We continue to receive a lot of positive feedback on the podcast.
A ‘Five Star’ review on iTunes from ‘Flying Dave’ says, “I’m thoroughly enjoying this podcast. I find it hard to talk soccer coaching with other coaches. My wife is tired of me bouncing ideas off of her. I’m super pleased to hear about coaching from other coaches. thanks!”
Thanks for the review and rating Dave!
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While I really appreciate the kind words and positive feedback, this week I’m looking for something different. Please let me know if there’s something you don’t like about the show. Maybe something you’d suggest we change. Everything is fair game except the host, sorry, you’re stuck with me. 🙂
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In This Episode
I take a look at possession play. My guess is that the most commonly used games by soccer coaches are possession games. This is especially true today with our love for all things possession related.
The challenge is to set up the game to applies enough pressure but not so much that the players don’t experience any success.
If it’s too easy then it doesn’t transfer to match situations. If it’s to hard then the players get frustrated.
The game below strikes a great balance between pressure and success because the pressure increases as the players become successful. This ‘self-regulating’ type of game ensures that the pressure is always challenging without being overwhelming.
Transitional Possession Game
Coaches often use possession games that have two teams of six or more players competing to keep the ball away from the other team. If the teams are having trouble keeping possession then they will add a neutral player or two in order to give the team with the ball a numerical advantage that will make it easier for them to keep the ball.
Usually this will be a non-directional game played in a large area. The number defenders involved make it difficult for players to see the shape of the game and connect passes successfully to move the ball away from pressure.
The following possession game is my favorite game of this type for any age group because it solves many of the issues that the ordinary possession games have.
Use a space the size of two penalty areas. This is an easy way to make the size of the area relative to the age of the players. Divided the space in half and put eight players on each team. Fewer is fine but keep the size of the area relative to the number of players and their ability level as well as their age.
One team is on each side of the area. The coach has a supply of balls at the halfway line.
How the Game Works
One team begins with the ball. The other team sends over two defenders. Five passes equals one point.
Have the players count the passes and points out loud so everyone is aware of the score. I have the players do this because ‘I’m coaching not counting’. I want to be free to give tips and make corrections as the game is being played without worrying about what the score is. Another defender enters the attacking area after each point is scored.
The defenders try to win the ball and move it back to their side of the field. If they do, the other team sends over two defenders. The teams organize who becomes the defenders. When the ball goes out of play the coach plays a new ball into whichever team should have possession.
- Starts with less pressure
- Progressively gets more difficult as players get better at possession
- Defenders have to win the ball not just kick it out
- They have to keep it until they can get it to their side of the field
- Includes an element of transition
- New defenders need to move quickly to pressure
- The team has to communicate about who will defend
- Great opportunity to teach players to reshape the Right – Left – Split shape
- Body shape
- Open to the largest part of the field and teammates
- First touch away from pressure
- Use the back foot to open up
- Support the player on the ball
- Make sure there is a Right – Left – Split
- Spread the field to create space
- Switch the ball away from pressure
You can control the pressure on the attackers by starting with fewer defenders. You could even start with NO defenders for the first five passes. With very young players you can have the defenders crawl like crabs or hop on one foot to defend.
With older or more experienced players you can allow them to leave one defender in the other team’s area. This will make transition more difficult and allow for immediate pressure.
Variation for Restart of Play
Another way to restart play when the balls goes out of play is to number the players. When the ball goes out the coach calls a number and those players race to the coach for a ball.
Focus on Defending
This is a great game to teaching pressing. Keep the same set-up and game play but change the scoring system. Give five points if the defending team wins the ball before five passes are completed. They receive three points if they win the ball after 10 passes. The defending team receives one point any time after that.
This creates the motivation for the defenders to work hard. It also provides an opportunity to teach pressure, cover and balance.
I feel that it’s important keep the game flowing and only coach within the game without stopping the action.
You can also give coaching points between rounds of play. Play until a team reaches a set number of points then give the players a break and discuss what can be done better. The play another round and focus on those coaching points during the flow of play.
As you can see this is a possession game that you can shape to fit the age and ability level of your players. Since the pressure is controlled by the amount of success they have the players will gain confidence quickly and the pressure will increase as they improve.
You can also control the focus of the game by deciding how points will be earned. Give points for passes when you want to work on possession and give points for winning the ball when you want to have the players focus on pressing the ball. Once you’ve used this game a few times with each scoring system you will see the players improving on both sides of the ball.
Finally, this is a great conditioning game that will improve the player’s fitness while they are also working on their technique and small group tactics.
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In the Next Episode
In next week’s episode I’ll share a complete training session inspired by the quick passing and combination play of Barcelona and Bayern Munich.