"Before we started practice, I went and got 5 Bravery patches out of my soccer bag, held them up in the air and told my team, if I see brave play, I was going to pass them out to that player. And boy did this change some behavior. The coolest thing was, I gave out three patches for bravery and when I did, I stopped practice right when it happened and had the kid come up to me and I explained what she did and why she was receiving the patch. One girl held onto her patch the rest of practice in her hand, she didn't want to let it go. But back to the coolest thing about it, the three patches I gave out were to three of my most timid players (significant breakthrough)." Coach Aaron
Why the word "Brave" is better than "Tough" or "Aggressive" -- We have been told by many coaches that "Brave" is a much better word to motivate players than "Tough" or "Aggressive". A lot of parents don't like the idea of a coach encouraging their kid to be "tough" or "aggressive", but everyone wants to be "Brave". Brave is a lot more positive word. Also, think about what the words convey - Heroes are Brave and the word "Brave" conveys an image of a hero. But "tough" conveys an image of a fighter or a villain. You will get better results using the word "Brave". We are coming out with a special "B" for Bravery patch.
We just took over a U-9 team last spring that has basically 1 strong player on it. We have 3-4 players that have decent skills but lack any aggression in a game so these kids won't ever go to the ball...it has to come to them... We have a couple aggressive but uncoordinated kids, and a few that are uncoordinated and not aggressive. As you may surmise, we get killed every time we play... We are working on basic skills, dribble, pass, shoot, etc. as all but a few need this badly. We are going to be playing 6 v 6 this year (last year we were 7 v 7), and are planning on playing a 2-1-2 with our strong player at mid. Any suggestions on things we can do to get our non-aggressive kids to start going after it? If we could get past that, we would have 3 or 4 players we could go to, a much better scenario!
Play "Dribble Across a Square" as a warm-up to start each practice. This will improve dribbling, reactions and get them used to traffic.
Play "Dribble Around Cone & Pass Relay Race" at each Practice and use it to teach "Aggressive Receiving". This is VERY important. (D, have Aggressive Receiving go to: http://www.soccerhelp.com/premium/Teaching_Aggressiveness.shtml
Go to "Video Clips" on SoccerHelp, scroll down to "Training Girls and Women to Win 3-DVD Set", click the Red Link and then click the link to the "Combat game". This is an excellent game for toughening up players and it's good conditioning too.
Perhaps most important: Make a BIG DEAL out of Bravery. Every kid can't be great, but all can be brave. Buy some special patches (choose one such as the Lightning Bolt) and ONLY give that patch for bravery. Give this patch at a special ceremony after each practice AND after each game in front of ALL players and parents. When a player does something brave during a game or practice, make a point of getting their attention ASAP and giving the praise (a thumbs up or something they know means they did good and you're proud of them). If the players can iron the patches on their jersey, Great! But if not, put them on a bag or on a practice shirt or just save them. The point is to give them a cool, special reward and public recognition for being brave. That will let everyone know that bravery is important and will be recognized and rewarded. Use the word "Brave" instead of "tough" or "aggressive" -- it sounds better to kids and to their parents -- some parents might not like you trying to make their kid "tough" or "aggressive", but everyone like bravery, heroes are brave.
Please let me know if this helps. It helped my team and has worked for many coaches.
David at SoccerHelp
We ordered the patches today and are looking forward to seeing how they will work... Do you have any suggestions on the formation we should use for 6 v 6 with our talent pool? As I mentioned we are considering a 2-1-2. Does that make sense?
Hi U-9 Coach,
The patches can be used to get the behavior you want, BUT you will get the best results if you do as recommended above and use them as a visible reward for bravery:
Regarding a formation, if you have a great player to play the Midfield spot, a 2-1-2 could work, but if you don't, I would try a 2-2-1. The 2-2-1 will let you leave your FB's in front of your goal when it is under attack because the Near MF can pressure balls that are toward the corner and the Far MF can come to the Penalty Box Arc.
On your attack, you might Push Up one or both of your FB's to the Penalty Box Arc -- if you Push Up one, tell the other one to go to the Center of the goal -- that will put one FB in position to slow the attack.
Here are some more ideas for you:
I would test my very weak players and see if any of them might be a decent Goalie -- how to test them is at "Goalkeeping" in Premium. Basically, throw the ball at them to see if they have good hands and see if they can punt. I've had several large players who weren't good field players but had good hands and could punt and were decent Goalies. If you have a Goalie who could be a great field player, you might be better off with that player at Forward and a Goalie who is decent but who would be a weak field player.
Tell your MF's NOT to go into YOUR Penalty Box -- that way they will be in position to win the balls your FB's clear. Your MF's MUST shift from side to side with the ball so they are in position to win cleared balls. ,u>Teach your FB's to clear the ball straight ahead -- that way your MF's know what to expect and you don't risk kicking the ball to your weak side as could happen if the ball is cleared diagonally.
You cannot put scared kids at Fullback or you will get killed. Your 2 aggressive but uncoordinated players might be good at Fullback. Teach them to Clear the ball by kicking it hard straight ahead. You can use the "Chips/Lofted Passes" game to teach this. Also try the "Longest Kick Game" and "Kick a Crossed Ball Game". Hopefully, you can teach some of the other kids to be brave so they could play Fullback. All you are requiring of your FB's is 2 things: bravery and the ability to clear the ball by kicking it straight ahead.
When your goal is under attack, make your Forward stay Pushed Up a long kick from the ball -- that will keep the opposing FB's off your Half and put your Forward in position to Win cleared balls. Teach your Forward to shift from side to side with the ball so he is in position to win balls that are cleared straight ahead.