The other day I came across an interesting blog that was discussing a U-8 girls team and whether or not it was wrong for¬†the coach¬†to have two of his¬†strikers staying forward and not coming back to defend.¬†¬†The coach¬†continued by saying he doesn’t want to “cherry-pick” but strategically they were always open.¬† The debate was divided.¬† One side declaring that the most important thing at the youth age is for them to have fun.¬† The other side stating that is exactly what is wrong with soccer in the United States, they aren’t learning the basics of positioning at a young enough age.¬†¬†There is too much focus on fun and not enough focus on technical skills and basics.
Interestingly enough, no one brought up¬†the point¬†that by having your¬†strikers¬†stay forward and not¬†defending¬†your focus is on “winning.”¬† This left-side, right-side issue is¬†easy to resolve, you need both.¬† What is¬†the typical response when you ask a player what position they play?¬† Ninety-nine percent of the time you will get “striker” “midfield” “defense” “goalie.”¬† That my friend is the problem with soccer in the United States.¬† That correct answer to that question¬†should be,¬†anywhere¬†coach needs me to play.
Coaches, please refrain from asking your players that¬†dreaded question of “what position do you play?”¬† Instead, rotate your players through every position, even goalie!¬† Teach them the importance of knowing how to play all the positions.¬† Give them a chance to figure out where their best position is and where they are most comfortable.¬† Once you get to an older age group there is nothing that impresses a coach more than knowing that you can be utilized in any position, you become an extremely versatile player.
As an example of the importance of knowing all the positions, I had two friends¬†who went to play Division I soccer, one at Wake Forest and the other at¬†Old Dominion.¬†¬†Through their entire soccer careers they were strikers, they had pace and the natural ability to score goals.¬† When they got to the Division I level their coaches converted them into defenders; where they thrived.¬† An advantage to converting a striker to a defender is their understanding of¬†the movements of¬†the position.¬† One of them went on to get drafted in the MLS by the Los Angeles Galaxy and the other was invited to the MLS columbine where he had a chance at getting drafted.
Knowing and understanding how to play all the positions gives you a huge advantage in soccer.¬† It makes you a step quicker by anticipating where the next pass should be going, where your mark could be making their next run and how to cover for a teammate when they are out of position or need help in transition.¬† So my next question for you is, what position do you play?¬†