Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

Youth players gain experience by playing in different postions

David ClarkeA lot has been discussed lately about how coaches and managers should be using their players when it comes to positions in matches.
Certainly at younger age groups – Under-9s and below – where most matches are friendlies, you can switch players around without any fear of causing problems on match day.
I make sure that in every match I change the positions of three players. This works by giving them experience in other positions without altering the tactical make-up of the team. They swap positions after each third of the game, thus allowing them a significant amount of time in each role.
I also make it clear to those players that because I am going to use them in three different positions they will not be substituted during the game. In their minds then, they lose out in not having a set position, but on the plus-side they can play knowing they’re in action for the full duration.
Last weekend we were up against a strong side, but even in this game I made sure I moved players around, targeting my right-back, right winger and left-sided attacker. They swapped positions during the game and had to adapt to their new positions. For the first third they started in their ‘normal’ positions. Then I swapped my right-back with the right winger – a logical move. My right winger went up front as a left attacker – still attacking but from a different side and further up front.
And finally, in what might have seemed a slightly illogical move, I put my left attacker into the right-back position. That right-back slot is all about sitting deep then supporting and blocking counter-attacks, and is one of the vital roles when the team loses the ball.
The changes worked, and as I had hoped, my attacker was badgering me after the game to let him play in defence again because he liked seeing the game being played out in front of him!
That’s evidence enough that players are never completely ready for you to brand them with a position before they have tried each one out themselves! But the important part of the exercise is in making sure your players are gaining experience of playing all over the pitch. That gives them a greater sense of the game and what other players have to do.
And sure enough, all three players came off the pitch looking pleased with themselves. They had just done their bit for us, and helped us to win a particularly difficult game playing defence, attack and on the wing.


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