Westfield Soccer Association

Introduce the Concept of Shape and Increase Spatial Awareness

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.


Ruben Vloedgraven
Director of Coaching - Westfield Soccer Association