Find space!

How often do you see your players watching a team-mate with the ball as they struggle to get away from pressure? I see it most weeks!

It’s frustrating – you just want to pick them up and move them a few feet to where they can provide a passing option for their team-mate.

But of course we can’t do that so try using a soccer drill to work on support play instead and help your players form good habits.

Before we can get young soccer players to take up supporting positions instead of trying to get a foot on the ball all the time, we have to introduce them to the concept of space.

For you and me, it’s easy to ‘see’ space on the soccer field. But it’s not easy for seven and eight year olds.

They are still very self-centered and find it hard to consider abstract concepts such as space – espcially when all they really want to do is kick the ball!

So let’s show them what space means.

Set up the space drill

Set up a very small soccer field, about 20 yards by 15 yards, complete with goals for this soccer drill. Then ask your players to play 5v5 or 6v6 in that area. After five minutes or so, ask them if it was hard or easy. They will say it was hard. Ask them why. Someone should say ‘it was too crowded’, if they don’t give them a few hints.

Great, we’re sowing some seeds!

Now stand your players around a small circle marked by cones, about 10 yards across, and put one player (the defender) in the middle. Ask your outside players to pass to each other, keeping the ball away from the ‘defender’.

After a minute or two ask the defender if it was easy to intercept the ball. He or she should say it was easy. Now ask the other players how they could make it harder for the defender and with a bit of luck they will say ‘make the circle bigger’. Get them to do that by moving the cones back three or four yards and play the game again.

Now it will be easier for the ‘attackers’ to keep the ball away from the ‘defender’. Get your players to recognise that (it’s important that they say it’s easier with more space), make the circle a bit bigger and play again. Keep doing that until they reach the point where they are so far apart from each other that the defender can easily intercept the attackers’ passes.

Stop the game and ask your players to show you the size circle that worked best for the attackers. This is the ‘perfect distance’.

Ask your players to remember that.

Finish off by playing a ‘match’ and stopping play when they bunch. Tell them to move apart so they are at the ‘perfect distance’ from each other.

Repeat, praising them when they keep a good distance from each other.

Well done, you’ve taught your players a very valuable lesson!