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Discussion in 'Coach' started by equus, Apr 19, 2012.
Playing in 'small spaces' and speaking of Barcelona
I saw the video you put on the other topic of Barca's youth team playing.
Do you think that space is small? It may look small because all the space was not used. Everytime the ball was on a flank there was a lot of space not used by that lone striker. He is was glued to the center area instead of moving more to his right into the unused space.
I guess that have not taught them to make diagonal runs as yet, but I am not sure why?
It just takes patience. With our keepaways 4v2/3v1/4v2+2 continuation games we really started in earnest last fall with possession and everything it entails. At first we couldn't put two passes together consistently, and still can't in some practices. But 5 games into last season, I saw them play keepaway for 25 minutes (after we were up 5-0), so they had it in them. This season they can consistently put together pass sequences of a dozen in a 8x8 grid.
Passing/receiving in a keepaway situation isn't everything about small spaces but I think it's indicative.
In that video I thought the space was about right. I quoted the dimensions and numbers for age groups for comparison of what I see as a rec coach. My U8s play 7v7 on a 35x55 field. There's not much width to work with and it gets way too crowded in the middle. Our rec U12s go to 8v8, but the field gets disproportionately bigger for just the two added players, in my opinion.
Like the video shows, I like seeing that extra width instead of extra length. They say technique, tactical intelligence and mental speed is more important, so the width would help facilitate those versus a longer field, which would benefit direct play, athleticism and strength.
These are the field sizes our teams play on:
U10 used to be 8v8 but they dropped it down a year ago. U12 is 8v8, but the fields are huge in relation. Too much space and kickball in that age group.
So Barca youth teams are playing somewhere in between that U8-U10 field dimension up to U12-14, with a smaller box (the PA in the U8 photo is 14 yards long) and a 12 yd. offside line.
Thanks for sharing.
I thought this section of the article summed up the problem in the US in a nutshell:
In an interview with Jimmy Conrad on "The Mixer," Reyna spoke of American youth teams relying on “running and overpowering teams and being physical” when where “we have to really improve as a soccer-playing nation is playing in the small, tight spaces throughout the field.”
To Arch Bell of ESPN.com, Reyna said, "I think the winning aspect is what has caused some really ugly youth soccer. Now we're trying to play more out of the back and through the midfield.”
Reyna's conclusions are not anything that hasn't been said before. The difference is in who is doing the talking and that he is speaking for the USSF. The problem USSF faces is in the execution of any remedial plan.
One thing that strikes me as most ironical is the Soccer America has been reporting ideas like this for many years, but they also make money advertising tournaments. Fact of life which USSF needs to overcome to make youth soccer focus on player development.
I think this is why we should laud teams like that U11 state champs. Yes, they COULD be doing something "wrong" to get teams to play this way, but the alternative is usually much uglier.
I was thinking of that video clip of the U11 match as an example of what was wrong. The kids are not the problem. The problem was playing 11 a side on a field that big. Playing away from pressure into open space is good soccer tactics for winning matches, but not as conducive to developing skills as forcing players to play in tight spaces. I think this is the point Equus is making in his field size comparisons for his team.
FWIW, following the blog, that team went to Spain and played 8v8 in reduced fields and still did pretty well. Actually eventually succumbing to another American team in the knockout stage. So it's not like they can't play in smaller spaces.
True, but that's a specific team who have been trained and developed well. There's too many leagues and associations who play on too large a field at the younger ages, in my opinion. Even if you had kids playing with no coaching or training at all (just playing) a small field would almost "force" them to improve on technique and skill just due to restricted area and pressure.
I had a rec team of U10 girls who always trained in small spaces, because that was the only place we could get. They never played on a large field until game day. By the end of second season (fall/spring) their technique and close control had improved greatly, and they had to unlearn bad habits to do it.
Now that they've moved up to U12 with even larger fields and new coaches gunning for the win, they've reverted back to the bad habits and long ball exclusively.
What really happens is they stuff too many really young kids in a small space (U5-U6-U8) where the swarms make it even harder, then go to the opposite end of the spectrum when they get to U12. That's what I found most fascinating about what Barcelona does from U8-U12/14.
I'm talking all soccer, not just club where they're more advanced individually and understand the concepts. There could be some rec "diamonds in the rough" who could be done better by at the earlier ages.
You're right, apples and oranges.
I think it's a double edged sword. Yes, it's important to learn to play in tight spaces but there are concepts like spacing which get neglected when you play in tight spaces all the time. I think good soccer always strikes a balance. I teach, in a way, a modified swarm. I want numerical superiority in the area of the ball and a few players beyond to breakout the play. In our last match we didn't do too well with protecting the ball—and that could be construed to be an inability to play in tight spaces but maybe better shielding and a first touch away from pressure.
Right now I'm trying to get my players to understand width and while it's an amazing device to exploit a large field, it's absolutely critical on a small field. Young kids will compress a small field needlessly, so they're playing on top of each other.
I'll say this about Soccer America, and I don't mean this sarcastically: They've figured out what's wrong with American soccer. In the aggregate. Each article acts like it's one single thing that's keeping us from being Barca. But it's everything they write about in all their columns.
The only thing no one can say is that we need to be more fit, fight till the end, and be more aggressive.
I love it when I have to eat my words. We played on a field tonight that was entirely too small for our age group U12. Goal kicks were going to midfield and punts were 3/4 of the way to the other goal.
In the first half, we struggled to sort things out because it was just too crowded. We got things sorted out in the second half but too little too late. Lost by one.
I think I'm going to compress the grids we train in from here on out.
I think you were correct last week. Coaches need to constantly adjust their training plans. Remember the possession in tight space is to set up either a shot or a breakout pass. They need both abilities to develop--playing in tight space and open space to exploit. I like technical drills, followed by SSG, followed by a scrimmage progression. It allows kids to put everything into a match context.
I don't think there is ever a proper set mix to suit everyone. You just have to keep adjusting for the current circumstances.
thanks for sharing. i wish my brother's coach would pick this up. the game is changing rapidly and is now focusing on playing quick, passing football.
OK, using Google Maps Labs distance calculator tool...
U8 - 7v7 incl .GK - 35 x 50
U10 - 7v7 incl. GK - 40 x 60
U12 - 8v8 incl. GK - 50 x 80
So for U10 no players are added, and the playing area increases 37%. U12 they're adding two players but increasing the playing area by 2/3rds. U14s move to the adult fields (70 x 110).
Do you think the U12 size is too large? We used to play U10s with 8v8 on the 40 x 60, I don't see why the U12s couldn't.
Last I read playing 11v11 at young ages has not damaged the potential of Argentines or Uruguayans...
I don't think the issue is the size of the field or number of players specifically. Mexico's recent success at the youth level can partly be attributed to some of the consultant work done by Jorge Griffa. The man who developed many international World Class argentine players.
You have to consider the whole picture. Look at how many 11v11 matches we have. I bet no country has the emphasis on winning organized matches and tournaments that most organized US soccer has. And no country has a low ratio of unorganized play to organized play in its officially "elite" programs like the US does.
The only country I know of that has a similar problem to the US (non-soccer playing adults coaching and managing youth soccer) is England in recent times. In England soccer was a working class sport. The working class is shrinking, but soccer has spread to the middle class neighborhoods where the parents never played. They have ended up with the same problems with those clubs that the US has, and no magic solutions short of taking the parents influence out of the process even as spectators.
It's apples to oranges though. What's the diff between the average argentine kid and American kid in terms of skills and basic knowledge of the game? I'd say its huge, right.
The Spanish, Dutch, Germans, and French have abandoned 11v11 for all but the older youth.
Plus, as a little kid, wouldn't you rather see the ball more?
How do you know? There are 10x as many kids playing soccer SERIOUSLY in those countries, and they spend a large portion of time playing on their own in small-sided environments already.
The reason organized soccer has a bigger (negative) influence in America is because our middle to upper class athlete isn't often exposed to any other form of sport besides what is organized.
Kids around here play a fair amount of unorganized soccer on the schoolyard at PE and during recess, but it's crap soccer. Kids standing in front of the goal, kicking as hard as they can as soon as they get the ball and fouling like mad. Teams totally unbalanced in terms of numbers and quality. Unorganized soccer for kids is usually brutally awful. They don't know enough or care enough to set up a system of rules that work. The kids who know how to play usually refuse to participate because it is so crap. Semi-organized would be OK. Field with some boundaries. Properly sized and fairly even teams, decent set of rules, etc. I wonder how much if this notion of pick up games on the streets of foreign countries is really just folklore because it doesn't work well at all here.
If soccer development were a college academic course, consider organized soccer the lectures and unorganized soccer the laboratory. You need the lab time to experiment with what you learn in the lectures.
Or compare it to learning to play a musical instrument. If you don't practice between music lessons you are wasting the opportunity for development.
If your point is that quality practice time should look like an organized match, I disagree. A kid standing in the goal is not an indication. Lack of boundary lines is not an indication. Lack of goals even is not an indication. If your point is that unorganized soccer is rare, I agree. Professional soccer players are rare too. If you want to point out that "kids today" don't play on their own, that is not going to change how you learn. No practice, no development.
Not sure how you took any of those as possible points I was trying to make. My point was that when I see truly unorganized soccer being played in the US, what I am seeing is utter chaos with no redeeming qualities. There is no dribbling and the games are usually played as 16 against 7 or some such ridiculous format on a field with no lines where kids blast the ball all over the place. I hear a lot about unorganized soccer happening in other countries and I wonder if it's really all it's cracked up to be. Why would a bunch of 7-9 year olds be any better at organizing their own game in Argentina than they are at it here? Because they really suck at it here. As I mentioned, loosely organized soccer where adults put a structure in place and then "let the kids play" is a great idea and works well. But spontaneous soccer organized by kids generally is a disaster.
What's missing is the expertise of guys like Jorge Griffa and Hans Westerhoff.
And it's going to take the USSF $$$ they aren't willing to spend to bring them. The numbers, as far as playing population is there since we got three times their population playing foot-soccer.
And the MLS teams need to spend $$$ for residency's to maximize the contributions of those experts for the players and coaches.
Have you seen pick-up games with immigrants in cities all over the country? It is nothing like the stuff you described.
It comes back to having an example to model yourself after. When I was a kid, we alplayed pick-up football, basketball, hockey, and baseball with much more quality and organization. We could also turn on the TV and see 24-hour sports coverage of any professional American sport on ESPN.
If the kids lived in an environment where the pro game was omnipresent, street/park soccer would be better here.
The next step is actually making soccer a sport of all classes and not just the affluent with disposable income.