Podcast: Play in new window | Download
Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | RSS
In the opening of this week’s podcast I describe an incident from one of my games last weekend. It’s a story that’s better heard than read.
This week’s question comes from Evan. He’s asking about formations.
“This high school girls soccer season has just begun where I live, and I coach a local JV team. As the JV coach, I view my job as one with two parts, soccer development and confidence building.
Normally, I have the girls play a 4-1-2-1-2, partly because it’s a simple enough formation for inexperienced players to understand (we are a no cut program), and also because the tactical knowledge translates well to the varsity system, so it feels helpful for swing players and girls who will play there next season.
This year, however, I have been blessed with a large group of freshmen who are technically and tactically superior to groups I’ve coached in the past. The problem is, they all think they play outside back or up front (there are some egos involved). And, after watching a few scrimmages and trying different setups, I think that they will have the most success in their natural positions.
So, my question is, should I change my system to say, a 4-1-2-3, to get all the players in what seem to be their natural positions, or should I stick to my old system and have the players learn something totally new?
If this were a U12 group, I wouldn’t have this issue, as I am a massive proponent of having players experience the game from different positions. It just feels like at this level, there might be value in adjusting my system to the players’ strengths. My first soccer objective, nonetheless, is to have the girls develop as soccer players, not just as goal scorers.”
Thanks for the question Evan!
I would change the formation to fit the players but I would look for games during the season that give you the opportunity to introduce your usual system since it’s one that they’ll see when the move to varsity. If you try to fit round pegs into square holes you risk losing the player’s enthusiasm and confidence.
When you have a game that you have control of at halftime I would consider changing the formation. I would be sure that it’s a no-risk situation where you can teach the concepts of your usual system without the players worrying about the result. After doing this a couple of times you’ll have the option of using one or the other depending on the situation and the players will be prepared to make the transition to the varsity system.
In This Episode
Today I want to talk about dealing with poor play and lack of effort. I’ve had this issue come up twice already this season so I’ve thought a lot about it. Today I’ll share how I decided to deal with it and whether it worked or not.
Be sure to subscribe to the show through Apple Music, Google Play or wherever you listen to podcasts. Then you’ll be able to listen to the latest episode as soon as it’s released.
While you’re there, please take a moment to give the show a ranking and review. It helps keep the show at the top of the listings for Soccer and Soccer Coaching podcasts so that it’s easy for coaches to find and I’d really appreciate it.
I’m kind of taking my podcast topics as they come right now so I’m not sure what next week will bring. Tune in to find out.
I agree with your comments on putting players in a system where they can succeed rather than vice versa. Why then is the “official” statement fom us soccer that all teams in a team should play the same system? Look at the burnsviilivalleyunited mn website to see a DOC that is “drinking the koolaid.
I have bee coaching rec, traveling, and hs since 1974 and have real problems accepting a club wide mandate. I believe in teaching the principle and the system will take care of itself (a little exaggerated but you get the idea).
Fomerly of MN, moved to GA 4 seasons ago
I think that having all teams play the same system is an old way of approaching formations. Teams at the top level, professional and national teams, change their system based on the players they have, why shouldn’t clubs and teams within clubs.
Having teams play by similar principles makes sense to me (i.e. building out of the back and playing a possession style) but there has to be room for the individual differences of each team.
Great thread and topic. I cringe any time I hear a coach advocate moving players around a formation so they can “experience different perspectives” or “try something new”. The reality is that each human on the planet has a unique set of strengths and tendencies (see Marcus Buckingham). Some players are naturally defensive minded. Others attack minded. Others in between. Why do we force players into a personally uncomfortable position that runs counter to the way they are wired?
In business, we don’t randomly ask Salespeople to be Accountants for a day. We don’t ask Manufacturing to try Customer Service just for the “experience”. Why do we think it makes sense on the field? As coaches, we have an obligation to identify each player’s strengths and put them in a position to utilize those strengths as frequently as possible. If you have 8 defenders, play a defensive formation. If you have 8 attackers, then attack. It’s painful to watch an otherwise successful player moved out of their natural position (generally with little or no instruction) and see them struggle. They are just supposed to “know”. Natural tendencies can change over time, but let’s put players in a position to succeed based on where they are right now!
Thanks for sharing your perspective.
I think it’s important that we identify the differences between players of different ages and levels in this type of discussion. I completely agree with you if we’re talking about professionals; put the players in the positions they’re most capable of performing well in. If we’re talking about highly competitive College or High School age players I also agree. Even youth club players who are on teams that playing at very competitive formats like the Development Academy, ECNL, NPL or even MRL should expect to play in the position that they are most capable of playing well.
If we’re talking about youth club players then I’m going to disagree. What you describe is a “Fixed Mindset”; the player (child) is only capable of performing in a certain way and can not develop a different skill set over time. A coach with a “Growth Mindset” looks at a player as having potential beyond what they currently demonstrate. Notice, I didn’t say, “unlimited potential”. Not every child can become proficient at any position.
Unfortunately, too many young players are pigeonholed into a certain position at much to young an age. They don’t have the opportunity to find out what they might be able to do because of a coach with a fixed mindset about them.
I think we’re roughy on the same page. I start with the following assumptions.
a) Youth training sessions are used to teach all players a full range of skills
b) Training plans emphasize small-sided games that inherently give players the opportunity to experience multiple positions
c) Coaches recognize that skill sets and natural tendencies change over time
With that as a foundation, I see little advantage forcing players into uncomfortable positions in a formal game setting. If anything, it simply increases the opportunity for frustration and failure. If that qualifies me as a “Fixed Mindset” coach, I can live with it:-)
P.S. We don’t ask neurosurgeons to be nurses just because they both work in healthcare. We don’t ask farmers to be chefs just because they both work in the food industry. Why do we think all defenders should “grow” into forwards or vice versa?
I agree with A,B and C.
I think we should challenge young players by putting them into different situation. Sometimes they’ll be uncomfortable but I don’t think there’s much to be learned by ALWAYS being in your comfort zone. I also don’t think you can reliable tell which position a young player will be most suited to until they’re around high school age.
The other issue is that if they’ve only played right midfield their whole life because a coach thought that’s what they’d be most suited to and they’re on a high school team that has better right mids, their not going to see many opportunities to play. If that same player had spent time as a young player in different positions they could have opportunities to play in a number of different roles depending on what the coach needs.
I’m not judging your intention but when I talk to coaches that say they don’t believe in moving players around they’re often more concerned about the result of the game than the development of the player.
You can’t draw comparisons to adult professionals doing different jobs with youth soccer players spending time in different positions.
I don’t think that defenders should grow into forwards but there’s much a defender can learn by playing forward and one of those things may be that the coach was wrong about what the player’s true potential was.
I think an excellent way to handle this is to play the players at their natural positions throughout games as long as the games are competitive. Once the games are out of hand (one way or another) use that as an opportunity to move kids around from their natural positions. I know that youth soccer shouldn’t be about winning and should be more about development (and i agree with this) but i think this gives the kids an opportunity to try other positions without the stress of a game being on the line.
I think that’s a good way to start Sean.