Success Story, U12 Travel Soccer Team
Went from 4-5 Record to 9-0-1 & Dominant
Went from Scoring 19 Goals to Scoring 60 Goals
Went from Allowing 25 Goals to Only Allowing 5 Goals
New team comprised of players who didn't make other soccer travel teams
Now the Second Best of 5 Travel Soccer Teams
Players Now Have More Poise on the Ball than Opponents
The Keys Were Changing Soccer Formation & SoccerHelp Soccer Drills

For more soccer Coaching success stories and tips from coaches, visit Soccer Coaching Success Stories Navigation Page.

Note From David. Below is the type of letter I love to get. It is from a U12 Travel Soccer Coach who was recruited at the last minute to coach a team comprised of players the other coaches didn't want (it was the #5 U12 team). They had a tough time last year, but this year are undefeated and have scored 60 goals while only giving up 5 (up from only scoring 19 Goals the year before when they gave up 25 Goals). There are some good tips in the correspondence. I always learn from coaches who have turned around a team. As you know, it is very difficult to turn around a losing soccer team.

(Below is correspondence with a U12 Boys travel soccer coach. It is an inspirational and gratifying story).

Hi SoccerHelp,

I want to thank you. Here's the bottom line with my U12 Boys travel team. In the Fall we were 4 wins 5 losses (19 Goals scored and gave up 25 Goals). The next Spring our record was 9 Wins 1 Tie (60 Goals scored and gave up 5 Goals). We totally dominated the same teams as the fall with basically the same group of 15 U12 players. The reasons: we used the 2-1-2-2 soccer formation (who cares who's in goal when the other team can't get off a shot?). At every practice we religiously do Dribble Across a Square, Dribble Around A Cone and Pass, etc, etc, - I can go on if you want but the poise my boys have on the ball is leaps and bounds above other teams now.

The boys thank you even though they will never know you.

We are in our leagues champion's tournament, the Commissioner's Cup this weekend and I am hugely confident about winning it.

Coach T, U12 Boys travel team, MA


Hi Coach T,

Congratulations and thanks for writing.

I love to get letters like yours - they confirm that SoccerHelp is helping coaches and players and that motivates me.

One of the best things you mention is the poise your boys have on the ball and scoring 60 goals while only giving up 5 is fantastic.

Try these 4 ideas:

  1. "Win the 50/50 Ball or be the First Defender 1v1 Attacking & Defending"

  2. "Shoulder Tackle & Strength on the Ball"

  3. With Dribble Around Cone & Pass Relay Race, focus on teaching Aggressive Receiving and One-Touch Play

  4. With Dribble Across a Square, make the square 17 steps wide and focus on teaching them to recognize Open Space and accelerating into it - that teaches Recognition & Use of Open Space, Speed Dribbling and Breakaways.

If your Club wants a free Premium subscription, let me know and we will set one up.

Good luck in the tournament and please let me know how you do.



Hi David,

Thank you so much!

Everything you say on SoccerHelp is accurate and relevant:

#1 Maximize touches on the ball in practice - Doh! (channeling Homer) - My players would always ask for a scrimmage this season but they didn't miss it if we didn't have one. I don't like scrimmages now because they cost me 10 minutes of practice time.

#2 Competitive games that simulate the difficulty of moving and making decisions while everything around you is changing.

#3 Having the right Soccer Formation and Style of Play - in our case a 2-1-2-2 soccer formation. We didn't Defend Deep. I trusted my stoppers and my backs to make good decisions in tackling and in distributing the ball and they came through.

#4 Marking up properly on every set play (from throw-ins to goal kicks) - your Coaching Rule #3.

#5 Get Pass to self down. Know the difference between control dribble and speed dribble.

We never practiced shooting and did comparatively little passing work but every game we peppered the other net with shots and were always passing to team mates.

Here is one of things that I did really helped my U12 boys (all but one of whom had just moved up from U10 so I have them all together next season too). I tried to make it competitive - like keep count, etc. sometimes a lap for everyone but the winning pair. Laps are only taken with a ball at the feet.

Heading work in pairs.

I went from pairs practicing chipping to your partner to staying in 2s for heading and chesting work. I am sure you know it, but your partner tosses you the ball you head it back, all while you are running backward and your partner is running toward you. After I did this, my team began to head the ball a lot - no other team heads the ball with confidence or regularity like our boys. It also forces the boys to head from their waist not their legs because they are moving backwards. Huge difference in confidence and ability to head from them.

Finally, I was a last minute replacement as coach in the Fall and I got the boys no one else wanted, this was the fifth and last travel team formed in the U12 of our town. The difference this spring from last fall has really animated and motivated the players, and their parents. Of the five U12 teams in our town, I believe we are the second best team right now. The elite boys travel team is very, very good. I know we could place 2 of the boys on my team on that elite team now and this is from the group that no one else wanted.

Sorry for bragging but you should feel like it is your good work that shines here.

I will let the Club know about your generous offer and let's see if they take it up.

Coach T


Hi Coach T,

Your situation is like mine was when I coached travel - I had the "C" select team, mostly comprised of players who didn't make other teams. I ended up having more players from my team make the High School team (which is very competitive with about 60 trying out and usually goes to the State tournament) because more of my players kept playing soccer and a lot of the players from the "A" and "B" teams got burned out and quit.

Your tips are good.

Here are some more thoughts for you:

  1. Dribble Around Cone & Pass Relay Race, which teaches passing while running and under pressure, is probably better than "shooting" drills and more efficient too.

  2. Repetitive practice of skills at "Game Speed" while under pressure is the most effective and best way to train soccer skills.

  3. Coaching Rule # 3 is worth 2 goals per game and will allow your team to control the flow of the game and you shouldn't give up many easy goals on your opponent's throw-ins or punts.

  4. Teams that can Push Up when they attack should do so - only "Defend Deep" if you can't Push Up because your Fullbacks are slow. But if your Fullbacks are slow and your team is U10 or older, you should consider Defending Deep because if you Push Up slow Fullbacks you could get killed by fast forwards who have a smart coach.

  5. I agree with you about Scrimmaging - it is not efficient and can actually be counterproductive.

  6. Soccer is "Chaotic" - there is a tremendous amount happening in a real match. Players don't have time to "think", they must be able to instinctively react without hesitation. The repetition in the Practice Games teaches players to react instinctively and to be comfortable with Chaos. That is part of the reason your players are more poised than your opponents - they are used to the Chaos, "traffic" and pressure that they face in a real match.

  7. Some of the "Concepts" that I think are critical to teach at an early age and can make a huge difference are (all are described in Premium):

    1. Confidence when dribbling, which your team has started to develop. Dribbling is the most important skill. No one can be a good soccer player without being confident when dribbling.

    2. Recognition and use of Open Space.

    3. Passing to Space instead of Passing to Feet. To quote Wayne Gretzky, who is considered the greatest hockey player of all time "I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where the puck is..." This will help teach "Movement Off the Ball" and the player will start to play in a totally different way. Your team's play will be MUCH more creative and they will score many more goals if you teach this. How to teach this is described in SoccerHelp Premium.

    4. Aggressive Receiving. The idea that the receiver has responsibility to be alert, move to the pass, expect passes to Open Space (instead of feet), stop any pass they can get to, and expect that most passes will be bad (do NOT assume that passes will be to their feet).

    5. One-Touch Play is a faster, better way to play. Dribble Around Cone & Pass Relay race can start to teach One-Touch Play by teaching receivers to block passes into Open Space so they can go faster than they could by 2-touch play.

    6. If you can't Win the 50/50 Ball, you MUST be the First Defender and slow down the attack for 10 seconds to give your teammates time to recover to defensive positions. The "Win the 50/50 Ball or be the First Defender 1v1 Attacking & Defending" can teach this.

    7. Coaching Rule No. 3. On the other team's goal kicks, punts, throw-ins and free kicks, mark up behind an opponent and then step in front and steal the ball, or, if the ball goes past you, box out the opponent and win the ball. This is Coaching Rule No. 3 and how to teach it is described in SoccerHelp Premium. It is worth 2 goals per game and will help your team control the flow of the game.

    8. To encourage and motivate "bravery". The "Shoulder Tackle & Strength on the Ball" and our motivational patches can help teach bravery.

    9. Scoring a Goal is a Team Effort. A great way to teach this is teach the Brazilian Team Goal Celebration that is described in Premium.

Please let me know if any of these ideas help your team.