Topic: As players get more comfortable on the ball and have gained an understanding of how to fill the role of the 1st and 2nd attacker, different combination plays can be introduced. Combination plays can help a team unbalance a well-organized opponent and create number up situations getting in to the attack.
When U9 players are introduced to 6v6, 7v7 or 8v8 games the focus of the coaches is heavily on the first principles of play. In order for them to be successful in possession of the ball the focus on the shape of the team in possession of the ball is needed. A team in the right shape will create space for its players to get open for one another. When players are able to get open for one another of the ball, the player on the ball will find it a lot easier to make the right decision on the ball.
It takes players a while to get gain a good understanding of these basic, but very important concepts. Once players are more comfortable playing in the right shape and have a decent understanding of the roles of the 1st attacker (decisions on the ball) and 2nd attacker or attackers (support off the ball) they can be introduced to some basic combination plays. Combination plays are very useful going forwards when a team is trying to unbalance the opposing teams’ defense. A lot of movement of the ball is needed to successfully complete combination plays, but once players start to get an understanding of the different types of combination plays they can most certainly use them in their advantage going forwards. Please note that it is very important for players to have a good understanding of the basic principles/concepts outlined for our U9 and U10 players. If your players still struggle to play in the right shape and have a tendency to bunch up around the ball they are most likely not ready for these concepts yet.
The 2 types of combination play addressed in this clinic are the wall pass/give and go and the overlap. These are the 2 most common types of combination play used and can be very effective especially when an opposing team is capable of regrouping underneath the ball. If your team struggles to outplay the opponents through maintaining their shape and a decent speed of play, a little bit more is needed to be successful.
The exercises included can be used going to the goal or, as in 1 example, towards end zones. Going towards the goal might make it a bit more game realistic and gives players an opportunity to finish on goal as well. Before going to the goal it is not a bad idea to play some of the 2v2 / 3v3 games (potentially with a neutral) to end zones. The advantage of using end zones is that the final pass in to space needs to be really good and the timing needs to be perfect.
Both the give and go or overlap can be introduced using the same exercises worked out for this topic. It would be helpful, to ensure players gain a good understanding of these combination plays, to introduce 1 type of combination play at a time. It takes a couple of sessions before players really get a new concept down, so don’t rush anything and give players the opportunity to get familiar with the different combination plays.
As always, if anyone has any questions don’t hesitate to contact me.
Director of Coaching – Westfield Soccer Association
Clinic for parent coaches – Friday 10/16/2015
Topic: A progressive session in which the role of the 1st and 2nd attacker are highlighted. During the buildup of the session the 4 components of the game will be combined so players are exposed to game like situations.
At U9 and U10 the focus is mainly on small group tactics 1v1-3v3 to help players gain an understanding of the first principles of play. In this clinic the focus is on the 1st (decisions on the ball) and 2nd attacker (support off the ball). It is important to understand, as stated before, players need to gain a good understanding of the concept of shape to be able to support each other of the ball. Without an understanding of this concept, players will struggle to get open for each other due to a lack of space. This is caused by players who watch the ball and try to get open by coming to the ball. With as a result that players make the playing field a lot smaller. On a smaller playing field it is a lot harder to successfully play the ball to one another.
All these concepts can be trained in small groups, no need to go beyond 3v3 in practice, to help players gain an understanding of these principles. Without the shape, players will fail to find space to get open for one another. The 2nd attacker does need space to receive the ball. Obviously this affects the decisions made on the ball.
Our players also need to be technically capable of passing the ball to their team mates and receive the ball with both feet (and sideways on). The technical warm up of this clinic focuses on the concept of peeling off your opponent to create space for yourself to control the ball. When receiving the ball the players also need to control the ball with their far foot, the foot furthest away from the ball, while facing the field.. This constantly needs to be repeated and when the technique brakes down in the warm up face of a practice make sure to fix it, to ensure good habits are instilled. We do not want players to become complacent and make an attempt to receive the ball without creating space for themselves. It is also important that the players become comfortable enough to pass and control the ball with both feet.
The different 1v1-2v2 exercises give all coaches enough content for 3-4 practice sessions alone. In both variations players need be able to get open for each other, in an angle, and receive the ball so they are able to forwards. The supporting players need to make a decision on where to get open given the position of the opponents making sure a passing lane is always open. Ideally this is done off the weak side shoulder of your direct opponent. That way the opponent can’t see you and the ball at the same time.
The 3v3 exercise included in the clinic focused on the concept of shape. By using 4 small goals the players are naturally forced to spread out. To enforce this concept the team in possession of the ball needs to make sure they don’t have more than 2 players on 1 side of the field. If all players come to the ball, as mentioned before, the playing field is made a lot smaller. During the 3v3 game players still need to work to open up passing lanes to provide the player on the ball with opportunities to pass the ball. The angle and distance of the support has its influence on whether or not the team in possession of the ball can outplay their opponents.
If anyone has any questions about this clinic and the attached lesson plans please do not hesitate to contact me.
Director of Coaching – Westfield Soccer Association
Clinic for parent coaches – Friday 9/25/2015
Topic: Functional training to work on the build up from the back. Players have been introduced to the role of the goal player at U9 and U10.
As stated before, at U9 and U10 all players are introduced to the role of the goalplayer. Through the rotation over all positions our players in these 2 age groups will play in the goal a couple of times over the course of the year. This way they will understand what it means to play in the goal; recognize what kind of pressure you can be under in the goal and players will start to respect their team mates who play in the goal, through their own experience in the goal.
At U11 the group of potential goalplayers will be narrowed down from the entire team to 4-5 players who do well in the goal and like to play the position.
Through U10 the main focus, along with a couple of other priorities as shared with all parent coaches, is mostly on the shape of the team in possession of the ball. After 2 years in travel the players should have gained a decent understanding of how they can ensure their team has the right shape in possession of the ball; recognize how they can provide support for the player on the ball to open up a passing lane and since players have gained understanding of these 2 concepts, it will be a lot easier to make the right decision when in possession of the ball as well.
Although coaches will need to continue to emphasize these very important concepts we can now focus on functional training to improve the build up from the back. What makes the training functional? The players are placed in their positions as they would in a regular game to mimic real game situations Players are placed in position much like they would be during a game. The players involved will gain an understanding of their role in this type of situation through a progressive session. During the session the complexity and pressure will be increased by adding more opponents.
For this specific session I have chosen to focus on the shape of the backline and the midfield in possession of the ball. The ultimate goal during the buildup, when playing out of the back, is to advance forwards of course. This can only be achieved when your team is playing in the right shape and player’s adjust their position given where the ball is and where their opponents are. It is important to note that players will take the information they are provided with very literal. When we ask our players to spread the field, they will most certainly spread the field, but fail to move as soon as the ball starts moving from 1 area to the next.
As an example:
If during the buildup phase, the ball is played out through the right defender and the right midfielder, it is important for the left defender and left midfielder to alter their position slightly. The left defender needs to tuck in and play more central to back up the right defender in case the team loses possession of the ball during the buildup. Same goes for the left midfielder. If the ball would be played backwards, to relieve pressure, the left defender and left midfielder have to spread out again to ensure that there is enough space to play. When training your team it is important to keep an eye on the entire picture you are provided with to ensure you don’t lose out on these important coaching points.
If anyone has any questions about this sessions and the attached lesson plans please do not hesitate to contact me.
Playing Out of the Back 1-2-3-2
Director of Coaching – Westfield Soccer Association
Ruben Vloedgraven, WSA DoC - Sept 18, 2015
3v0 - Towards 2 small goals
3v1 - Continuous attacks
3v2 - In both halves
3v3 - Score on small goals diagonally across from each other
3v3 - You make it, you take it
3v3 - 2v2 in the middle zone
3v3 - Keep a defender in the shooting zone
3v3 - Choose any of the 4 goals
3v3 - Dribble the ball through the gate
3v3 - Mini Football in 3 teams
Topic: Games that can help a coach introduce players to the concept of shape and increase the spatial awareness of the players you have on your team.
At U9 and U10 a heavy emphasis is placed on the concept of shape. To successfully build up an attack, it is important that players learn to recognize where the space is. A team has to fully utilize the width and the length of the playing field they are playing on. Many players at U9 and U10 quickly lose oversight of the situation. They end up watching the ball, get sucked towards the ball and end up making the playing field very small. This results in to teams bunching up around the ball. This, of course, will make it very hard to build up an attack and create goal scoring opportunities. Most goals scored, especially when teams just start playing 8v8 at U9, come through individual skill and/or the use of the physical qualities of a few players. They are not the product of great team play. At U9 and U10 this might bring a team success, but to be successful in the long run, players need understand how they can fully utilize the playing field.
In the coaches’ manual we outlined the 10 principles of possession soccer and the concept of shape is mentioned as the very first principle. Although young players most likely will struggle to look beyond the few players around them, if these players do not play in the right shape, it will be very hard for the player on the ball (1ST ATTACKER) to make the right decision. If the shape of a team is not correct, the supporting players (2nd ATTACKER OR ATTACKERS) will fail to find space to get open and receive the ball facing the field.
This shows that the first priorities outlined at U9, which we still need to focus on at U10, are all related to one another. We can try very hard to teach players to make the right decision on the ball, but if a team is bunched up around the ball (LACK OF SHAPE OBVIOUSLY), it is very hard to find an open player. How can I pass the ball to someone else, if my teammates aren’t getting open for me? Without the right shape, we will always struggle to open up passing lanes for each other.
As mentioned previously, although the players at U9 and U10 play 8v8, this is for most children to many players on the field and can be very overwhelming. To gain a good understanding of the concept of shape it helps to expose them to smaller group settings. Less players on the field, means less lines of communication, which means less difficult decisions to make.
The games shown in the clinic on Friday 9/18 can help a coach introduce players to this concept. The games worked out for this clinic are set up in such a way, that the concept will come out time after time. A coach can guide/facilitate and doesn’t need to tell his players what to do constantly. Two small goals on each end force players to think which goal they should attack to finish the attack successfully (SCORE A GOAL). Players have to be inside the shooting zone for a goal to count, which stops players from shooting from halfway the field. The coach needs to ensure that players are set up in the right shape, provide each other with support of the ball in the right angle, which makes it a lot easier to make the right decision on the ball.
If anyone has any questions please do not hesitate to ask me.
Steve Lengen, Competitive Goalkeeping, Oct 28th
Tom and Ruben Oct 2nd
Coaches, we all want our players to make better decisions on the ball without needing the guidance of the coaches. Many of us wonder how we can make that happen and struggle to find a solution to that problem.
It is very important we create situations in which players are stimulated to learn by simply playing the game. Let the demands of the game be the teacher. Our role as trainer/coach should change from being an instructor who tells his or her players what to do to that of a facilitator. This model is player centered, not coach centered. The players are central in the learning experience. We have to design our sessions that way so that the focus is indeed on the players. The demands placed on the players in the game will teach the players how to play the game.
When a coach takes on the role of the facilitator he or she knows that the setup of the games will teach the players how to play the game. Keep the instruction (instructor – coach centered) to a minimum and guide players in the right direction. Keep players engaged by asking them questions. Make sure these are open ended questions so all players are forced to think about what they are doing.
In the last clinic, we mostly focused on games that will help increase the spatial awareness of our players. At a young age players struggle to understand the concept of shape which leads to bunching and direct play from goal to goal. This is sometimes a technical breakdown as the players are unable to control a ball under pressure of an opponent, but most of the time simply because they are unable to oversee the situation. Either way, players need to be exposed to these kind of situations on a regular basis in order for them to learn from these mistakes and develop.
In a small setting with less players around they are constantly forced to make decisions on and off the ball. Are players able to make the right decision on the ball given the game situation? Can they help each other out off the ball using the entire playing area given to them? By using a total of 4 small goals, or gates, players are forced to keep the field wide in order for them to score goals.
It is important to guide the players through these games. Let them discover a way to be successful and allow for players to make mistakes. Support their actions on the field, compliment them when they are doing things really well and ask them questions as they are playing. By using this method of coaching players are not only taught how to do something, but also why; when and where. Players will be stimulated to find the answer to all of these questions asked above which eventually will help them making better decisions on and off the ball. Players will get better by playing the game with the help of a coach who guides them in the right direction.
We should measure success in coaching by how long it takes the player to no longer need his coach.
US Soccer – Best practices for coaching soccer
Many of the exercises used in the clinic are worked out and will be up in the coaches’ corner as well. Below you’ll find a brief explanation of the exercises that can help you all prepare your sessions. The different exercises are all worked out on paper, but please don’t hesitate to reach out to me when you have any questions.
Director of coaching - Westfield Soccer Association