Coaching Youth Fooball - Football Plays
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Coach Rob

Need Some Aggression

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Coaching 1st/2nd grade soccer and had our first game today which went well. Have two players on my team that are 2nd graders that have both played soccer and b-ball with me for several seasons and currently play flag football on my team. Both of them are talented, have good ball handling skills and speed. During practice they play aggressively -- going after the ball and hustling; however, during the game I notice they tend to become timid and lose their competitive edge a bit.

Any ideas on how to get them to loosen up and play like they do in practice?

CoachRob

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Coaching 1st/2nd grade soccer and had our first game today which went well. Have two players on my team that are 2nd graders that have both played soccer and b-ball with me for several seasons and currently play flag football on my team. Both of them are talented, have good ball handling skills and speed. During practice they play aggressively -- going after the ball and hustling; however, during the game I notice they tend to become timid and lose their competitive edge a bit.

Any ideas on how to get them to loosen up and play like they do in practice?

CoachRob

I'd talk to them and see what's going on. I had this kid on my football team that was a little younger than the rest but he played with me the year before and he was good, almost scary fast and aggressive. For some reason this year he left practice early twice and I called his mother to see what was going on. It turned out that he had developed a case of the nerves. It was causing him stomach aches and anxiety. This is a kid who loves sports and football especially. After several talks we figured out that he had been watching football with his relatives and noticed that they shouted at the tv when someone dropped a ball, missed a tackle, made a mistake, etc. He was fearful people would yell at him if he dropped the ball. After talking to me I casually sat him down with a few of the other kids and confessed that I get nervous before games too. Then, completely unscripted, our star player said he got nervous too but he just focuses on playing and doesn't think about anything else. He said after a few plays he no longer is nervous. That was golden, our best player admitting that he too was nervous. I figured having his coach admit it would be enough but this was great. After a game or two he lost all fear and became the ferocious speed demon that he is capable of. He was awesome at the end around and vicious at run stopping (I actually felt bad for the other players when he would blast in to stop the run).

Edit:

Lol, I just noticed your post was from April 2007. I assume you figured out your problem by now.

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Edit: Lol, I just noticed your post was from April 2007. I assume you figured out your problem by now.
I did solve the aggression problem last year, currently knee deep in our fall soccer. This year I'm coaching 3rd/4th grade, 9 v 9 with positions. First game was 0-0, other team kept all 9 players around their goal which made it virtually impossible to score. Second game we won 3-0, took the ball out wide more often. My mids and fullbacks are starting to get the concept of flowing with the ball.

Curious if there are any other youth soccer coaches on these boards? Have a question about whether or not to stick kids in certain positions based on their skill level. In other words, I have some kids that aren't real good a playing mid, but are great on defense. Same with goalie, sweeper, etc. To me, it would be a lot easier to have a kid play maybe 2-3 positions (mid, wing, goalie) and understand those instead of moving them all over the field in every position. Kind of like baseball where a kid wants to play 2nd base because he sees that's where the action is, but doesn't really have the skills to handle it. Not saying I wouldn't take someone who normally plays fullback and have them play wing once in a while, just not on a consistent basis.

Other side of the coin is rotating kids in all positions throughout the season so each one gets a chance at experiencing each position. That is difficult to coach as some kids just won't get the mid positions which is a key position in soccer.

Thoughts?

CRob

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We do our best at moving kids while still giving ourselves a chance to win the game. While I can't say that this has still kept all of the parents happy, the ones who are in it for the kids understand.

I always start the game off with strong defenders. When the kids were younger I would make one side strong with my midfield and forwards and use my weaker players as fowards and midfielders on the other side. As my kids have gotten older and stronger it has become easier and easier to move kids around and now I can be strong on both sides of the field. My weaker kids usually play right or left midfield and I give them chances at forward whenever the game allows. I move switch my defenders to forwards and vis versa.

I hope there is some help for you in there somewhere.

Charlie

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We do our best at moving kids while still giving ourselves a chance to win the game. While I can't say that this has still kept all of the parents happy, the ones who are in it for the kids understand. I always start the game off with strong defenders. When the kids were younger I would make one side strong with my midfield and forwards and use my weaker players as fowards and midfielders on the other side. As my kids have gotten older and stronger it has become easier and easier to move kids around and now I can be strong on both sides of the field. My weaker kids usually play right or left midfield and I give them chances at forward whenever the game allows. I move switch my defenders to forwards and vis versa. I hope there is some help for you in there somewhere.Charlie
That helps, it boils down to the age old question of how serious do I want to get about this whole deal. Still in that grey area of having fun, yet wanting to kick it up a notch on the competitive side. Mids seem to be a key position, so I shy away from putting my weaker kids there.

In football, I learned very quickly that allowing every kid to play QB was a disaster. I imagine the same goes for baseball, allowing every kid to play short stop or pitcher would probably result in chaos. Maybe soccer has enough players that allow you to cover some of your weaknesses. The toughest part is when I run up against other coaches who seem to stick kids in certain positions and never rotate them. It definitely works and is much easier to coach.

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Update: So far we've tied two games and won one. The first tie game was because the other team had all 9 of their players protecting the goal most of the game, strange formation. Needless to say, we spent most of our time down at their end of the field. Second tie was against the best team in the league; they practice twice a week and have played together for several yrs, thought we did a great job. The other teams get a kick out of our name, we're the Gila Monsters.

Kids are starting to get the concept of flowing with the ball and field sense. Still a constant challenge not to have them bunch up around the ball. Most of the kids are signed up for basketball which starts in three weeks. We'll play two seasons of b-ball, and then it's back to football again. I think it's good to have the kids play different sports together; a lot of the skill sets transfer from one sport to another.

CRob

EDIT: We've been switching kids around in all positions with the exception of goalie. My son and a few others like playing goalie so we only rotate a few there. Rest of the kids play all positions. When explaining concepts to kids, I've found they understand a lot better if you use terms they can relate to like transformers or animals. We play 9 vs. 9 and I've been trying to get them to understand that each team of three (defense, mids, and fowards/wings) are like waves in the ocean, constantly pushing the ball to the other end. If the ball gets through one wave, another one is right behind it pushing again. They seemed to understand, it worked well in practice last night.

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Well here I am throwing my hat into this ring..I coach 8-9yr olds and we've already had our first game. We won that 5-0. We have some go getters and serious defenders. I've preached to them "Not in my house!" They have literally taken ownership of side of the pitch and refuse to let others to do what they want. It all sounds rough and hardcore but we are talking about 8-9yr olds so it's as aggresive as it's going to get. We are just working on spacing (which is coming along ok) and attacking the ball...don't wait for it to come to you because by then, it's already too late. All in all we have a good group of kids, just gotta get that pesky rotation thing down...

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Well here I am throwing my hat into this ring..I coach 8-9yr olds and we've already had our first game. We won that 5-0. We have some go getters and serious defenders. I've preached to them "Not in my house!" They have literally taken ownership of side of the pitch and refuse to let others to do what they want. It all sounds rough and hardcore but we are talking about 8-9yr olds so it's as aggresive as it's going to get. We are just working on spacing (which is coming along ok) and attacking the ball...don't wait for it to come to you because by then, it's already too late. All in all we have a good group of kids, just gotta get that pesky rotation thing down...
Good suggestions. I've worked through that aggression problem from last spring. It was only a couple of kids, the rest were plenty aggressive. When I feel things are getting too laid back, we play a few rounds of Sharks - where every player has a ball and the object is to be the last player in the ring without having your ball knocked out. Kind of a "free for all" type drill which seems to help with kicking up the aggression. The wave concept seems to be sinking in with my kids, we won last Sat 7-0.

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Ended up with a winning season in soccer. All wins with 2 ties. Kids played great for their last game. Moving on to basketball.

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Aggressiveness is hard to teach, but I have found this drill to be very helpful in at least bringing out the competitive spirit in each of the kids. I actually started using this drill as a warm up before games and it resulted in them having quicker starts and being engaged from the opening whistle. There are two versions to this drill but my favorite is the first.

Version 1: Break the team up into two groups and have them from lines facing the same direction. The lines should be about 20' apart and the coach should stand between the two lines with a stack of soccer balls. It helps to have another coach in the field. Cones should be setup for a make shift goal, not too big (about 5' apart) and the distance of the goals from the line should be about 1/2 a field (will depend on the size of fields you play and practice on). Once ready, the coach between the lines will roll a ball straight out on to the field with enough force where one player from each line will sprint to gain control of the ball. The coach in field is there to encourage both players to get the ball. Once control is established the player will attempt to take the ball to the goal, while the other defends. Encourage the defender to steal the ball and score.

Version 2: Setup two goals facing each other about a 1/2 of field apart. Again, keep the goals small. This time have the lines form behind each goal so they are facing each other. The coach will then be at midfield (sideline) and roll a ball out into the middle of the field. A player from each line will attack the ball and try to score on the opposite goal. This version is a little more aggressive than version 1 in that the players are running at each other.

I hope this helps.

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