Set Positions at U11?

Discussion in 'Coach' started by jack921, Oct 27, 2003.

  1. jack921

    jack921 New Member

    Jul 10, 2000
    My daughter is playing on a travel team (U11) for the first time this year. I expected she would have one or two positions that she would focus on. Instead the coach is still rotating all the players through all positions (except GK) even though the season is winding down. So this week's game, she played right midfield, left forward, and left midfield. Last week, she played left forward, sweeper, and left midfield. Personally, I think my daughter and the other players would develop better if they each had two positions that they played during games (e.g., left fullback and left midfield). Occassionally, you could then experiment in a game with more rotating. But this constant rotation is depriving the girls of some learning, I think. I'm curious what other coaches do for this age group. Any comments?
  2. Elroy

    Elroy New Member

    Jul 26, 2001
    The first problem you have is calling left or right anything different positions. Players should consider themselves backs, mids, forwards or GK's. On some of my better teams the directional description only mattered when lining up for kick off.

    I think that when children first begin playing as a team, that an initial time in a single position helps to diminish anxiety over where on the field to be and allows the player to concentrate on the technical and creative aspects of the game.

    If this is early in your daughter's playing experience, I would certainly agree that limitation of positions would be appropriate. If your daughter is mature enough as a person and a player, such a rotation could also be frustrating and even counter-productive.

    If, however, she's in between, then the switching around will help her to choose where she'd like to play. I would applaud her coach for taking such a courageous stance ( especially if the team were losing ) concerning player development.

    The most important thing is, of course, that your daughter is enjoying her participation and learning to play and love the game.
  3. rymannryan

    rymannryan New Member

    Aug 27, 2002
    N.N., Virginia
    I could be wrong, but I recall reading about somewhere in Europe, France I believe it was, that the players are used in many different positions up to the age of 14. Of course, I also I think they play smaller sided games like 8 vs. 8 to teach players not to stay in the same position the entire time.
  4. Richie

    Richie Red Card

    May 6, 1999
    Brooklyn, NY, United
    Question for you Jack. Let's say your kid was a wing back. Should she always stay at that position and never move from that position?

    Let's also say that your team has the ball, and that left flank is wide open would you want her to attack to fill in that space on attack? If not she will just staY back, and not get envolved with the attack. Is that okay with you? I guarantee your kid will not be okay with that once she seeing all that open unused space.

    So to do that she has to know what to do at a wing mid position or a wing striker depending on the formation. So your daughter would need practice playing at those positions so when she does attack your team will still be dangerous.
    Plus let's say she changes teams, and the position she plays has a better player then her at that position. Where does she play then on the bench? Yes, if she can not play somewhere else. Some where else where the coach can use her on the field. instead of playing the bench.

    So being verstile player helps the team and her see playing time.
  5. JohnW

    JohnW Member

    Apr 27, 2001
    St. Paul
    Ah yes, the coaching pile-on...

    1. First, playing one position (or two) does not equal learning it nor developing as a player.

    A player can play many positions or few and develop (or not develop) depending on the coaching; skill, ability and/or desire of the player; playing in a system that takes advantage of his/her strengths as a player and a host of other factors.

    So the fact that the U-11 daughter is playing a number of positions per game may or may not affect her development as a player. We don't really know because we don't have any other data about what the coach is doing, what the club philosophy is, etc.

    2. A coaching friend of mine used to say that players are like water: they flow naturally to their own level.

    That is, while all players defend and all players attack, the "naturally" defensive players tend to gravitate to defense and the "naturally" offensive players gravitate to offense. (Exception: any and all pick-up games!) :)

    Of course, I'm greatly over-simplifying his point but the idea is that when players are younger they should be exposed to a wide range of positions on the field so that they have the opportunity to find out what "feels" right for them.

    At the U-11 level, there is PLENTY of time to focus on position play and tactics in the future.

    Development at that level should focus on technique and basic tactical awareness. (E.g. as mentioned, players at that age should be able to recognize space and exploit it when possessing the ball and close it down when defending, provide support for a player with the ball, get behind the ball on defense, etc.)

    3. The key question to ask is, does the daughter enjoy playing on the team and have her skills (passing, trapping, dribbling) improved over the course of the season? Does she have a basic understanding of things like spacing (not bunching), moving into space, supporting a player who has the ball, etc.

    If she does, then I would rate her experience as a success. If not, then no matter how many or few positional changes, finish the season and find a different team for the spring.
  6. JohnR

    JohnR Member+

    Jun 23, 2000
    Chicago, IL

    Jack -

    In the Chicago area, it's just the opposite. In the U9 year, most of the clubs place a kid at a single position and dang if he/she ain't playing that same position at U11, too.

    By and large, position rotation is thought of as a rec-league practice.

    I don't agree with this approach but arguing with it is like fighting City Hall. At any rate, if the team is playing good soccer it doesn't matter that much because every position is controlling the ball and making plays. Although, sadly, most teams don't play good soccer ...
  7. jack921

    jack921 New Member

    Jul 10, 2000
    I think I'd like to see a happy medium. I wouldn't like the idea of each player spending the whole season at the same position. On the other hand, I think the constant rotation limits the girls' (maybe not all girls, but some girls) chance to get a feel for positional responsibilities and to build up a rapport with teammates. I'd prefer to see each girls play just a couple positions, at least for a few weeks in a row. That way when a girl is playing in the midfield, she'd get used to linking up with the same girls up front, and would know who she's responsible to cover for when the fullback behind her is making overlapping runs.

    But I appreciate all the comments. Thanks.
  8. IASocFan

    IASocFan Moderator
    Staff Member

    Aug 13, 2000
    Sporting Kansas City
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    One of the local rec coaches I talk to uses a 4-3-3 with a sweeper. He frequently has 3 subs so he pulls off the forwards, inserts 3 new defenders, and moves the old defenders and midfielders up. He will also change sweepers. I tended to move people around less in games and more in practice. I also did a lot of small sided games and scrimmages with no assigned positions. Frequently players will go to a natural position. Ideally, most will go where needed. I've had forward mentality players who I could not get to play defense, and defending mentality players that never wanted to push up, and always were dropping back (One even complained that I didn't use her at forward.)

    I think moving kids around alot indicates that the coach is more interested in player development than winning games. A better indication is how your daughter enjoys practice and games, and how much she is learning and improving.
  9. uniteo

    uniteo Member+

    Sep 2, 2000
    Rockville, MD
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    At that age, I play my girls at a number of positions.

    First, to develop an understanding of the team game they need to understand what players in each position are facing/seeing

    Second, they should still be focusing on skill development and being challenged in a number of ways...getting time on the ball (if you're stuck at defender you won't), developing a left foot (a right footed player at right wing will not), learning to win the ball and defensive positioning (not so much if you only play forward)

    Third, it's just a matter of fairness. Playing up front is more fun and the girls all deserve the opportunity to attack, I think.

    Also the fairness in development. As a coach, I don't know which of the girls will grow 7 inches and which will grow 2, which will develop strength, or speed, or endurance, or what the needs will be at any club they join or on their high school team (in an area where high school soccer is competitive). If I confine a player to one position for a couple seasons, I will really be limiting their ability to play other positions in the future and it is not fair of me to limit their growth so I can get some results.

    That said, there are some players who will choose their position by gravitating to one role no matter where you put them. And I find that fitness limits the number of players I can use in the midfield, especially on the wings. But all my players have 2 or 3 positions (and that's not out of 11, I consider the choices to be central defender, outside defender, wing, central midfield, and forward)
  10. Cornerkick

    Cornerkick New Member

    We should be in the habit of creating soccer players, not positions.
  11. Z010 Union

    Z010 Union Moderator
    Staff Member

    Mar 28, 2002
    Philadelphia Union
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    While watching many of my coaching brethren more concerned with winning than player development pigeon hole players, I mystify my parents with an apparent disregard for the game outcome.

    I coach U10 travelling girls and feel it is imperative that they learn to love the sport and learn all the positions so eventually they can pick a favorite.

    Do we win a lot? No. Do my girls look forward to every practice and every game? Yes. They are learning the game from back to front and will be better players in the long run because they aren't hardwired to one position.
  12. SFIU_94_Coach

    SFIU_94_Coach New Member

    Mar 4, 2003
    I too think it's wrong for U11 player to play only on position. I mix things up with in reason. There are certain players that simply don't have the skill to play certain places and the one thing you don't want to do is put a young player out where they can't succeed. I mean you may have ayoung player that has good speed, works hard, has a good cross, but his first touch is something that he has to work on. He knows it, his parents know it and the rest of the team knows it, you don't throw him in as the center midfielder, where thinmgs are tight and a bad touch loses your team the ball. He will feel bad for letting the team down, his parents feel like they've failed and no ones having fun.

    You do make him play there at practice, so that he only loses the ball to team mates and they can have fun with the learning. In games you let him play around, but take his ball and physical skills into consideration.

    Failing might have along term benifit, to it, but try to explain that to a 9 yr old. Make things fun and put players where they can feel like a contributing part of the team.
  13. Elroy

    Elroy New Member

    Jul 26, 2001
    The future?

    If you're a paid trainer, I surprised that you are still in business. Don't get me wrong, I like your approach, but the "country club" parents who make up the majority are in it for the winning. Paid trainers are transforming the nature of player development, especially in girls' soccer. There is pressure for year around training and travel - not b/c it works, but b/c trainers have twelve months worth of expenses. Children are not given rest for physical recovery or for reflection and mental recovery. Fancy uniforms, travel, and trophies create pressure for on field success and have transformed a sport played for pennies everywhere else in the world into a sport for the affluent here.

    The move towards small sided matches is a good start. I'd like to see a move for more local friendly tournaments as well. No trophies, just round robin competition.

    Here's a suggestion for the professionals. Do what my son's college landlords do. Charge enough in nine months to cover your expenses for twelve. The families and players will appreciate the time off.
  14. SpongeBobSquarePants

    Jun 18, 2003
    Silver Spring
    My 2 cents is this.

    I like my u11 girls to master a certain position. These girls know where they are starting when the game starts and most have gotten pretty good at those positions. Furthermore, the players all picked the position they want to play.

    For second halfs I usually start mixing it up, but not to the extent where everybody is in a new position. I think the players can learn better when they are paired up with someone who knows what they are doing. If you switch a whole new forward line and the center forward isn't playing the position correctly, what good does it do to tell the wingers to center the ball?

    While I respect the importance of playing players in different positions so they can get a feel of what it is like from a different perspective, for many of players at this age it is beginning to be pretty obvious what kind of player they will become.
  15. Z010 Union

    Z010 Union Moderator
    Staff Member

    Mar 28, 2002
    Philadelphia Union
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Re: The future?

    I'm not in it for money and I know half of my parents' aren't in it for wins but I still respect your critique. At the end of the day though, I can't look at one player who age 9 and tell them they'll never have a chance to score a goal.

    My girls have primary positions, but also get time at a secondary and sometimes tertiary position if the game dictates. Sunday when we had the game in hand I wasn't going to keep my strikers up top and have them shred the other team, that's not me.

    My post may have given the impression of lack of organization or primary positions, but that is not the case. But at this age, one definitive position (especially goalie) is something I can't do.

    Our local league is straight round robin, no playoffs or posted standings until U11.

    I also don't go year round, after Saturday the girls will be off until the end of February. We only train weekly in June and July.
  16. Elroy

    Elroy New Member

    Jul 26, 2001
    Re: Re: The future?

    Good for you! I wish you every success. I hope that you will be able to post similiar comments when your players are U14.
  17. jack921

    jack921 New Member

    Jul 10, 2000
    After my initial post, several people interpreted it to mean that I thought my daughter and her teammates should play the same position all game every game (although that's not what I said). Now there's been a few posts that articulate better what I'd like to see -- some organization with primary positions, but all the girls getting to experiment at times. However, I think my daughter's coach goes overboard on the experimenting. with each girls playing 3 or 4 different positions each game (apparently randomly determined). After thinking about it some more and watching a couple more games, I realize my bigger concern is that the coach is very concerned with players "staying in their position", which is especially difficult when players are constantly changing positions each time they go in. So he'll be upset at the right midfielder if the opponents bring the ball up her side and she's not there. The effect on some girls (not all but some, including my daughter sometimes) is that they play tentatively. They're worrying about being out of position, but they don't have a comfortable feel for their position. It's illustrated for me the importance of a coach realizing the effect of his/her comments on a player's psyche and approach to the game. I'm sure the coach doesn't want tentative players.

    I've convinced my daughter that focusing on being aggressive and going to the ball should be her first concern, and her positioning, though important, should be secondary.
  18. SpongeBobSquarePants

    Jun 18, 2003
    Silver Spring
    Good. You should tell her what I tell my players - Everything the coach tells you is just a suggestion.

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