The Top Clubs in Europe Do This in Training... Do You? January 19 2016, 99 Comments

First of all, don't feel bad if you haven't been doing this type of training.    And...if you are not doing this...don't feel alone!  In my experience, very little of this type of training is being performed in American soccer training sessions.  It's not being taught in our coaching schools and yet it is prevalent throughout top teams in the world.  If the academies and first teams at major clubs are doing this type of training...shouldn't we be doing it in the USA? 

I believe that we can add an important component to our youth training in America.  I have seen this training develop quicker feet, quicker minds, and a transformation on my own players about thinking, combining and playing in Triangles.  I only wish my players had started doing these type exercises when they were younger!  And that is the main reason for this article. 

 Since we began using this  methodology as part of our training,  we have never been out of first place  in the Big 10 Conference for even one  week from October 2012 to November  2014.  It was an amazing run by our  players.  Our percentage of completed passes has been over  82%, not typical in college soccer.    We have had soccer at Penn State for  105 seasons and a lot of records have  been broken during this recent run by our players.  We are far from perfect and do have our bad performances.  However, I believe the success of the program, in part, is because of this type of training. what is this training?  Virtually every European soccer club is performing some form of mannequin training in their youth development programs...and even with their first teams.    There is a lot of value in the repetition and patterns of combination play and different weight and angles of passes that mannequin training can provide...that is why so many clubs are using them!    In fact, it's difficult to find a pro training session of any top club on the internet where you don't see mannequins set up on for some portion of training. 


 In my experience, from observing  training sessions across our country,  very few clubs in the US Soccer  Development Academy are utilizing  mannequin training as part of our  youth development program.    Outside the Academy, it's almost non  existent.  The coaches of the players  in the Academies likely did not do  mannequin training when they were  playing, so they don't have a lot of  experience in using them personally.  We tend to teach only what we know!  Some of the primary reasons we have found that mannequin training has not been prevalent in the US are: lack of exposure to this type training as a player, not being taught in our coaching schools,  storage issues of mannequins, cost, portability etc. 

  I am certainly not saying that mannequin  training is the magic bullet for developing  players. However, when you examine what  first teams and youth teams are doing in  top clubs in Europe to develop players and  examine what we are doing in our youth  development programs... this type of  training is one prevalent training method  that seems to be missing. The good news  for you is that we have developed a  completely free coaching education  website that demonstrates for coaches how to do some of this type of training and some small sided games that can be used as a progression from the passing exercises:  If you want to incorporate mannequin training, similar to what the top clubs are doing with their players, the free website will provide you with hundreds of training ideas and quality demonstrations.

One of my personal favorite exercises comes from a mannequin exercise that Arsene Wenger does with his first team players in developing concepts of playing between the lines of opponents.  There is so much to teach in this exercise...body shape, communication, looking before you receive it, finding a new space to receive the ball, proper footwork, backing up to create space, different weight passes and many more.

When I first started coaching, I used big traffic cones…yep, I know... I am old as dirt and that was all there was available back then.  No little cones existed when I started coaching nearly 40 years ago.  When little cones came on the market no one thought they could work because there was no height.  As you can see in the video, the triangles we use take the place of mannequins.   We use the flat triangles because the concept of the tall traffic cones applies to mannequins as well.  

What we need for passing exercises that involve mannequin training was the space that mannequins occupy, not the height.  That’s where The Training Triangles come in.  What we have found is that the Triangles can be used for a lot more than replacing mannequins.  They can also provide great agility and quick feet training in a small space (takes the place of speed ladders)

There is a lot of great work being done by a lot of coaches in the USA, not trying to change any of that!  Just think we are missing a training piece that is occurring in  Academies in Europe. Hopefully the free website will help you implement some of these training concepts into the first 45 minutes of your teams training.


Bob Warming

Head Soccer Coach

Penn State University