Brave, Hustling, Aggressive Soccer Play
5 Ideas That Can Make a Difference
Soccer Formation, Strategy, Soccer Positions
How to Teach Players to Steal Soccer Throw-ins and Goal Kicks
How to motivate soccer players by using praise and recognition
How to Get a Soccer Team to be More Aggressive
How to change bad attitudes

Hi SoccerHelp,

I coach a Girls U-14 rec. team and we lost our first game 3-0. They were not aggressive and did not challenge the other team for the ball...we play a sweeper, two fullbacks, a stopper, three midfielders and three forwards.

Any suggestions?

Coach Brett


Hi Brett,

I'm going to paste below several things that might help you.

Here are some ideas:

  1. If your main problem is "aggressiveness" (a lack of brave, hustling play), then there are 3 Practice Games that will help: the "Shoulder Tackle & Strength on the Ball Practice Game", the "Win the 50/50 Ball or Be the First Defender 1v1 Attacking & Defending Practice Game" and the "Dribble Around Cone & Pass Relay Race" (use it to teach "Aggressive Receiving" - this can help a GREAT DEAL). I recommend you play these 3 games at each of your practices until you get improvement - you should see improvement after 2 practices unless your problem is motivation and attitude.

    I've pasted below part of a letter from Coach Tony (U16 Girls) about how he plays the "Shoulder Tackle & Strength on the Ball Practice Game" with fantastic results. Here is what he said:

    "I LOVE the "Shoulder Tackle & Strength on the Ball" drill - it has HUGE benefits. It paid off this past weekend when we played a team from another league. Their girls were very aggressive until we got on their shoulders and then they generally went to pieces and we took away the ball." Coach Tony, U16G, Premium Member since 2004

    How Coach Tony uses the "Shoulder Tackle & Strength on the Ball Practice Game" for his U16 Girls is on Premium at "Shoulder Tackle & Strength On The Ball Soccer Practice Game", near the bottom of the article.

  2. Motivation and Attitude. If you need to motivate your players, try our patches and designate a special patch that the girls would desire to be awarded for brave, hustling play (the words "brave" and "hustle" might go over better than "aggressive", since to some girls "aggressive" sounds bad) - some coaches use the Lightning Bolt for this, or the red soccer ball, but I know one girls coach who uses the pink soccer ball because that is his girls favorite - this should be a prestigious patch . You might think the patches don't work for U14, but they do. Here is what Coach Scott said: "I have used your patches for many years with my teams who were younger and stopped when I started coaching ages 14/15. But guess what -- they work on the older kids too! When I started using the patches we started winning!" Coach Scott, U-16, WI

    For ideas about how to use the patches to motivate players go to

  3. Praise and Public Recognition. You need to encourage, recognize and reward brave, hustling, aggressive soccer (the words "brave" and "hustle" might go over better than "aggressive", since to some girls and their parents "aggressive" sounds bad). Praise the girls whenever you they do something brave or hustle (even during games try to let them know they did great by giving them a "raised hand clap" or "thumbs up" signal). At half time point out individual examples of hustle and bravery (use the positive approach of praising those who were brave and hustled rather than criticizing those who didn't hustle). At the end of your games, make a big deal of giving the special patch for "Bravery and Hustle". This approach works.
  4. If your opponents are scoring on Breakaways or because you don't have enough defenders in your Defensive Third, then there are 3 ways you can adjust your Formation, Style of Play and soccer positions that might help that problem:

    1. Style of Play - When you are attacking you should consider leaving your RFB and LFB on the Penalty Box line and in "tight" (one off each Goal Post) and letting your CFB Push Up halfway to the Center Circle. (NOTE: The Style of Play that is best for one team might not be best for another. If, for example, you play a team that never launches fast counterattacks, it is safe to Push Up your Fullbacks to support your attack, because your Fullbacks will have time to �recover� to defensive positions if your team loses the ball. However, if you Push Up slow Fullbacks and your opponent has a fast forward and can launch a quick counterattack, then you might give up goals on breakaways. U8 teams are usually safe to Push Up because most U8 Rec teams aren�t capable of launching a fast counterattack. It is also safe for some U10 and U12 teams to Push Up, depending on how good, fast and well-coached the opponent is. If you Push Up your Fullbacks and it looks like your opponent is going to launch fast counterattacks by kicking balls into the Open Space between your Fullbacks and your Goalie, then you should think about whether it is best to leave at least one Fullback on your Penalty Box line to stop breakaways. Or, you might Push Up your Goalie to the Penalty Box line to kick away the long balls - obviously there is some risk in doing that, but it is better than giving up a lot of goals on breakaways.
    2. Formation - If you need even more defensive support, switch to a 3-2-3-2 with 2 Stoppers.
    3. Stopper Importance - For most Rec teams, travel soccer teams, middle school soccer teams and possibly some high school soccer teams, Stopper is the most critical position. You should put your fastest, most aggressive, athletic player at Stopper. This doesn�t have to be your most skilled player, but it MUST be your fastest and most aggressive. Unless you face really good teams, you can probably get by with one Stopper and play either a 3-1-1-3-2, 3-1-3-3 or a 3-1-4-2 soccer formation. See for more on this subject and letters from coaches. Here are some quotes from coaches:

      "Stopper is the most important position on the field, as far as I'm concerned, whether you defend deep or play push up a flat four." Sean, middle school coach and Premium Member

      "Give your best player way more touches on the ball as a Stopper and they may not score goals themselves but they keep the ball in your offensive half of the field." Coach B, U11 Competitive in a small town, who went from the worst team in the state in their bracket to 2nd place in overall play

  5. Have you taught Coaching Rules No. 1, 2, and 3? Those can make a HUGE difference. This made a great difference for Coach Tony�s U16 team. Here is what he said: "For several years I had a great team, but last year I lost a lost of my players to the high school team (which I take as a compliment) and had to start over. We lost our first 3 games and did not score a single goal! I had to regroup, re-think, re-tool. What had I slipped away from, what had I neglected? I looked at my notes from each game. We were giving the ball up on throw ins, we were not winning the majority of the goal kicks and punts and we were not stealing the opposing teams throw-ins, punts or goal kicks either. The next week at practice we practiced, mostly Coaching Rule #3, but really, for about 2 weeks, we worked on nothing other than Coaching Rules 1 - 3. Interestingly enough, we won our next 5 games scoring 20 goals and giving up none, we won 6 - 0, 3 - 0, 4 - 0, 3 - 0 and 4 � 0."

Please let me know what helps and how you do.

Thanks for being our customer.

David at SoccerHelp