How many times have you had a similar conversation while playing a small sided game at training with players approx. 12 years old or younger?
Two players running towards the goal, one attacker and one defender, with no one else anywhere near them except the goalkeeper. The attacker is well within shooting range and has a clear sight of goal but the ball is on their non-preferred foot so they cut back to their preferred side where the defender is and get tackled straight away resulting in no shot.
Coach: What do you think you could have done there to make sure you got a shot on goal?
Coach: How does that help you make sure you get a shot on goal?
Player: ………………………..Don’t know.
Why do young players so often think that passing is the right answer to every question or situation? Are we as adults involved in the game part of the problem? Do we over emphasise this part of the game when we are developing youth players?
Don’t get me wrong passing is a fundamental part of football and I am not someone who suggests we head off entirely in the other direction and only teach 1 v 1s every session.
Simply I noticed that I used the word ‘pass’ an awful lot in my sessions so that the answers I got from the players were in a roundabout way only the answers I gave them. No matter what the topic somehow the word pass would be mentioned often.
The more I think about what I am saying the more I realise some of the things I say could be sending a message I don’t really want to send.
An example is that often when doing 1 v 1s I will talk about taking a player on to get to the space on the other side of them which I think is fair enough. However then I hear myself saying ‘Now that you have got into that space you can pass, shoot, run with the ball, whatever ‘.
Basically it sounds or at least it sounds to me now like I am ranking them in importance with passing the ball as the first thing that should be on your mind after a successful 1 v 1. I am trying to change it to simply saying ‘Now that you have got into that space you can do whatever you want’. I am simply trying to cut down the amounts of times I say ‘Pass’ to the players.
I have challenged myself to do sessions and not use the word ‘Pass’ at all although I still want to see the players pass the ball. Here are a few of the small sided games I have played were the word pass isn’t in the rules or explanations but the players to be successful have to pass the ball frequently.
All of these games are ideal for teams with 3 to 5 players and played with normal rules except
1 – First team were every player on your team scores wins the game.
2 – A player can’t score a 2nd goal until every other player on your team has scored.
3 – At least 3 players on your team must touch the ball in the build-up for a goal to count (or a goal is worth 5 if 3 or more of your players touch the ball in the build-up otherwise only worth one).
4 – Same player cannot score two goals in a row.
I have only just started doing this game and it has worked really well so far
5 – Fantasy Football – Lets say we are playing a 4-a-side then each team has to decide what a goal is worth for each opposition player from 4 down to 1 point i.e a goal for Jack=4, Josh=3, Jim=2 and Jeff=1. The first team to get to 21 points or more wins (or which I have not done yet you could do it that the first team to score exactly 21 points wins).
With these games it is easy to substitute ‘set up’ or ‘assist’ another player instead of saying ‘pass’ or I talk about creating goal scoring opportunities.
Like I said before passing is a fundamental part of football but feel possibly I am influencing the young players unintentionally that passing is always the right answer by constant reference to it. I want our players to consider all options equally when they make their decisions playing football and not be swayed towards one solution.
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Till next time