It never ceases to amaze me how
many youth soccer coaches expect 6, 7 and 8 year old children to be
able to play in (and hold) a particular position on the field. The
same coaches can often be heard shouting 'spread out!' or 'stop
chasing the ball!' and, no doubt, wondering why their players are
taking absolutely no notice.
Similarly, I've heard children
as young as 5 or 6 described as "a natural defender" or "a striker".
Even worse, some young soccer players are labelled as not fit or quick
enough to play in outfield positions and are stuck in goal for whole
matches - even whole seasons!
In the article below, Curt Brand
describes why it is usually unreasonable to expect children below the
age of about ten to properly understand the concept of space and
movement on the soccer field, never mind positions or 'tactics'.
soccer tactics and young
by Curt Brand
- "D" Licensed U10 Coach, WAM United Willington, Ashford and
Mansfield, Connecticut (USA)
Six and seven year old children will quickly understand
that soccer is a game played with a ball. They will more slowly learn that
they cannot touch the ball with their hands, become more proficient at the
skills you have tried to teach them, and run around the field with great
enthusiasm. However, they will be much slower to learn the tactical concepts
of the game. They are just not developmentally ready for this lesson yet.
Having said that, teaching tactics to this age player is not appropriate.
Let's talk a little bit about teaching tactics.
Soccer, although it is played with a ball, is really a game of space and
movement without the ball. Unlike some other sports, (baseball, for
instance), soccer does not really have positions. Rather, players have
differing responsibilities which change as the ball and the other players
move about the field. In a strict sense, only the goal keeper really has a
"position" to play.
In your first game, you will observe that all of the players will chase
madly after the ball in a pack. Occasionally, a stronger player will get a
foot on the ball and it will pop out of the pack. Instantly, the pack
scurries after the ball and ingests it, the ball disappearing within a
forest of little churning legs. As the season progresses and the players
develop their skills, you can try to teach them some tactical awareness, but
don't get frustrated when you discover that they learn these principles very
Once the players have developed some skill and comfort with simple passing,
you can then introduce the concept of movement. A successful pass is made
not so much by the player who delivers the ball but, by the player who makes
a run to get open. At the six and seven year old level, a good run is any
movement which takes the player away from the pack which surrounds the
football. After years of listening coaches plaintive pleas of "Don't bunch
up", I am convinced that most first and second grade players have great
difficulty internalizing the concept that sometimes you chase the ball and
sometimes you don't. Save the truly exceptional neophyte, most young players
either chase the ball all the time (whether they have a prayer of getting it
or not) or never go after it (soccer as an on-the-field spectator sport).
Ideally, one player will go after the ball and the other teammates will
spread out, looking to get open for a pass. Choose the few players on your
team who appear to be most advanced and try to teach the concepts of space
and movement on the field. You can also yell, "Don't bunch up!" as long as
you don't get frustrated when they don't listen. Relax -- space and movement
are nine year old concepts.
attack the play of 5 and 6 year olds..or have as much fun as they do!
introducing the concept of space to young soccer players
selecting player positions and team formations
teaching positions to
young soccer players
coaching the swarm - a guide to teaching positions and positional sense
11 a side
soccer coaching and the very young child
characteristics of six to ten year old soccer players
discuss this article with other soccer coaches
at the footy4kids
soccer coaching forum