As you begin to assess your youth soccer team’s abilities, you should start to get a better feel for what style of play they are best suited to play. One of the more effective soccer tactics is to be able to adjust to your opponent, and to use different styles of play to keep them off balance.
As a youth soccer coach you need to be able to decide which style of play will work best for your team. There are different factors that will affect that decision. Everything from the abilities of your players, to the weather, to the condition of the soccer field will play into your decision.
Styles of play refers to the way your youth soccer team plays together during the game. It is your job as the youth soccer coach to determine which style to use.
Attacking Styles of Play
Soccer teams will use a direct attack to try to beat the defense by playing long passes. This is not a dump-and-run offense. These are long, accurate passes to players making runs toward the goal, that penetrate the defense.
The objective is to push the ball forward with few passes, and only a few players touching the ball. By quickly passing the ball through the defense you can attack the goal before the defense has an opportunity to drop back to assist the goalkeeper.
Your job as the youth soccer coach is to include drills in your practices that teach your players to shield the ball, to make penetrating and overlapping runs, and most important, to make long, accurate passes.
The indirect style of play requires a lot of patience. It also requires a lot more technical ability than the direct style of attack. It is a style that emphasizes ball control. The objective of this style is to maintain possession of the ball through each third of the soccer field.
The key to success is patience. You need to make sure your players understand that it could take 10 to 15 passes to work the ball up the field. You should use a formation that allow you to play a wide offense that spreads the defense. You players should provide support from behind the ball, offering the ball handler multiple options for making short, controlled passes.
You will need to include drills in your practice that emphasize possession and movement that will create width and depth in your attacking formation.
To be successful as a youth soccer coach you need to be able to mix your attacks. If your opponent is pushing their defense up, you can use a direct attack to break through the defense and get one-on-one opportunities against the keeper.
If the defense is playing back, you can use an indirect attack to work the ball forward. You need to be able to adjust your style of play according to what the defense is giving you.
Defending Styles of Play
Low Pressure Defending
A low pressure defense focuses on slowing the attack to allow your players to get into their defensive positions. By forcing the attackers to slow down it allows your team to get more players between the ball and the goal.
Teach your youth soccer players to play a zone defense rather than defending individual players.
It is important that your team falls back on defense as a unit. They should practice maintaining a compact shape as they fall back. This will prevent the attacking team to find gaps in the defense that they can pass through. The closer to the goal the attackers move, the more compact the defense becomes. As passing lanes close down your team will find opportunities to force the attacker to make a mistake and turn the ball over.
You need to emphasize the importance of patience. Delaying the attack is more important than winning the ball quickly. As more of your defender get into place the opportunities to win the ball will come.
High Pressure Defending
High pressure defense is designed to apply immediate and intense pressure on the ball handler. As soon as the opposing team wins possession of the ball they are immediately challenged. The defenders job is to win back possession of the ball as quickly as possible.
By applying high pressure, and marking the attacking team player to player you will make the ball handlers play the ball faster then their abilities allow. This will force mistakes in dribbling, or in making bad passes that can be intercepted by your players.
The more you can take what you learn as a youth soccer coach and apply bit to game situations, the quicker your youth soccer team will learn the skills they need to be successful.