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What is a “possession style”?

Possession-based soccer is characterized by:

  • Methodically moving the ball up the field with many short, quick passes
  • Comfortable playing the ball across and back, including to the keeper
  • Passing around opponents instead of dribbling them
  • Patience; not forcing the ball forwards

When should you begin teaching it?

There are many basic technical skills that should be in place before you move into these tactical concepts. Generally this can begin around 10u. Your players should be comfortable with (though not necessarily experts at):

  • Able to dribble with their heads up to look for a passing opportunity
  • Able to properly execute a pass to a teammate under pressure
  • Understand basic spacing to get open and call for a pass
  • Demonstrating all the above consistently during games

All requisite technical skills must be in place before you can move forward, else you will just frustrate yourself and team with trying to force a style the team is just not ready for.

How can I get my players to adopt this style?

Possession is a mindset that your players must adopt at their very core. This is not something you ever finish coaching, you can only expect small incremental improvements each week and you must focus on it constantly. EXTRA coaches should expect to make far more progress over a given season, but doesn’t mean you shouldn’t expose Core teams to this teaching either. Core coaches just need to have reasonable expectations. As we coaching staff at 1455 do a better job at getting more Core coaches coaching the same way, you can expect more players to be exposed to these concepts at earlier ages, and thus Core coaches have less “starting over” to do each season. And that makes it way more fun for everyone involved.

Possession Skills Path

This is a skill path progression for teaching a possession mindset and accompanying technical skills.

Note: A lot of this work is adapted from two sources 1) Possession by Dan Blank.  2) US Youth Soccer Association’s Olympic Development Program Coaching Manual which is all about possession style soccer.

Both resources are geared towards the Advanced player stage (15u+), so I have pulled out applicable content and simplified it for use in Basic and Intermediate stage players. I still recommend reading them if you’re interested in this topic.

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