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akommers

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Hi I'm coaching an U8 girls rec team. 6 vs 6 w/goalie. I cannot figure out how to play positions especially defense. Do they swarm and all play offense and defense? It's 100 percent about development. If they play d I still want them to be involved and even be able to score. I don't want them anchored, but if they are slow and come up to half line they still give up easy breakaways. I want to rotate all players evenly, assuming there even is a rotation at this stage.
Not sure what to do or how much and what to teach this type of team about formation. Any advice welcome thank you.
paulee

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Reply with quote  #2 
There are a couple of different formations that you can use, but don't get too bogged down in that.  Think instead of trying to create space when on offense, and deny space when on defense.
If they all swarm to the ball, you don't have soccer so much as you have chaos.
Think of it in terms like this: if we have the ball, we are attacking.  If they have the ball, we are defending.
You want your girls to have passing options when they have the ball, at least 2.  What lineup will give you that?
You could run 2-3-1, 3-1-2, 3-2-1, 3-3, all sorts of variations.  But don't worry to much about that, focus more on the principles of soccer.

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akommers

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Reply with quote  #3 
Thank you for the reply Paulee.  It's just one practice a week and one game.  So games are half of the season.  My main goal is skill development.  I'm not worried about the formation - it's just the one thing I haven't figured out yet. And I like to have it all figured out [smile]   So you are saying if they swarm it's not soccer it's chaos.  But if they all defend and all attack doesn't that lend to swarming? And is swarming bad if they are all trying to get involved?

I mean, do I tell girls they are 'on defense'? And if I do what should I tell the defense to do?   Thanks.
AFB

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Don't worry about swarming.

Start them on the principles of the game. In other words, teach them the role of a first defender, pressure, then the role of the second defender (cover) and finally the remainders as third defenders (balance). These are simple concepts and the players will grasp them quickly. Applying them with consistency is another matter. Given your practice/game schedule expect them to begin consistently working out the how to play at the end of the season.

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"You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life."

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akommers

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Reply with quote  #5 
Good stuff here. Very helpful. When we have the ball on the opponents side, they are all up helping. I guess my main challenge is when they transition from offense to defense. With no set defense we usually yield a breakaway, then all the defensive principles go out the window when we are chasing down the other team from behind.

coachkev

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This is an easy one for experienced coaches and Im surprised a few havent replied yet.
Ok, first you have to explain WHY you need players in certain positions but that its okay to 'get lost' sometimes as long as you know where you SHOULD have been thats half the battle.

As for practical things, give each player a different color cone to hold (including the GK).
Then place each player in your preferred start position.
Next they place the cone on the ground where they stand.

If you have the numbers then you play a small sided game with one side with cones.
At ANY moment you can call "SHAPE" and the challenge is to see who is the last to leave the ball and get back to THEIR cone.
Repeat this several times and then no call but ALL the team you are coaching get back to their own cone as SOON as possession is lost.
Don't be afraid to tell an particular player they were last twice in a row - you only do it once or twice and the jobs done.

Play a game called GET THE BALL.
Each team is given 10 points. EVERY time a team loses the ball they get 1 point deducted, but ONLY from a misplaced pass or being tackled.
The team that reaches no points first loses the game.
The whole purpose of this game is to create a "Win the ball fast" mentality = Simple, clear, challenge

akommers

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Reply with quote  #7 
Those are good drills coachkev.  So first I need to tell them why they need to play certain positions, and using those drills will help.  So your opinion is at girls 8U level there should be defensive positions?  If so what is their role?  I'm pretty sure most agree they wouldn't stay back by the goal.  So they can move up to the center line? Over the center line? Can they even score. I don't really want the center line to be a line in the sand, but if they cross it and help out that's great, but then that can lead to a lot of break aways by the other team, especially if the defense is some of the slower girls, as I rotate all of them.  I still have the question of 'positions' vs 'shape' on defense at 8U.

Thanks
Adam32m

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Reply with quote  #8 
I am not a fan of teaching the game one way then eventually changing the "rules" they were taught. If you want your backs to go into the attacking half at age 14+, teach them that now. Don't arbitrarily hold them back because they are likely to be beat. At U8, the opposing forward is probably a lot slower with the ball than your backs, so they should be able to catch up. I don't use the term defense/defender, I explicitly use the term backs because EVERYONE plays defense, just as EVERYONE attacks. 

I want to teach the players as early as possible to drop behind the ball when we lose possession, so that is how I introduce "defensive positioning." The roles are always 1st defender, 2nd defender, and 3rd defender roles. 
akommers

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Reply with quote  #9 
 Adam32m, good post.   Why are the backs likely to be beat if they are held back?  I like the idea of calling them backs.  Not sure what to call the other 3 though.  So from what I'm hearing, best to have two players in defined defensive roles in this 6vs6 format at 8U. I think.  But, how far can the backs move up?  Can they score or is that moving too far up, and risk giving up too many breakaways.  If they can score they might forgot that they are backs.  If they can't score then only half the girls out there are scorers.  
THanks.
AFB

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Reply with quote  #10 
Why can't they score? Why must they be "backs"?

You want to teach defense. Everyone should learn to defend. We begin with the person closest to the ball when the other team gains possession. They are the first defender. We build positioning off of them.

We teach how to make defensive runs. The natural inclination will be to chase. The first defender may do this to provide pressure. The better course for other players is to make a run toward our goal. Then learn to cover passing lanes between the ball and opposing players with the next closest (second defender) moving to cover.

Teaching the roles and spacing will take all season.

You should think of your role. Are you training players for this season or are you developing players for years to come? The folks on this forum think in the latter terms. When I coached girls at U8 I began with the assumption that these girls would be the nucleus of our State Champions six years later. I was usually right.

At this age you do not know who will fit into the defense, midfield and forwards years from now. This means you need to teach the concepts and principles of the game.

Avoid rigid rules and roles. Such may seem easier now, but in the long term are self defeating.

Consider also that it maybe easier to teach a modified man marking system today - it is an easier system for players to understand. However, within a year and a half you will likely need to start teaching zonal defending. By teaching the principles now and having everyone defend and everyone involved in the attack ypu are laying the ground work for teaching zonal systems in a few years AND teaching players how to attack by creating space.

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Some wisdom from Winston Churchill:

"Once in a while you will stumble upon the truth but most of us manage to pick ourselves up and hurry along as if nothing had happened."

"You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life."

"You can always count on Americans to do the right thing—after they’ve tried everything else."
akommers

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Reply with quote  #11 
AFB, thank you for expanding on your previous post.  Now I understand first and second defender better.  I absolutely want to develop the girls for years to come vs for this season.  So let's just get to the crux of it - do you suggest I send the girls out on the game field without positions?
AFB

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Reply with quote  #12 
I am a maverick here and I do not believe in teaching "positions" at young ages. In this regard I am likely a minority of one. Most here know me, however, and they know of the success my teams and club had.

Positions should be taught, but that comes later.

At young ages players think in absolutes. Soccer is NOT a game of absolutes. Allowing them to think that backs stay back and only forwards score greatly inhibits their future development.

As soon as you can you want them (and you should be doing the same) thinking in terms of space and time. Like some lecture by Einstein on relativity, you are in a place where generally as space contracts so does time. We want to deprive our opposition of space and time. This is the crux of every defensive scheme.

This often means applying high pressure as soon as a turnover (transition) occurs. If a turnover takes place in our opponent's defensive area (our attacking half) we want to apply pressure immediately so we can quickly score.

How can we do this if half our team is told to stay "back" and be dedicated defenders?

It takes time, but what we need to do is teach the closest player to the ball that they are the "First Defender." Their job is to immediately pressure the player with the ball. They should interpose themselves between the ball and the goal. Their main responsibility is not to tackle (though they should if the opportunity presents) but to delay (remember the time concept). Buying time allows the rest of the team to position themselves.

The next closest person to the ball becomes the second defender. This person "covers" the first defender and becomes the 1st defender if the previous player in that role is beat on the dribble.

The other players offer "balance". This means they defend against the pass. Their place on the field should be constantly shifting and adjusting to match opposing players who are trying to "spread out" (gain the offensive principle of "width").

Teaching cover and balance involves teaching players to recognize VULNERABLE space. We do not want players simply spread out, marking space no one is near. We want them shifting and moving to prevent our opponents from being able to exploit space to get a shot.

In short order players who think this way cease swarming, though they maybe compact if the other team is concentrated near the ball.

Explore the archives. Use as search terms "cover", "pressure", "defensive principles". See if you can find a copy of the USSF D License instruction manual.

This takes time. Actually weeks. But trust in your players' intelligence. You will not be disappointed.

A brief story. Years ago I taught a young girls team this way. We met a team that played a rigid positioning scheme and kicked the ball to speedy forwards. They beat us 16 to 1. It was the first game of the season. Their coach after the game told a few of my parents that their kids were poorly coached and they should join her team.

Two months later we played the same team in a tournament this time losing 7 to 3. The opposing coach berated his players for not playing hard enough against what she believed to be a walk over team.

We played them again in league the next spring. The score was 4 to 4. You can imagine who the parents thought was getting the better coaching. In the ensuing years we never lost to them again. My team never won a state cup, but did reach the semi finals five times and the finals twice. Today of the original eight girls on that team as U8s, five are playing college soccer.

It is not a quick path. It was for me and the teams I coached a reliable path that led to players who could make solid decisions on the field at highly competitive levels. They also learned tp be very technical players, but that is another topic.

__________________
Some wisdom from Winston Churchill:

"Once in a while you will stumble upon the truth but most of us manage to pick ourselves up and hurry along as if nothing had happened."

"You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life."

"You can always count on Americans to do the right thing—after they’ve tried everything else."
akommers

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Reply with quote  #13 
Thanks AFB. I get all you are saying and like it. I think the responders so far have given thoughtful answers - but are dancing around the question.  In fact, I might be asking one of the most difficult questions in this whole forum.

On a girls 8U rec team - do you send the girls out on the field for a game telling them what position they are?  YES or NO and why.  Thanks, and I challenge everyone to respond.
paulee

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Reply with quote  #14 
I can tell you that I do send my 7 year olds out onto the field with positions.
Why?  To give them a frame of reference.  As AFB stated above, I also teach the concepts of "Pressure, Cover, Balance", and 1st 2nd and 3rd defender, but one thing to be aware of is that kids at this age struggle to grasp spatial concepts.
So by telling them, "Suzie, you are the right defender", that gives her an idea of where on the field she needs to be.
Now like AFB mentioned, these are not hard and fast rules or roles.  And while he may claim not to teach "positions", I can guarantee you that his girls are learning the positions while learning the concepts of how to defend, and how to attack.
Another reason that I will give them positions is that kids have a tendency to gravitate to where they are strongest, or where their parents want them to play.  Watching my 8 and 9 year olds last night, you could see them debating where on the field they should play, and the dominant kid winds up going where she wants to play, and the shy kid who doesn't want to confront anyone winds up with Hobson's choice.  So I like to move them around to expose them to different situations.  
Think of it like this:  If I am playing as a forward, what situation am I going to face most frequently when attacking?  I'm probably going to dribble for about 10 yards straight ahead against one player, and take a shot without ever looking for a teammate.  But as an outside mid, I'm going to have to solve a different type of problem.  The goal isn't very close, and I will probably not have a very good angle to shoot.  So I need to look for my teammates.  Same as a central midfielder, it's a different set of problems.  And for the defenders as well, different set of problems.
So by placing the kids in these different positions, you're exposing them to different situations that will help them to develop the skills they need as soccer players.

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paulee

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Reply with quote  #15 
Quote:
Originally Posted by akommers
 Adam32m, good post.   Why are the backs likely to be beat if they are held back? 
Because what they tend to do is stand on their little patch of grass not pressuring the attacker, and the kid just runs right by them.  That's why learning to pressure the ball as the 1st defender is important.

I like the idea of calling them backs.  Not sure what to call the other 3 though.  So from what I'm hearing, best to have two players in defined defensive roles in this 6vs6 format at 8U. I think.  But, how far can the backs move up? 
As far as they need to in order to support the girls with the ball.  If the midfielder can't go forward, she can always pass it back.  They need to be far enough forward so that the pass can be made.
Can they score or is that moving too far up, and risk giving up too many breakaways. 
If they can score they might forgot that they are backs.  If they can't score then only half the girls out there are scorers.  
THanks.

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craigl

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Reply with quote  #16 
Quote:
Originally Posted by akommers

On a girls 8U rec team - do you send the girls out on the field for a game telling them what position they are?  YES or NO and why.  Thanks, and I challenge everyone to respond.


You ask a question with the only context being:
  a) girls
  b) U8
  c) rec
  d) 6v6  (not clear if 5v5 field + keepers or 6v6 field plus keeper i.e., 7v7)

I suspect most team at this age are rec.

I have coached U8 13 seasons.   I can generalize the age with lots of variation in ability (flower child can be common).  We played on a small field with 4v4 no keeper or 5v5 including the keeper.   The goals were 4yard wide and 4 ft tall.  In this environment, I typically did not give the players set positions (except keeper which I rotated everyone during the course of the game/season).

I had a role of keeper.   A role of last defender (whoever was farthest back and it rotation depending upon the flow of the game).   The target forward (the most likely person available for the pass forward) who would look to get open up the field.   Everyone attacks.  Everyone defends.  We talk about transition in practice where one player is positioned ready to defend when we lose the ball.  One player is ready to provide a target up the field when we win the ball.  I guess another role is taking throw ins and goal kicks.

In practice lots of shooting, passing, dribbling, 1v1 and 2v1.   1v1 is about how to beat a person on the dribble, how to defend on the dribble, and how to transition.  You also have where to dribble and how to turn the ball.  2v1 adds beating the person with a dribble or with a pass.  It also required the off ball person to know how to provide support to receive the pass.  For example, they need to adjust their positioning based upon the pressure on the ball.

Some teams (or maybe 1-2 players)  can learn about crossing and finishing crosses.   With all this and limited practice time, no point worry who is on the left and who is on the right (just have someone providing near support for a pass and it naturally happens).   Just get them to play and learning from experience.

In the game, I try to let the players play and watch and pick a few bits of information to help them learn to improve.  At U8, you got to filter out lots of stuff and pick 1-2 things.

The use of positions becomes more necessary as you increase the size of the field and increase the number of players on the field.  It may naturally come about as the player grow in understanding of the game.

Typically, rigid positions at this age are taught in a way that does not allow the players to learn to think and grow from the experience of playing.  Often, the positions are taught using absolute terms which the kids at this age take very literally.  As a result, at U10 and U12 I may prefer athletes that have never played soccer over returning soccer players that had bad habits given to them at U8.   My point here is that if the kids have fun and learn and you do not give them bad habits you are a successful U8 coach in my book.

There is variation in the understanding and abilities of the players on both teams.  The players will learn to adjust to different cirucumstance if you let them.  You can help them recognize and adjust to different situations and as a result you create thinking players.   You can let them push up and have to make recover runs when they lose posession rather than just park in front of th e goal.

The wins or loses are often determined by ability of the players you get.  You can improve them, but there can be a big difference in development between the immature and more mature player.  Ideally, both team's coaches are working to create a good environment for the players to learn and grow.

Adults do not like to lose.  It is not uncommon to see a rec U8 game with a keeper and a defender 3 yards in front of the keeper the entire game.   They simply boot the ball.   This does not help the keeper learn to play keeper or the defender learn to play as a back.  This kids may learn to play this way and then they are not able to help their team a few years later. (Note: I see this sometimes at academy games to keep the score down and while I am not a fan I understand they need to keep the paying parents happy).

At U10, I coached 6v6 on a larger field with 6 yard wide and 6' high goals.  This field was wider and much longer and allowed longer passing.   The keepers were allowed to punt or volley the ball.   On these fields, I would play with 2 lines (3-2 or 2-3).   When it goes to 8v8 or so the fields would get bigger and we would go to 3 lines; so they learn about midfield.

In contrast, my youth I played 11v11 on a full size field with positions.  Both teams played 2-3-5 so everyone knew where their opponent was going to be.  As a winger, I got the ball, dribbled down the wing and crossed the ball.  I was the sub that played every position during the season.   At u16, I could play anywhere on the field.  Unfortunately, most of U8 team mates did not get a variety of experience over several years and their game was much more limited when they got older.

I would say that parents like positions because they understand it.  It looks more organized and may reduce scores or provide a short time tactical win that they will enjoy.  To me, developing skills and thinking players is more important (but parents often don't understand the skills or decision making adn may think the kids having to make the decisions is due to poor coaching based upon how basketball and football might be coached).   

I dislike having to fix a good kid because a prior coach gave him bad habits from improperly teaching positioning.   A big reason is that I like to coach in a positive way, and I have found after trying several different ways that it is typically necessary to use frequent negative feedback to break the habit in 3-5 weeks so they can try to catch up with the new kids who never played.   This time period can impact the coach and player relationship.   I prefer to just prevent the problem.

craigl

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Reply with quote  #17 
Quote:
Originally Posted by akommers
Good stuff here. Very helpful. When we have the ball on the opponents side, they are all up helping. I guess my main challenge is when they transition from offense to defense. With no set defense we usually yield a breakaway, then all the defensive principles go out the window when we are chasing down the other team from behind.


first principal of defending is really recovery.   The idea is you get between the ball and your goal.

When defending 1v1 you have face to face, side to side, and face to back scenarios.  In your breakaway, the attacker is often focused on the ball so the defender is side to side and he can step in when there is a long touch and take the ball.   Then the challenge is can they turn it and hold it under pressure or do they lose it again.

Also, if you have keepers it creates 1v1 breakaway scenarios for the keeper.  Do it in practice and then if they have success in games it makes it lots of fun.

I coach that one player needs to be ready to defend as soon as we lose the ball.   Also, whoever lost the ball should immediately try to get it back.

Know which players are fast.



akommers

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Reply with quote  #18 
Craigl thanks. In my original post I state that it's 6vs6 with a goalie. Not sure what more context is needed, I'd be glad to provide.  So 5 out on field.  I am taking good notes here.  So Craigl you coached U8 13 seasons? Wow.  So if I understand you, when you send the girls on the field to start a game, besides goalie you don't tell any of the girls what positions they are playing?  They just walk out there and start with no formation?
AFB

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Reply with quote  #19 
Paulee, you are correct - teach them the principles and the concept of positioning, with more defined and specialized responsibilities, will follow. So too will come the ability to effectively switch roles when it is beneficial.

After all Dutch Total Soccer was not positionless soccer. Rather it was players understanding how you play in multiple roles based on the need of the moment. The damage a defender can wreck on opposing teams when he/she can also attack has been demonstrated countless times. Two great examples are der Kaiser and Roberto Carlos.

I hope you did not get washed out like many south of you did. Best wishes.

__________________
Some wisdom from Winston Churchill:

"Once in a while you will stumble upon the truth but most of us manage to pick ourselves up and hurry along as if nothing had happened."

"You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life."

"You can always count on Americans to do the right thing—after they’ve tried everything else."
akommers

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Reply with quote  #20 
Thanks Paulee for answering my question.  In your opinion they should play with positions.  Looks like there is debate on both sides of this, which is fine. Again, I get all that about not having rigid positions and teaching principals and concepts.  But I need a starting point, positions or no positions. I'm conflicted myself, as I see both arguments for and what I think I'm reading as against. 
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