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Inspiring the U12s

Sometimes you need to draw pictures in the minds of young players so they can understand your session... get them to shoot

I was coaching a session with my U12 players on one of the very hot nights this past summer. The players were hot and tired, but I was keen to get them to play the session before they played their next match because I wanted my midfielders to shoot.

I was trying to get them to bust forwards in the attacking third and create shooting chances for themselves and not get into situations where they could shoot then decide to pass instead. I felt as a team we were relying too much on passing through to the attackers.

The attackers were cleverly making space for the midfielders to run into and shoot – so you can imagine that I was getting frustrated as they kept passing when they could have shot. Certainly if they were playing with their friends they would shoot!

A visual experience

Rather than get irritated with the players I decided to get them together and give them more of an example of what I wanted them to do in the training session rather than keep asking them to do it.

So I got them in a bunch and sat them down – great opportunity for a drinks break in the heat! -  and we spoke about using the passing lanes building into the attack and creating situations for the killer pass and playing that pass..

Getting them to shoot

But they didn’t say the one thing I wanted to hear … and that was shoot when the opportunity was there. I put it a different way… “who is the best midfielder in the Premier League” I asked.

They answered back “Mason Mount! Kevin de Bruyne! Mo Salah!” and why I asked are they the best midfielders? “Because they score goals”. But not all of the ones you mentioned score lots of goals, I told them, so they have to work on scoring them just like you are doing today.

An immediate impact! 

Back we went into the session. “Now play like the best midfielders in the Premier League and try to score goals!”

It had an immediate impact … I stopped play and said: “If you get into a situation where you can shoot at goal should you pass or shoot?”

“SHOOT!” they shouted in unison.

And from there the session developed and there were shots coming from all areas of the pitch. A triumph for myself but a triumph for the players because they had realized what to do and more importantly when to do it.

This was all achieved by using the players heroes to demonstrate what they had to do at the session. It reminded me that painting images in the minds of my players was sometimes a better way to communicate the ideas behind the session to players especially when they are hot and tired.

It also adds fun to the session with players talking about who they played like and going home with that idea in their heads which no doubt put them in a good mood for the rest of the evening!

Tips for midfielders

  • Shoot when the opportunity arises
  • Support the forwards with pass and movement
  • Make sure you are aware of team mates movement
  • Play the killer pass when you cannot shoot


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