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How to teach soccer players to be braver, more aggressive, play tougher and fight to win the ball
We believe that hustling and aggressive play are two of the most important things you can teach. Simply stated, the players who hustle and play aggressively will have more satisfaction and enjoyment from playing than those who don't, and will be more confident and play better as a result. Now, we aren't talking about encouraging dirty, dangerous or unfair play, we're only talking about encouraging players to hustle, be brave and do their best.
If your team doesn't hustle and play aggressively, you will almost always lose to a team that is significantly more aggressive. When we refer to aggressive play, we mean hustling, not being afraid of making contact and "winning" the "50/50 balls", which are the loose balls that either team has an equal chance of winning (it's difficult to win these if you are afraid of contact). The most aggressive team will usually "win" most of the 50/50 balls and will usually win the game. It is critical that your defenders be tough and not afraid of contact. If a player is afraid of contact, you will give up many goals if you play him or her at Fullback or Sweeper. Any player who is afraid of contact is at a disadvantage. Ideally, you want to teach your players to not only be brave and unafraid of contact, but also to hustle and be aggressive about going to the ball and to win loose balls. This is often not easy to teach. Some kids are naturally timid (I was) and most young children have been taught that rough or aggressive play is bad because someone might get hurt. A great way to encourage hustling and practice attendance is by using our iron-on patches as rewards for those who hustle or attend practice.
Here are some tips for teaching players to be more aggressive and to hustle:
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- Play the "Shoulder Tackle" practice game on Premium (this game is actually a teaching method that teaches players how to Shoulder Tackle).
- Scrimmage against older teams or against boys teams if you coach girls.
- Play SoccerHelp Practice Games that encourage hustle and winning the ball.
- My best and most fun tip: I started using incentives to motivate players by accident. When I was coaching U-8, a mom suggested the idea because the kids didn't hustle. She would cut gold stars out of iron-on fabric. The boys loved them and their moms would iron them on their soccer shirts, shorts and jackets. Later I found some small iron-on soccer ball patches; they looked better and they stayed on the shirt and shorts better (players also iron them on towels, scarves or on a practice shirt if they aren't allowed to put them on game shirts, or punch holes in them and put them on a chain). When we started SoccerHelp we decided to sell these and we have now sold over 1,000,000 of them. The patches really help - we have dozens of Testimonials from coaches that you can read. Here's how you can use them to teach your players to hustle, be more aggressive and to win the ball: Buy some of our Red iron-on soccer ball patches and call them "Bravery Patches" or "Blood Patches" (the boys like the term "Blood Patches" -- girls might prefer Bravery Patches). Make a point of praising brave or tough play in front of the entire team at practice and at games. Praise braveness, toughness and hustle more than scoring goals; if your team is brave, hustles and plays tough, everyone will be proud, even if you lose the game, and you will win more games than if they don't hustle and play tough. Give a patch every time someone is brave or tough and wins a 50/50 ball at practice and in a game. Give the patches out in a ceremony at the end of practice and at the end of the game in front of all the players and, hopefully, parents. Make a BIG deal of bravery and winning the ball. Not every kid is a great athlete, but every kid can be brave. You MUST teach your players to be brave and to play tough. When I coached U-14 Rec two of my favorite players were small, slow, unathletic and didn't have much skill (they could barely dribble). They had never been on my team before and were players other coaches didn't want (the league assigned the players). I taught them how to clear the ball and to toe poke and shoulder tackle, and to be brave, and how to play Fullback so they could be successful (they had to "Defend Deep" because if they "Pushed Up" they were too slow to recover) - SoccerHelp describes how to teach this; it was from necessity that I started to Defend Deep, and the results were more rewarding for the kids and me. They became very proud of their bravery and would never back down, and they never wanted to play any other position but Fullback because they were not good at other positions and they knew it (due to their lack of skill and lack of speed, they couldn't be very successful at any other position). I played them at LFB and RFB and they did a great job. Boys twice their size would back down from them or there would be a collision - these 2 small kids never backed down. I still think of those kids today -- in fact, I think of them more fondly and with more admiration than I do the great athletes who scored a lot of goals. They were good players for me, yet other coaches didn't want them on their team. If I coached today I would be thrilled to have kids like that - I got great inspiration from watching them and they inspired their teammates. I used the soccer ball incentive patches all the way thru U-19, and they still worked. I bought them at the soccer store and paid 55 cents each many years ago; we sell them much cheaper than that. These patches really work -- read the Patches reviews to see for yourself. Click here to read Testimonials about our patches and how coaches use our patches
- We strongly recommend teaching Coaching Rule No. 3 from "22 Coaching Rules". It teaches your players how to position themselves to defend and win the ball on your opponent's throw-ins, goal kicks and punts. How to teach this is described in section 2 of the "Quick Team Improvement Program", in SoccerHelp Premium.