Soccer formations that provide defense and scoring
More Great Soccer Coaching Tips that Helped a Team be Successful
How to Teach Proper Soccer Positioning
Why the "Far" MF's should shift to the Center
Why midfielders shouldn't go into the Penalty Box

(For how to teach Shifting and First Defender/Second Defender, see no. 3 and no. 4 of Quick Team Improvement Program)

Following is the second part of a letter from a first year U-12 soccer coach who struggled during the first half of the season (1-3) but kept teaching his team skills, how to play positions and trying different formations and following the tips on Premium, was 2-1-1 in the second half and went on to win the season end tournament scoring 11 goals and giving up 0 goals in 3 games. This article is on Premium at "Shifting � Importance Of"

In case you missed it, below is a very insightful statement from the first part of Corey's letter. I agree 100%. In fact, I think it's better to teach every young player to "Pass to Space" instead of "Passing to Feet" - there are many advantages, including a natural understanding of Movement Off-The-Ball, the use of Open Space, faster play, and increased creativity in your team's attack. I also strongly recommend you teach "Aggressive Receiving":

"I tried hard to emphasize passing to space rather than to feet. The girls weren't good enough at passing and trapping to pass to feet. I felt this taught them to anticipate a pass to space and take a shot quick after getting a pass into space from a teammate. I wanted to reduce the amount of time before taking a shot because the defense tended to close in quick if shots weren't quick."

Formations I tried: By that time I had dialed in exactly where each player would start. We started the season with a 3-1-4-2, then towards the middle of the season switched to a 3-2-3-2, and finally by the last regular season game and then for the tournament we switched to a 3-2-2-3. I will say that for me a 3-2-2-3 was the easiest to teach and most successful formation, and the formation that left the least number of girls out of the action as possible since the midfielder and stopper that were on the opposite side of the field from the ball actually shifted to the center of the field. (Note from David: I agree with Corey that a 3-2-2-3 is easier to teach, but it has the disadvantage of not having 3 midfielders. The advantage of a 3-2-3-2 is that you can hide weak players at the LMF or RMF positions and control the Midfield by putting one of your strongest, most aggressive players at CMF. You should use the formation and Style of Play that gives your players the best chance of being successful.)

With a 3-2-2-3 it was easy to put our offense (3 forwards, 2 midfielders) against our defense (3 fullbacks, 2 stoppers). I played goalie so I could closely watch defensive rotations and so I could blow the whistle when a defender was found out of position, to show how the stoppers should position themselves (stopper away from the ball at the center top of the penalty box, stopper on ball as first defender). And I could quickly throw a ball out to have the offense start again.

I think the girls need to actually experience proper positioning to know what it means. For example, the Center Fullback does not quite know what it feels like to be off the near post during a game without actually being shown what it is like to be there in a practice game with a coach blowing the whistle and showing her exactly where to be (and her seeing where the ball and other teammates are relative to where she should be). Same goes for the Far Fullback (who I had position herself at the top of the Goal Box, centered on goal). Once they got it though, they got it.

We played this for an entire practice on an actual game field a few days before the tournament and I think it helped. We had 0 goals scored against us in the tournament. I recall several instances during the tournament where balls would get through and the Far Fullback would boot it out right before the other team's forward would get to it. That's not possible without being positioned correctly no matter how good of a defensive player you are. Then it was easy for the Far Stopper (at the top of the Penalty Box) to complete the clear out and that was it for the other team's attack.

One of the things I emphasized greatly was the stopper and midfielder on the opposite side of the field from the ball shifting to the center of the field. I *always* wanted a midfielder or Stopper right in the Center of the field (center meaning an imaginary line drawn between center of the 2 goals) because the ball very often squirted out from the side towards the center. They were right there to swipe it up and push it forward.

I am utterly convinced shifting and sagging and proper positioning are critical to winning a game. I would say that a team that is effective at shifting and sagging, and a defense that properly positions itself depending on where the ball is and so forth, has an even greater advantage than a team that has faster and stronger players in the Rec league. I'm not sure that my team ever had the faster and stronger players. But we won the tournament and I really believe it was because the players became disciplined at positioning themselves properly on the field to win 50/50 balls. My players were also more aggressive and we had a few newer players become pretty skilled by the end that it was enough for us to score goals. It also helped that our best, fastest player played center forward and could really make things happen at that soccer position. But this was only possible because the midfielders and stoppers shifted and sagged so well.

My midfielders were not allowed to go into either of the Penalty Boxes. This helped us clear the ball from the defensive end. It also helped us to stay on the attack on the offensive end.

Anyway, I love SoccerHelp and, quite frankly, it would have not been possible for us to win the tournament without the help presented on SoccerHelp Premium. Thank you again!!

Corey, Premium Member