Rotate Players to All Soccer Positions?
Rotating is Good for Select soccer players, but not for all Rec players
7v7 Soccer Formations, 3-3 vs 2-2-2
How to give your soccer players and team the best chance to be successful

Hi SoccerHelp,

This is my first year as head coach & I coach a Girls U10 Rec team & we play 7v7. We've had 1 practice & we did a short scrimmage. I had them play 3-3 (no goalie) because that's what they've played before & what we did last year when I was the assistant coach.

After reading your site & thinking about it I was planning to go to a 2-2-2, but I see a lot of discussion of 2-1-1-2.

My concern is that my girls are not that experienced & I think it will be hard enough to teach them the 2-2-2 (vs. the 3-3 they've been playing). Any suggestions on formation & teaching it to them.

Also, I plan to have them play different positions; shift by shift & game by game to equalize playing time among all 12 girls. Any thoughts on that? My experience has been that I won't get all 12 girls every game & I'll need to be flexible.

Dave, Premium Member


Hi Dave,

Thanks for being a Premium Member.

You sound like a nice, conscientious guy who will be a good coach.

First, I think a 2-2-2 will be fine for your team and much better than a 3-3; a 3-3 doesn't give you much "depth". A 2-2-2 is easy to teach. Read "Shift & Sag - How to Teach" and "Shifting - Importance Of" in Premium and follow the links.

Let me address what I think is an important decision for you -- whether to rotate players to all positions. When I first started coaching, I rotated players to all the different positions because I was told I shouldn't "pigeon-hole" kids in one position. In hindsight, I don't think that's best for many Rec players who are age 7 and older (I think it's okay for U-6 kids). I think it's a good idea for the top athletes who will go on to play Select Soccer, because those kids can successfully play any position and it's good to let them try all the positions. But most Rec players can't be successful at every position and some will definitely fail if they are placed in some positions. In addition, the success of typical Rec players has a lot to do with the Formation and Style of Play their coach chooses - for example, a slow kid can't be successful at Fullback if you push him up to the halfway line when you attack, unless you have a great Sweeper to back him up.

Do you have the time to teach your players skills, rules, terminology, your formation, your Style of Play, First Defender/Second Defender, how to "mark up" (Coaching Rule No. 3), and to also teach them 3 or 4 different positions (what their role is at FB, MF and Forward, and what they should do when the ball is in your Defensive Third, Middle Third and Attacking Third)? Given that you don't have the time to teach them how to play all the positions, what is the benefit of putting them in positions they don't know how to play? Is it really giving them a beneficial experience to rotate them in and out of positions they haven't been taught how to play? It seems to me that the great athletes will be successful at any position, but most Rec players won't be successful at every position. A Rec coach simply doesn't have the time to try to teach every kid how to play every position, and it's also true that young Rec players have a hard enough time learning to play one position - it would be very confusing for a 9 year old Rec player to try to learn how to play FB, MF and Forward, all in one season, while the coach is also trying to teach them some basic skill, rules, terminology, to do their best, to be a good sport, etc.

Think about it this way: What are your objectives? Here are 5 objectives that I bet apply to you:

  1. To have the most fun
  2. To create wonderful memories
  3. To get to spend some time with kids and help them
  4. To teach your players some basic soccer skills (Playing the SoccerHelp Practice Games will do this better and faster than any other method)
  5. To build self-esteem, which to me means that the players believe they are successful at what they do -- you certainly don't want to decrease any child's self-esteem by putting them in a position where they are doomed to failure.

No. 5 above is the reason I don't think it's best to rotate every child to every position. If all your players are good athletes, it's fine and a good idea, but if some of your players are slow, unskilled or unathletic, there are some positions where those types of kids are doomed to be failures. I think kids who are 8 and 9 years old might be old enough to be embarrassed and to recognize when they are harming their team due to their inability to play a position. Perhaps I'm wrong and kids those ages don't get embarrassed and if so, then it doesn't matter. But if you agree, then I think it's best to play kids where they have the best chance to be successful.

Here's an example of how not rotating players can be best: When I coached U-14 Rec I was assigned 2 boys who the other coaches didn't want on their teams because they were slow, unskilled and unathletic. If I had put these 2 players at Forward or Midfield, their lack of skill and slowness would have been noticeable and the other players would have complained and might have made fun of them. I noticed they were both smart and VERY BRAVE so I got the idea of letting them play RFB and LFB and "Defending Deep", with a very strong CFB to support them and 2 strong Stoppers in front. That worked great and we went 7-1 that season, and those boys requested to be on my team after that and I was glad they did. They were brave Fullbacks who played their positions with enthusiasm and discipline, earned a lot of "blood patches" and I was proud of them. I would let them play the entire game at those positions and they got more playing time than anyone else, but since they were Defending Deep, they weren't running as much and didn't need to be subbed. The other players treated them with respect and they made an important contribution to our team, and I think their self-esteem increased and they had fun. Some of my best memories are of my 2 slow, unathletic, unskilled, BUT VERY BRAVE Fullbacks who would NEVER back down, would stop shots with their bodies and never complained -- they became an inspiration and an example of bravery to the entire team and to the teams we played against. Those 2 players taught me a lesson and I am proud of how it worked out. Notice that I adjusted our "Style of Play" to fit their abilities -- if I had Pushed them Up when we attacked (most other coaches Pushed Up their Fullbacks when they attacked), they could not have been successful, because they were very slow. There are a lot of things you can't control as a coach, but there are 2 critical things YOU CAN CONTROL: choose the Formation and Style of Play that give your players and your team the best chance to be successful.

I hope these ideas help. Please let me know.

David at SoccerHelp