Don’t Constrict Young Players to Positions, Give Them Freedom
One large problem in youth soccer is that players are often labeled in a position from way too early an age, limiting them to a specific role and preventing them from getting an overall feel of the game of soccer. Even at the professional level, players will sometimes experience a shift in their position based on how best they can help their team. Who knows, if you never let someone get forward you may never know how instinctual of a finisher they can be…
In youth soccer, coaches need to give players opportunities all over the field, whether the players want to or not. Most likely, everyone on the field will want to play striker. However, only one or two players can fulfill this role at any given time. You need to make sure to rotate who plays there. Don’t name three strikers at the beginning of the season and leave everyone else out. Instead, give different players an opportunity to impress and score goals.
The same can be said about every other position on the field as well, including goalie. Every player should experience some time in the goal throughout the season. Sure, when the players get a bit older there will be those that are more interested in that position over others, but in order to get a solid understanding of the game, players need to know what every position feels like.
Otherwise, how will a player know how and when to pass back to the goalie, or how to find space for a forward pass? Without the knowledge about all the positions in soccer, your skills and ability to function within the framework of a team unit will be greatly limited.
Another thing to realize is that a player’s skills and usefulness will change over time. A kid that starts off relatively small may be better equipped to play on the wings or as a full back. But, if they suddenly experience a major growth spurt in high school and surpass 6 feet in height, wouldn’t you rather they were winning headers from corners and utilizing their height from a central position? If they never were able to play centrally throughout their youth, such tactical awareness of that part of the field would be greatly underdeveloped.
You don’t know how a player will best be used on the soccer field when they get older, so don’t restrict their ability to become a great overall soccer player. You want your soccer team to experience every facet of the game as early as possible. This will not only help them become better, more understanding players of the game at an older age, but will also help them discover what part of the field is truly home to them.
Building a strong soccer player can only come with experimentation and the freedom to learn and play from a variety of positions and roles. Instead of building your perfect depth chart with the players given an exact role, let them enjoy the ability to understand all of the game and become great players, whatever their future may be.