Using the existing Instructional Soccer Program grid, place cones or disks two-yards apart on each end-line to establish goals. Do not use goal-keepers. Start with 3 v. 3 (three versus three), with one of the teams wearing colored pinnies. Have one coach on the field with each team. Place parents around the perimeter to retrieve balls when they go out of bounds. (Make sure that the parents behind the goals are going to resist the temptation to step forward and block shots!) It is extremely important that the players get lots of positive reinforcement from making goals. Do not keep score, even though the players and parents may want to do so. Rotate players frequently to ensure equal playing time. In warm weather, take lots of water breaks.
The team coaches must constantly position players and describe what happens next. When a team kicks a ball in, the coach from the opposing team must get the defending players to stand far enough away in order to let the play resume fairly. Coaches should tell the players which teammate to kick to, by name.
Encourage the team with the ball (attackers) to spread out and to move to get open for passes, even though most young, starting players will have absolutely no idea what this means! Encourage the defenders (team without ball) to get between the ball and the goal (goal-side) or between an attacker who is “up front” and the goal.
Don”t worry about the finer points of rules regarding throw-ins, offside, or goal kicks. Every ball that goes over the end-line becomes the defenders’ kick-in. Balls that go out the side-lines are a kick-in for the other team. Prohibit sliding or leaving ones’ feet in any way. Encourage the attackers to shoot and the defenders to get back as soon as they lose control of the ball. Apply the “Basic Soccer Rules” identified earlier in this Instructional Soccer Program Manual. After a number of weeks, you may add the concept of a kickoff and changing ends at “halftime.”
The scrimmage will most likely look like a swarm around the ball (often referred to as the “ants to honey stage”). If the coach must engage in some tactical instruction, have one player play behind the swarm to collect any balls coming to him and play the ball forward to space in front of and to the side of the swarm. Later introduce players to the sides of the swarm to collect any balls to the side or passes from behind and then dribble forward and shoot or pass to the middle. Finally, add a player in front of the swarm to serve as a target.
Often, one player or more players on a team may become dominant. There is a fine line to be worked with this type of player, one who figures things out fast, has more experience, or is just gifted early. They are to be encouraged and gently offered as “role models,” but not at the expense of other players never getting to kick the ball.
Variations: Set up more than one scrimmage; go to 4 v. 4 and 5 v.5, enlarging the grid as necessary; introduce a kick-off; introduce substituting. Create a half-time and introduce switching ends. Introduce corner kicks. After approximately three weeks, scrimmage the team opposite from you on the main field by splitting each team in two and setting up two games. Ultimately, one can open up the field to the full combined length of both grids, including the service space between the grids, and have a larger-sized team scrimmage.
Circle Game. Set up a large circle of discs in the center of the grid. Establish goals with cones at each end. All players with ball. Divide the team into two groups. One group has different-colored pinnies. Establish which group will attack and which group will defend in which direction. All players start by dribbling within the circle. When the coach calls out a group color, those players are all to dribble to attack their goal. The other group is to leave their balls in the circle and go defend. Time the event based on success rate, starting at approximately 30 seconds. Re-set and go with the other group. Count the number of goals for each. Modify the time accordingly and go again.
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