This is our first post in the Possession Series here. A possession style of soccer requires buy-in from your entire team. If even one of your players is not committed, either they will give the ball away or teammates will stop playing to them–ultimately leading to a lack of success either way. In order for anyone to buy into anything completely, they have to understand the concept and the ultimate benefits to them and the team. And it’s even WAY more difficult to get them to play this style under pressure in a game, even if they believe in the theory.
So let’s jump in and begin the never-ending journey.
After you’ve introduced the concept of possession soccer I like to move to a little demonstration. Ask your players to pay close attention because there will be a quiz. Ask for volunteers from your team, ask for anyone who thinks they’re one of the best attackers on the team, select (or pick) three. Then get two of your best defenders and your best keeper. Have the keeper and defense take up their defensive positions near goal and have the three attackers outside the penalty area and play the ball to your attackers and have them attempt to score.
Nine times out of ten the attackers will fail to score, even having an extra player. If they happen to get lucky and score have them play it again. Ask the remaining players how it went. Most will say it went well (they are shy or have no idea), and you’ll hopefully get a couple vague comments about how they should have passed more, or spaced out more, etc.
Now repeat this activity, but have coaches demonstrate. Show them what a possession style attack looks like. Run through a couple iterations. Now have everyone regroup in the huddle and ask them the differences between the player and coach examples. Now you should be getting real feedback. If not, ask them guiding questions.
Now you introduce them succinctly to a few possession style principles such as playing from the spot, movement off ball, using support, turning away from pressure, etc. This should be maybe a minute on each topic at most. They won’t be absorbing much, you’re just getting them thinking.
I then ask for 4 volunteers. Anyone will do. Split them up into teams of two. Have them move away from the group and toss them a ball. I then yell, “ok guys, play soccer!”. It usually takes them a few seconds, then they figure it out and start passing the ball among each other. Once they get it have them come back. Ask the team “what game are you playing if you take the goals away in soccer?”. The team should immediately respond with “keep away”. Then you can ask “so if we get really really good at playing keep away do you think that will make us really really good at soccer?”. You should get some clear agreement here.
Ask for 2 volunteers. Set up a quick 5×5 cone square. Put a ball in the middle. Put one player right over the ball and the other by a corner. Step away and ask them to keep the ball in the square and play soccer. Nine times out of ten the player on the ball will quickly kick the ball away when the other player comes rushing in and the ball goes 10 yards out of bounds. Ask the team what happened. I’ll usually get a few vague replies before I’ll cut to the chase and say “she panicked didn’t she”. Ask the players what they could do differently. Wait until you get a comment about “using her body”. Highlight that response and ask the players to try again, but this time to try to use their body. You’ll still get a poor result but it will be slightly better. Now have coaches demonstrate.
Now come back to your team and explain how if you master the simpler 1v1, you’ll then be in a better position to play 2v2, and so on. So your first session is going to be all about getting comfortable maintaining possession 1v1.
This format will easily allow you to move into the first technical/tactical session of Shielding the Ball.
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