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By David Clarke
Let’s be honest, coaching the offside rule to a team of young players can be difficult. The mental and physical requirements of timing runs and passes is something that even senior players struggle to cope with. So it’s no surprise that our youngsters can have problems getting their heads around the rule, and you’ll often hear complaints of it “ruining” their love of the game. But teaching older children the offside rule is important.
If explained and coached well, players will quickly see that rather than being an obstacle to ambitious, energetic attacks, they can utilise the rule to create whole new advantages in play that they maybe didn’t realise existed. That’s because beating the offside trap is not just about holding runs when the ball is played. For one, players can experiment with moving back onside for the second phase of play if they are not interfering with the ball. The offside trap is excellent too for getting strikers to play on the shoulders of their opponents before losing them.
And it’s also a way to keep your strikers on their toes as they judge the pace of through balls.
These elements are at the heart of this move. Practise it with your team and encourage them to welcome, rather than worry about, the offside rule.
How to set it up:
- For this session, you’ll need bibs, cones, balls, a goal and a goalkeeper.
- Create a playing area measuring 40×30 yards.
- Just past halfway, create a coned line across the playing area.
- A server stands inside each touchline, just behind the cones. Place a goal and goalkeeper at the far end.
- At the opposite end, set up two lines of players, one on each edge of the pitch.
- Players in each line take it in turns, sprinting forward to begin the move.
- When past the white line (which represents the offside line), a player turns 360 degrees to come back onside before moving forward again.
- At the point of the player coming back onside, the coach lays a ball into his path. The player continues forward and shoots at goal.
- Once the shot is despatched, the player must run back behind the line, before turning and running diagonally on to a second ball played by the other server.
- The player is permitted one touch before shooting at goal.
- He then goes to the back of the opposite queue from which he started.
Why this works:
Beating the offside trap is as much about varying the approach and style of runs, as it is knowing the right time to break forward. Players will learn each others’ games instinctively, and can recognise the signals from team mates in terms of when a through-pass will be released. But this move teaches them the skill of disguising and varying runs at the same time. The sooner your players learn to beat the offside trap, the better their advantage over other sides who still regard the rule as an inconvenience, rather than a potential match-winning factor.