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How to Beat a Physical, Swarming Soccer Team
Simple tactical changes that allowed his team to quickly go from losing 5-1 to winning 4-1 against the same opponent
A Great Success Story

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Hi, This is David at SoccerHelp. Below is correspondence with a coach whose U11 soccer team played well against organized teams that played positions, but that was losing to "swarm" teams that simply ran to the ball. He had lost 5-1 to a very physical team and wrote to ask for ideas. The first letter below is actually his last letter where he tells what happened and how he won. This type of dramatic success story shows how important coaching and strategy can be.

(This letter tells what he did to go from losing 5-1 to winning 4-1)

Hi David,

Well we played the swarm again yesterday (the same team that beat us 5 - 1). As you suggested, I instructed my players to kick the ball out of bounds if they were swarmed so they wouldn't be overwhelmed, and then clear any throw ins to slow their fast break. I also instructed my mid fielders and full backs to clear every ball straight away (our first touch let us down the last time we played this team).

As this team was very physical the last time we played them, I also switched my line up to put my bravest, and physically strongest players in the mid field and split my speed demons between forward and full back positions. My thinking was that the only way the swarm would get past my Mids would be to clear the ball, which my fast defence should be able to beat them to and send back down range. I told my forwards that they must be the first to the ball and to shoot as soon as they could as the swarm was very good at transitioning from attack to defence.

At Half time, the other team abandoned the swarm and went to a formation style of playing.....We won 4 - 1.

So, on behalf of the Mitchelton U11 Goannas, Thanks for the advice!

By the way, we do play "Dribble across the square" and "Dribble around the cone and pass relay" games at every practice, but each year I lose over half my squad to other teams in our club. Also I do subscribe to the newsletter and intend on adding the "dribbling through the gates race" using agility poles (to encourage lifting their heads) to our training plan.


Rob, Coach U11 Mitchelton Goannas, Premium Member, Brisbane Australia


(This is my reply to his first letter asking for advice)

Hi Rob,

Thanks for being a Premium Member.

Against swarm teams the only things I can think of is that they are getting "numbers" against you and overwhelming you. That would mean they have given up something. If they are swarming into your Defensive Third, the answer is to leave 2 Forwards out toward the halfway line and send deep balls for them to run onto for fast breaks. That will force your opponent to stop bringing so many players near your goal. A simple suggestion that isn't pretty but that will help until you figure out a better approach is to have tell your players to simply kick the ball out of bounds if they are getting swarmed - that will stop the opponents from overwhelming them, stealing the ball and launching a fast attack.

Try that and keep playing the Practice Games. Do you play the Dribble Across a Square soccer drill a lot? If not, watch video of a young player who has played the Dribble Across a Square game for 3 seasons dribble through 6 defenders -

Also, play Dribble Around Cone & Pass Relay Race a lot and use it to teach Aggressive Receiving and One-Touch play

If your players are getting pushed off the ball, play "Strength on the Ball" game

Another game to check out is the Premium "Win the 50/50 Ball or Be the First Defender"

Do you get the SoccerHelp Newsletter? It is free and has lots of tips in it. You sign up for it on SoccerHelp Home Page - click the big link that starts " 29 Pages of Free Soccer Coaching Tips".

Please let me know what you do and what you find works.

David at SoccerHelp


(This is the first letter where he asks for suggestions)

Hi David,

I have been coaching junior football here in Brisbane Australia for what is going on 6 years now. My focus has always been on developing players skill so they can move into a higher grade. I have always had my entire squad return and feel the heart break when they get reassigned to other teams. I attribute these as success and I don't think I could have done it without the practice games and patches from the SoccerHelp web site. So Thank you for that!

Now for my problem... My current team plays extremely well against other "organised" teams (teams who use formations). I have modified the "don't bunch up game" to simulate a counter attack from our goal clearance, which has really developed our quick passing game. This causes formation teams a lot of trouble, but swarm teams seem to tear us up pretty bad.

Luckily, my kids just enjoy playing and the parents are a great bunch, but I feel like I am failing the kids....I just don't know what I am doing wrong against this type of play.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


Rob, Coach U11 Mitchelton Goannas, Premium Member, Brisbane Australia

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