The 23rd in our series of the favorite exercises of college coaches comes from Thomas Chestnutt. Coach Chestnutt is the Head Women’s Soccer Coach at Florida International University. Prior to his appointment at FIU, he served as the assistant at Fresno State University. Information on his excellent camp program can be found at this link: Golden Panther Soccer Academy. Coach Chestnutt has attained the USSF A License and the following is his favorite activity:
Objective: Penetrating the opposition en route to goal.
Field set up: Middle grid – 75yd. wide by 35yd deep ( using the center of the field as the center of game); thus on a field that is 120yd long you will have about 42.5yd between the grid and the goal.
Team Organization: Two teams can vary in size but we’ll look at 8v8 (it will start with 7v7 +2 and then go to +1 and then even numbers), plus goal keepers (2).
Equipment: 12 coaching sticks (one can also use cones if sticks are not available, cones, two colors of pinnies, balls, 2 goals. The coaching sticks are used to make up three gates that are each ten yards wide on both ends of the grid.
Game Play: One keeper in each goal. The rest of the players are in the middle grid. We start with a plus two (all time attacking players) to help have more success in the beginning. We will call the two teams Team A and Team B. The rules can vary depending on the level of the players, as to what must be done before playing a penetrating ball through the gates (teams must make three passes before playing a penetrating ball, five passes, combination play (1-2, overlap, third man combo to get in), etc¦ ). When a penetrating pass through one of Team A’s three attacking gates is made, by a player of Team A, the receiving player from Team A cannot break out of the grid until the ball has been played AND cannot run through the gate (must go around it that is why I prefer coaching sticks). Once the receiving player gets on the end of the pass, they go straight to goal.
Points: One point for a successful penetrating pass (means it was received on the other end as well). Team receives one point for a goal. (There are many other things you could give points for if you want to have a slightly different focus (e.g. work on recovery, etc¦)
Variations: This is where, as a coach, one can make some more choices about what one wants to see. It can result in a 1v1 with the keeper. You can set the rule that one defender and an additional attacker can cross into the zone, once the ball has been played (setting up a 2v1 plus GK). You can have everyone join in once the ball has been played through. Again, it is all about what you want to get out of this exercise. You can use it to work on numerous parts of the game. You can progress to a plus one player, numbers even situation, require a cross after the penetrating ball. You can shift the game closer to the goals (reducing the total length of the field if you want to challenge the keeper’s decision making in a different way). Depending on skill level one can make the middle zone deeper or add more all time attacking players.
Coaching Points: patience on the ball, movement off the ball, switching point of attack, timing of through runs, weight of passes, transition, visual cues and communication.


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