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The importance of the magic man

When you play training games with your team if you have an odd number of players it is always a good idea to play a ‘magic man’ – a player who plays for the team in possession.

This is a position of great responsibility because this player can catch the opposition out during transition or can be the player who creates goal scoring chances because he/she is less likely to be marked when the ball is transferred.

What this gives the magic man is time to see a pass or make a late run into the box creating overloads in front of goal. For the coach it is important the magic man understands his responsibility because they can carry this into matches and be the creative spark that is sometimes missing from youth teams.

It also gives them an insight into the importance of speed at the moment of transition. It is a key role and one that you should think about using at every training session.

Now I know some of you will be saying you only ever have even numbers – no problem, you can play for example 6v5 plus a magic man where one team will have a two player overload in possession but equal players out of possession. It’s a great way to get your coaching sessions producing creative players.

In youth soccer a magic man is always going to help the team to score more goals by either creating space for team mates or creating goal scoring chances for themselves. So what better way to help your team score more than giving all your players a coaching lesson in being creative.

Here’s how you go about it:

Start with explaining how players go about being creative – where they play, movement of team mates and how creative passing can split defences open. Use Play between the lines from my Soccer Tactics manual, which explains how players can make decisions that benefit the team.

Next, give the players a framework where they can practice being creative without being penalised for making mistakes. With the technical practice Try something different in the final third creativity stems from players being confident to try something even if they fail at it. It is a simple session that uses all of your squad and, best of all, requires no cones or equipment so can be set up by the kids and used as a pre-game warm up.

For the younger age groups, the best way to encourage creativity is to give them a fun game that stretches their skills. Tomb Raiders is perfect for this as it gets players using short passes, making interceptions and keeping possession with good decision making.

One of my favourite ways of giving players the chance to be creative is Creative in the final third (U14 activity). It uses overloads to put players in situations where doing something different will result in a goal.

Small-sided games are excellent vehicles for getting players to be creative – 6v6 to improve midfield creativity is a great way to round off a technical session and allows the coach to see if players are using creativity in the final third to make and take scoring chances.

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