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Name: Question:
Player

I am captain of an adult rec team in a league in which all teams including my own have quite the variety in talent/endurance.  My team has a couple of players who fit the role of wing forwards and our defense lends itself better to a flat four as opposed to a sweeper.  The problem I can't figure out is that every game in this league pretty much turns into 6 on 5 at both ends with usually one guy winning the ball, breaking out and taking it box to box on the dribble.  Is there any way to better position my players so that our midfield/defense has a chance to keep the ball in our attacking third and shut down one or two main target offensive playmakers on their team?  They never can seem to be behind the ball when the other team counters and I have to keep it relatively simple because many of the players are new students of the game.

  Answer:
 

I think you summed it up yourself. “Many of the players are new students of the game”. This may be your challenge. If you do not get all the players playing your type of game you will never achieve what you like to do. I am not sure if you practice with the team but this can be your start. Get everyone to come out and practice tactics (movements with and without the ball, diagonal runs, pressuring and supporting, etc). This can get everyone on the same page.

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Name: Question:
Parent

Hello – First of all thank you for taking the time to help us & all of our questions. I have an 8 year old daughter playing U9 Rec who is very fast (she can outrun most people in both short & long distances). When I coached her the first 2 seasons all the books I read showed she should play midfield (I don’t know soccer so when I was made coach I bought books & videos on coaching) but now every coach she has had since puts her on defense. Needless to say we tell her the coach is the coach & they will put her where they want her – but our question is – Is that the best position for her? She is getting bored at defense & I don’t want her to lose her enthusiasm for the game.

Thank you,
Melissa

  Answer:
 

Hi Melissa,

An 8 year old girl playing soccer should not be playing one position. Sometimes coaches like to win and they put their best players, especially fast players in the back playing defense so the other team can not score. This does not help by any means the youth player. Coaches working with youth players should worry about the development of players rather then winning. The most important thing right now is NOT where she plays but how she plays and WHAT she learns at practice and WHAT she takes away from playing on the field. She should experience all positions so she can develop field vision and position awareness so if she in fact plays midfielder in the near future she will understand what to do. The most important thing right now for an 8 year old player is the following:
Development of: Agility, Coordination, Balance and Technical skills.

Hope this helps.


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Name: Question:
Parent

My daughter is 13 years old and has been playing competitive soccer for 2 years. We live in northern Virginia where soccer is an extremely popular sport. There are several nationally ranked teams in her age bracket and many of her classmates play on Division 1 teams. She plays as a midfielder and has what you call, good field sense. That is she knows where all the players are on the field and can see a play even before it has developed. She can use both her left and right foot, but does not possess fancy footwork or speed.

Question, how can she further develop her asset, perception speed and reaction time, to its fullest, so it is more visible to coaches. She wants to play in High School, so she probably needs to move to a more competitive team. However, we find that during tryouts for upper division teams, this aspect of her play is not highlighted since it is mostly observed during a real game situation. League rules do not allow guest players from the same league to play and most teams are all entered in the same tournaments, which again does not allow her to guest play. How can she showcase her talents during a tryout?

  Answer:
 

Dear Parent,

By what you wrote and explained your daughter is one of those "smart" player that coaches like to call "playmakers". Even tough she has a good vision of play and also understands situations of play even before they happen she needs speed and quick footwork. One solution and suggestion would be to get her some personal training but NOT personal soccer training. You would need to do some research and find a certified "agility and coordination" trainer. Right now she still has couple of years before her muscle develop to 100% so you are still on time to help her with what she needs.

As you may know you can not teach speed. Speed is a talent that athletes have however you can improve the techniques and you can also improve coordination and agility which will help with footwork and quickness. By adding all these qualities together she can become a complete player.

Hope this helps.

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Name: Question:
Parent

My sons soccer coach (U14) sent the kids home with an evaluation sheet where he expects them to rate the other players on the team with a numerical number from 1-10 and give comments about each of their strengths and weakness. As a parent I don’t like this. I think it's a coach’s responsibility to evaluate the team and individual players (there are three coaches). I could see him asking a player to evaluate his own strengths and weakness but not his teammates. Also, this is not anonymous, so if player A found out what player B said it could become very divisive for the team. The coach also said he plans on releasing the names of top and bottom 10 players from the survey. I know a few parents have already objected to this, and I as a Baseball and Basketball coach never subjected my players to that. I would like to hear your opinion.

Thank You

  Answer:
 

Hi,

It is hard to understand why the coaches may be doing this. Sometimes coaches tend to do this because there is a reason behind it. I am not sure if it is a good idea, especially at the U14 age group. I think players can be asked to evaluate their own strength and/or weaknesses as they are very mature and also very honest at this age.

It would be somewhat different if the evaluations would be anonymous, it could help the coach understand each individual player little better and also see if there is any hard feeling between teammates but making the evaluation open can create hard feeling. Not a good idea!

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Name: Question:
Parent

Hi,

I was wondering if  you could give me some advice please , my son is playing under 11,s football he is ten, last year his team were absolutely fantastic he played centre forward scored 52 goals in 12 games and the whole team were brilliant but out of 8 players on his team 5 went to academies and he was left with only him having to join a new team , this new team are not that good and over the last 4 months my son is losing all his confidence and he looks like a fish out of water when playing now ,have you any advice please as  to how us as parents can help him get back some of his confidence and ability back ,he goes to an advanced football apart from his team and he is outstanding there its just in the matches and with his team where he is falling apart ive no doubt it will all come back but if you have any advice it would be muchly appreciated as we are very worried parents as he looks like he is really low in confidence,

Thank you

  Answer:
 

Dear Soccer Parent,

It is normal for a 10-11 year old child to go thru ups and downs. It seems that what he really needs now is much support from his parents. I believe the best thing to do is to try to explain to him and make him understand that at his age there are times when his teammates will play at his level and there are times when he needs to step up and be the leader. Putting his head down won’t help his team at all. It is also important to explain to him that at his age winning does not matter. He MUST to understand that he is developing and scoring 52 goals in 12 games is good, however there many more things he needs to accomplish and develop. I think once you explain this he should be fine.

I hope this helps. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do.

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Name: Question:
Coach Peter
Hello,
 
I am the coach for a U14 girls team and was wondering if there is a "defensive" formation that also sparks offense or an "offensive"  formation that does not sacrifice defense?  Out of 12 players, I have 5-6 strong dribblers/passers.  The problem seems to be how to balance my best players without overloading the front or back.  Would aligning them down the middle be the "best"?  If so, how?
 
FYI, last week we used a 4-4-2 and lost 4-0.  Whereas last night we used 3-4-3 (a little more offensive) but still lost 3-2. 
 
Thank you,

Coach Peter
  Answer:
 
Hi Coach Peter,
 
Without actually working with your players it is hard to suggest anything but taking into consideration your email the suggestion would be:
 
Formation: 4-3-3 or 4-5-1
Put your strong players in the middle creating a strong 2-2-2 or 2-3-1 formation.
Wickets players out wide.
Now, by putting your wickets players out wide, your players in the middle would need to work very hard if you play against a team that has fast "wide" players. The key is to teach all your players how to support each other when pressuring the opponents and how to move without the ball. Even though you have only 5-6 players that are strong, if you teach the team how to move without the ball to create space for the strong players you should have more scoring opportunity.
 
I hope this helps.

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Name: Question:
Parent
My son is currently a high school sophomore. They graduated several varsity players last year, so both their varsity and jv teams are a little small. Neither team is a great powerhouse; the jv team is mainly freshmen, most of whom are just not skilled players.
 
My son currently "floats" between the two teams, with the coach deciding the night before which team he'll play on. For example, he played on the jv team on Tuesday as the varsity game was against a weak opponent; the jv opponent was a powerhouse, so he had my son and a couple of other sophomores play with them. As the jv coach said, it was so that he "had a couple of players out there who knew what they were doing."
 
I'm not sure my son would be offered a choice, but if he were, which team would he be wisest to chose to play on: the jv team who is just terrible and could use his help and play the whole game every game, or be a back-up player on the varsity, being used as a sub and not playing all the time, but on a better quality team? Thanks!
  Answer:
 
Hi,
 
This is a very fair question. I would have to give you two answers though. One from a parent point of view and the other from a coach point of view.
 
Most likely any parent would like to see their son play on the varsity team. It sounds much better to play on the varsity team.
 
As a coach looking to develop players I would have to disagree with the above point of view. I would ask your son to play on the JV team for a very simple but important reason: Player Development. A player at his age will only develop to his fullest potential if he plays. So, if he has a chance to play the all game, making a difference on the field and developing his game knowledge I would suggest to let him choose JV for at least this year.
 
Hope this helps.
 
Thank you,

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Name: Question:
Pablo
Hi,

I was wondering if someone could explain the 4-1-3-2 formation detailing which midfielders and/or fullbacks sprint to help the 2 forwards on attack?
  Answer:
 
Hi Pablo,
 
This formation is not used much, but some of the best European clubs have used it in the past. It is more of a defensive formation which, however it is also quite flexible. The midfielders and the fullbacks would have to join the attack. The team playing this formation must have great technical qualities as they need to be able to control the midfield area of the field. The two strikers have to be able to make diagonal and thru runs to open the defense from the opponent teams as fullbacks join and push in attack. In this case the opponent's defense will be forced to cover quickly, therefore, leaving space for the offensive central midfielder to make plays.
 
Hope this helps.
 
Soccer Coaching Magazine
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Name: Question:
Jacopo
Hi my name is Jacopo,
I am 19 years old and was born in Italy, I played soccer all the time as a kid and won numerous awards when I played for organized teams. After moving to America, I let the game go because I lived in an area where soccer wasn't the most popular sport. Now,  I am getting back in to shape and I can feel that some of my skills are very off, skill and speed. I want to know is it too late to try to regain everything I once had and more and hopefully  maybe getting scouted by a D1 team or even professional team. Or do you think it is too late due to all the time I lost, seven years to be exact. Please let me know I will appreciate it very much.
Thank you
  Answer:
 
Hi Jacopo,
 
It is never to late to get back on track. Of course, on your age it will take much longer to get back to where you once were. I would suggest much ball work even when you do fitness. Work at least 3-4 times per week for couple of hours. You should be able to regain your technical ability if you are persistent.
 
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Name: Question:
Parent
Thank you for the great suggestions for my son!
 
My next questions is regarding my daughter: she's a high school senior, playing for 11 years. She has a powerful kick and kicks with both feet and has played every position. She's only 5'4, but she's very feisty, a real competitor. She now weighs around 135, having list about 10 pounds over the year. However, she runs slow. What frustrates her is that her h.s. coach plays her in the midfield. He said it's because she has such a powerful kick that she can clear a ball down field easily. However, their team isn't that good, and rarely does she get the opportunity to make those kind of kicks. (She can and has scored from a kick from midfield.) {While an  indoor coach said he'd put her as a forward, having seen her play, her h.s. team has 3 girls that the coach likes as forwards - they are fast, which he likes, but their shooting accuracy is less than 45%.} As a midfielder, she is expected to cover a lot of the field. But then the coach is yelling at her to get back faster, which she isn't able to go any faster than she already is. She's frustrated because she knows she's slower than many of the girls, yet he plays her in a role where running fast and over a lot if the pitch is required. But she plays it willingly, since that's what the team needs. My questions: 1. How do you work on greater speed? and 2. For an aggressive girl, with not the greatest speed, what type of position fits best? Your archived answers are very informative - thank you! Thanks for the help.
  Answer:
 
It seems like your daughter and son are two completely different players. Using a players of your daughter's ability can be challenging for a coach. I think it all depends the style of game the coach plays. It appears to me that your daughter's High School Soccer coach likes to play more of a "driven" game (kick and run) so when your daughter wins the ball in the midfield she kicks forward. There is nothing wrong with this type of game, however it can "overshadow" the players ability sometimes. Being little slower then the other players does not mean she can not play forward, actually she gets physically involved so she could be an asset on the attack. It all falls down to the coaching style and what works best for the team.
 
Unfortunately you can not teach speed. Speed is a natural gift, however you can improve it by learning how to position your feet, arms, etc. If she really would like to improve her speed I would suggest to work with a "Speed, Quickness & Agility" coach. A good coach will help her create running programs that should enhance the physiological processes involved in aerobic or anaerobic metabolism.
 
Some of the things she could work on would be:
 
Speed Training
Athletic speed can be improve by the following ways:
  • Starting ability
  • Stride length
  • Stride rate
  • Speed endurance
  • Sprint form
  • Sprint technique
  • Arms/Hands position
  • Feet position
Speed Exercises
Exercises to improve stride length and frequency:
  • High knee kicks
  • Glute kickers
  • One-Legged Linear Barrier Hops
  • Barrier Jumps
  • Wall acceleration
  • High speed sprints
  • Low/High speed sprints

Hope this helps. 

Scuola Calcio Magazine Staff
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Name: Question:
Parent
My son just turned 15 and is a high school freshman. He has played rec league for 8 years and now plays high school and an indoor league in winter. He's about 5'10 and lanky. He possesses fast speed, and has played all positions on a team. Now he's predominantly a forward. The problem: his aggressiveness, or more like lack of it. He does score, but the one coach told him he's "too nice" - he won't get physical when going for a ball. He wants to continue to improve and play varsity next year. A couple of coaches have told him what the problem is, but no one seems to know how to improve on it, besides saying, "You need to be more aggressive." (His big sister, on the other hand, is shorter, but definitely more aggressive.) What can he do to be comfortable getting more physical? Are there drills or techniques he can try? Thanks for any help!
  Answer:
 
Hi,
 
Thank you for the question.
Unfortunately being physical on the field is a natural aspect of a soccer players. Some players are more physical then others. A coach can encourage a player to be more physical as much as he likes but if the player is not comfortable and is not ready psychologically it will never happen. There are some drills that coaches can do at practice but these drills should get the all team involved, not just one player.
 
As a coach I would look at different solutions. For example, based on what you told me he seems to posses good techniques which is a major aspect of a soccer players. So here are the options to look at:
Option #1: Can the coach use him as a "creative" player?
Option #2: Play him behind the attackers to make things happen?
Option #3: Can I use him as a target player?
The above options will still give him an opportunity to score, may be even more then a forward, however a coach would not stress over the fact that he does not get physical but still use his talent to make things happen on the field.
 
Hopefully the above suggestions will help.

Scuola Calcio Magazine Staff
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Name: Question:
Coach Harry
I coach a U-9 Girls travel team.  We play 8 v 8.  We practice technical skills twice a week.  At what age do I introduce/teach tactics and plays and to what extent?
  Answer:
 
Dear Coach,
 
From what I can read you are doing everything correct with your U9 Girls team. Many coaches concentrate on the tactical aspect of the game, however, the technical aspect in this particular age groups is very important. If you feel that they are technically ok I would start introducing some technical/tactical drills. I would divide the sessions as follow:
- 50% Technical
- 35% Technical/Tactical
- 15% Tactical
Hope this helps. Best of luck with your team.

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Name: Question:
Trilbydoc
I am  doing a level 2 coaching coarse. My mock topic is "running with the ball in a 6 v 6"
Any info would be appreciated (starting point, formation of the 2 teams etc). Thanks
Trilbydoc
  Answer:
 
Dear Trilbydoc,
 
This sis a great topic to work with.
Here is what I suggest with a topic like yours: "6 vs. 6 running with the ball".
 
Lay out a field (size depends on the age group you are working with).
Make a square in each corner for players to run into.
6 vs. 6 situation in side the grid. Two teams start playing.  
 
The objective is for the player to make a decision to run into one of the square to get a point.
Players will have to make the decision of:
 
When do I run with the ball?
Is there space behind the defender for me to beat him and go?
Can I pass and move into space to receive the ball back and run with it?
 
Variation:
Add another square in the middle of the two. In this case you will have three squares on each side.
Add goalkeepers for a game situation.
 
Players have to recognize when to run with the ball. First touch is important, keeping heads-up while dribbling.
 
I hope the above helps. Best of luck on your topic.
Name: Question:
Joseph M.
Hello,

My name is Joseph M., and I am a senior at Conrad Weiser High School located in Robesonia, PA. Currently, I am writing a research paper for my senior project, and was curious if you could answer a few questions regarding soccer and its history.
 
If you could answer these few questions, that would be extremely helpful.
 
-Where and when did the game originate?
 
-What caused the sport to "take off" and become such a major sport in the world today?
 
-How do you feel the game has changed over the years?
 
-What do you think caused changes in the game?
 
-Has the sport of soccer influenced any parts of the world ?
 
-How do you feel, if at all, soccer effects the world? 
 
                    Thank you,
                        Joseph M
  Answer:
 
Joseph:

These are BIG questions, so I can only hint at the answers here. It would take a number of books to answer these questions, and then they can't all be answered completely. Plus, not everyone would agree on the answers--there is some room for differing opinions here. Anyway:

-Where and when did the game originate?

Games with some similarities to soccer have been found in Ancient Japan, Chinaand Rome. Quite possibly the Romans got it--along with many other things--from the Greeks. There is a record, though, of a game being played between the soldiers of the garrison of Derby, England and the citizens during the Roman occupation of the southern British Isles. The citizens won, as I recall.

In the Middle Ages a soccer-like game was played in various parts of Europe, including Italy and England. It was more violent and less rule-governed than soccer, and is just as much the ancestor of Rugby and American football as it is of soccer. Modern soccer emerged in England in the mid- to late-19th century, when its rules started to be formalized and stable and even professional clubs started to emerge.

Thus soccer is similar to baseball in America in terms of the era in which it originated: the industrial revolution. Among other things, it appears that as work became less physical, leisure time activities like sports became more prominent.


-What caused the sport to "take off" and become such a major sport in the world today?

The English exported the game throughout the world. A club such as Athletic Bilbao in the Basque region of Spain have an English word in their name as a holdover from the origins of the game. Italy also "remembers" the English role in exporting the game by using the word "Mister" for coach.

Why the game took off is a difficult question to answer. There are several possible reasons, and they may all be true at the same time.

First, soccer spread at the right time: the mid-19th to early-20th centuries. This was the era in which most major sports were formalized and popularized. Second, soccer requires relatively little space or equipment, making it available to a wide range of the population in urban as well as rural areas. Hardcore blue-collar areas such as the coal-mining areas of northern England and Scotland were legendary for producing professional soccer players and coaches. (Liverpool's Bill Shankley may be the best-known example of this.) Third, the game can be played in a wide range of climates. While 58 degrees and slightly overcast is perfect, in my opinion, the game can be played in conditions much hotter or colder, in rain or even snow, etc. Fourth, the game can be played by people of widely varying physical types: very tall, short, stocky, lean, etc. No doubt there are many other reasons, but these are a few.

-How do you feel the game has changed over the years?

Well, it depends which years you mean:

Soccer changed from a dribbling to a passing (with dribbling) game in the 19th century.

Defending has become more of an emphasis over the years, going all the way back to the first part of the 20th century.

Systems of play have evolved over the years. At one time all teams would play the same formation. Currently a wide variety of formations and ways of playing the same formation are seen at all levels of the game.

Scientific principles of training are now applied to the game.

Soccer is now much faster than it once was, and players have less time to think and execute. One result is that the game is even more based on passing players have very little time and space in which to execute individual dribbling moves anymore.

At the professional level the most successful players are paid vastly more than an ordinary person. This is a significant change; for a long time players were not much different from their fans in terms of income and lifestyle.

-What do you think caused changes in the game?

Some of the changes are just part of the tactical evolution of the game as clubs, teams, and players explore ways of getting the better of their opponent. Others are the product of sports in general becoming part of the entertainment industry at a point when it is expanding hugely.

-Has the sport of soccer influenced any parts of the world ?

Well, that depends what you mean. I don't think soccer has changed major things like the economy or the political system, but it is part of the culture in many places, and a very significant part.

-How do you feel, if at all, soccer effects the world?

I think, again, this is mostly at the level of culture. It certainly gives people from all over the world something in common to talk about and a game that they can play with and against each other. Soccer also has real economic impacts, of course. A family that produces a first-class professional player will have a very different life than if they didn't! And soccer forms part of the entertainment industry, as I said before.

But while attempts have been made to explain global events through soccer (see Jonah Golberg's "How Soccer Explains the World," if I remember the title correctly), they have not been too convincing.

These are very brief answers to very large questions. You should look to some of the many excellent books written about soccer. Paul Gardner's "The Simplest Game" (3rd edition) is a great place to start.


Scuola Calcio Magazine Staff
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Name: Question:
Player

Hi, I'm a military member stationed overseas and I need your advice. Our team has been training since the last week of July up to today. We are preparing for a tournament later this month. Our sessions are Tues, Thursday, and Sat. We do 10 100yrd sprints on the track while jogging the curves, soon after we do 10 40 yard dash, jogging back to recover. On top of this we then do conduct normal training session for a total of 2.5 hrs of practice. And of course prior to all these we do a complete warm up and stretch. Now, on non training days, i.e. Mon, Wed, Fri the team does 5k recovery runs on their own with the exception of Wed as a 10k and Sunday being a complete rest day. Here's my question. While doing sprints do you recommend doing them early during practice like we have been doing? Or is it advisable to alternate it and moved the sprints as a last drill before practice ends? I'm concern about this team being a first half team and not having enough juice to finish the 90 min game. Please advice me with your experience. And also advice on how we can improve our sprint and conditioning tactics. Thank you and have great day!

  Answer:
 
Hi,
 
Thank you or your question.
 
For what I can gather by the email I think your practice are good for now. I do recommend doing sprints when you do not practice, may be on days off, this will help you more on the technical side because when you practice you supposed to use the soccer ball at all times. Also, incorporate some conditioning in the warm-up stage, for example try to go for at least 30 minutes without any breaks, always moving with the soccer ball (i.e.: jog, turns, stop, trapping, etc.), as this will help your conditioning very much.
Regarding sprint and conditioning improvement, it is little tough to explain this by email, however, the most important thing to improve at this stage is the positioning of your body (arms, shoulders, legs) while performing this.
 
Hope this helps. Best of luck!
Name: Question:
Neal

So I want to play varsity when I a a senior so I was just wondering what I should do to start preparing myself both as a keeper and forward. So don't know what you need to know to tell me what to do so just email me and questions you have any. Thanks!

  Answer:
 

Neal, if there was one thing I would suggest to you to prepare for varsity soccer is physical/fitness work. I was never involved in High School soccer but I have had players that have played in High School and I remember them always mentioning to me "physical work". A lot of running, sprints, etc. So I would suggest a lot of fitness preparation with and without the soccer ball, for both Forward and Goalkeeper.

Coach
Hi,
I am a football enthusiast but I don't play football .my ambition is to become a football coach. Can a person like me who has no playing experience become a coach.
Thank you!
  Answer:
 
Dear Coach,
 
Anyone wishing to learn can become a football coach. You do not have to be a soccer player in order to be able to coach. Some of the best coaches in the world have never played at the highest level.
 
Best of luck!
Name: Question:
Ana

Hi,
I have a quick question. Should I train the day before soccer tryouts?
Thank you,
Ana

  Answer:
 

Ana,

I think it is wise to relax the day before soccer try-outs. It is best to train up to couple of days before but have the last day off.

Name: Question:
Lisa

Hi, I have been asked to coach U12 soccer this year for my daughters team.  She has played for several years, but I didn't play close enough attention to the positions on the field.  Could you please tell me how many players are on the field at one time, and the details for each position.  Thanks for the help.

  Answer:
 

I’m going to assume that you will be coaching a recreational rather than a competitive team. Not that it makes a great deal of difference, but you will definitely want to keep it simple: there is very little time to spend on teaching the players a formation at this age.

Okay, you will probably be playing 8v8 at U12, but ask the person running your league to make sure. If you are playing 6v6 or 9v9 then the advice here should be adaptable to those numbers. If you are playing 11v11 on a full field, that’s another matter, and you should write back to us.

So, the first point to emphasize is that the formation you play is not that big a deal so long as you do something reasonable that suits the players you have available. Since you will have a goalkeeper no matter what formation you play, we’ll leave them out of our discussion for the most part. That leaves seven field players. The minimum number you would want in the back (“defenders,” although I prefer to call them “backs” since everyone is a defender when their team is not in possession of the ball) is 2. Similarly the minimum you would want in the midfield is 2. And up top (at the forward position) you need at least 1. That gives you the following options (from back to forward) 2-2-3; 2-3-2; 2-4-1; 3-2-2; 3-3-1; 4-2-1. Of these, 2-2-3 is probably not worth considering since it leaves you weak in the back and in the midfield. The 2-3-2 can be a good formation, but you must make sure that the midfield helps the 2 backs to defend. The 2-4-1 is unusual, although it could work similarly to the 2-3-2. By far the most common formations you will see are 3-2-2 and 3-3-1.

With the 3-2-2 you have the advantage of two forwards, who can work together to keep possession and create chances to score. You also have three at the back, which gives you a measure of safety, and gives you the chance to teach your outside backs to push up into the attack whenever possible. Problems are 1.) that you have only two in the midfield and can get overrun there by teams who like to play with the ball on the ground; and 2.) that you might find it hard to get any wide play out of your team unless you have players who can do the running out of the wide back positions, or forwards who look to make diagonal runs to the outside.

The 3-3-1 solves the problems of the 3-2-2 by shifting a player from forward to mid. This means that you have a lone forward who has to be able to keep possession when the ball is played up to him or her, which means learning to play “back to goal,” shielding the ball from defenders, and passing it back to the midfielders as they come up in support. So, in a nutshell, the 3-3-1 requires players to be more mobile and a little more clever than the 3-2-2, but this is an opportunity for them to learn if they are ready for it.

The 4-2-1 is not used very often, but if you can teach the forward to play alone (see my comments about the 3-3-1) and the two wide backs to get forward into attacking positions, it too offers good opportunities for the players to learn to play with intelligence and mobility.

Whatever system you use, there are some general guidelines that you can give the players:

 --center backs should stick to their defensive duties unless an opportunity to make a run occurs when there is someone to cover for them

 --wide backs need to look for chances to get forward but must be prepared to run back into defensive position

 --center midfielders should avoid being pulled out to the wide areas of the field; they should enjoy passing the ball and creating chances for other players to score

 --wide midfielders need to get forward and back—they must be willing to do a lot of running

--forwards need to think of the position as something more than beating defenders and scoring. Forwards must defend, shield the ball, and get their teammates involved in the attack

Rather than spend a lot of time on your formation in practice, concentrate on teaching the kids to pass, shoot, dribble, etc. Teach basic tactics like supporting the player on the ball and 2-player passing combinations. Then give a simple handout illustrating the formation and have them play in it at practice. Since you will have to play something like 8v4, make the goal the full-sided team attacks smaller, or make two very small goals (say, 2 meters). Stop the game and show when and where attacking runs can be made or defensive recovery runs must be made.

Name: Question:
Arlene
Hi, my name is Arlene, I play soccer, but I don't have much skills, I'd like to join a team where I can improve my skills, and maybe one day play in the leagues, because where i play right now, they don't take it seriously, I have a women coach, and the fact that my teammates play for fun, and I don't , I  'd like to join a real team, because soccer is something i want to do in the future. thank you.
  Answer:
 
Thank you for the email and question.
I know exactly how you feel, it is hard sometimes to find your self in this position, you want to play to improve your skills and some of the teammates want to just have fun. In this country soccer is not the main sport and this is why a lot of players just take it as a recreational sport.
I would suggest you talk to your coach and see if she has any extra time to work with you one-on-one to improve the skills, this should help a bunch. Once you develop more skills you may try out for a better soccer team close to your area.
 
Hope this will help! Best of luck!
Name: Question:
Tim Dayton

I have a problem with my U14's criticizing each other and blaming each other for mistakes. This includes my goalkeeper being told "You suck." by two players after he conceded a goal on a free kick bent around the wall to the far post. Most of the players don't get involved in this, but maybe 5-6 do. Also, some of the players can't tell the difference between a player giving them directions on the field, and being criticized. I've talked to them about what is useful communication and what is not, but I think I need to do something more.
Any idea on how to improve the atmosphere and attitude?

  Answer:
 

This is a tough one. This age group is one of the harder age group to control and to coach. I would be straight and forward to them. You need to sit them down have a "man-to-man" talk and explain what the rules are. I know they all want to win but if this problem is not corrected now it will hunt them for the rest of their career. Once the rules are set, you as a coach need to stick by them, this means winning or losing a game. Do not tolerate any attitudes between teammates on the field. Whatever happens off the field is happen to them but when on the field everyone needs to respect each other. If you hear any negatives amongst them you need to sit down the player on the bench for the rest of the game. This will be hard at first but eventually will correct itself. Do not forget to talk to the parents also so everyone is on the same page!! Hope this helps.

Name: Question:
Tim Dayton

I have one player who dominates play on my U14s. He has always been one of the most skillful players and now is more physically developed than most. He is a man among boys. He has always been a good 1v1 player, so now he is a 1v2, 3, or 4 player. I don't want to stop him from playing 1v1 when it is a good idea, but he needs to get the other players involved more. Of course, his teammates are partly to blame for not demanding the ball, and they need to change too. I've switched him from a central to a wing position, which has helped, but now I have to get him to cross the ball rather than dribbling to goal every time. He works very hard in practice and in games, so I don't want to be too hard on him....

  Answer:
 

I do not think being strict as in the issue #1 will help but a "one on one" talk should help with this player. Explain the importance of team work. He needs to understand that soccer is a team sport and there is not one star player on the team. May be this will help. By reading the above I can understand why is trying to do every thing for himself. If his teammates do not ask for the ball or demand the ball he tries to go all the way. Again, try to talk to him alone and then talk also to the team as a whole about getting involved and demand the ball when open.

Name: Question:
Frank Adreiting

Dear Ask the Soccer Experts,

While my U10 team was playing a game I noticed one of my players crying.
Just before I saw my player crying I had heard one of the parent from the other side saying something to my player. As the player came off the field in tears at the end of the game he told me the reason he was crying. I approached the other coach who then spoke to the parent involved who actually denied the allegations, and said that no one on his side passed this abuse to the young child. What steps do you think I should take to prevent this from happening again?

  Answer:
 

Dear Frank:

This is one of the most difficult things for coaches to deal with.
Remember that for every comment you hear, there are an unknown, but I suspect large, number that you do not hear. Once I was coaching at a tournament and forgot to pick up my player cards after a game. As I was going to get them I had the chance to listen to the comments of the parents in the stands at a U11 game. I was shocked that they were making a lot of derisive comments about the other team's players. I mentioned this to the refs who were resting in the field marshall's tent when I got my cards. They said that it's often like that.
So, what to do? First, the refs have the authority to act, but usually do not because they are much younger than the parents. If possible, let the center ref know that there is abusive behavior taking place. The CR has the power to eject the offending parent or parents from the game. If they know they have the backing of at least one of the coaches, they are more likely to do it. Very often the refs are relieved to deal with something that doesn't concern one team trying to gain an advantage over the other, and will respond well to your concerns (make sure that you are clear that you would want them to come down on ANY parental misbehavior.)
If it isn't possible to deal with this through the refs, then the step you took, to involve the opposing coach is a good move. That way you are not confronting the parent directly. But don't be surprised if the parent denies any wrongdoing! The shame any person feels on being called on this kind of behavior will often lead them to lie. But don't feel like you've necessarily wasted your effort. The next time they are inclined to mouth off, maybe they'll remember this incident and keep their mouth shut.
One caution here: make sure you read the other coach carefully.
Some coaches are so biased that they will take offense rather than investigate the matter. In this case, I'd recommend going through the club or league president, even though it will mean the matter can't be dealt with on the field.
We can take heart from the fact that players get very good at blocking out parental comments during the games. Even when they are young they can surprise you with their ability to see through what parents say. Once I was coaching a U10 game and a parent on the opposing team yelled in frustration "JUST SCORE!" One of my players on the bench said, "Yeh, like it's that easy...."
Since you can't control the behavior of parents (all you can do is respond after the fact), talk to your players briefly about this. Tell them that some adults don't behave well at games and may make mean and insulting comments. Let your players know that if this happens, the adults are wrong, no matter what they are saying. Tell them that the best thing to do is to block the parents out during the game; the next best is to remember that if they say anything mean, they are wrong.
This gives the players two layers of defense, and a way to deal with any bad behavior that does occur--even if you don't know about it.

Name: Question:
Jim Fernato

Hi, I am a good soccer player and when I practice I can perform well and act without any fear whatsoever. But when I play the game I get little nervous and I make mistakes... any advice?

  Answer:
 

A lot of players may have this problem. This is all about confidence, you have to know and believe what you are able to do on the field. You have to tell your self to be confident. Do not feed any negative in your mind. Talk with your teammates, warm up and sometimes listening to some music may help. There is nothing to worry about its just a game have fun.

Name Question:
Sam Typhon

Our club is installing a new field, close to 2 acres. Can you tell me what type of grass is the best and most commonly used? We want to get on the sod ASAP but yet we want to avoid the wear and tear on the field as much as possible. Thanks for your help!

  Answer:
 

It all depends on what part of the country you live. The growing season is different in each state and cities for that matter. I would recommend talking with an athletic turf specialist. There are different applications of sod, like "mesh" that can be laid down over the high traffic areas like the penalty area to minimize wear.

Name Question:
Tony Pizzul

I am a first time coach for a U10 Boys team. I played soccer while I was gowning up and I love the sport! We have lost the first two games, but my question is how much coaching should I be doing from the sidelines? Should I be giving the plays to our players at the game? Should I scream at the players so they hear what I am saying? What is your take on this?

  Answer:
 

I recommend that you save your voice for practice and talk to the players then, If you want to talk to a player who is playing the game, then call him over to the sideline, make sure that his position is covered and talk to him in a calm way. Many times it is better to substitute the player and talk to him. As a first time coach, you will benefit more from watching and studying the game than you will from talking or screaming at the players.

Name Question:
Franklyn Smith Hi. How should I take a good goal kick and how can I improve my strength? Thank you for your help.
  Answer:
  I am assuming that you are a player and in particular a goalkeeper. Remember that power comes from the abdomen. When you kick, you must incorporate your whole body. The shoulder should be forward and the opposite hip, back. Also follow through with your laces (Neck of the foot).
Name Question:
Joann Davery How do you produce power in your kick?
  Answer:
 

To kick with power you must posses good technique. Establishing good technique comes with much repetition. This means many hours of training! Therefore, the rest is practice, practice and more practice!. Start out by developing and improving accuracy. Once you have the accuracy then work on improving the maximum power.

Name Question:
Chris Hughes

I am 15 years old and I believe it is time for me to be professional. I admire players like Kaka', Del Piero and Totti. My dream is to play like them, so what should I do? What position and what side should I play?

  Answer:
 

Chris you should know by now the position and side you would want to play. However to find out what side you prefer playing on you must try playing different positions and find out which position you are the most effective at in helping your team. Hope this helps!

Name Question:
Mike Serfano How do I improve or develop my first touch? I keep on messing up! Any advice?
  Answer:
 

The most important things you should remember is first to relax and second to be aware of how much time and space you have available. The best teacher is the "wall" so the best thing to do is find a wall and start practicing every day.

 

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/2006