Basic Principles of Play

by Alan Merrick:

Over my years (decades!) of observing competitive older players, I have seen that many often believe that because they played at a higher level as a youth, they will automatically continue (or just deserve) a place in the starting lineup forevermore. However, many of these players lack an understanding of basic principles of play that are a pivotal foundation to the game – and their growth and playing ability are hindered as a result.

Coaches need to do their part to introduce these principles starting with 10, 11, and 12 year old’s. We owe it to this age group to give them appropriate game understanding so that they can fully meet all the demands of the game later.

Principles of Play

A sample of simple principles of play that should be emphasized:

Deny the other team time and space and thus, the ability to play forward passes.

Attack every loose ball and never let the ball bounce. Allowing the ball to bounce gives less aggressive teams an advantage.

One-on-one battles are integral in a team’s ability to rule the flow and outcomes of any game.

Defensive clearances from their goal need to be high, wide, and deep. If there is any doubt, clear the ball and make sure it goes out of bounds, which allows the team to reset their shape and get players behind the ball.

Never clear the ball across your own goalmouth, it creates undue pressure and ultimately, bad outcomes.

Play to feet at every opportunity. Passes that lead a player invariably go to the opponent’s goalkeeper or out of bounds.

Players who can play one-touch stand out and can change the game. They know what they are going to do with the ball before it gets to them and have the vision, awareness, and technical skill to execute.

Always take up good positions for the first pass, anticipate the second and third ball and win them in order to gain and maintain possession.

Forwards should play both ways – they are the first line of defense and can create great goal-scoring opportunities by creating ball turnovers with good pressure on ‘their player’.

Coaches should utilize this time in the “off-season” to introduce these important concepts. Plan some sessions that paint the picture and offer opportunities to start conversations around these principles and help make kids more complete players over the course of their soccer careers.

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By Alan Merrick

I provide content, curriculums, topics and detailed coaching points to the MOTI Soccer Training Platform.  I am pleased that a product like MOTI Soccer Training Platform is now available to all players, coaches and soccer enthusiasts.