A Coach Asks
Hello, I coach a boys u-12 travel team. we use a 4-4-2 formation and
the biggest problem I have is trying to teach the most simplified tactics
of bringing the ball up the field. Any suggestions you have on how to do
this at this age level would be greatly appreciated.
Don't worry about formations, the exact location where you start
everyone at kickoff is not that important.
- Width and Depth in Attack What matters is having width and depth in attack. When a player in your
midfield has the ball, the player should be able to look to either
touch-line and find a player to receive the ball. The player with the ball
should be able to see somebody far ahead so that the ball can be played
forward, and there should be somebody more than 10 yards behind the player
with the ball. As the ball moves to a new player, the supporting players
need to move new supporting positions. There should always be someone up
front to play to, with body shape open to the ball.
You can teach this just by starting with 4v4, leaving off the opponents
at first, and starting out with a 4v0. Let the kids move the ball around
and get the players to keep an attacking shape.
- Changing the Point of Attack In general, you would want to teach the kids first how to change the
point of attack at the back to learn how to play the ball out of the back.
You can do this by having them move the ball around the back in short
simple passes, always to feet, to bring the ball from one side to the
other, through the keeper. You can play balls to the keeper and let the
keeper play to a defender's feet. Each player on either side of the ball
has to tuck back in a bit and open body shape to the ball, so that the
player with the ball can pass to a front foot. After passing, the passer
should tuck in to become a supporting player. The defenders in this kind
of an exercise would work to play the ball to target players at the
halfway line on either side of the field. After this is working, you can
send in one, then two, then three, then four chasing players who try to
win the ball before your defenders and a midfielder or two can get the
ball to target players.
Then you would want to work on combination play and runs out of
midfield, and then move on to combination play and crossing attack going
Overall, this goes from back to front.
Coaching Tools You Can Use
- Shadow play allows you to get pattern runs happening without defenders
complicating the picture. Kids can start learning that the shape, timing,
and location of their runs and passes are very important. You, as a coach,
can really start to focus in on understanding the creation and use of
space. You can work on a variety of movements involving the whole team,
and play to a goal at the other end of the field and finish with a shot,
all without pressure. As you get some movement, then you can add a few
defenders perhaps and progress things into a game.
- Zone games usually involve dividing the field into thirds of fourths
with cones (thirds is usually plenty!) and reducing the complexity of the
game by having only a few players in each zone. A lot of things go easier
when numbers are lower, and this is one way. An additional sort of zone
game that can help you involves using outside channels that run the length
of the field. In the outside channel, you can assign one player from each
team to each side, or just use one player on each side with that player
assisting both teams. Yes, you play various tactical games on the field
inside the channels, and the players take advantage of the channel players
to advance the ball.