Developing a Technical “Hard Drive”

When coaching young players from u9 upwards, I have two areas of main focus

(1) Developing a Hard Drive

(2) Outplaying qualities

Both are of equal importance to me and I believe these areas are the foundation to developing elite adult players.

In this blog, I am going to explain how you can develop a technical hard drive in your players.


A strong technical base

The three fundamental techniques to playing the game well are…..

(1)  Receiving the ball

(2a)  Moving with the ball

(2b)  Releasing the ball


These techniques should be the main focus of a players development in the primary school age groups (up to u12) and should form a strong base/foundation to a players game.


“I like to use the term “Hard drive” when describing this strong base/foundation as its something that the players will then be able to call upon continuously as they develop”


These three fundamental techniques should be developed in combination and with a link made between completing each of them well. This is an important part of coaching effectively as it develops the techniques for game actions, rather than in isolation.


(1) Receiving the ball is the essential first stage and enables the players to then make a decision on whether to:

(2a) Dribble or Run with the ball

(2b) Release the ball with a pass or shot.


Coaches must focus on designing practices that enable the players to develop competency with both feet and to complete the actions in various sequences (add running off the ball where required).

For example – Technical practices should include various combinations.


  1. Receive the ball
  2. Move with the ball
  3. Release the ball


Receiving the ball

There is many ways in which to receive the ball.

  • To control
  • To turn
  • To protect
  • To lose an opponent
  • To move into space


Deciding on which receiving skill to use, will be linked to:


  • Your body position before receiving the ball.
  • Your positioning on the pitch.
  • Your direct opponents positioning.
  • The foot you receive the ball with (front or back foot).


The importance of teaching this link is a fundamental stage to player learning.


The first step is to teach players to “SEE BOTH GOALS” (on the pitch) when the team is in possession. This encourages the players to immediately take up a position with their “shoulders open” and also being able to “scan” a large area of the pitch.


This scanning is important to the players awareness on the pitch and the options available to them. Therefore, encourage players to play with open shoulders and seeing both goals as much as possible.


Now you must teach the players what the “BACK FOOT” and “FRONT FOOT” are used for when receiving the ball.


“BACK FOOT” is used to describe the foot furthest away from the ball and the one that enables you to change direction and advance forwards towards the opponents goal.


“FRONT FOOT” is used to describe the foot closest to the ball and the one that enables you to receive the ball safely away from your opponent. This enables you to protect the ball.


Receiving skills and the ability to twist and turn are essential to “out-playing” your direct opponent. Further reading on this can be seen in a previous blog post 75% of 1v1’s in football.


Moving with the ball

There are two ways in which you can move with a ball

  1. Dribble
  2. Run with the ball

The two techniques are different and must not be mistaken for the same thing when coaching young players.

Too often, coaches complete dribbling exercises inside small areas and are encouraging players to complete various skills on demand. This is fine if you are looking to develop dribbling (and evasion) techniques under close control and with sudden changes of direction or speed.

However, to develop running with the ball, you must demonstrate that different qualities are required. To be successful in this technique you must take bigger touches – using the front of your foot – in order to extend your stride pattern and reach maximum speed over longer distances.

“Running with the ball, is a technique that seems lost in many young players. The ability to have your head up and taking big touches in order to gain maximum speed over a 15-30yd distance is rare when watching academy games.

One of my favourite players is the great dutch footballer, Arjen Robben who is truly world class is his ability to run with the ball. He is unique in the way that he bursts away from a short dribble immediately into a drive into space and running with the ball – and vice versa”



When developing the techniques of moving with the ball, I like to encourage the use of “Fake” movements rather than skills.

“Fakes” include movements with your body to drop the shoulder or twist the hips. You can also use a disguised movement to shoot or pass by pulling your leg back.

These fake movements can all be completed at speed and rarely break the rhythm of a players movement.

When viewing the best players in the world, they all use the execution of fakes rather than elaborate skills to beat the direct opponents.


Releasing the ball

To release the ball, you need to use the technique of striking the ball with various parts of your foot.

Different types of ball striking include

  • Instep (caress, wrap or push)
  • Driven
  • Lofted
  • Curl
  • Bend
  • Chip
  • Heel
  • Poke

Passing and shooting are the same techniques, just with a variation of power depending on the distance required and player positioning on the pitch (do you need to go over, between, or around to reach your target?)


My advice is to break each technique down and try to lock the more simple techniques in place – before moving to harder ones that require both leg and foot power.

The harder techniques are easier to coach as the players grow both physically and in technical competence.

So teaching how to pass accurately over 0-10yds with the inside and outside of both feet is the essential first stage. Completing this technique both from a standing and moving position is important.

You can also link “scanning” and “looking down the pitch” (to see the options available to you).


Types of training

As mentioned above, to develop a technical hard drive you can work the techniques in isolation… but ideally you should coach them in a sequence that shows the link between the three techniques and how to use inside a game.

The techniques can be developed unopposed, against a passive opponent or against a live opponent.

The player can be working alone as an individual or in combination (relationship work where you learn how to interact with others) with another player(s).

In the younger age groups (u12 and below), this type of training is very generic as all players need to gain competency in the techniques to form the “Hard Drive”. However, as players grow in age, this training might become position specific or even player specific (to a players direct needs analysis).


See the below diagram


Linking Communication

A great way to improve clarity and speed of learning  is to use key communication that links to the techniques you are developing.

See below for the ones i like to use with young players

Prior to receiving

“See both goals”

“Shoulders open”

“Scan and see”

In Possession

“Skill & share”

“Share & move”

“Move & call”

“Connect or get free”

1st Touch

“To turn”

“To protect”

“To lose an opponent”

“To move into space”

Back or front foot receiving

“Back foot & go”

“Front foot & twist”

“Twist to face forward”

“Front foot & protect”

“Protect to set”

“Set & angle”

“Set & move”

The above terms are used to both question and encourage the players inside the technical training and more importantly the game.



My next post will be on “Out-playing” your direct opponent.

Its a type of training that is a passion for me.

I will aim to have this completed by the end of January 2019.







  1. This is great coach. Wish you could share more with me in my
    I’m a young coach, an ex international and love to learn from the best


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