Restarts (goal kicks, corner kicks, throw-ins, kick offs) offer up the opportunity to create “set plays”. These are essentially scripted plays that all players know what to expect and how to execute.

The types, variation, and complexity of set plays increases over time as players get older. For 8u, your set play for a throw-in could just be to throw it down the line each time ensuring that your forward always knows to get in a position to receive it. For 10u, building out of the back on goal kicks and keeper possessions are critical because of PDIs and the build out line. For 12u and up it becomes increasingly important to develop set plays for corner kicks and DFKs, etc.

Minimally, all ages should understand how to properly restart play, especially 8u and above. I’ve used some variation of this document for the last few seasons and it seems to help players visualize their role. But it also requires specific focus from the coach during practice to rehearse the plays until the team understands them.

To rehearse these plays in practice here is what I do to ensure ALL players understand ALL responsibilities with each play. Let’s take a 10u team with 9 players at practice (that’s a 7v7 a side) learning how to take a short corner (Option 1 in the template above).

  • At the beginning of the drill, take the time to educate players on why it’s so important for us to learn this set play
  • Use the printed template above and explain what all the roles are and what you’re supposed to do
  • I then randomly distribute field assignments. I use some old poker chips or playing cards and I write in different positions on each one in Sharpie. Since you only need 5 players on your “offense” you’ll have 4 on the defensive side including a keeper
  • Based on their new positions, have them line up for the corner. Before you put the ball in play, have the players look at everyone’s position to see if anything is off or missing. Let them figure it out. Once everyone is correctly situated, play out the corner. Repeat from that side and the other side until it is flawless.
  • Randomly distribute positions again and make sure they don’t repeat a position.
  • After running through this several times, everyone should have learned all the positions well enough. Encourage them to talk to each other during a game if they see someone lined up in the incorrect spot