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Sportsmanship Award
What is AYSO Plus?
2002 Standings
Plus Tryouts!
Don Campbell's "Coaching Corner"
General Information
"Coaching at the Game"

Gary Hartung, Girls U11 Plus Coach with Region 111 Plus Coordinator Don Campbell and Jim Rosenberg, AYSO Region 11 Area Director. Gary Hartung, his girls and their parents & fans won the Region 111 AYSO Plus Sportsmanship Award for 2002. The Sportsmanship Award is the highest recognition in AYSO because it recognizes exceptional behavior on the part of the teams players, coaches, parents and fans throughout the entire season; at games at practices and everywhere in between.

Boys U11 Plus Coach Mike Lenahan handing out awards to his team at the 1st Annual Plus Party. This years gala affair was held at Peppinos Restaurant in San Clemente. Delicious Italian food, soccer and fun all around!

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2002 AYSO Plus Current Standings:
  • Boys Under 11
  • Boys Under 12
  • Boys Under 13

  • Girls Under 11

  • Girls Under 12

    2003 AYSO Plus Tryout Schedule:

    San Clemente Region 111 AYSO
    AYSO Plus Open Tryouts!!!!

    5:00 pm to 7:00 pm @ San Gorgonio Park

    GU11, GU12, GU13, BU11,BU12

    U13 (Age 12 or under as of July 31, 2003); 4/28/03 & 5/12/03
    U12 (Age 11 or under as of July 31, 2003); 4/29/03 & 5/13/03
    U11 (Age 10 or under as of July 31, 2003); 4/30/03 & 5/13/03
    (Note: Teams are formed in one (1) year age increments. Younger players may play up (AYSO Plus only).)

    Please bring a soccer ball (with name and phone number on it), wear shin guards with socks over them and cleats and BRING WATER!

    What is the AYSO PLUS Program?

    The AYSO PLUS program is a select pilot program established in 1994. It was formed as an exciting competitive experience for AYSO players whose skills qualify them to participate. As in every other AYSO program, the National Rules and Regulations will be enforced, and the AYSO philosophies are upheld in the program.

    AYSO PLUS players are expected to be committed to the team. Players are not allowed to play for other Club teams during the Fall season and must attend practice. AYSO PLUS players are not eligible for selection to All Star teams. The AYSO Plus season runs the same time as the regular Fall season. All AYSO Plus teams shall participate in a December playoff tournament and may participate in Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Holiday tournaments as well.

    AYSO Plus registration is paid with your player�s Fall Registration Fees. Players who do not participate in the AYSO Plus program will automatically be placed on AYSO Fall teams.

    Parent participation is a necessity. AYSO is an all volunteer organization and as such parent volunteers are needed to help by providing snacks at games & practices and other logistical support. Additionally, certified referees are needed from all AYSO teams, including the AYSO Plus teams, in order for scheduled games to be played. Referee classes are offered throughout the year to all interested volunteers and all cost for training & equipment are covered by our region.

    In order to be eligible to participate, all interested players must attend at least one (1) tryout. Tryouts will include assessments of individual skills and performance in game-like situations as specified by the National Coaching Commission. All players will be informed in writing as to whether or not they were selected.

    Best wishes to all!

    Don Campbell � Region 111 AYSO Plus Coordinator

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    Don Campbell's
    AYSO Plus Coaching Corner

    Don Campbell is the Region 111 AYSO Plus Coordinator

    Coaching at the Game

    The purpose of this article is to discuss the issue of "coaching style" at a game. I will explain the soccer culture, which is unlike that of typical US sports, cover the official FIFA position and the AYSO policy and then discuss some of the issues that typically arise.

    Soccer Culture

    The essence of the soccer culture is that soccer is a "player's game". What this means is that, once the game is underway, the players are expected to make their own decisions as to the right thing to do in any situation, without interference from coaches or spectators. Of course, in a professional game, there are plenty of spectators with an opinion, however, their input is thankfully lost in the noise of the crowd.

    In a youth soccer game with only a handful of spectators, loudly-voiced opinions and "suggestions" are all too easily heard (at least by the other spectators - see below).

    This soccer culture is alien to most US sports in which the coach is actually an active member of the team. Coaches send plays in to the quarterback at a football game, call timeouts to stop the other team's momentum in a basketball game and instruct players to run or stay on base in baseball. Regardless of how you might feel about the way coaches role in these and other sports, it is not the soccer way.

    A soccer game has a running clock and once the whistle blows there are no practical mechanisms provided by the laws of the game for a coach to influence the outcome. The players make individual decisions, good or bad, and collectively have to react as a team to the strategies and tactics of their opponent. They learn to do this in two ways, firstly at practices where the coach does have control, and secondly, and ultimately more importantly, by experience at the games themselves.

    This is the origin of the soccer coaching adage "the game is the teacher". It takes a lot of games to get this experience but there really is no shortcut, much as coaches might wish there were!

    Many coaches find this situation frustrating, especially if they also coach a sport in which they do have more control. A common reaction is for the coach to become a "shouter". In the extreme this takes the form of a continuous barrage of shouted verbal instructions to the players which is essentially an attempt by the coach to "control" the game.

    At any game with a noisy crowd this doesn't work, of course, although some coaches do develop remarkably loud voices trying. This style of coaching at the game is sometimes also referred to as "micro-coaching".

    What's the Law?

    FIFA law states that a "coach may convey tactical instructions to his players during the match and must return to his position immediately after giving these instructions. The coach and the other officials must remain within the confines of the technical area, where such an area is provided, and they must behave in a responsible manner".

    AYSO defines the technical area as ten yards either side of the halfway line, the front and back edges being one yard and three yards, respectively, from the touchline.

    AYSO also requires coach participation to be positive, instructional and encouraging. San Clemente truly embraces, ��the spirit of the game��, and we expect all of our coaches to share this spirit and pass on to our player and their parents.

    The spirit of the FIFA law is that coaches convey only occasional instructions to players and that these instructions are limited to "tactical", that is, "off the ball" instructions. The expectation is that coaches use the game to observe their players in action and use what they see as feedback for future practice sessions.


    Let's start by admitting that many veteran coaches, including the author, have followed the humbling path from microcoaching to being an observer and cheerleader at games. None of us are perfect nor were we born soccer coaches. We all had to learn. Sometimes we lapse into bad habits under stress because we're human. But we believe in the soccer culture and strive always to be good role models. In this section I will discuss some of the issues surrounding microcoaching in more detail and explode some myths.

    Myth No. 1: �Instructions get through to my players.�

    It's hard to accept this if you have never played a team sport, especially soccer. The truth is that, when concentrating on handling the ball, it is impossible to process instructions. Players shut out extraneous inputs, all they hear is a general background noise. Of course, if they are close and you shout really, really loud, they'll hear you, however, in doing so they will probably lose focus on what they are doing and lose the ball. I�ve seen this happen before. A player will stop what they are doing and look at the coach or parent while their opponent is happily dribbling downfield with the ball.

    Myth No. 2: �My players like it when I shout at them.�

    Even if they do (I haven't met any yet - and you have to ask them to really find out) it isn't helping them make their own decisions and they'll never become good soccer players if they can�t learn to think on their own. Some coaches justify their behavior on the grounds that the kids really need the instructions and that it helps them become better players. It's possible that this could be true but at what cost?

    Again, it's hard to appreciate this if you haven't played a sport with a "coach", but most adults would find it irritating and unsettling to be the subject of constant verbal instructions. Kids spend their whole lives being told what to do by adults. Historically, however, they learned to play sports without adult involvement. Times have changed so that organized sports are now the norm, for better or worse, but that doesn't give adults the right to take over their games. It's the players� game.

    Myth No. 3: �I only provide positive instruction and encouragement.�

    I hear this a lot and I'm sure some coaches really believe it. However, if you're a real shouter you will inevitably get seriously involved in what's happening out there on the field. Eventually, when something goes wrong, you'll let your guard slip and some not-quite-positive remark will emerge because it's practically impossible to keep the brain properly engaged when in verbal torrent mode. As an example, what do you think is the impact on your players of a shout of "Wake up defense!" immediately after a goal is scored? I would submit to you that this demoralizes the players and simply expresses the coach's dissatisfaction with their play.

    It is not positive coaching and it is unlikely to improve performance on the field. Other tell-tale phrases are those containing, "you should have...", or, "you need to ...". While well intentioned, these remarks will be perceived as criticism by the players. I don't know too many adults who respond well to public criticism, let alone kids. Just remember, the players only "need" to have fun. Finally, panic shouts of "Get it out of here!", "Shoot!", "Boot it!" just overload the players with noise. They rarely have any useful effect, except to make players feel more nervous and unsure of themselves. Great plays are not made in a mental state of panic.

    Myth No. 4: �I have a really nice voice at 90 decibels.�

    My experience is that listening to a shouter coach, however well intentioned he/she is, just gets plain annoying after a while. It certainly spoils my enjoyment of the game for everyone. Kids come to the games to have fun, not to get abused. Spectators (parents) come to watch their kids play, not to listen to the coach scream.

    Myth No. 5: �The parents expect me to instruct the kids at games. No parent has ever complained about my coaching style.�

    Many parents are equally unaware of the soccer culture and simply transfer their expectations from other sports. Others are themselves intimidated by a coach who is a shouter. Some might even believe that AYSO teaches coaches to micro coach at our coaching clinics and classes. Some, seeing progress in their child's soccer development, may put up with the shouting because "my child is learning a lot this season". (Many shouter coaches are indeed good at teaching soccer at practices)

    Myth No. 6: �It's okay to complain to the referee if he/she makes a call you don't agree with.�

    Micro coaching often goes hand-in-hand with public complaining about the officiating. Again, if you are involved with the game at the micro level, you are going to react deeply to every call just as if you were actually out there on the field. And, if you're used to verbalizing, you'll find it very hard not to say something critical. There is no margin for discussion on this one. Public complaining about the refereeing is not acceptable, period.

    The referees in San Clemente have an agreement with our coaches: we don�t tell them how to coach and they don�t tell us how to referee. In fact, we encourage all of our coaches to get their referee certification and the majority of our upper level coaches have done so and are actively officiating games before and after they coach their own teams.

    Myth No. 7: �It's very important that my team wins their games.�

    A lot of micro coaching has its roots in the coach being too personally invested in the success of the team. This is dangerous ground that can lead to some truly bad behavior by coaches. And, yes, it happens every season. Sometimes a coach is trying to make up for his or her failed success in sports by playing vicariously through the team. Other times the drive to win (at all costs) is just too deeply embedded in his or her personality. Other times the coach feels inadequate if the team isn't successful and attempts to remedy this by micro coaching.

    If any of these resonate with you, just remember "it's for the kids". You are a teacher, not a player. I recommend reading "Positive Coaching" by Jim Thompson for a more detailed look at this and other aspects of coaching. I'll also put in a plug for the Positive Coaching Alliance that Jim founded.

    Myth No. 8: �Coaches should be silent at games.�

    No! The opposite extreme of a shouter is the truly silent coach, which is easily mistaken for indifference. Players do like to be praised when they do well. Praise and affirmation are the "Say" of the "See, Show and Say" coaching style that is taught at AYSO coaching clinics. There are plenty of opportunities at a game to provide praise and positive encouragement to your players. It's also perfectly all right to communicate tactical suggestions just so long as you don't do it continuously.

    For example, instructions to your defense to move up with play, and occasional positional advice are perfectly acceptable coaching situations. What you should not do is try to teach positional play at a game by constant instruction. If they haven�t learned it by game time it�s too late. Better to take your lumps and make notes about what to work on at practice the upcoming week.


    If while reading this you recognized some of your own behavior at games, try to examine your reasons for micro coaching. Hopefully some of the arguments above will persuade you that there is another way that will achieve the same results and, in the process, let the kids play their game in as natural a way as possible.

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    General Information

  • Why Should I Coach?
  • What Kind Of People Coach?
  • How Old Do I Have To Be?
  • How Do I Become A Coach?
  • Practice Time Recommendations
  • Coaching at the Game
  • Systems of Play - Recommendations
  • Coaches are at the heart of the AYSO organization because as a coach you have the most contact with the kids.

    Coaching requires that you commit to two late afternoon/evening practice sessions per week plus the game on Saturday. With the time that you should be spending preparing for practices and games, this is a significant commitment of time. San Clemente AYSO appreciates the time that you have committed and hopes to provide you with advice and assistance to make your coaching experience a positive one.

    Why Should I Coach?

  • It's FUN!
  • It's a great break from work
  • It makes you feel good
  • It's a great way to give something back to the community
  • It�s a chance to spend some time with your child and build some memories.

  • The rewards come from watching the kids have fun at their games and practices. You will observe their individual skills and teamwork improve and take pride in knowing that you helped make that happen. You will feel a great sense of accomplishment when you reach the end of your season and look back and see how far your team has come.

    Years later kids you hardly recognize will stop you on the street or in the mall and say, �Hi Coach!�.

    For those of you who are frustrated at work occasionally, there is no better way to regain your perspective than to watch a bunch of 7 year olds at practice.

    What Kind Of People Coach?

    All soccer coaches are a combination of the three following categories:

    �   Social Oriented
    �   Task Oriented
    �   Goal Oriented

    The social coach wants to go out and have a good time. If the kids just want to have fun at practice (and not work on dribbling for 40 minutes) that's no problem. The social coach enjoys meeting the parents on Saturday morning. This is usually the case for most first time parent coaches who did not grow up playing soccer.

    The task oriented coach is looking to see players develop their soccer skills over the course of a season.   Many coaches who played soccer as kids and/or adults tend to be somewhat task oriented since they have skills that they want to share with their players.

    The goal oriented coach wants to see results. Sometimes this means winning on the score board, but it can often mean that the coach wants to see the team show some level of improvement as a team each and every practice.
    Of course, all prospective coaches have some of the three characteristics listed above, but if you are just starting out with your 5 year old and do not possess a single soccer skill, attending a coaching clinic will help you gain the skills & knowledge to put together a great season for your kids.

    If, on the other hand, you already have the soccer skills but are terrified at the idea of working with a group of kids, a coaching clinic will give you some age appropriate ideas about running a practice and having fun. And if you think you already know it all you might be surprised at how much you might learn at a coaching clinic.

    How Old Do I Have To Be?

    There aren�t any upper and lower limits specified by AYSO, but we have some fairly "senior" coaches who are still out there working with the kids and we have quite a few youth coaches (under the age of 18) who volunteer their time to make the program work. High school age coaches generally provide terrific role models for our young players and these coaches have typically grown up playing the game.
    We do require that an adult be at every game and practice, but San Clemente AYSO strongly encourages and supports our youth coaches (Rumor has it that AYSO coaching looks great on your resume!).

    How Do I Become A Coach?

    If you already have a child that is on a team, just let the coach know that you are interested in coaching and would like to help. All of our coaches will be delighted to have the help.

    If you are interested in coaching for the upcoming season, please contact our Registrar and he will notify the Division Caption for your child�s age group of your interest and will keep you informed about upcoming coaching clinics and other events.

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    How Long Should Practice Last?

    An important aspect of age-appropriate coaching is the length of time that players should practice. There are no hard and fast rules, however, coaches should not place unreasonable demands on players' time, nor practice beyond the maximum recommended limit for a given age bracket. Coaches must recognize that there is always more to teach than either the time available or the attention span of the players, and that players may have other commitments. Putting kids first means practice times which match their development level and commitment, which may well be less than that of the coach.
    The following table gives recommended and maximum practice lengths for each AYSO age bracket. These recommendations are for the length of time actually spent practicing, and do not include, for example, time spent waiting for all the team to arrive. These are regional recommendations derived from coaching manuals and personal experience of the region coaching staff.


    Playing Position versus Team Shape,

    How many times have you heard a coach or parent call out, "Johnny, remember your position!" or "Johnny, you're supposed to be playing fullback!", during a game? How many times have you done it yourself? I'll plead guilty right away. Sometimes it seems like coaches (and some parents) are obsessed with getting the kids to play position. Is this okay or are we making unreasonable demands on the kids and as a result spoiling their enjoyment of the game? Remember, in AYSO, the game is for the players, not the coaches or parents. The short answer is that there is no short answer, but in this note I will try to cast some light on the matter, and perhaps help you see the issue of playing position from a different perspective, that of "team shape".

    First, the answer depends a great deal on the age of the kids. I would expect that by 12-14, most players understand why positional play is important and what the field positions are, but I would not expect everybody to succeed in translating that into actual game play until 14-16. In contrast, at age 5, I would expect no understanding and no interest at all in playing position. Obviously sometime between ages 5 and14, coaches are expected to teach positional play and (we hope) that the players will catch on. The key question is when and why? My belief, based upon many years of coaching this age group, is that we generally try to do this too early, and that this is the root cause of a lot of the sideline shouting on the subject. Sadly it sometimes also leads coaches to teach bad habits that become a liability in later years.

    Anyone who has watched 11v11 (or even 7v7) at the 6-8 age is familiar with the "swarm" - everybody chasing the ball and nobody playing position. In contrast, you may also have seen players standing in fixed positions on the field, especially defenders standing on the edge of the penalty area. Which mode of play is more fun? Since the kids will chase the ball if given the chance I think the answer is the swarm. It is obvious which is better exercise. You might be surprised that I also believe that the swarm is better at developing soccer ability.

    But isn't it important that the kids learn to play position? Certainly, but not until it is necessary, and definitely not at the expense of developing the basic instincts that a soccer player needs. If I had to pick the most important characteristic of a good soccer player, it would be "hustle" - the desire to win the ball, get open for passes and deny opponents space to play or receive the ball. These abilities can go a long way to make up for pure soccer skills. Every coach loves a player with hustle, yet it's hard to teach, especially if the formative years are spent standing around playing positions!

    Playing positions only matters once the skill level and mental development of the kids has risen to the point where it makes sense to them and is also actually useful in the game. This happens rather later then most people think, not usually before the age of nine in average kids.

    Defensively, the need to play position arises once the opposition can kick the ball a long distance or can dribble or pass out of the swarm and break away. In either case it becomes more important for the defensive team to cover the strategic areas of the field. As defensive abilities improve, the offensive team has to pass the ball to find open space and try to isolate defenders one-on-one. This requires that the players spread out and stretch the defense.

    Once players mature enough to loft the ball thirty yards or more, as happens between age eleven and fourteen on average, good positional organization becomes very important, both offensively and defensively. But playing position away from the ball requires mental maturity, putting team before self, something that also only develops in the early teen years. Fortunately the game moves much faster at this level and frequent changes of direction and location of play occur, so that participation is ensured for everyone, even when playing position.

    This is simply not the case in the younger age groups and playing position often literally means no touches of the ball for long periods. This can't be right for young players.

    If you watch a top-level game, you will see that the players position themselves so that the team as a whole has a definite "shape", with the players generally spaced evenly in that shape, so as to cover the whole territory. As the game develops, players are constantly adjusting their positions relative to one another and to the actual play. On defense the shape contracts in an attempt to deny space and put more players near the ball (a kind of swarm!).

    On offense the team shape expands to try to create space and break the shape of the defense. What you will hardly ever see is a player standing still. Players are constantly in motion, fine-tuning their position, covering for their teammates and compensating for changes in their opponents' strategy.

    The offside law plays a key role in encouraging a compact shape on defense. By making it illegal for an opponent to receive the ball in an offside position behind the defense, the law encourages defenses to push towards their opponents' goal and limit the space for their opponents to play in. This is another reason why teaching defending players to stand on their penalty area is wrong - it allows the opposition to freely use the space between the half-way line and the penalty area without the risk of being offside and develops a bad defensive habit that is hard to break later.

    Team shape is what I concentrate on when introducing positional play. More than anything else, I want the players to "stay connected" as a unit and not break into separate groups. I want the whole team involved all of the time, so I am always encouraging my defense to move up the field to at least the half-way line when we are attacking. Sometimes my team will give up goals on breakaways that might have been prevented by having the defense on the penalty area. That's a small price to pay for teaching the right long-term strategy and having all my team involved in the game.

    The term "team shape" is taken from "Coaching the Team", by Waiters and Howe, available through the AYSO National Supply Center (1-800-243-AYSO) or Youth Sports Publishing. The book contains a detailed exposition of the concept and many related drills and practices.

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    Systems of Play - Recommendations

    A "system of play" in soccer is a way to organize the players on the field so that each player has a specific responsibility within the system. On full-sized fields with 11 players on a team, a system of play always has "attackers", "defenders" and "midfielders" (linking the previous two) in addition to the ubiquitous goalkeeper. The variations come in deciding how many players to assign to each role and the exact "shape" the formation will take. Coaches sometimes get too obsessed with the relative merits of one system of play or another.

    The truth is that players win games, not systems of play, although they can definitely help. It's also the case that the system you pick should suit your particular group of players - it's hard to play a particular system if you don't have the right mix of players. Finally, the strengths of your opponents may cause you to alter your chosen of system of play.

    In youth soccer, coaches have to be mindful of another aspect: Are the players capable, mentally and physically, of understanding and carrying out the system? Since the advent of small-sided games, which were partly motivated by the need to simplify the systems of play for very young players, coaches also have to adapt the traditional 11v11 systems to smaller player numbers. For background on that subject click the link " Playing Position versus Team Shape ".

    In this article, we will discuss systems of play for different player numbers and age groups within the San Clemente AYSO program, and make some recommendations. We want to stress right away that it is all too easy for a coach to sacrifice overall player development in the pursuit of a system of play. The main focus of youth soccer must be player development and for very young players (below 11) this means that skill development and active participation in the game are far more important than learning to play a position.

    Systems of play are identified by two or three numbers, for example, 3-3 or 3-3-2. The goalkeeper is never included and the numbers start with the number of defenders, and finish with the number of attackers. A midfield is indicated by there being 3 numbers, otherwise the midfield is absent (for 7v7 and smaller). In any system of play, all players have both defensive and attacking responsibilities.

    Typically the breakdown would be as follows:

    Position   Time attacking   Time defending

    Attacker       75%             25%
    Midfielder      50%             50%
    Defender       25%             75%

    7v7 in U6 & U8

    Small sided 7v7 provides both the need and the opportunity to adopt a system of play, however, we should resist the temptation to move too far too fast. Many players of this age will still have great difficulty with the concept of positional play, particularly with the difference between relative position and absolute position.

    It is important to keep the system of play simple and easy to explain. Players need simple and intuitive positional assignments. The recommended system of play is 3-3, with no midfield line. This system provides each player with a clear role and area of the field to cover and both the sides of the field and the center of the field are given equal cover.

    Adding a midfield would require one or more lines to contain only two players, and the need to divide responsibility between the center and the wing. This is a challenging assignment even for advanced players.

    It's important to encourage the attackers and defenders to stay connected. When their team does not have possession of the ball, the attackers should come back and help on defense, as if they were in fact midfield players. Their position could be anywhere from inside the penalty area to mid-way to the half, depending upon the situation. The last place they should be is hanging around at the half-way line.

    When their team has possession the defenders should support the attackers by moving forward enough to cover any loss of possession, and be ready for back passes if the attacker is unable to make forward progress. This will often take defenders as much as mid-way into the opponents half. The one caveat is that if one or more of the opposing forwards do in fact position themselves near the half-way line, then one or more defenders must stay back and shadow these players. Why? Because a player cannot be offside in his/her own half of the field, so a long kick out of defense could cause a breakaway in this situation.

    Again, the last place the defenders should be is near their own goal when their own attackers are in their opponents half. They cannot provide support in this situation nor are they likely to be having fun. They also cannot gain any advantage from the offside law if they do not move up the field. It can, unfortunately, be a winning strategy at this age, because players who have run the full length of the field with the ball are often tired enough to be tackled easily when they reach the penalty area.

    We consider this a "winning at all costs" strategy, because it puts winning the game before proper player development and enjoyment so it has no place in AYSO.

    Let's stress again that many players initially will find the intellectual demands of positional play very difficult. Players should certainly be given positional assignments for each game and should line up at the start of each half in those positions. What happens in between may well appear to be "all over the place", but if your team is actively involved in the game it really doesn't matter whether the players stick to their assigned positions. Certainly there will be opportunities to make tactical suggestions about improving positional play during the game, especially at half-time and after the game.
    For example, when your team takes a throw-in, the forward on that side of the field should always provide a target close to the touch line, and you should observe whether that is happening or not and remind the player of that responsibility at an appropriate moment. Likewise at other restarts such as goal kicks, the players should be approximately in their area of positional responsibility.

    But experienced coaches who have coached through all player ages know that positional play takes many years to learn and that little is served by pushing it too hard too early. The risks of establishing bad habits by being overly concerned about "playing position" are much worse.

    9v9 in U10

    The move to 9v9 is the appropriate time to introduce a midfield line to act as the link between attack and defense that is needed as the field size increases. The midfield role is the most demanding in terms of physical conditioning as these players are always in the thick of the action precisely because they are required to play the link role. Those players who, in 7v7, always seemed to be in the action whatever their formal assignment, will make "natural" midfielders.

    Unfortunately, 9 players requires that there be 2 players in one of the lines, contrary to the recommendations above. It is therefore a compromise between reducing player numbers to increase participation and the difficulty of the associated systems of play.

    We recommend two systems of play for 9v9, 3-3-2 and 3-2-3. Notice that in all the recommended systems of play we never have less than 3 players in the defensive line.

    Maintaining adequate width and balance in the defensive line is very important and this cannot be achieved with only two players. The 3-2-3 system is more attack minded that 3-3-2 and allows wing play on both sides of the field. Provided that the midfield players can cover the territory it can work well, however, against an opposing team playing 3-3-2, the midfield will have a numerical disadvantage which may be significant.

    Since playing with a 2 person attacking line is now almost standard at 11v11, the 3-3-2 system does have the virtue of introducing that style of play early on. We say more about that in the section on 11v11.

    U10 players are, in many ways, closer to U8 than U12 in their capacity to deal with the mental demands of positional play. Coaches should continue to expect to encounter players who have very little positional discipline.

    11v11 in U12 through U19

    It is in this age group that the ability to understand and carry out the demands of positional play truly develops. Indeed one can make the case that, were it not for the contemporary approach of organizing youth soccer around formal teams and games, that it is only at this age that we would attempt to teach positional play. Certainly, prior to the era of organized youth soccer, most children did not play on an organized team or in such large player numbers until this age.

    By age 14 most soccer players have a good understanding of the basic system of defensive, midfield and attacking play and are entering the period when they can comprehend some of the more subtle aspects of a particular system of play. It is at this age that the coach also needs to develop a thorough understanding of the different systems, their strengths and weaknesses, and how they relate to the basic principles of play.

    The most straightfoward system of play, and one that is recommended for the younger players in this range, is 4-3-3. This formation retains the benefits, described previously, of a 3 player line in midfield and attack.

    There are two ways to organize the defensive line: with a "sweeper", or without which is sometimes called a "flat back four". The sweeper almost constitutes an additional line (1-3-3-3), because he/she typically plays just behind the line of defense and acts as cover for that line.

    However, the sweeper should not be positioned so far back as to be unable to provide immediate cover should one of the other defenders is beaten. The distinguishing aspect of the sweeper is thet he/she never directly guards (marks) an opponent. In the flat back four formation, there are effectively two center backs who cover the center area. Both center backs may mark an opponent, typically, if the opponents are playing two attackers in central positions.
    Critics of the overly defensive aspects of modern soccer would certainly prefer 4-3-3 over 4-4-2, which is the de facto formation today in the adult game in which one attacker is pulled back to strengthen the midfield.

    The very attack-minded formation of 4-2-4 is rarely used these days, as the demands on the midfield players are too great. Whereas 4-3-3 encourages traditional attacking wing play by wing forwards who stay wide, 4-4-2 requires the two attackers to divide their time between the center and the wings. For example, with 4-3-3, if the attacking team has a throw-in on one side of the field, the wing player on that side is the natural target and should be in position. With 4-4-2, one of the attackers will have to move to that side of the field to be a target. The two players must work together to cover the width and not become too separated.

    Lots of diagonal running between the center and the wings can make the two person attack very effective, because the defensive players have to constantly trade off marking responsibility. With a 3 person attacking line, the marking responsibilities often stay fixed.

    A popular contemporary system of play is 3-5-2. This is a challenging system to operate effectively and certainly better suited to older players who have a good grasp of the basic systems. The essence of this system is that the two outside midfield players operate as "wing-backs", with more attacking and defending responsibilities than the other midfield players. On attack, the wing-backs can take the role of traditional wingers thus augmenting the forward line. On defense, they play almost like full-backs. Clearly the physical demands on such players is considerable.

    Coaches sometimes resort to other exotic systems of play in special circumstances, such as 3-6-1 or 4-5-1, however, it is unusual for a team to start a game this way. In almost every game on the planet, the players will line up in one of the systems of play described above.


    In summary, keep these points in firmly in mind:

  • Skill development and involvement in the game are more important for young players than learning to play position
  • The mental requirements for positional play do not develop in the average child until age about 11
  • The system of play must fit your players and not the other way around
  • Players win games, not systems of play
  • You may have to adapt the system to meet the strengths of your opponents

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    For additional information about the San Clemente AYSO Plus Soccer Program, Click on the soccer ball below to contact Don Campbell, Region 111 AYSO Plus Coordinator

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