Soccer Articles

Youth Team Rankings

by Tony Earp, Senior Director

This article is a plea for some sanity in the youth soccer system. There are a lot of good coaches and clubs out there trying to implement appropriate developmental plans for youth players who aspire to learn how to play the game. As coaches, we are told through US Soccer and other organizations that the focus at the younger age groups should be development and learning. The number of wins and losses are irrelevant at these age groups as the kids are just learning how to play. Although player's need to be taught how to step on the field to compete to try to win, it should be a pressure free environment where risk taking, creativity, free-flow of play with less coach direction, and proper ways to play should be encouraged. As coaches develop practice sessions and manage games for their players, the focus is to help them learn and develop with a goal being for the players to have the tools to compete at the older and senior level teams, and enjoy playing the game.

Well, if that is the case, I need someone to explain to me the need of a youth ranking system for U11 teams… for 10 year olds? Seriously, someone tell me what the value is to rank teams at this age group? What does that really mean? Most importantly, how does this promote a better youth soccer experience for the players and help the United States reach their mission of developing better soccer players?

If you can answer these questions with anything that could be seen as a rational response, and with the benefit of the kids (not parents or coaches in mind), than you are smarter than me (which is not an exclusive club). I have tried to understand the need and justify something like this being needed in our youth soccer system, but I have not found a way to do that.

How does a team get a number one ranking? The team has to win a lot of tournaments. I guess a team can consider being “successful” by winning a lot tournaments, but I would measure success about HOW those teams are winning those tournaments. I would measure success with a youth team by the level of GROW AND DEVELOPMENT IN EACH PLAYER. Now... show me that "ranking" for a team or club!

If a team is stepping on the field, with a development first approach, trying to play the game the right way, focusing on possessing the ball, giving all kids opportunities to contribute equally in the game, giving kids the chance to play and experience the game in different positions, encouraging them to take risks, and they win the game, than that is fantastic and should be applauded (and it is how it should be done).

But, I would make a hefty bet, that the teams that are winning many of these tournaments take a much different type of approach. An approach probably closer to the other side of the spectrum than what is being promoted as appropriate for these age groups by US Soccer and other coach education organizations and leaders. I would venture a guess that the team relies on a couple “special” players to be difference makers for the team. These players are relied on to score most of the goals, control the game, take all set pieces, and never come off the field. (I bet the team does not attend a tournament that one of these players would have to miss for personal reasons. Not worth going if you are not going to win, right?) While the rest of the team is probably made up of better than average players who are asked to get the “special” players the ball as quick as possible. The other players are never given the same responsibilities or given a chance to play that type of role on the “team.”

Kids on these teams probably all play in the same position the entire time. In order to win, it helps to have your players in the position they are best (at 11) to put the strongest line up on the field. Hard to have as much success when kids are placed in different roles to help work on their weaknesses in games, and challenge the player to develop an understanding of how to play the game in those positions. Although this would benefit the players’ develop, it could be catastrophic to keeping that number one ranking.

What type of players make up the best team at the country at U11? Is it a team full of kids who are already 6 ft tall while most of the other teams are still not nearly at the same physical maturity level? These teams are physically probably much superior than your average team, comprised of 10 year olds who have the speed, strength, and size of kids years older. Will this team still be able to compete, have as much success in five years down the road, when other teams are beginning to catch up physically to them? Was the team taught the technical and tactical skills required to play that game at the older age groups, or were they just focused on using what worked to win at U11?

I bet there is very little risk-taking during games on a team like this. If a player gets a ball in his team's penalty area, I bet the player is encouraged (screamed at) to “clear it” or get it out of “danger.” Having a player try to use his skills to control the ball and build out of the back or find a way to break the pressure and keep possession is not worth the cost of a possible goal when the goal is solely to win. Again, although that composure and skill development is key for the players to gain at the younger age groups, in order to be ranked number one, some things will need to be sacrificed. Again, how many teams can say they are the best U11 team in the country? Number one baby!!!

Though I do not blame the team or the coach for any of this (for the most part), as again, the team is playing in a system that rewards this type of play through these types of accolades. What system is out there to recognize and rank teams based on what the players are being taught and how well they are being prepared to play the game at the next level? Where is that measurement? Where is that ranking? That is a ranking that I would deeply care about because A) it would recognize the actual best coaches/clubs/programs and B) it would help parents see which organizations are actually worth the investment for the benefit of their child.

The youth system is creating an environment that is sending two very different messages. On one hand, the professional coaches and leaders of the soccer community (US Soccer) are telling youth coaches and parents to focus on development and teaching their players how to play the game. On the other hand, the coaches are trying to do that in an environment that will punish a club and team for not playing to win from a young age. Tournament wins and league championships are how you get your teams ranked and recognized as the top in the country. The system promotes, encourages, and rewards coaches, teams, and clubs to focus on the wrong things from the start!

For a team, that does not have all the impressive tournament wins as a youth team, who is part of a club who really believes in a “player first development model” and it is not just a tagline on the club’s website, it will be harder for them to move into more competitive leagues or be accepted into higher level tournaments at the older age groups because they do not have an impressive resume of tournament wins. Since the system is set up to punish coaches and teams who are not in it for wins from the get go and actually really want to help players learn how to play this game, what do we expect those coaches and clubs to do?

Am I saying that winning is an indication that a team is just playing for wins and not trying to develop players? No, if a team is winning, obviously that can be a great thing. It can be the result of how good of a job the coach is doing with helping each player on the team develop and learn the game. So for me, it is not an issue with winning. It is simply HOW a team is winning at the youth ages? As I have said before, development takes time, but there are plenty of short cuts to take with youth teams to win which takes no time at all.

I am sure there are some great U11 teams out there that play fantastic soccer, and are being prepared to play the game years down the road. A measure of that would be IF those teams are still winning as time passes when they get to the older senior level age groups. Should that not be the goal for all youth coaches, teams, and clubs? To help the players learn the game so they can come back and be better next year? It would be unfortunate to watch a team who was considered “high level” at one point, slowly fall behind each season, and never be able to get back to having the same success they experienced early on in their young careers.

If as a soccer community, as a nation, we are serious about making sweeping changes about the youth soccer system, to promote and encourage coaches to teach the game, this is one part of the system that needs to be eliminated. There is no need to rank teams at the younger age groups. You cannot promote a better playing and developmental experience for players, and promote a youth team ranking system at the same time. It immediately switches the focus for the players, parents, coaches, and clubs to a part of the game that does not matter at the youth level. Step on the field to compete, and try to win, but do it in a way that teaches the kids how to play the game. Do not do it so the team moves up a spot in the rankings.

For fun, I tried to find out where Barcelona’s U11 team ranked in the world. Unfortunately, I could not find that information. Either they like to keep it a secret, or they do not care.

Tony Earp
Tony Earp

Director Tony has a Masters in Education from The Ohio State University, is a State Certified teacher, and is a USSF C License coach. Tony was a standout player both academically and athletically at The Ohio State University, earning multiple honors both on the field and in the classroom. Tony's achievements included 2nd Team All Big Ten in 2001 and 2002, serving as Captain in 2002. Tony was named Most Inspirational Player in 2001 and 2002, as well as achieving Scholar Athlete status in those same years. Tony was a member of the 2002 MLS Draft Pool. After playing, Tony was a history teacher at Licking Valley High School in 2005 and at Dublin Scioto High School in 2006. In 2007, Tony Earp accepted a position at SuperKick as the Director of Soccer Training where he continues to serve as the Senior Director of Training managing programs, establishing training curriculums, and coaching athletes. Tony was the Head Coach for Hilliard Bradley High School boys soccer program in 2009 and 2010. In addition, Tony is a Director for Classics Eagles FC and is the Director of the SuperKick Classics Juniors Academy. With 10 years of coaching experience, Tony has developed a reputation of being a coach who motivates players to expect more from themselves and creates a training environment conducive to developing high level players.

Posted by Administrator on Fri, 23 Jan 2015
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Stop Making Excuses!

By: Matt Weiss

As someone who watches games and scouts opponents as much as I do, one thing I have always found interesting was people’s responses to “How did your game go?”. When I generalize the two most common answers, it usually amounts to:

  • “We lost but the refs were terrible”

  • “We won but we should have won by 4-5 more goals”

Have you ever heard a more humbling response such as “We tied. It was a fair result”, or “We won 1-0 but we could have easily lost 2-1”? Probably not.

When parents frequently use the examples from the first paragraph, naturally their kids will adapt the same mindset. What I dislike most about those answers is that they use the term “but”, which immediately makes it negative and foreshadows an excuse. If we use this approach to analyzing games, we are robbing ourselves of critical thinking and the accountability that the players need to start developing as they get older. And not only in soccer, but in their everyday lives.

One of the most used “but” comments is about the referee. Have you ever thought about how difficult it is to be a soccer referee?! I coached high school soccer for 6 years and I don’t think you could pay me enough money to be a referee due to the constant pressure and ridiculous verbal abuse that can happen at games. I recommend also reading Coach Tony’s article he wrote a while ago about this topic: http://superkickcolumbus.com/soccer/soccer-articles/through-the-eyes-of-the-referee. People tend to forget that without the referees, there would be no game! If you have ever watched a game on TV, you have the luxury of instant replay and slow motion. A referee has to make decisions within seconds! That is difficult. Even when we watch from up in the stands, our angle is higher up and we can view the whole pitch as opposed to the referee who is running to follow the play and is level with the players. I would guess that 90% of the time a referee has a “bad performance” it goes both ways, so it is really no excuse because both teams had to deal with it. The other 10% may be because the referee has had enough of one team’s parents, players and coaches yelling at them!!!

I especially dislike when coaches and players complain about the referee during the game. Regardless of the referee’s performance, use it to take what the game is giving you and make the proper adjustments.

Another phrase that is often used is “We should have won. We had so many more shots than them!”. If shots were how you scored goals, than you would be right. But it is only the shots that go in that count. There is no rule in soccer that says the team with the most shots wins 100% of the time. Of course getting more opportunities on goal will help lead to scoring goals, but if you out-shoot your opponents 10-1 and 9 of the shots were outside the box and non-threatening to your GK, it won’t make a difference. The same goes for having more corner kicks than your opponent. If you really want to get mathematical, check out this article that explains that in the English Premier League, a goal resulting from a corner kick usually happens once every…10 games! (http://www.soccerbythenumbers.com/2011/05/why-goal-value-of-corners-is-almost.html) With a league as direct and physical as the EPL, corner kicks aren’t as valuable as you think. One could even argue that when a team takes a corner kick, they are actually highly vulnerable to getting counter attacked and getting scored on due to the offensive team being so high up the pitch.

From the recent popularity of dominating possession in games, derived from the "Barcelona Era", another excuse that has gained popularity is “we out possessed them all game”. Well, there are two different types of possession; meaningless possession and purposeful possession. When I think of meaningless possession, it is when your team keeps the ball and passes it around, but never accomplishes anything or gets behind the defense. Purposeful defense may start out looking meaningless but once the opportunity arises, or when the defense becomes unorganized or lost, they get punished right away. One of my favorite clips of purposeful possession is when Barcelona were beating Madrid (ended up being a 5-0 win) and used their skill and confidence to move through Madrid’s pressuring defenders.

Iniesta and Busquets Passing vs. Madrid Play Video

In conclusion, I think it is important for parents and players to really start analyzing what truly happened in their games. You either won, drew, or lost, and for a reason! And sometimes the reason may be “Life isn’t fair!” but that is an important lesson to learn which is why everyone’s parents have told them the same. Try to respond without using the phrases mentioned in this article and instead include answers to the problems, not excuses! If you are fortunate enough to win, reflect in this similar mindset. Always ask yourself, what did we do right? What did we do wrong? And, how can we do better next time?!

Matt Weiss
Matt Weiss

Director Matt graduated from Otterbein College in 2008, majoring in Sports Management and playing for the men's soccer team. He was head coach of the Olentangy Braves boy's program from 2011-2013 and is currently on the coaching staff for Ohio Wesleyan Men's soccer team. He has received his USSF National D, NSCAA National Diploma and NSCAA GK 1 Diploma. He was also awarded Columbus Assistant Coach of the Year in 2010 and OCC Head Coach of the Year in 2012.

Posted by Administrator on Tue, 9 Dec 2014
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De-Fense! De-Fense!

Written by: Matt Weiss

For those of you who are doing winter training with your teams as they prepare for the spring season, you are probably wondering what to focus on first. You may be the new coach, or have a lot of new faces on the team, so you struggle pin pointing a place to start. Aside from technical work, I recommend starting with defensive principles. Defense has a lot more to do with effort and dedication and to be honest, you don’t need to be a great soccer player to play great defense, although there are important athletic skills required.

Let’s review some of the basic principles of the first and second defenders and then view some recommended activities.

The first act of defending is PRESSURE. Without pressure on the ball, the attacking team will be able to do what they want. Imagine if Peyton Manning never had defenders try to sack him! The most important and immediate pressure comes from the closest defender to the ball. The distance of pressure, or how far the defender is from the attacker, will depend on where they have the ball. You will need to be much tighter if the ball is in your 18 yard box as opposed to the center circle. The amount of pressure, or how quickly you close down the attacker, will depend on the numerical advantage. If one forward is attacking four defenders, the closest defender can pressure very hard because he has three extra defenders to hep. If two forwards are attacking one defender, the lone defender must delay the attacker with the ball to try to slow down the attack, giving his defenders time to run back and help. The defender wants to stay between the ball and the goal without diving in or getting beat on the dribble.

The second act of defending is COVER. This responsibility is in regards to the 2nd defender (next closest defender to the ball). Their main responsibility is to cover the space behind the first defender and to instruct the first defender where to force the attacker. The covering defender wants to help make the play predictable. For example, if the covering defender tells the pressuring defender to “force left!” he wants the 1st defender to completely cut off the chance of the attacker dribbling right, therefore leading him into the covering defender. The covering defender will not always suggest the pressuring defender force towards him, for example if the dribbler is going towards the sideline, or if he has his back turned to the first defender. Similar to the last section, the distance between defenders will depend on where they are on the field and what the attacker is doing (dribbling at full speed, slowing down, etc).

Defense in soccer is hard! With other sports, I would argue that although it is still tough, there are timeouts, shot clocks, and of course in football, everyone gets to reset themselves every 5 seconds. A few seasons ago when I coached at Olentangy for the boy’s soccer team, I focused most of my energy early in the season having our guys play attacking soccer. It was after a two game stretch when we had 2-0 leads and lost 2-4 and 3-4 that I realized I was only teaching them half of the game. We had the talent to score goals so if we could put extra attention on defense, those games could stay 2-0, 3-1 in our favor.

Once we changed our approach, and committed to be more defensive, we had a 6 game stretch of losing one (0-1) and winning five (3-1, 4-0, 4-0, 2-0 and 2-0) including a program record for consecutive shut outs. Not only did our defense improve but our confidence as well. We already knew we could score but once we started shutting out opponents, teams took notice! We also noticed that the better our defense was, it provided us with more attacking opportunities which was why we were still able to score often in our games.

Below is a great defensive activity that will help establish shape to win the ball back. This became an everyday activity for my team in the season mentioned above.

6v3 (3v3v3) Set up a 25x25 grid with 9 players (3 teams of 3 with each team in a different color). One team starts out as the defending team with the other two teams possessing. Every time there is a turnover, the team guilty of that turnover becomes the new defending team while the other two possess. This activity should be done at a higher intensity for 2-3 minute rounds.

In the diagram below, you can see that yellow are on defense. Notice that the yellow closest to the ball has pressured tightly and the other yellow has instructed to force them left. Now red’s only option is to play a risky pass to the red on the left, which can be intercepted or immediately pressured by the other yellow.

  • All coaching points should be focused on the closest defender pressuring and getting instructions from the covering defenders

  • Verbal cues should be the same across the board

  • Pressuring defender “I step” or “I’m up”

  • Covering defender “Force left/right” or “No turn”

If your defending teams are struggling to get into the right shape quickly, you can have each team take turns defending but have the two possessing teams pass slowly and have the defending team focus on moving into the pressure and cover positions instead of trying to chase and win the ball back. Once they find a rhythm, then you can return to it being “live”. This activity will only work if the defending team can quickly transition together (once they lose the ball and become defenders) and work on communicating and making the space smaller together. If one person moves to pressure but the other two don’t follow, it will be incredibly difficult to get the ball back.

Like all activities, there are many different variations but it is always best to start simple and then add progressions. Remember, we are focusing on 2 main points, so avoid expanding the coaching points until they become automatic with pressure and cover!

Matt Weiss
Matt Weiss

Director of Soccer Matt graduated from Otterbein College in 2008, majoring in Sports Management and playing for the men's soccer team. He was head coach of the Olentangy Braves boy's program from 2011-2013 and is currently on the coaching staff for Ohio Wesleyan Men's soccer team. He has received his USSF National D, NSCAA National Diploma and NSCAA GK 1 Diploma. He was also awarded Columbus Assistant Coach of the Year in 2010 and OCC Head Coach of the Year in 2012.

Posted by Administrator on Thu, 20 Nov 2014
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Thankful for Thanksgiving

by Tony Earp, Senior Director

This time of year it is easy to look back on everything I have done since this time last year. I always find myself asking what if I did this or what if I did that, and thinking about whether or not I took advantage of each moment and opportunity I was fortunate to have over the course of the year. I would like to think I did, but I know I left a lot on the table and there was more I could have done. Although it is good to recognize those moments, I think it is more fruitful to see what worked, what went well, and to try to recreate those chances again this coming year and moving forward. On this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for all the parents who trust me to coach their child and be part of their soccer experience. I am thankful for the opportunity and privilege to teach and learn from aspiring young people who love to play the beautiful game.

When parents bring kids into SuperKick for training, I know they are silently saying to the coaches and myself, “I trust you to help my child learn and love the game.” As a father now, I have a deeper appreciation for the trust instilled in others who interact with kids. All parents want the best for their child, and part of any person’s life are the people who they interact with on a consistent basis who will have an impact on the person they grow up to be. Although I will not know what kind of impact I had on the players I coach until years from now, I hope I had a small role in helping them grow into great people who like to play soccer. I know when a parent brings their child in to train with me that is their expectation, and it should be. So, I am thankful to all the parents who allow me to teach their kids.

During the time I get to spend teaching a player the things they need to know to improve their soccer skills, I know the players are teaching me how to be a better teacher. Coaching courses, articles, and the endless amounts of information found on the internet are all helpful when trying to improve as a coach, but it is the interaction and conversations I have with players over the years that usually alter my coaching philosophy and approach to teaching the game. As an adult, my perspective of what I do is always skewed slightly by the compiling years of my age. How I see my actions and words is completely different from how a child may interpret them. As cliché as it may sound, I know I learn just as much, if not more from the kids I get to coach each week, as they do from me. The players have always been the ones who have helped me aspire to be a better coach. So, I am thankful for all the players have taught me over the years and keep pushing me to do my job better.

It has been almost 8 years I have been coaching at SuperKick. For 8 years, I have been fortunate enough to work with players of all different age groups and ability levels. All with different goals and aspirations, but they all wanted to get better and learn more about the game. Whether individually or in classes, the kids show up and they are ready to work hard to learn. I think about the coach I was 8 years ago and I do not even recognize him. I wish I could go back in time and tell him to do things differently, just as the coach from 8 years from now will want to do. Being in this environment and working with so many different types of players, has given me a unique opportunity to learn and develop as a coach. With each player brought different challenges for me and opportunities to learn and grow. So, I am thankful for the variety of players I get to work with at SuperKick and all the unique experiences that come with that.

I am thankful for the change I am beginning to see at the soccer fields. Watching practices and games, there seems to be a slowly moving shift towards doing things that are in the best interest of the players by the coaches and the parents. Although it is the negative events that get the most attention, I think watching a game or practice now, compared to 5 years ago, there is a stark contrast to the typical coach or parent behavior. For me, this means that the messages from those who are pushing a new approach to the game are starting to get through. I am an avid follower of Changing the Game, Proactive Coaching, and Dr. Alan Goldburg’s Competitive Advantage as they all constantly sharing great ideas and insights into how to best serve the kids. The information has proven invaluable to me as a coach, and it seems that the message is getting across to more. Real change takes time, and is a painful process, but continuing down this path will help establish an incredible playing and developmental environment for current and future aspiring players. So, I am thankful to all of those coaches and parents out there who are choosing what is right over what is popular, and often taking the more difficult path because they know it is better for the kids.

Finally, it is a great time to remember how fortunate we all are to get to watch our kids do the things they love to do. There are many parents out there who lose that chance or never get that chance… for many reasons. They will never get the chance to bring their child to practice or a game. They will never get the chance to sit on the sideline and watch their child play and run around. They will never get the chance to share in their successes or comfort them when they have failed. They will never get the chance to hug them and tell them, “I love to watch you play.”

From my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!

Tony Earp
Tony Earp

Director Tony has a Masters in Education from The Ohio State University, is a State Certified teacher, and is a USSF C License coach. Tony was a standout player both academically and athletically at The Ohio State University, earning multiple honors both on the field and in the classroom. Tony's achievements included 2nd Team All Big Ten in 2001 and 2002, serving as Captain in 2002. Tony was named Most Inspirational Player in 2001 and 2002, as well as achieving Scholar Athlete status in those same years. Tony was a member of the 2002 MLS Draft Pool. After playing, Tony was a history teacher at Licking Valley High School in 2005 and at Dublin Scioto High School in 2006. In 2007, Tony Earp accepted a position at SuperKick as the Director of Soccer Training where he continues to serve as the Senior Director of Training managing programs, establishing training curriculums, and coaching athletes. Tony was the Head Coach for Hilliard Bradley High School boys soccer program in 2009 and 2010. In addition, Tony is a Director for Classics Eagles FC and is the Director of the SuperKick Classics Juniors Academy. With 10 years of coaching experience, Tony has developed a reputation of being a coach who motivates players to expect more from themselves and creates a training environment conducive to developing high level players.

Posted by Administrator on Wed, 19 Nov 2014
tags:

Thought Process

by Tony Earp, Senior Director

When watching a game, I often wonder what players are thinking when the ball is coming towards them or upon receiving the ball. Are they nervous? Are they just excited to get to touch the ball and be part of the play? But most importantly, I am curious about what they plan to do with the ball and why. Although the thought process in making a decision with the ball has to happen in a fraction of a second, and in reality, becomes more of an instinctive reaction over time, there are things that should be considered by the player before making a decision.

The following is what I like players to consider when gaining possession of the ball. As one option is determined unavailable, the player should move to the next option. Too often, players do not consider some of these and opportunities to score or move the ball forward are lost, or possession is lost because they try something that is not available.

Can I score?

Too often, players do not utilize situations to score because they did not even consider scoring as an option. This is the point of the game! One team is trying to score on the other team. Sometimes that might be missed when focusing on so many other aspects of the game, but it should be the first question and thought each time the player gets the ball.

More often than not, the answer is "no" depending on the distance, angle, and number of defenders between the player with the ball and the goal. But, when the answer is "YES," and the player is in a position to take a shot on goal, I ALWAYS want the player to take that chance. Players should be hungry and excited to score goals. I want players who are confident enough to take the responsibility to try to put the ball in the goal.

Upon receiving the ball, a player’s first thought should be, “Do I have a chance to score?”

Can I set a teammate up to score?

The next best thing to scoring a goal is setting up a teammate to score a goal! If the player with the ball cannot score, or feels there is another player in a better position to score (closer to goal for an easy tap in), the player should try to get the ball to the player who is in position to score.

This is a tricky one because some players will skip the first question (Can I score?) to try to set up another player. The player will try to make the extra pass and it is intercepted or the player receiving the ball does not have a better opportunity and misses. It is a great feeling to set up another player to score, but a player should not use that as an excuse to avoid shooting when given the opportunity.

Can I pass the ball forward or dribble forward?

Ok, so if you cannot score or set someone else up to score, your next option would be to try to move the ball forward to get closer to the opponents goal. If the player recognizes it quick enough, there should be an opportunity to dribble forward into space or pass the ball forward to a teammate to advance the ball up field. Too often, players will play the ball negative (backwards) when they have the space and time to move the ball forward, or not move anywhere with the ball at all.

Can I change the point of attack (switch the field)?

If you cannot go forward, the next best option is to try to switch the field or change the point of attack, moving the ball diagonally across the field. Normally, this is where the most space can be found on the field... away from the ball. Defenders are taught to collapse on the ball and make the field small. When the ball is moved quickly out of pressure across the field, it forces the defending team to quickly shift to get in a better defensive shape which usually opens up gaps between the defenders. If the ball is switched fast enough, the player receiving the ball should have time and space to attack forward.

Can I play backwards?

If none of the above options are available, then the ball needs to be played backwards to relieve pressure and keep possession. Normally if the defensive team has done a good job of quickly taking away all the above options, it will force the player on the ball to play the ball backwards away from goal. Outside of winning the ball, that is the next best thing for the defending team.

Although not ideal for the attacking team, it is the smart thing to do as it allows the team to keep possession instead of forcing the ball into pressure and turning it over. By playing backwards, the team maintains possession and can look for space in another area of the field to play into and move forward.

Protect the Ball/Shield

If a player receives a ball under so much pressure that none of the above options are available right away, the player needs to use their body and protect the ball (shield) until one of the above options becomes available. This is an area that many players struggle with. When under pressure, players tend to panic and just kick the ball away or force the ball into a defender and hope they can "muscle" past the defender.

Instead, by inserting the body between the defender and the ball, it keeps the ball out of the defender’s reach and forces the defender to go around the body to try to get it. When the defender does this, space will open up giving the player on the ball an option to turn or move away from the pressure. If the defender tries to go through the body, that is normally whistled a foul, and the team gets a free kick to keep possession and restart an attack.

...the decisions above are made in a fraction of a second when the player gains possession of the ball. The more aware the player is of the game situation before the ball arrives, the more likely the player will make the best decision possible upon gaining possession. It is when the player is not aware of what is happening that opportunities are missed because the player did not see it in time.

For players to have this type of thought process it takes a lot of reinforcement in training and activities that promote players to think in these terms. For all possession activities, there should be a way to score so players are always thinking about trying to score. Also, having direction in your possession games allows players to think more often in these terms as well as trying to keep possession (but with more purpose). The coach needs to encourage players to take shots when they have the opportunity to score, move the ball forward when there is space, and help them recognize when it is necessary to switch the point of attack or play backwards to maintain possession.

This will be slightly different in certain types of formations and systems of play, and decisions in the game are more complicated than these questions at times. The goal of this list is to break down the decision making into the simplest form and give players a base to work off of when playing the game. Again, in short, the thought process:

  • Can I score?
  • Can I set someone up to score?
  • Can I go forward?
  • Can I change the point of attack?
  • Can I go backwards?
  • Can I protect the ball until an option is created?
Tony Earp
Tony Earp

Director Tony has a Masters in Education from The Ohio State University, is a State Certified teacher, and is a USSF C License coach. Tony was a standout player both academically and athletically at The Ohio State University, earning multiple honors both on the field and in the classroom. Tony's achievements included 2nd Team All Big Ten in 2001 and 2002, serving as Captain in 2002. Tony was named Most Inspirational Player in 2001 and 2002, as well as achieving Scholar Athlete status in those same years. Tony was a member of the 2002 MLS Draft Pool. After playing, Tony was a history teacher at Licking Valley High School in 2005 and at Dublin Scioto High School in 2006. In 2007, Tony Earp accepted a position at SuperKick as the Director of Soccer Training where he continues to serve as the Senior Director of Training managing programs, establishing training curriculums, and coaching athletes. Tony was the Head Coach for Hilliard Bradley High School boys soccer program in 2009 and 2010. In addition, Tony is a Director for Classics Eagles FC and is the Director of the SuperKick Classics Juniors Academy. With 10 years of coaching experience, Tony has developed a reputation of being a coach who motivates players to expect more from themselves and creates a training environment conducive to developing high level players.

Posted by Administrator on Wed, 19 Nov 2014
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