Soccer Tips for U-12, 11v11, 3-2-3-2, 3-1-4-2, 3-1-1-4-1 Soccer Formations

Dear SoccerHelp,

Thanks for the help. I have learned more in the two weeks since subscribing that I learned in the seven years of coaching. I searched the web long and tediously before signing up. Your information is easy to follow.

I am struggling with a formation that will fit this rec. 12 and under coed team with seventeen players. I am currently trying a 3-2-3-2 but I am not sure. Here are the players.

  1. 11 year old aggressive athletic female, medium speed with good dribbling and passing skills and a long kick. Not great endurance.
  2. 11 year old tall and strong aggressive male with great speed but no endurance. Last year in the last game of the season he played a great goalie.
  3. Two 12 year old slow males, aggressive with large build. Good passers and dribblers, the longest kickers but no endurance.
  4. 10 year old aggressive, slow, but large built male. If ball is on right foot can kick it hard but weak with left foot.
  5. 10 year old fast male, still learning how to kick but can pass well with right inside of foot.
  6. 10 year old male is slow, aggressive but needs ball on the right foot.
  7. 9 year old passive male, good passer.
  8. Three 10 year old beginners.
  9. I am thinking of trying a 3-1-1-4-1 with a combination of speed and passing ability in the mid-fielders. What do you think?

Coach Rion, SC, USA

Hi Rion,

Thanks for the letter. We really enjoy this type of letter and are glad you are enjoying Premium.

First some tips:

  1. Play the "Dribble Across A Square" and "Dribble Around Cone and Pass Relay Race" games a lot, they will really help.
  2. Read "Stopper Importance", it's worth 2 or 3 goaks per game.
  3. Teach "Coaching Rule No. 3, it's worth 1 or 2 goals per game.
  4. Read "Defending Deep Basics" on Premium and Defend Deep (tell your Fullbacks to NOT come out of the Penalty Box -- if you have a good CFB, you can let him come to the top of the Penalty Box Circle).
  5. Stay strong in the "Center of the Field" (between the 2 goals) -- force your opponent to attack down the sidelines, they will run a lot more and your team will have time to "recover" and get back into a defensive position.
  6. Teach your "Right" and "Left" side players to NOT go past the Center of the Field (an imaginary line between the 2 goals) -- that way youy will always have strength in the Center. Let your opponent attack down the sidelines, and encourage it. You just can't let them attack down the Center. They can't score from the sideline, and your team will have time to "sag" back to defend.

Positions Tips:

  1. Put your best, toughest, fast athlete at Stopper and let him roam to the ball, but tell him he MUST get back to help defend. If he has a problem getting back, tell him to NOT go past the Halfway line unless he can win a loose ball, and as soon as he passes to a teammate to drop back. Your 11 year old aggressive male fast defender might be good here.
  2. You CAN'T put timid or scared players at Fullback -- if a timid player is a good dribbler he can play Midfield, if not and you need to "Hide" players, put them at the Right MF or Left MF spots.
  3. Put slow players who are brave at FB and have them "Defend Deep" (see above). It's okay if they are big or small, but it is CRITICAL that they MUST stay in position (do NOT go past the Penalty Box line if they are slow). Two of my favorite players ever were not skillful (they couldn't pass or dribble) and were slow, but they were brave and would never back down.
  4. Tell your Fullbacks that they only have 3 jobs:
    1. Stay in position and don't go past the Penalty Box line (unless you allow your CFB to go to the top of the Penalty Box Circle -- but only allow this if you're sure he can "recover" is needed).
    2. Slow down the attack by playing "First Defender/Second Defender" and staying between the ball and the goal, and try to "toe poke" away the ball. DO NOT jump at the attacker or rush the attacker -- they MUST not get beaten and MUST stay between the ball and the goal, and MUST play "First Defender/Second Defender".
    3. Clear the ball -- don't try to dribble or pass, just kick it hard STRAIGHT AHEAD. Tell your Stopper, MF's and Forwards to expect it to be kicked hard straight ahead and to SHIFT with the ball so they are in position to win it. The Stopper should be a short pass away (say 10 steps, in case it's miskicked -- if it's a hard kick, the Stopper should let the ball go by and follow it), the MF's should be a long pass away (say 20 steps), and the Forwards should be long kick away (say 30 steps). It's okay and good if these players are kicked over; being kicked over won't allow the opponent to score, but if they are too far from the ball and the ball never reaches them and the opponent wins it, then your ST, MF's and F's aren't in position to help stop the attack. On the other hand, your ST, MF's and Forwards MUST be far enough out to have a chance to win the cleared balls or your opponent will always win them and eventually score.


I suggest you try a 3-1-4-2 formation with your fast, aggressive defender at Stopper. The "4" gives you a place to put 2 weak players at RMF and LMF, and put 2 better players at the two Center MF positions (RCMF and LCMF). Tell the RMF and LMF to stay near the sidelines and try to slow down the opponent's attack (this is also a good way to keep the very weak players from getting in the way of your attack).

Please let me know how this works for you. I believe you will see big improvements.