Possession soccer vs long ball soccer.

                I coach U13 girls soccer. My daughter joined her school team and they are not good. They are athletic and  have some good ball handlers. But they play big kick soccer as opposed to possession soccer. There is also a disconnect between the kids and the coach. I am not tryingvyo belittle the coach, he played soccer for 15 years and definitely knows how to play the game better than me. But he seems to be stuck in an older style of soccer that doesn’t work anymore.

Their first 3 games they lost; 12-2, 8-1 and 9-1. They were getting blown out from the get go. One huge problem I see is the long kicks downfield. In yesterday’s game there were at least 15 long kicks, not one time did we retain possession. That is 15 lost possessions, 15 chances to score a goal and keep the ball out of the other teams hands. They are also lacking serious fundamentals. He has them everyday for an hour and half, his plan should be taking shape.

Fundamentally they are lacking, always trying for flashy instead of just making the play. Instead of getting their body in front of the ball, they throw legs up. Instead of controlling the ball and looking where they are passing, they just kick it with not regard to who it is going to. Defensively they play with the ball near the box. They will be in a crowd and kick up the middle. They consistently do this and consistently lose the ball in the scoring zone. I don’t know why they don’t just kick it out of bounds, it gives you the opportunity to reset and winning throw ins is about a 50/50 chance.

I don’t pretend to be the best coach in the world, but if you see something that works, USE IT. Each team they played against used the short to medium passing game and kicked it out on defense, not everytime, but were coached how and when to do it. They worked the ball up the field, instead of using the big kick/fast break style. One of our teams goals was scored that way, the rest on penalty kicks. He also pushes his defense up across the half line, even though it consistently gets beat back, even though they have a defender that stays behind the rest.

I preach the shorter passing game and possession soccer. I also preach having your defenders kick it out, unless they have open field in front of them. I believe in body position on defense and not making a play on the ball until you ride them where you want them. It has worked for a team that won 3 or 4 games over 4 years. I watched Chelsea vs Everton last week and there were not many big kicks down the field. Even the goalie would roll it to the defenders. One touch passing and short to medium passes make the defense move more, causing them to be out of position. Spain won a World Cup with this method.

I hope this coach can find the right mix between his method and the newer way of soccer, but I don’t see it. Even warmups he has them doing sharks and minnows while the other team has the offense working against their defense. No one works with the goalie who is brand new to goalie and soccer. I know I sound like an unhappy parent, I am a coach who sees where they can improve, and I am not seeing it. I have not said anything to the coach and never will, it is his team despite my unhappiness with the system. Could they win with possession soccer, probably not at first, it is hard to sell kids on, but they will competetive. Which will then grow confidence, which will then lead to wins. I hope I get a high school job next year. I want to see if my ideas work therd as well

My Coaching Philosophy

             I only started coaching about 2 years ago. I started coaching a sport I never played. I knew going into the only way we could successfully help these kids was preparation.  I spent countless hours reading books, pouring over the internet and watching soccer. Local college games and pro games. I also talked to every coach I came in contact with.

The team I took over had absolutely no clue how to be successful. There were no practice plans, no working on the formation, no skill building drills or even teaching the kids each positions responsibilities. They did not work on cardio, for the better part of 6 years they stood and kicked at a goal. Trying to build up their leg strength and then at the end they would scrimmage, but wouldn’t work on any skills during the scrimmage. They were hard to watch and in a 2 year period won only 3 games.

So I decided to take over. Another parent who never played assisted me, still work together. Every practice would start off with stretches, jumping jacks, squats and mountain climbers, to build leg stregth and get the heart pumping. They would then run a lap around the field. We would then go to a drill that puts the cones about 10 yards apart. We set up 4, they have to sprint to the first, touch it, run back to the start and do this for all 4. Then we would have them sprint half the field, jog half, working all around the field. Usually doing it twice. Then 30 seconds of high knee running in place. Break for a drink. We would alternate speed drills and cardio drills from practice to practice.

First game we saw the benefits. Then we would go to a dribble drill, through the cones, pass about 15 yards, immediately run after the pass to the end of the next line. Trying to get the pass where the kids were going, not where they were at. This was an every practice thing. We wanted them to anticipate where their teamate will be, as well as always keep moving to create better passing lanes. It took about 2 games but we saw the difference quickly. The hardest part for us was the kids thought they were being punished. We had to take the time to convince them otherwise. This is an important factor, have a meeting and talk to them. It gives helps them take ownership of their team. We have done it seversl times, sometimes just players only and have only had good results.

In between we have done dozens of skills drills. Always trying to keep it fresh, even if we are working on the same thing, new stuff keeps them interested. We always explain why we are doing the drill and what is expected. This way they know what we are looking for. One mistake we made was seperating the offense and defense. At the time it worked because of all the bad habits we had to correct. But defensive players need good passing and at least passable dribbling skills to start the buildup. They did the dribbling but we seperated after that to focus on specific skills. The end we would do a scrimmage, but they had to use the whatever was taught that day.

Be sure to work on your formation with your kids. Teach them what is needed from each position. What exactly you expect, must be very clear. Your formation is of course going to be tailored to your teams skills and athleticism. We have run a 4-4-2 diamond, with our best ball handler at center offensive mid. It made us strong in the middle. We used that for 2 years. When we played 8 v 8, we originally went with a 2-3-2. This year we lost our best ball handler so we switched to a 3-2-2. We are also slow defensively, so we play positional defense and try for toe pokes close to the sideline. But again your formation will be tailored to your team.

What was most important for me, don’t yell at kids. They shut you out. When something needs done sit them down. You need to establish control in the beginning so this will work. If you work with your kids; coaching is very fulfilling. Also keep stats, pass accuracy, shots on goal ect… It makes it much easier to prove your point. Next year I hope to be trying this would like to be trying this with high school kids. Hopefully my ideas work as well there. Also if you see a coach using something you like; use it, he probably got it from someone else as well.

Todays Soccer Game.

                As a coach you constantly wonder if you are doing the right thing for your kids. I am always trying to strengthen their weaknesses and continue building on their strengths. We keep at with drills, cardio and talking to them hoping to get through. It seems to be working.

                  Today we played a team on our level skill wise and mostly speed wise. They had 2 girls who were very fast and handled the ball well. They are always a very physical team and tend to throw our girls out of their game. I was really interested in seeing how our girls responded.

           First quarter started and they truly showed their physicality. They were legally knocking us around and at first we weren’t responding well. Our defense was solid and we did not allow any breaks. We were really holding our own, we kept them away from the goal. They had 3 shots and all were outside the penalty box. We had a couple of chances for breaks but they kept catching us from behind. We had a couple nice give and goes, even one nice cross, but we couldnt execute. We had 4 shots on goal to their 3. It was 0-0 at the end of the first, and it seemed as if their physicality might take control.

                  The second quarter started with them with the ball and driving it up the middle. But a great play by our center defender won the ball. Our girls really played tough, taking as much as the other team was giving. We dominated the middle from 30 seconds in. They could not get the balk down the field on us. Our offense was looking good, one touch passes, give and goes and working together to get the ball up the field. Our lack of execution showed. We got 5 shots on goal to their 1. But it was still 0-0 at the half.

                  I told the girls at half time that they needed to step it up and execute. Our girls came out like a house on fire. We marched that ball down the field and scored a beautiful goal off a one touch pass to go up 1-0. But the other team took advantage off our weaker defense and went directly up the middle the next 2 times they had the call to score, they went up 2-1. Our one girl was being a little too unselfish with the ball, getting rid of it to early, not drawing defenders to her. I told her to take these kids on beat them then make your choice when to pass. She beat 3 girls, faked a pass and scored. I was so impressed with her. We need to work on our defense that was in their to get them worker together better. We had 4 shots on goal to their 3. It was 2-2 going into the fourth.

                Before the 4 quarter started I asked the girls if they wanted to play soccer in high school. Each one said they did, I told them that this is when the good players show their heart. That when the pressure is on the great players play their best. Our girls responded. They owned the 4th quarter. Our passing was incredible, we were working the ball up field like we always wanted them to. Our defense was incredible, they could not get anywhere near our goal. These girls worked that ball up the field, moving when the ball was kicked and moving without the ball. We scored a beautiful goal off an incredible pass. Our girl made 2 moves and kicked it past the goalie. We got 4 shots on goal to their 1, we won 3-2.

            Our record is now 2-1-1, and these girls are improving exponentially in a short period of time. I told these girls that I want to read about their soccer exploits in the paper 5 years from now. I am so proud of these kids, I only hope that I can keep helping them improve. This week we will work on our defense, teach them how to play the ball when they are running side by side. Better positioning to help stop the attack. Can’t wait for the next practice.

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