Tips for U8 Soccer Coaches
Should You Push Up your Soccer Goalie when you Attack?
Should U8 soccer coaches Push Up their Fullbacks on attack?
What to do if you face a great Goal Scorer?

Coach Doug just finished his first U8 soccer season and did great, with only one loss, and that was 2-1 in the finals of the season-end tournament. Doug's soccer team was randomly assigned and was a new team. Doug's daughter plays, but she is only 6.

Here are some observations I want to share:

  1. Most U8 teams can safely Push Up their Fullbacks because their opponents aren't good enough to launch a fast counterattack and score on breakaways. IF you can safely Push Up your Fullbacks to support your attack, that is better than Defending Deep because the Fullbacks can help keep the ball in your Attacking Half. Fullbacks still need to know how to Defend Deep, because they will find themselves deep on occasion. The risk of Pushing Up your Fullbacks is that if the opposing coach is smart and has a fast Forward and defenders who can clear the ball, the coach will have his fast Forward stay on the Halfway Line, and on transition will have his Fullbacks and Midfielders quickly send long balls into the Open Space behind your Fullbacks, and then all his Forward has to do is beat your Fullbacks to the ball for breakaways. At U8, there seem to be few teams with defenders who can clear the ball onto the other half of the field, and as long as they can't do that you are safe to Push Up your Fullbacks to support your attack. However, if you run into a team that can get breakaways, you will have to leave at least one defender on your Penalty Box line to slow down those breakaways or you will get killed OR if you have a great Sweeper who is fast and aggressive, then you can Push Up all your defenders. At U10 more teams can score on breakaways than can at U8 so you will need to be more cautious. At U10, if you aren't able to scout your opponent then it is probably best to be cautious and leave a defender at your Penalty Box line until you are sure your opponent isn't going to try to attack with fast counterattacks (meaning long balls and breakaways). If your opponent plays a "possession" short-passing style of attack, then there is less risk of giving up goals on breakaways and you are safer Pushing Up your Fullbacks to support your attack.
  2. Unless your Goalie can punt the ball far enough to clear it, or is an exceptional Goalie, it might be better to let your Goalie Push Up halfway to the Halfway Line when you attack (or at least to the Penalty Box Line), and it will be better training for your other players. When Coach Doug got behind he would change Goalies (tell the Ref first) and put the Goalie jersey on his Stopper and le his Stopper (who was very fast) come into his attack. Doug said that in hindsight he should have done in all his games, not just when he got behind. At U8 a Goalie can be a "false sense of security" because few U8 goalies are really great and few can punt the ball far enough to clear it when they pick up the ball. When field players know there isn't a Goalie they know they have to play tighter defense and not give clear shots. If you scrimmage, scrimmage without a Goalie � it is much better training. A good way to do this is by playing the "Small Sided Scrimmage without a Goalie" Premium Practice Game. Keep in mind that your Goalie is allowed to play any where on the field but can only use his or her hands inside the Penalty Box, so you can leave the Goalie jersey or vest on your Goalie so he or she can pick up the ball when inside the Penalty Box.
  3. What should you do if an opponent has a great scorer? Doug's team's only loss was because the opponent had an exceptional athlete who scored 2 goals and played the entire field (not a skillful player, but a gifted athlete who was big, fast and aggressive). In my 9 years of coaching Rec soccer I only remember one really great scorer who killed us, and I don't remember playing against a really great goal scorer in the 2 years I coached Travel The great scorer I remember was thin but a great dribbler and could make quick cuts. Near the goal, quick cuts are what allow goals to be scored, not blinding speed. This great dribbler simply dribbled through 3 or 4 of my players and used my timid Fullbacks as screens to block my Goalie's view so he could score before my Goalie had time to react - it was as a result of that experience that I decided it was a mistake to put timid players at Fullback. Unfortunately, I wasn't prepared for a great scorer and he scored 4 goals before I was smart enough the have a good athlete shadow-mark him. If you see that you are playing against a great scorer, assign one of your players ASAP to shadow that great scorer to disrupt his or her game. Be ready to make the decision to assign a Shadow-marker BEFORE you get behind by several goals.

David at SoccerHelp