Moving goal game

moving goal game

moving goal game

Two equal teams.

Select two players to become the “moving goal”.

These players take the ends of a pole, rope or towel and stretch it out as they move around the space.

The other players play a game trying to score in the moving goal.

Coaching Points:

  1. Players should look at the football during shooting motion.
  2. Strike the ball with the instep (laces) with toe pointing down and ankle locked. This will give the players a firm hitting surface.
  3. Hips should face the goal.

Try These Variations:

  1. Add two balls.
  2. Add a second goal. With more goals, players will get more shooting chances and must play with their eyes off the ball. This will present more complex decision making.

“They’re all bunched up!”

By Ihor Chyzowych

That’s what I hear at every U-8 youth soccer coaching course I teach. My reply is always the same: “That’s OK!”

Then I get the puzzled looks from nearly every coach or coach-to-be.

The kids know what they’re doing, it’s the parents and the new coaches who are confused.

Adults see the bunch of players as unorganized — not as a team. That’s the first problem. Because, at this point, it’s really not a team.

The players at this age don’t understand what being a “team” means. At their age, they are selfish in their game. Me, my ball, my game. Most kids can’t even remember the name of their team or their coach. They won’t even practice with any one else’s ball! How can you expect them to understand or embrace teamwork or fixed positions?

The ball is their magnet, so let them try to get it. In doing so, they’re actually building good instincts that they’ll use in the game when they are older and “team” actually begins to mean something.

For example, many good coaches struggle to “re-teach” 14 to 17 year olds the working concept of zonal defending and zonal pressure defense. Two concepts that they knew instinctively when they were 5. What happened? It was drilled out of them by a youth coach who kept telling them to spread out.

When they’re 5-plus years old, they already have a natural instinct for this kind of defending. They’re already figured out that five of us versus one of them means that we’ll probably get the ball.

To parents, this is a mess on the field. They want the kids to spread out — so that the one player with any skill can have the space to dribble around every one else like cones. Not a very good defense.

A good coach will definitely have to adjust these players’ instincts as they get older, but surprisingly not much. The game itself makes them smarter as they continue to play more and more.

Another reason why “bunching up” is OK for young players: the kid in the center of that bunch is learning early on how to play in tight spaces and not to be afraid of traffic or contact — invaluable skills that will be second-nature to him by the time he’s older and able to play in fixed positions.

So, as hard as it is for parents to believe, young players learn how to solve problems and be creative while bunched up. These skills actually help them with their game when they’re older and that game is more structured.

As a coach, I’ll want on my older team the youth player who consistently came out of the pack with the ball. He might be my striker because he’s not afraid of crowds in the box, or of being marked by two players. He’s been getting through the traffic and scoring in those situations since he was 5. Playing in “the bunch” has made him tough, technical and smart.

My advice to new youth coaches and to parents is to stop worrying about the kids being bunched up. At U-8, just let them play.

You’re role at this point is to teach them some basic ball touches, point them in the right direction and let them go!

Let the game teach them for now. Let them teach themselves. And most of all, let them enjoy the game. Seems simple? It is. But that’s OK, too. That’s the beauty of soccer.

About the author:

Ihor Chyzowych — Director, Custom Soccer Coaching
— USSF ‘A’ License
— National Youth Instructor’s License
— NSCAA Advanced National Diploma
— ODP Region II Staff Coach
— OSYSA State Staff Coach and Licensed Clinician

Why is football called “soccer”?

The word “soccer” actually comes from England, where the modern version of the game originated.

In England, there were two types of football: rugby football and association football.

The slang term for rugby football was “rugger,” and the slang for association football was “assoc.” The word “assoc” gradually evolved into “soccer,” which was much easier to say.

When association football was introduced to North America, gridiron football (the type played by the NFL and in the Super Bowl) was already well established. To avoid confusion, Americans adopted the British nickname “soccer” for the new sport.

What is soccer?

Soccer is a game. The children are involved in an activity that pits them against an opponent. It is, in most cases, about winning and losing, competition and cooperation. It is also a leisure activity. The children are there because they want to be there. They want to play a game.

children playing footballTo play a game of soccer you first need a ball. Then an opponent. Add a field, a couple of goals across from each other, mix in a few soccer rules and you have a game of 1v1. But this is hard work and you can’t play it for very long. So you get some teammates, and to keep it fair, a few more opponents. With these elements you can play soccer all day.

These are the elements of soccer. They make the game what it is. If you remove a key element such as the ball or opponent it can’t be soccer. Likewise, to change an element too much you can move too far from the game. Playing with two balls or three teams might be fun and a game, but is it soccer? To pass a ball across a grid and run to a corner involves kicking techniques, but is it soccer?

Soccer also involves the element “chaos.” Opponents, team mates and the ball are all moving in different directions. Players, parents and coaches are shouting different instructions and information. Bringing “order out of chaos” is an important skill in learning how to play the game.

A soccer coach coaches soccer, not something else.

Why children want to play soccer

If you want to keep your children motivated, interested and wanting to learn you must first understand why they wanted to play soccer in the first place.

Some textbooks suggest that the main reason that children want to play soccer is to learn so-called ‘socialisation skills’ – how to work together in a group, achieve group goals, (e.g. to win as a soccer team), learn sportsmanship and how to deal with success and failure.

Certainly, learning to work together in a group and striving to achieve group goals are potentially important to our children. Learning about and practicing sportsmanship is also a worthwhile goal, as is understanding how to deal with success and failure – winning and losing.

But is this what our children expect to get out of our soccer practices and games?

Actually, NO!

Numerous research studies over the last 20 years have asked children why they decided to participate in organised sports. Although there is some variation in the ranked order of the reasons that children give, (depending on the particular sport they are playing), the top reasons are very consistent:

Children play soccer because they:
1. Expect to have FUN,
2. Learn SKILLS,
3. Develop FITNESS,
4. And because they enjoy COMPETITION

This last point is interesting because many ‘authorities’ suggest that competition in youth sports is a ‘bad thing’.

In NO CONTEST: The Case Against Competition, for example, author Alfie Kohn insists that competition in sports should be avoided at all costs. Kohn goes on to say that “children, especially, are motivated to see what’s enjoyable about an activity.” Nothing, he says, encourages excellence as much as finding a task fun. Artificial incentives such as trophies, gold stars, and (presumably) the results of assessments can kill what is known as “intrinsic motivation” or internal rewards.

Others, (myself included), believe that competition is good for children if appropriate feedback is provided and equal weight given to the importance of values such as sportsmanship and fair play. In fact, competition teaches young people not only to cope with sport, but also helps them to deal with the inevitable ups and downs of life itself.

The studies also reveal that socialisation related reasons are typically near the bottom of the list of reasons children give for playing soccer while sportsmanship comes somewhere in the middle.

It may be a surprise to learn that winning and receiving awards (medals, trophies, etc) do not appear at all among the main reasons.

It would appear that most children want to play soccer so that they can participate in competitive sport (but not necessarily win) and to develop the skills and fitness that will allow them to play and compete as effectively as possible.

We can be sure, however, that all children play soccer because they want to have fun.

Why children stop playing soccer

I stopped going to soccer because after a while it became like work, no fun…I used to like it…”

Eleven year-old, San Fernando Valley, California, USA

Why is it that some children keep coming to our practices, week in week out, in hot sunshine and in freezing blizzards while up to 25% of children (and they’re often the most talented ones) pack it in after a few weeks or months?A recent study asked almost 700 children who stopped playing organised sport (including football or soccer) what it is was that made them give up. The main reasons the kids gave for quitting were:

  • I lost interest,
  • The coach treated some children more favourably than others,
  • I was not having any fun or
  • I developed other non-sport interests.

Of these, only the development of non-sport interests was related to the age of the child. This means that as children get older they are more likely to drop out because they become interested in activities outside of sport.

No surprise there!

Because children rarely drop out for just one specific reason, the study also analysed the ‘reasons behind the reasons’ for dropping out. It found that the primary combination of factors contributing to dropping out was related to the team environment. Specifically, the children felt that:

  • Their coaches were not doing a good job,
  • There was too much pressure to win and
  • The members of the team did not get along well with each other.

The most encouraging finding of all, however, is that in the early age groups the principal reasons for stopping playing soccer are reasons that you can do something about!By understanding how your children think, not putting too much emphasis on competition, giving quality feedback and focusing on FUN your children won’t drop out and may well develop a life long interest in sport – thanks to you!

Now you know why children want to play soccer it might be useful to gain an understanding of how children develop both physically and mentally. That way you’ll be able to plan sessions that are pitched at the right level for your players.

It would also be a good idea to read how to be an effective soccer coach.


Of course, the reasons why children stop playing football vary according to their age when they stop. The most common in my experience are:

  • Parental disinterest (or active discouragement) that results in difficulty getting to practice, matches etc. (affects younger children most).
  • Not fitting in – this is more common in girls football where the importance of being in the the ‘gang’ becomes important as children get to about ten years old;
  • New interests that replace football (other sports usually – golf, tennis etc )
  • Joining a peer group that do not play football


When winning is the only thing…

…violence is not far away.

The acceptance of body contact and borderline violence seems to be based on the idea that sports is an area of life in which it is permissible to suspend usual moral standards.

Studies show that athletes commonly distinguish between game morality and the morality of everyday life. A college basketball player says, “In sports you can do what you want. In life it is more restricted”. A football player says “The football field is the wrong place to think about ethics”.

Experts express concern about the social implications of this lower moral standard in such an important and influential area. Sports gives us a wealth of metaphors in other activities: the language of sports is often used in discussions of business, politics and war. The influence of this double standard begins at an early age.

Athletes as Role Models

We know from research in psychology that young children tend to model their behaviour and attitudes on those of adults, particularly adults they admire. Athletes (and fathers watching/ playing sports) are role models. Even Presidents admire them. Children watch ice hockey on television. We all know the stale joke “I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out”. But how many children, or adults, are aware that a majority of hockey players want to abolish this violence? At annual meetings of the National Hockey Players Association violence has been a major issue, with players asking owners to impose much stiffer penalties (including expulsion).

But Club Owners (sponsors and the media) refuse to discourage the violence, because it attracts spectators who come to see “red ice”. Players who do not participate in the violence endanger their jobs. Most players do not want to see a game where their lives (or others) are in jeopardy. That pressure ultimately comes from owners (sponsors and the media) “who are into making profits”.

But to children it all seems natural. Little does he or she know that the extreme violence he sees often grows more out of the owners’ commercial interests than players’ inclinations.

A child who watches acts of violence committed by thieves, murderers, or sadists in films or on TV knows that society disapproves of these acts. The child who watches sports knows that athletes’ acts of violence are approved of. It makes sense that sports violence would serve as an important role model for children who tend to be well adjusted socially, while illegal violence on the screen would tend to have a greater influence on the behaviour of children who are more psychologically damaged and/or feel more alienated from society.

Sports plays a major role in reinforcing the concern with success, winning, and dominance. On the sports field these goals alone justify illegal and violent acts.

Violence in the Stands

Sports Illustrated took an “unscientific poll of fans” and reported in its August 8, 1988 issue that “everyone who had ever been a spectator at a sporting event of any kind had, at one time or another, experienced the bellowing of obscenities, racial or religious epithets … abusive sexual remarks to women in the vicinity, fistfights between strangers and fistfights between friends”. Increased spectator violence is one more manifestation of the escalation of violence which has taken place in our society in the last 20 years. Violence between athletes can only serve to encourage it.

Youth Sports: “Just Like the Game of Life”

30,000,000 children are involved in youth sports in North America, under the direction of 4.5 million coaches and 1.5 million administrators. When these programs place inordinate emphasis on competition and winning they become detrimental. Most youth sport coaches lack even rudimentary knowledge of the emotional, psychological, social and physical needs of children.

Many athletes report the enormous importance of the coach to a young boy or girl. Players look to their coaches as figures of wisdom and authority. This deep emotional relationship and respect for the coach’s authority facilitates players’ transference of moral responsibility from themselves to the coach. A core idea transmitted by coaches (and fathers) is that “playing the game is just like the game of life. The rules you learn will stand you in good stead for the rest of your life.”

Some of the rules that are emphasized sound good – teamwork, sacrifice for the common good, never giving up, giving 110 percent of yourself – and in the hands of sensitive, knowledgeable, well-trained coaches they can be used to teach youth valuable habits. But such coaches are far from the rule. Examples abound of coaches teaching youth the wrong things, in many cases (most?) without even knowing it, to the point of being a serious social problem.

When “60 Minutes” did a program on youth football they found that the emphasis was very much on winning – to the point that it is no longer fun. The emphasis of winning deprives youth of the pleasure of playing the game. The findings of academic researchers confirm “the obsession with winning is far from infrequent in youth sports”. Eventually, integrity takes a backseat to the pragmatic concern of winning games. Players learn that integrity is a rhetorical strategy one should raise only in certain times and places. The adults involved with Little League tend to be oriented toward winning, losing and competition.

Ironically, instead of focusing on enjoying sports, reaping physical benefits, and instilling a lifelong involvement in athletics, too many of our sports programs are geared exclusively toward winning (and coincidentally destroying bodies and missing out on the fun). The obsession with competitiveness and winning is far more pronounced among managers and coaches (and parents) than players. Many coaches think it is correct to use techniques of pushing, yelling, dehumanizing the opposing team, etc. Many coaches also teach players to sacrifice their bodies unnecessarily, hide all feelings of fear and vulnerability (however warranted they may be), to sacrifice the bodies of others, and use sexual slurs .. often to provoke boys to prove their manhood.

What Sports is About

True courage involves taking risks at the right time, in the right place, for the right reason. It is the competitive spirit tempered by empathy, moral concern, and a sense of social responsibility that causes long-lasting excellence and brings benefits to the community at large.

Here is what I learned from a sports psychologist regarding what they look for in an excellent athlete –

  1. competitiveness – not in the sense of having to win the game at all costs, but in having to win each move or action they make. In other words, a type of striving for continuous improvement – to always do the best you can and doing even better next time. Coincidentally, the sum of a lot of small wins, will probably add up to the big win.
  2. being a task master – the self discipline to organize and carry on the necessary tasks to get any job done, however long it takes, whatever it takes. This keeps you going, on track, or getting back on track. It means having a goal and not taking your eyes off it until you have obtained it.
  3. self esteem – having the confidence in yourself that you can do anything you want to. It helps you when you miss a goal because you know you will get it next time, and it keeps you coming back.


We have reached a crisis point today. Contributing to this crisis is TV, which introduces violent athletes as role models to very young children and often focuses attention on the violence in sports. Also, the commercialization of youth sports introduces children to inappropriately competitive sports at an early age. Both as players and as spectators, children are learning all the wrong lessons. What can we do in youth and high school sports to curtail violence, excessive concerns with winning and dominance, and the denigration of women and homosexuals?

  1. Day care centres and nursery schools are licensed (not to mention the regular school system). There is a problem of accountability of youth sports organizations. It is time for sports organizations, which involve large numbers of school-age children and affect their physical and mental health, to be licensed as well.
  2. All coaches (and parents) should have training in child development and physiology, and sports philosophy and how to deal with violence in sports. All coaches should have background checks (similar to Block Parents).
  3. All players, parents and coaches should sign a “contract” agreeing to a code of conduct, what is expected of coaches, players and parents.
  4. All attempts at injuring other players in order to “take them out” of the game and all borderline violence should be forbidden. Any attempt by a coach to encourage youth to behave in this way should be met with a severe penalty and eventual removal if repeated. There should be no difference between game morality and the morality of everyday life.
  5. Players who are problematic (i.e. offenders) should not be allowed to play on a team (for suitable time periods). For example, a ‘3 strikes and you are out’ rule.
  6. All violent, insulting language on the part of the coach and the players, including slurs against women and homosexuals, should be forbidden.
  7. Friendly, civil relations between teams should be encouraged. All games should start and end with handshakes.
  8. League injury rates should be provided to players and parents.
  9. Professional sports organizations must curtail violence. Otherwise, if society has seen fit to regulate cock fights and dog fights to protect animals and the public, so must violence in professional sports be regulated. Employers (Club Owners) should not be allowed to endanger (or bully) employees (players), even if they are paying them millions of dollars, because there is a very large social cost to which they are not contributing.


A major justification for our nation’s enormous investment in competitive sports is that ‘sports build character, teach team effort, and encourage sportsmanship and fair play’. Studies indicate that youth involved in organized sports show less sportsmanship than those who are not involved. One study found that as the children grew older they moved away from placing high value on fairness and fun in participation and began to emphasize skill and victory as the major goals of sport. In several other studies it was found that youth who participated in organized sports valued victory more than non-participants, who placed more emphasis on fairness.

Instead of learning fair play and teamwork, too many of our children are learning winning is everything. It is time to regulate children’s sports so that youth will really learn the pro-social attitudes and values that they are supposed to learn from sports, instead of the obsessive competitiveness, emotional callousness, and disdain for moral scruples that are so often precursors to violence.


What’s wrong with youth soccer?

“I know a lot of younger players don’t love the game now, but it is not a game you love anymore. When I was young we played in the street, had fun, identified with great players, thought & talked nothing but football, lived for a Saturday game on telly. Now there’s too many games on TV & you see the kids now in their teams at 9 years old, & its do this, do that with their parents on the touchlines screaming at them…” Gordon Strachen

“The young player should not be at all bothered with tactics, defending or positional elements. The focus should be on learning basic techniques. It should be ball, ball and more ball.” Zico

As youth soccer coaches, we think we know why our children want to play football (soccer).

We all try hard to make our training sessions and matches a fun experience for everyone concerned while the more enlightened coaches make sure that they offer all children the opportunity to play football, regardless of their ability.

At it’s best youth soccer really is the ‘beautiful game’: inclusive, democratic and inspiring.

But it’s not always like that. All too often the ‘beautiful game’ is tarnished by parents shouting at their kids from the touchline, clubs preoccupied with winning leagues and cups, ‘average’ players sitting out most of the season on the bench and young players being forced to play in fixed positions.

And so, sadly, many children give up playing soccer because ‘it’s no fun anymore’.

So what’s the answer?

Maybe we should play a different game altogether……futsal

Total soccer for children

When should coaches start assigning specific positions to young players?

By Mike Woitalla (from Soccer America Magazine, January 2008 issue)

We see it so often one wonders whether American youth coaches are getting their soccer advice from Garry Kasparov.

“Kids come up to the halfway line,” says Sam Snow, U.S. Youth Soccer’s Director of Coaching Education, “and actually balance themselves not to go past it, because they suddenly realize, ‘Oh my god, there’s the line that I’m not supposed to go past.’ Their arms are swinging, it’s almost like they’re on a balance beam or something.”

It’s a prime example of overcoaching – prevalent even though it’s generally agreed that pickup games or street soccer spawned the world’s greatest players.

And because it’s widely lamented that American children don’t play enough soccer in unsupervised games, where they’re allowed to experiment and enjoy the freedom of the sport, the sensible response is that organized soccer for young children replicate a pickup-game environment.

One of pickup soccer’s main characteristics is that players explore the field as they wish and decide on their own how to position themselves. I am constantly impressed with how even very young children begin to comprehend positioning without being instructed.

Snow recommends that coaches not worry much about talking to children about positions at the U-6 and U-8 levels.

“We’re saying, from U-10 on up, begin to tell them the names of the positions, show them where they are, but don’t screw them into the ground,” Snow says. “Don’t say, ‘You play here and you’re not allowed to go beyond a certain part of the field.'”

At the higher levels, teams interchange positions. Making players rely on instructions in their early years isn’t likely to prepare them to read the game on their own. Besides, the children’s instincts often make more sense than the sideline instructions. Manny Schellscheidt is the head of the U.S. Soccer Federation’s U-14 boys national development program and Seton Hall University coach. He sees older players he calls “position stuck.”

“When they don’t know exactly what to do,” Schellscheidt says, “they go to the spot they’re most familiar with regardless of what the game is asking for.”

The easy answer to the question of when to assign positions is to make it moot by using a small sided format, as recommended by U.S. Youth Soccer (U6: 3v3; U8: 4v4; U10: 6v6; U12: 8v8).

“The small-sided game environment for preteen players aids the players in learning concepts of play, for example positioning as opposed to positions,” says Snow.

Schellscheidt says, “It needs to be small enough so positions don’t matter. That’s the best solution. If coaches would have the patience to graduate their kids from really small numbers, one step at a time, that would be the most natural and the most potent education the players could possibly get.

“They would learn to deal with time and space, and how to move around and have some shape. The problem is we go to the bigger numbers too early.”

Even if the league doesn’t use a small-sided format for its games, Schellscheidt recommends that approach in practice. Above all, don’t scream orders from the sidelines and shackle players to areas of the field.

“It destroys the children’s natural instinct of being part of the game,” he says.

Bob Jenkins, U.S. Soccer’s Director of Coaching Education and Youth Development, says youth coaches are “skipping steps” when they try to organize and discipline young teams to play within a formation at a stage when they should be focused on the 2-on-1 situations.

Overemphasizing positions, Schellscheidt says, demonstrates the difference between team development and player development.

“There’s such a difference,” he says. “You can divvy up the field, make players rehearse what they’re supposed to do in their small areas, and as far as team development it works fine because they can find a quick way to get results. It’s a short cut to success, but the kids don’t become good players.”

U.S. Soccer’s “Best Practices for Coaching Soccer in the United States” is pretty clear on the subject of allowing young players to make their own decisions on the field:
“A team of 9-year-olds who hold their positions and maintains a steady group of defenders who rarely, if ever venture into the attack, looks like a well-disciplined and well-organized team.”

But U.S. Soccer does not recommend this approach, clearly stating it isn’t how to develop good players:

“This approach hinders the player’s ability to experience and enjoy the natural spontaneity of the game. It does not allow players to have an equal opportunity to go and ‘find’ the game based on what they see from the game or to handle the ball and develop instincts for the game.

“These are skills that they will need at the older ages and that are often lacking in the older players.”

(This article originally appeared in the January 2008 issue of Soccer America magazine.)