Principles of Attack

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Below is a basic summary of the principles of attack. These principles can frame all soccer activities. All coaches should know these principles and use them to inform how they think about practices and games. Furthermore, this vocabulary should be integrated into coaching as much as possible.

Penetration: Trying to score, moving the ball forward as quickly as possible; for example, it could be a forward pass or dribbling the ball forwards.

Support: Moving to help the player with the ball; for example, usually going toward the player with the ball or making an angle for a pass.

Mobility: Moving with or without the ball to unbalance the defense; for example, this can be multidirectional and can be directly or indirectly involved with play.

Width: Creating space from side to side on the field. This usually involves a player/players going towards the touchline, although width can be created anywhere on the field.

Depth: Creating space from front to back on the field. This usually involves players being in advance and behind the ball when your team is in possession.

Improvisation: Coming up with solutions to problems “on the go.” This is where players creatively problem-solve during games/practices and is arguably the most difficult offensive principle to teach.

Coaches should focus on one attacking principle at a time when teaching. What often happens is that we start coaching everything and it becomes very confusing for both players and coaches. I would suggest building an entire practice around one principle. For example, to do a session on dribbling, you might start with the Gate Dribbling Game, then play the End Zone Game (work through the progressions), then finish with a Scrimmage, but you would only coach/ask guided discovery questions related to penetration (as it relates to dribbling).

My new book, It Pays to Win on Offense: A game-based approach to developing soccer players that score and create lots of goals, is over 100 pages of games and activities that focus exclusively on how to coach attacking principles.

What Makes a Great Warmup Game in Youth Soccer?

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Why should warm-ups be the same every day? Many coaches consider this part of practice “lost time,” but they don’t know that they are already setting the tone for the session. In my experience, the best warmup games activate the primary muscle group the players will be using, gets them in a competitive mindset, and connects to your session’s topic. Also, they should be fun and include lots of movement!

For example, if I am planning on doing an attacking dribbling that day, I might start with Freeze Tag, Sharks and Minnows, or Gladiator.

My new book, It Pays to Win on Offense: A game-based approach to developing soccer players that score and create lots of goals, contains 7 warmup games that are lots of fun and easy to set up.

Beyond the ball

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“In football, the worst blindness is only seeing the ball.” ~ Nelson Falcão Rodrigues

What are the things you coach that are beyond the ball? How do you coach them?

What is Game-based Soccer?

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I recently published a book, It Pays to Win on Offense: A game-based approach to developing soccer players that score and create lots of goals

The “Game-based Soccer Approach” emerged out of trying to answer the following questions:

  • How do we motivate our players to give their best every single day?
  • How do we foster a competitive mindset and mental toughness?
  • How do we get the most out of our practice time?
  • What is the best way to maximize player development?

Game-based soccer (GBS) training is the philosophy that all practice activities can and should be turned into a game. By “game,” I mean that there are winners and losers. The players can be competing against themselves, each other, in teams, or all together against a target. There should always be consequences for the losing person/team in this approach. It does not have to be a big consequence, but the players should develop a mindset in which it pays to win. Consequences should depend on the activity/game, but they can range from 10 sit-ups to a short sprinting exercise – it should be just enough to motivate the players to try harder to win next time!

How do you get the most out of your players in practice every day?

Follow the link to read more about my book: It Pays to Win on Offense: A game-based approach to developing soccer players that score and create lots of goals