Soccer Skills:

Teaching Positions to U6 Players is a Big Fat Waste of Time

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Sometimes well-intended coaches take tons of practice time lining up their players on the field like pieces in a World Chess Championship. What’s the end result? A big fat waste of time!

Understanding the capabilities of the U6 player, we know that players at this age group have:

  • No sense of direction
  • No sense of boundaries
  • No soccer vision – they are only aware of their most immediate surroundings

Given those characteristics, does it make any sense to try and setup your players on the field? We don’t think so either.

We also read articles online and speak with coaches who are looking to “hide” a player on the field. We think this goes against the very spirit of the game and notion of player development. Unfortunately, we lose our minds as coaches trying to win instead of being patient advocates turning players onto the game and developing them over a season. A player’s abilities at age five and six are no indication of the player he will become over many seasons of development. Stay patient…your U6 Tiger team isn’t going to change the world if it is 6-0, 3-3 or 0-6.

The goal is to help develop creatively thinking soccer players. Instead of giving positions out on the field – after all teams should be playing small sided games of 3v3 or 4v4 – encourage your players to “find new (or open) space” on the field where they can help and support their teammates. By allowing players this challenge, we’ve removed the rigid and inflexible positions, which are surely detrimental to the player’s enjoyment and growth in the game.

By allowing for natural movement on and off the ball, players begin to see the game and will move into support positions in order to get the ball. These lessons will serve the young player well into his soccer career as he better understands angles, runs and support.

If you come into the season realizing that you’re wasting your time trying to develop positions on the field, you’ll be far ahead of the game!

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Jerry Macnamara is "The Coach" and founder at Soccer Classroom. For more than thirty years, Coach has been a player, coach, trainer and administrator. He shares your passion for the game and helping players grow through age appropriate soccer skills and drills. Feel free to contact Coach with questions

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5 Comments of “Teaching Positions to U6 Players is a Big Fat Waste of Time”

Comment by Coach G
November 14, 2010

Assume that instead of playing 3 v 3 or 4 v 4, that our U6 league plays 7 v 7 with goalies on a 40 yard x 65 yard field. I’m curious to hear what you’d advise in this reality.

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Comment by Bob
October 18, 2011

7v7 with keepers at U-6 level? That’s very interesting. I would only Imagine they have been playing for a few years already and understand the concepts and are doing well with basic skills at this point. If that is your clubs direction the you don’t have too many options instead of training for position. I see this is over a year old already..curious, How did things go for you?

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Comment by Wes Morlham
January 16, 2012

I agree with Jerry, with the limitations at under 6 level we’d be crazy to expect them to even start thinking about things like positioning or tactical nous and if we did we’d be being unfair on both them and ourselves.

The MOST we can achieve at this level apart from the Kids thoroughly enjoying themselves ( which is the most important ) is that they may start to comprehend that if they can find space and even be aware of what space may be, that’s a great start.

I don’t even believe at this level, Kids should even have defined positions necessarily that they play in every week. They need variety at this age to keep their concentration where and if we can and also keep their ” fun levels ” up..

Three key steps, in order, especially at this young age, for players to get a grasp of the logic of how the games is actually played..

Learn to play with the ball >> Learn to play with team mates >> Learn to play against the opposition.

But with regards to the ” W ” word ( winning ), no way, that’s years away.

Before that happens, we need them to fall in love with the game as without the passion and love for it, we can’t have good players.

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Comment by Paul Sanford
March 13, 2012

What about basic defense and offense? About half way through my season I try and teach my kids to split the field in half, a few hold back to protect the goal while the others attack the ball. I dont use ‘positions’ per se but I do try and help them understand that sometimes you are trying to protect your ‘home’ and other times you are trying to kick in someone else door. The only position I do use is the striker but i would imagine we all do that and just rotate all the kids through.

I whole hardily agree on the winning aspect. At the beginning of each season I get all the parents together (even though our club doesnt set a standard here). One of the things I really try to impart is that I am more concerned with the kids wanting to come back and play some more than I am about winning. For a U6 team it is trying to build that team mentality I think.

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Comment by The Coach
March 13, 2012

Paul –

Thanks for being a reader.

From a psychological point of view, players at U6 simply do not have any sense of time or space. As a result, focusing on positioning is not going to make sense to them. They’re all going to be ball chasers around the field – perfectly natural. They’re simply not ready to process the information. It’s much like trying to teach calculus when you’re only on addition. You can certainly introduce the concept, but at this age, we would argue the best focus is on skill development. Kids are naturally selfish at this age (and that’s perfectly fine) and the game is going to be very individualized – not a team sport for the players where players have roles. The best use of a coach’s time is to focus on the fundamental skill development, which will provide them with the building blocks as they progress.

We love to hear that your focus is on development – it pays off in the long run. Turn the kids onto the game and everything magically falls into place. I’m not sure if you saw it, but you may enjoy “How to Hold a Pre-Season Soccer Meeting” presentation.

Great luck – come back and see us real, real soon!

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