Tophat Fundamental Principles of Play
There are certain fundamental principles that all soccer players should learn as soon as possible.
1. Dribbling – This one is easy. The players need to be encouraged to dribble as much as possible. Keep the ball close to the feet and under control. Do not let them pick up the ball unless specifically told to do so. Dribble, dribble, dribble wherever they go and with lots of games.
2. Number one tactical principle – do not pass (kick) the ball across the front of your own goal. This tactic needs to be second nature in all soccer players. Our opportunity to teach this tactic at the 4v4 level is with the goal kick. Players should be instructed to always kick to the side of the field and never into the center (across the goal). The best way to encourage this is to place the receiving players to the side so that the player taking the goal kick will have proper targets. There will always be exceptions, but a player must have the awareness that breaking this rule is likely to be trouble. Coaches must remember that this is not a skill that you can explain to a young (4 & 5 year old) player. It must be emphasized in every game with encouragement and positive reinforcement. In time, the receiving players will know where they need to be on goal kicks and the kicker will not be tempted to pass across the goal.
There is a natural coaching instinct to have players stay back for defensive protection during a game. This tactic emanates from the desire to prevent the opponent from scoring which could mean the unthinkable possibility of losing the game. To avoid this tragedy at Tophat, we do not keep score, and that allows us to concentrate on the more important issue of player development. Our training policies are focused on what will produce a better player, and how to help it happen. Several factors are involved.
1. Players who stay back on defense are not involved in the game, and are not being challenged to maintain their focus (a key ingredient to excellence). Team shape is a term that applies here and it refers to the need to keep players properly positioned relative to each other.
2. A deep defender is mainly working on one skill, clearing the ball out of the defensive end. At young ages, this is fairly effective because young players normally dribble the ball too far in front giving the deep defender an opportunity to win the ball. As dribbling skills increase with age, the advantage will change, and the static defender will be easily beaten. Add in a few passing skills and supporting runs, and the stay back defenders are toast. Bottom line – clearing the ball out of the defensive end is an ability that is nice to have, but it is not a position to be played. Too much time staying back will produce bad habits that are hard to change.
3. Pushing defenders up field has several advantages. It gives you more players around the ball allowing a better opportunity to keep the ball in the opponents end, it keeps the players thinking (focused) because they are consistently in a position to be involved, it puts extra pressure on your opponents because it takes away any advantage of numbers and it will help prepare them for the offside rule when they move to 7v7. However, pushing up increases the opportunity for the counterattack or breakaway by the opponent, and this is what coaches must begin to realize is the best part. Learning to win the ball from an opponent on the run is a vital skill in soccer, far outweighing the big kick from the back. Pushing the defenders up forces them to work on this skill which is called charging. Charging (shoulder to shoulder) is legal in soccer; use of the arms is not. All players need to be ready to transition from offense to defense at any time to regain possession of the ball. On a breakaway, players need to either outrun the dribbler to get the ball, or run shoulder to shoulder with the dribbler to win the ball or at least force her away from the front of the goal.
To the right is a video of how to set up the goal kicks.
We are adding a
“Build Out Line” (dotted line). On goal
kicks, all opponents must retreat beyond the build out line. Once goal kick is taken, game is on.
*Remember it is always dangerous to pass the ball across the front of your goal. Help the girls set up correctly so it become second nature. This is one of the Principles of Play.