Why playing a sweeper can stop silly goals

I have had many a conversation going on late into the night about the use of sweepers in the youth game. But if your team is getting caught out by counter attacks, balls over the top or a team that dominates with through passes, a sweeper can be a godsend

Not only sweeping up balls the back a sweeper can anticipate moves by attackers and make contact to steal away the ball from them.

Another vital role of this position is to be like an on-field coach and direct players since the sweeper position is deep and you have a good view of the entire field of play.

As the last man in defence the sweeper must cover right across the back of defenders but mainly cover the central areas as this is the key area for a sweeper to cover. Start with a small sided game called The Sweeper which gives an overview of the role and what benefits a team can get from using a sweeper.

A great way to get players to understand the role of the sweeper is to use the Practice Plan called Minesweeper. This game has the sweeper defending two small goals either side of the pitch giving them the task of covering both goals. The sweeper has to stay focused and make the right decisions of where and when to move.

The sweeper can see all the play in front of him ­– one game I love to get my younger age groups playing is The Conductor which gives sweepers the role of telling players what is happening and where defenders should go to cover any attacks. This gives them the authority to close down any gaps that are left by the other defenders and anticipate where the weak spots in defence are. It also shows the importance of communication with team mates when defending.

A more modern approach to using a sweeper is to get your goalkeeper to act out the role when teams are caught out and the ball is played over the top of the defence. A fun game to play for this role is Sweeper keeper. It’s a great way to get young goalkeepers more involved with the match and also to be ready for defensive duties during a match.

For older age groups the session 3v3 sweeper keeper is a more advanced version of the fun game.


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