Soccer Coach With U-10 Boys: My team is Slow.

Dear SoccerHelp,

I am a first time coach and have no soccer experience. I had a AYSO team in the fall and am currently coaching a select silver team. My problem is that my fall team was better than my select team. I kept 5 of my players from my previous team but the players I've added can't replace the players I lost. I picked my team based only on comments from previous coaches.

My U10 boys team is slow. I have 3 players with decent speed. The rest of the team has average speed and I have one boy who stops running when he's tired (he is a decent goalie though). Of the three players with decent speed, two are agile and can dribble but lack breakaway speed. The other one has breakaway speed but is clumsy on the dribble and needs time to "set-up" his shot (he is fearless though). The rest of the team has one thing that they do well but can't do much else and like I said, they are slow and not too aggressive. We went 0-4 in one tournament and are currently 0-2 in our season (losing 4-2 and 4-0). I have been playing a 2-1-3 formation (7v7) although I feel like I need to play a 3-2-1 since I have so many slow players. In our last game, we held them to one goal in the first half when I kept my midfielder back a bit to help out with the defense. As soon as I brought up my midfielder for some offense, our opponents scored 3 more goals.

I don't know where to begin. I have a dad with soccer knowledge who is assisting me, but he's not always around. I will try some of the things you have suggested in your correspondences, but, if you have anymore light that you can shine I would be grateful. I think I am looking for what to do at this point in the season and what I should work on for the rest of the season. It's obvious there are a lot of limitations with this team but I just want to know what I can do now.

Thank you,


Hi David,

I've been where you are and can sympathize.

You're right, you have to use a Formation and Style of Play that gives you the best chance to win and you must be realistic about your player's limitations. I suggest:

  1. Do NOT "push up" your Fullbacks. Read "Defending Deep" on Premium.
  2. Play a 2-1-2-1 (2 FULLBACKS who stay deep and in front of the goal-- these can be slow players-- teach them to clear the ball, tell them to NOT try to dribble, just kick it hard), a "STOPPER" (this should be one of your better players -- tell him to stop at the inside of the Center Circle on your side of the field, unless he's "on ball", and to shift with the ball -- his job is to stop the opponent's attack, or at least slow it down -- tell him that if he is on his half of the field to kick an "air pass" also called a "lofted pass" STRAIGHT AHEAD over the opposing Fullbacks, assuming they are Pushed Up, because your Forward will be shifting with the ball and this is what he will expect), 2 MIDFIELDERS (put your 2 dribblers here -- tell them to NOT drop back any farther than the top of your Penalty Box, and that they can come into the attack -- these players need some ball skills and endurance and will need to be subbed -- they will run the most -- tell them that if they are on their half of the field to kick an "air pass" also called a "lofted pass" STRAIGHT AHEAD over the opposing Fullbacks, assuming they are Pushed Up, because your Forward will be shifting with the ball and this is what he will expect), put your fastest player at FORWARD (have him stay "pushed up" as far as possible ALL the time, and tell him to shift from side to side with the ball, because the Stopper and MF's will kick it STRAIGHT AHEAD -- tell him his ONLY job is to be in position to win the balls that are kicked his way and to then "go to goal" and try to score -- do NOT let him drop back to try to "help out", because if he does the opposing FB's will come back with him -- if he stays Pushed Up he will keep 2 opposing FB's off your half of the field -- he must be patient and disciplined --tell him his job is to stay pushed up and to win the long balls his teammates will send into the open space -- you want him to try to get fast breaks -- read Attacking Plan for more on this).
  3. Tell your players that each player MUST do his job and trust his teammates to do theirs -- that is what teamwork means.
  4. Keep plenty of Gatorade on the sideline and tell players to drink it about 30 minutes before the game so they're "hydrated"
  5. Put your slow player in goal and don't rotate him
  6. THIS IS CRITICAL. PLEASE DO THESE THINGS: Play the Premium "Dribble Across A Square" game 3 times to start EVERY practice and for the next 2 practices 3 times to end the practice. This will help your team greatly.

  7. Also, play the "Dribble Around Cone & Pass Relay Race" for the next 2 practices, and if your players can't clear the ball and send long "Lofted Passes", play the "Chips/Lofted Passes" games for the next 2 practices (your FB's MUST be able to clear it and your Stopper and MF's MUST be able to send a Lofted Pass over the top of the opposing FB's so your Forward has a chance at breakaways. Also play "2 Team Keep away" because it will help teach quick transitions and teamwork. All of these games are easy to set up and run.

  8. Tell the MF's to follow the Forward on the attack to try to get rebounds and balls the opponent tries to clear, and to work together to try to score.

I hope these ideas help. Please let me know. These ideas have worked for coaches with weaker teams than yours.