8v8 Soccer Formations, 2-2-1-2 Formation
Soccer Coaching Success Story
U11 Competitive Soccer
How a Team that Had Lost for 3 Years Started to Win
Only Gave Up 5 Goals in 12 Games
Soccer Tips for How to Score More Goals
Condition Soccer Players by Sprints -- Not Long, Slow Runs

Hi SoccerHelp,

We finished the season third in our league, 6-4-2. We were bumped out of the finals on the first round by the number one team on PKs after a 0-0 game.

If you recall, my daughter's competitive U11 team had been a losing team for 3 seasons (the worst record in the league for 3 seasons), under 2 different coaches and I stepped in to help.

What worked was a 2-2-1-2 with our two fastest girls playing fullback. The ball never stayed longer than a hand full of seconds in the defensive third. The key to playing the game mostly in the offensive third is a strong defense. I have found that�s true with this team anyway.

I had the halfbacks (Stoppers) focus on the center of the field. They fell back to cover the Danger Zone and let the fullbacks cover the wings to save them a little running around for their push upfield when we won the ball again.

We only gave up 5 goals the entire season after playing 12 games. 1 was a penalty kick, another was a corner kick. We only gave up 3 goals on the field.

Offensively, we just ran out of talent on the team. The girls we played at forward were not at the same level of play as the girls we used in fullback and halfback. When we moved one of our fullbacks up to forward, the ball stayed in the defensive third most of the time. When we pushed one of our halfbacks up to forward, the midfield couldn�t keep possession of the ball and it fell mostly to the fullbacks to push the ball up. Again, we played too much in the defensive third.

We just ran out of talent.

Over all, I am very pleased with the results and the girls are ecstatic they are no longer fighting just to not be dead last in the ratings. There is no more fear or dread going onto the field even when facing the best teams. One of the two teams that beat us during the season just fell to our girls 2-0 during a tournament this season. We faced the other team too in the same tournament and again it was 0-0 and we lost to PKs at the end.

I�m starting a conditioning program this month on a third day of practice to help build up the girls a little behind the power curve. Going to spend the summer focusing on various attacks and shooting and a whole lot of running to get some power in their legs. Going to look for more talent too. It would only take 2 fast girls to free up our two best players to make our halfback team more solid and put some real speed and power up front while we continue to work on the rest of the team. We only have one more year before we have to go 11v11 and we are down to 9 players right now, so we need more players anyway.

I was handed a boys "B" team recently. i really appreciate your site and have already started using it to turn them into an "A" team. Boys play a different kind of game than the girls do. It is faster, more explosive, and organized zone coverage like we used with the girls team does not really look like it is going to work with the boys.

I can�t tell you how many books I have read recently that were no where near as insightful as the information you have here. This site should be required reading for any new, or even as i have seen, not so new coaches. Nice work, and thank you. I would like to bring the site to the attention of the club if you have no objections. The garbage they hand out for the beginning coaches should be illegal. A whole book that says teach basics without really saying what "basics" are, and not to worry about positions or formations, they will get that later on their own - or not, as I have seen.

Any ideas about how we can score more goals?

Coach J.


Hi Coach J,

Wow!!! Great season! I think your strategy is excellent -- if you don't give up goals, all you have to score is one or 2 to win. Only giving up 5 goals in 12 games is great.

Obviously, you have the defense figured out.

Here are a few ideas I can think of for you that might help your attack:

  1. My biggest tip for you is to try to teach your team to score on Turnovers, fast counterattacks, and by stealing the ball on your opponent's Goal Kicks and Punt (if you can steal some balls on your opponent�s Goal Kicks and Punts, you will have an advantage because the opposing defense won't be in position). To score on Fast Counterattacks, you must NOT try to play a Slow Possession/Short Passing style -- simply have your Forwards stay pushed up as far as possible, teach them to "Breakaway Dribble" by using the Practice games described below, and have your FBs and Stoppers (aka Halfbacks or Defensive Mids) send the ball Straight Ahead and deep (a pass to Open Space) so your Forwards can break onto it for a fast break (this will also keep the opposing FBs from Pushing Up to support their attack). If you do this, you should get at least 2 or 3 scoring opportunities per game, and if you score 1 or 2 goals, you win a couple of extra games. THIS IS THE BEST WAY FOR your attackers to have a chance to score -- it doesn't sound like your attackers have the skill to score using a "Slow Style of Play" against a defense that is in position -- your best chance to score is to launch a fast counterattack or score on a turnover before your opponents can �recover� to good defensive positions -- even pro teams are now putting more emphasis on a Counterattacking Style. Given the speed of your FB's, I think you can let them Push Up and that you can let your Stoppers (Halfbacks) come up to support your attack. That will let your midfielder join your 2 Forwards in the attack. I would think of my Midfielder as a "Recessed Forward". On a fastbreak Counterattack, you might even think about letting one of your FBs come onto the attack, and leave the other one at the Halfway line and tell her to just kick the ball back toward goal or even out of bounds if it comes back to her (this will minimize the risk of her making a mistake that lets your opponent have a breakaway on your goal � your risk is that the opponent counterattacks before your defense is in position).

  2. Be sure to teach Coaching Rule No. 3 -- that's worth a goal or 2 per game. Where it can help you score is on stealing the opposing teams Goal Kicks and Punts. If you can steal those you will have an advantage because the opposing defense won't be in position to stop a fast counterattack. If you steal them, your players MUST go straight to goal and NOT play the ball back or slow it down or give the opponents time to recover to good defensive positions.

  3. Play the Premium Dribble Across a Square Practice Game 4 times as a warm-up to start each practice to teach BOTH control dribbling AND Breakaway Dribbling. Have the Square be 10 steps wide for 2 games (to teach Control Dribbling) and then enlarge it to 15-17 steps wide and use that to teach Acceleration into Open Space and Breakaway Dribbling (Speed Dribbling).

  4. Play the Premium version of "Dribble Around Cone & Pass Relay Race" a lot and use it to teach "Aggressive Receiving" and passing while running.

  5. Teach "Passing to Space" and NOT "Passing to Feet". The reason is that Passing to Space is a way of thinking and your attack will be much more creative. How to teach this is described in Premium.

  6. Premium "Breakaways, Shifting, Chipped Passes and Passing to Open Space Practice Drill". If you can get a field to practice on, practice Breakaways for 15 minutes where you simply have your FBs or Stoppers send a Chipped Pass from the Penalty Box Arc into the open space between the Halfway Line and the other Penalty Box Arc. In this Drill, have your Forwards stay on the Halfway Line, alert, watching the ball, and break on the ball, Speed Dribble toward goal and take a shot while running. Have them BOTH follow up the shot for a rebound. DON'T have defenders in the way -- the idea here is to teach your Forwards and Midfielder how to position themselves, to shift with the ball, to KNOW what to expect, to stay alert, to break on the ball, Speed Dribble, to shoot on the dead run, and follow the shot for a rebound. If you want to make it more realistic, pretend you are the Opponent who is attacking, hold the ball in your hands, and move the ball from side to side across the field (stay about halfway between the End Line and the Halfway Line, just moving from side-to-side to teach "Shifting" and "First Defender/Second Defender") -- have your FBs and Stoppers (Halfbacks) shift with you (as they would in a real game) maintaining defensive spacing and support, AND the Midfielder and 2 Forwards should ALSO be shifting with the ball from side to side and staying alert. When you drop the ball, the defensive player who is closest (the First Defender) should send a Chipped Pass STRAIGHT AHEAD across the Halfway Line that the Forward can break on (there are several good reasons to send it straight ahead -- one is that you won't unintentionally "switch the field" as you might if the ball was sent diagonally, but the main reason is that by sending it Straight Ahead your Forwards and Mid know what to expect and can be in position to win the ball). The closest F should break on the ball and Speed Dribble to goal, with your Midfielder running fast to trail the play and get in position to stop a clearance, and to try to steal the ball back if an opponent gets it, and your other Forward should run beside the "onball" Forward -- she should be a short pass away and 3 steps behind the ball so she isn't "offside" and is in position to "run onto" and possibly one-touch shoot a pass that is layed in front of her, and can be in position for a rebound on her side of the goal (this way, she won't run past the rebound, which is something young players often do by getting too close to goal).

For your conditioning. Don't do slow, long runs. Slow runs train muscles to be slow. Use lots of sprints and "shuttles" to condition your players -- that teaches their muscles to run fast and to accelerate quickly. The same thing with practices -- as much as you can, play Practice Games because they will train your players to play fast and under pressure... drill train players to play slow.

Please let me know if any of these ideas help.

It's rare to see such a turnaround in U11 competitive soccer. If you can keep your team together and find a scorer, you will be able to move to the next level � you are very close.

David at SoccerHelp