Get Over the Halfway Line Scrimmage: Sample Activity from the Volunteer Soccer Coach

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Session #15: Introduction to Getting Numbers in the Attack –
End of Practice Scrimmage: Get Over the Halfway Line!

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Time: Approximately 30 minutes (or whatever is left of practice).

Area: As per the diagram, extend the 18-yard box out to the sidelines. This makes for a shorter, but wider playing area – perfect for working on crossing and finishing.

Activity: Use (or make) a halfway line and state that all players (except the goalkeeper) must be past it in order for a goal to count. This simple rule, more than anything, has the ability to teach players to get up and support the attack. Don’t scream and shout at your players to “push up” over the halfway line. Just watch and listen. The first time that a team scores a goal and it doesn’t count because one of the attacking team’s defenders was in his own half, players on that team will start telling each other to “step” and “get up”. It works like magic! Play even numbers and arrange teams in a formation that reflects your desired game day formation.

Progressions:

  • If you catch a member of the opposing team in their attacking half, the goal counts double.
  • Add a neutral(s), so the attacking team is always numbers up (producing more scoring opportunities).
  • Put field players on touch restrictions (e.g., 3 touch max).

 

Volunteer Soccer Coach Image

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Light crew: What to do when only a few players turn up to practice?

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At some point, it’s happened to every coach at every level: only a few players turn up to practice. After the practice plan goes out the window, how do you still put on an engaging and meaningful session in which your players can get better?

This happened today at one of the sessions I visited. We played World Cup the entire practice with just 5 u10 players.

With one player going in goal (and rotating after each game), we started with every player for himself, sometimes rolling two balls out at a time (initial rounds were played to 2 goals).

After a few rounds, we played with two teams of two and went through the following progressions/tweaks after each round:

– First team to score 2 goals
– First team to score 2 goals, but goals could only be scored with left foot
– First team to score 3 goals; goals with left foot counted double
– First team to score 3 goals; goals from outside the 6 yard box counted double
– First team to score 2 goals; goals can only be scored with a first time finish
– First team to score 3 goals; goals scored off a first time finish count double
– First team to score 3 goals; goals scored from outside the 6 yard box count double; goals scored off a first time finish count double; first time finishes from outside the 6 yard box count triple

We played with each set of rules 1-3 times (to allow rotation of goalkeeper and mixing of the teams) with a lot of success. I asked guided discovery questions at water breaks or in natural breaks (e.g. After a goal had been scored or between rounds).

I would recommend this set up for 3-7 players and it is very easy to implement.

What sessions do you run when you have a light crew?

~James

“New Ball” Scrimmage Game for U6 and Below

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New BallArea: Full field (if you have it), or half field (put a cone goal on the halfway line).

Activity:

  • Whenever a ball goes out of play or a goal is scored, a coach announces “New Ball!” and rolls another ball into play.
  • The ‘new ball’ should be rolled to neutral space or toward the disadvantaged team.
  • After a goal, roll the new ball in near the center of the field toward the team that was scored against.
  • Do not bounce the “new ball” as it is difficult for these players to judge a bouncing ball at this age.
  • Favor the team on the wrong end of a one sided game.
  • Favor individual players who are not becoming involved in the game.
  • Have parents retrieve lost balls and return them to the coach who just rolled the new ball in so he/she now has 2 balls once more!
  • Play 3-4 minute halves with a halftime break.
  • This is a fast paced game and they will tire! Remember to put the players in different color pinnies/bibs.
  • Modify as necessary!

Guided Discovery Questions: To be asked one at a time to give the players a rest, or during a water break.

  • Great goal! What part of your foot did you use to score it? Can anyone else do that? Show me!
  • Great move? Show me again. Can anyone else do that? Show me!
  • How did you score that goal? Did you run fast or slow?
  • How do you stop the other team from scoring? Show me!

Best Way to Teach Soccer Throw-ins

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Frequently, I will ask coaches what they plan on doing in their practice that day, and they will tell me that they are going to spend time on teaching throw-ins. Regardless of the age of the players, this focus tends to take the form of the coach standing in front of a line of players, talking for too long and then having the players do the action (sometimes one at a time!). Why are we spending valuable practice time teaching throw-ins in a way that is divorced from the reality of the game?

Remember, my mission is to abolish lines from youth soccer!

Another part of my mission is to make practices fun. As coaches, we do this by allowing the kids to play soccer.

Let’s say you have 12 players (or 16 or 20, or however many you have on the team). I would make two fields with cones goals the end of each field. I would split the players up into 4 teams, and, guess what…I would let them play! You can make it a round robin, playing 6 minute games.

Ok, so remember, we want to teach throw-ins. The only rule is that when the ball goes out of bounds (on any line), the restart is a throw-in. If the player does a foul throw, stop the game, show him how to do it, let him have a quick practice, and then restart the game!

Why should you teach throw-ins in this way?

  1. You are letting them play soccer, so they are getting lots of touches on the ball.
  2. Because you made two fields, your players are getting many more opportunities to touch the ball, which means they will be more engaged, have more fun, and ultimately lean more.
  3. You are teaching them throw-ins in context. Now they can see when, where, and how to take throw-ins as part of the natural course of the game, instead of lining up and having the coach critique their form.
  4. As well as teaching how to take a throw-in, you can also teach where the ball can be thrown, what speed, what height, etc. because the ball will actually be going to (hopefully) a teammate in a game situation!
  5. Speaking of the teammates, you can train the thrower’s teammates on how to make space and make runs when the thrower has the ball.
  6. Again, you are teaching throw-ins in the context of a game that  mirrors what they will see on a match day.

After you have played your round robin, let the players get water and ask them what they have learned.

Guided discovery questions could include:

  1. What is the proper way to take a throw-in? (Show me)
  2. Does the ball always have to be thrown forward? Why? Where else might it be thrown? Why?
  3. Who decides where the ball gets thrown? Why? (This is where you can bring in the role of the other team members at throw-in situations)
  4. When would it be appropriate to throw the ball a long way? Why?
  5. When would it be appropriate to throw the ball a short way? Why?

Following the guided discovery questions, go back to the round robin, except this time play goal kicks and corners (previously, every restart was a throw-in), so now it is looking more like “real soccer.” However, this time, say that every goal that is scored within 3 touches (or something like that) of a throw-in counts double (or triple). This will get them looking to make the most from their throw-in situations.

Finally, end with a scrimmage involving all players. When you see a foul throw, stop the play, correct the mistake, and restart the game. Again, this is teaching in context and the players will much more likely retain what you are teaching.

Try it. Let me know how it works.

~James

Increase Your Scrimmage’s Intensity: The Magic of a Half-way Line!

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Whether you are coaching U4 or U19, every practice needs to end with a scrimmage. I have found the best percentage of a practice devoted to a scrimmage is around 25-33% of the total practice time. That’s right, at the very least, you should let the kids play for a quarter to a third of your entire practice!

Ok, so, you let you kids scrimmage, but you notice a couple of defenders tend to hang out with the goalkeeper and don’t really do much of anything. I often see this on game day, too. First of all, when the play is down the other end of the field, the defense should be pushed up to the half-way line. Yes, the half-way line! Otherwise, you are attacking with 2 or even 3 less players. Are we trying to score goals, or go for a boring 0-0 game?

You might say, “well, I don’t want my defenders to go up because they will get beat over the top.” Yes, you are correct, because if your defenders stay back in games, they more than likely do in your scrimmage games, too. Thus, they never get practice in anticipating when to step up and when to drop back. Because they never get put in situations where they have to make these decisions, they are not able to do so in games, so the safe course of action is to tell them to stay back…and so we have a self-fulfilling prophecy that leads to boring soccer and players that don’t think for themselves. 

You must be bold! 

Here is the answer! 

Add a half-way line in your scrimmage games. That’s it!

Ok, that’s almost it. Tell your players, that in order to score a goal, the entire team must be over the half-way line for the goal to count. You should take up your coaching position off to the side by the half-way line (so you can fairly judge if players are over or not), and watch the magic happen.

The first time a team “scores,” but their goal doesn’t count because a player didn’t make it over the half-way line in time will change everything. Try and see.

The benefits of playing this way are:

  • All of your team’s players will be engaged all of the time
  • Players will start communicating with each other, telling each other to “get up,” or “step” (the coach doesn’t even have to say anything!)
  •  The defenders will be forced to make decisions about when to step up the field and when to drop off…they are forced to think! 
  • Your teams will quickly discover that it is beneficial to “press” even when they lose the ball in the opposition’s half because if they win it, they win it close to their opponent’s goal, which makes for an easier goal scoring opportunity!
  • You will train your team to counter attack with game-like speed
  • You will bring a whole new level of intensity to your scrimmages 

Added bonus: Once the players have got used to this game, make a new rule that makes each goal count double if the attacking team “catches” one of the defending team’s players on the other side of the half-way line. This will encourage the defending team to get all of its players back “goal-side” of the ball. 

This works best with U8 teams and up. 

Let me know if you try it and what results you experience. 

~James