Give your players a voice

Sometimes my young players make more sense than I do – and that makes me well aware that I shouldn’t always put a tactical side of the argument as a rule that cannot be broken, so I try not to.

This week with the season over I’ve been coaching positional sense to young players – not for very long though as it can be a lot for young players to take in and understand.

All players are different, some can be taught from an early age but some cannot. However, players need to be given the chance to learn it so they can develop their soccer brain.

Working with the Under 10s I was going through some moves that a central defender can make when we are winning 2-1 with five minutes remaining. Note that I constantly rotate my players at this age but already they have begun to think about the position they will play each week.

One of my team wants to be a central defender. And he is good at it but because he has played in every position he gets carried away sometimes when he has the ball and charges up the pitch in search of glory! Nothing wrong in that, but sometimes he loses the ball and leaves his defensive position open to being exploited, which has cost us goals, especially late on in matches.

One match this season we were winning 2-1 with five minutes to go. My defender decided to go on one of his runs and he lost the ball and suddenly it was 2-2 and the game was a different one. Don’t get me wrong, I like him going on runs, it helps him develop as a player, but he needs to think about when to do it.

In this situation, coaches can do one of two things – constantly shout at him about his position during the match or talk to him about the situation and what the team needed him to do the most. As a coach, I am not going to shout at him during the game. I am going to try and coach him into making the right decision when to run forwards and when to pass or stay back.

What I have done is talk to him about how far he takes the ball before a pass or a shot. These actions give him time to get back to his position should his team lose the ball. He must also think about timing during the game – if we are winning 2-1 with a few minutes left, should he go on a run or should he give that responsibility to the midfield?

He happily listens and comes back with his own logic – “if we are winning 2-1 and I run up the pitch and make it 3-1 is that not a better way to make sure we win the game?”

He is right of course and what can I say to that kind of positivity? Carry on playing!

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