Soccer America Members can post their feedback on SoccerAmerica.com's Blog and Commentary section using the link provided at the bottom of our e-letters. Selected posts are included periodically in the e-letters. Below are reader comments on a recent edition of the Youth Soccer Insider:
INTRODUCING POSITIONS WITHOUT SHACKLES
By Chad McNichol
Rather than have positions for U-12s and under at our club, we teach our players to identify basic shape. Height, width and depth. We ask them to try and always establish good shape no matter where you are on the field. To help them out in 6 vs. 6 we play a 1-3-2; in 8 vs. 8 we play 1-2-3-2. Players are encouraged to change positions according to the movement and possession of the ball.
By stressing shape instead of positions we allow all of our players to attack and all to defend. Yes, we do get caught with no one defending at times, but that is how we learn. Parents have more of an issue with this then the kids. Chad, your approach is good and beneficial for the kids keep up the great work.
I coach U-9 in Chicagoland. Instead of focusing on positions, I focus on roles by teaching the commitments of the different players on the field. As the players learn the roles, they understand how to orient during the game.
We also teach the players that their role can change during play. For example, with 7 vs. 7, we assign two players to play the role of defense. If the player holding the role of defender has the ball and space, he changes roles to attack, and a teammate covers the role of defense. So there is a way to do this without leaving all of them in complete ambiguity without a description of what they should care about in their role (which is like telling a baseball player only that he is an infielder).
Recently, we re-named our defenders "super-backs" because we expect them to attack aggressively when they have the ball and space. Super-back is now the most popular role on the team because they love to go on long dribbling runs and run at defenders and use their moves. It is not uncommon to see our defenders serving balls from the endline or be in front of the goal ready to finish a play they started.
Now, I have a special group of players who are very interested, very willing, and nicely skilled, which is certainly not the situation on every team.
With this group (and with many others) I imagine it is safe to teach that some players' primary roles are to keep the ball out of the goal, that some players' primary roles are to contribute on both ends of the field, and that some players are generally "up top" to help our team score and hold possession when we win the ball. At least, that is my opinion based on my experience.