The ever-present crowding/bunching issue - being positionally aware

Discussion in 'Coach' started by jdonnici, Aug 30, 2002.

  1. jdonnici

    jdonnici Member

    Aug 27, 2002
    Westminster, CO
    I'm coaching a U-12 boys "rec" team. All the boys have played before for 2-5 years, though few of them have played with any of their current teammates. While I've coached before, this is a new group to me.

    As you might expect with a group still figuring out who's who and what the strengths/weaknesses are, they're very prone to bunching up around the ball.

    I've done several small-side drills where my blowing the whistle means "Freeze!". When they're stopped, I show them examples of bunching, why they're missing opportunities to help one another out, how they could be better positioned, and so on.

    A couple other issues, related to being aware of where they are, we're struggling with are:

    1 - Getting the ball and kicking it up field without being aware of your surroundings -- who's open to pass through, do you have room to make a run, and so on.

    2 - When off the ball, not thinking about how they can help the play (getting open, spreading out, more communication, etc).

    The mantra has been -- "Know what your surroundings are all the time, especially when you're OFF the ball, so that, when the ball comes to you, you have a sense of what and where your options are." Say it early, say it often.

    I've got a drill I've been kind of dreaming up this morning and would like some feedback. The idea is that there are a series of "lanes", each about 10-12 feet wide, that run from the goal line out to the edge of the penalty box, and side-by-side for the width of the field. Every other lane is an offense lane with two players, while the alternating lanes are a defensive lane with one player. Players must stay in their line at all times. The ball starts in an outer lane and each lane has roughtly 5-7 seconds to move it across to another offensive lane without a defensive player intercepting it. The offensive player can pass to his partner in his lane or across a defensive lane to another offensive player. The offensive team "wins" when they get the ball across all lanes (and back?), while the defensive team wins by intercepting /clearing the ball.

    My hope is that this will get the guys in the offensive lanes that DON'T have the ball to spread out more and look for ways to get open for a pass. At the same time, the defensive players can be working on cutting off angles, etc. Nobody's been "assigned" a role on the team, so players would alternate between offense and defense frequently.

    Good idea? Bad idea?

    I'd sure appreciate any and all advice on getting the kids to be more aware of their position relative to the ball and/or to their surroundings.


    -- jeff

    PS - Just got turned on to this site, and WOW. What a great resource!
  2. rymannryan

    rymannryan New Member

    Aug 27, 2002
    N.N., Virginia
    I just turned 16 and have been playing club soccer for the past two years, but before that I played four years of rec. and I really wish I would have had a coach like you who actually knew something about soccer. I didn't learn some of the crowding things until I was about 12 or 13.

    I think your idea is a very good one. One suggestion I can think of is to make sure you don't have too many offensive (width) lanes to get through because if the offense never gets through, they may get frustrated. Also, when they get better at it, you should widen the lanes and do 3 v 2. Learning things like that, making runs, and all about space will save them lots of time in the future.

    I think that's a very creative and good idea. I definately see that being effective.

    And this site is fantastic. I joined a couple of days ago and I have been addicted. I have a strained calf and it's been raining a lot so I haven't been able to play in the past 2 days. So this is where I've been spending my time.
  3. dolphinscoach

    dolphinscoach Member

    Apr 17, 2002
    Bellevue, NE
  4. blech

    blech Member+

    Jun 24, 2002
    I think I agree that I'd build up to the drill in stages, and note that I've run a similar drill with rec players in this age group.

    To keep it simpler, I'd make the following adjustments, at least for starters:

    -start with only 3 lanes (10 to 20 yards wide depending on how much field you have) - so you're just breaking the field into left, center, right.

    -i'd use 4 offensive players - 1 in each of the outside lanes and 2 in the center - a key point is to get them out of a straight line across the field - the middle players should play 10 to 15 yards behind/in front of one another (there is no formation that is right all the time, but the 4 players should create a diamond, rhombus, or at least a triangle)

    -have the object to be to go down the field and score, but with the rule that the ball must go to a player in each lane once or twice (the kids like drills that involve shooting, but this will (hopefully) get the lateral ball movement you're trying to work on) - oh, and bust their chops if they try to get around the rule by making 3 or 4 passes right at the start, and then just go straight down the field after that, and trust me when i tell you that one of your ingenius kids will try this

    -run it a few times without defenders, and then add in 1, and then 2, defenders depending on how well they're doing with it - don't restrict the defenders to lanes - for defensive positioning, they probably ought to do that, but if you're offense can pull them over to one side and then switch it, all the better

    see how that works. depending on how they progress, you can then build on it over the season. possible modifications:
    -add another offensive lane or lanes over time
    -don't restrict the second offensive player in the middle (allow him to move to other lanes if he chooses)
    -add additional defenders or additional offensive players (but with a team of 13 players, the 4v2 is a good number because, with one kid in goal, you can run it over and over again with a new group of guys ready to start a new play as soon as the former ends)
    -allow players to switch lanes with a teammate during play (a player in an outer lane can come to the center, but only once he gets a player in the center to make a run to the outside) - but, again, i'd build up to this

    good luck - please keep sharing ideas for kids in this age group
  5. jdonnici

    jdonnici Member

    Aug 27, 2002
    Westminster, CO
    Thanks for the great tips, folks. I really appreciate the feedback. Some general comments:

    Their passing skills are, as you point out, fairly mixed. I've got several kids with great feel for the ball and they can pass through defenders well. Then I've got others who are constantly being told "Don't use your toe!". :)

    I like the idea of starting with a smaller number of lanes and no defenders and then building from there. Letting them eventually shoot is also a good, as that's always a kid-pleaser, and having them do it only after a certain number of passes is a good idea.

    I also like, after building up to it, the idea of letting offensive players swap lanes and letting defenders ignore the lanes.

    I'm curious... for others that work with kids in roughly this age, what sort of things do you find helpful to combat the crowding?

    Thanks for all the GREAT feedback. I'll keep you all posted.

    -- jeff

    PS -- rymannryan - Hope the leg heals up soon!
  6. gkjoe

    gkjoe New Member

    Aug 7, 2001
    I'm not a coach, just a player. Back when I was around that age group we had similar positioning and bunching problems. our coach gave us a drill called round the horn, where the goalkeeper will punt the ball out and each player must touch the ball at least once and after the last player touches the ball you must get it back in your own goal. this is timed and make sure to pressure them to get their time down as low as possible. After they get fairly advanced at this, you can add different things like only one touching the ball, this helps w/ overall awareness of the field and position of teammates. You can also have them switch positions each time the ball is passed. This encourages making run's and filling empty positions. I found it to be a helpful drill, and it really opened up my teammates to positional play. One other drill for opening up and making runs is just 3 men and 4 cones. two players running to open cones, the passer and the one who didn't receive the pass. Encourage them to pass to the cones not the players, set the cones up in grids that look like this ( :: )
    Hope this is some help for you, I've worked a little w/ U10 and U12 players. I'm playing u19 right now and on my h.s. varsity team. Good luck w/ your team, Joe
  7. uniteo

    uniteo Member+

    Sep 2, 2000
    Rockville, MD
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    jdonnici, can you play?

    I have found that around 10 or 11 years old, the coach can step into a game (for a short time) and play with the players to illustrate these points. Hopefully you'll have a couple of players that get the concept and if you can get the ball and then switch to the opposite side (at which point I would yell "freeze" and have them all see the advantage of spacing and switching the ball).

    Also, if you have some ball skills, show them off, just to have your players thinking "hey, I should try that."

    Of course, remember it is just as a point of instruction, once you think they have the idea, get off the field and let them do it.

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