A) has received a pass from teammate (D). Player (A) in a good position to drive into the final third since defender (B) has no immediate support.

Coaching Points:

  • Maintain possession until opportunities to attack develop.
  • Isolate and attack defenders.
  • Be positive, take chances – go for goal!
  • Changes of speed, accelerate, go at pace.
  • Decision making – when to attack, when to pass, etc.

Final Game:

8v8 as above. No restrictions.

Focus on all previous coaching points.