Are Formations Needed in U8 Soccer?

11 Sep

Today was our first match for my son’s U8 soccer team.  Overall, the team played with a lot of heart and hustle, but had some troubles with getting the ball forward.  Overall, a lot of the kids struggled to dribble the ball forward and instead chose to boot the ball ahead.  Probably most of them had a mixture of being nervous and at the same time, some belief that they were helping out by getting the ball out of the defensive zone (but ultimately landing the ball back at the feet of the opponent.)

Up until today, I’ve been, at best, neutral on the use of formations or positions for U7 and U8 teams.  I can see some value in them, but at the same time, I felt like they caused players to limit themselves and for players to have an excuse not to go forward with the ball, or get back to play defense.

However, today there were times when the team didn’t get back to play defense to aide our keepers.  So the question – are set positions and formations needed for U8?

Potential positives:

  • Kids have more knowledge of what they need to do, and their role is more limited.  Perhaps this will help the kids feel like their jobs are more manageable and there is less weight on each player to carry out their job.
  • The players who are playing the ball out might be able to have a regular target area where one our players can collect loose balls and move into the offensive half of the field.
  • They might stumble into some understanding of shape and finding open space.
Potential Negatives:
  • I can see players becoming stuck in one place, like concrete as they see it as “their position” and won’t move to back up their teammates.  It’s the same thing I’ve seen in youth baseball – players watch a ball go by because it didn’t come to their position.
  • Some players won’t come back from the offensive half to play defense.
  • Limiting players skill development in one half of the field – whether that’s on-ball skills in attacking or off-ball skills like defending.
I’d really love some input from the coaching community about what they’ve found is useful.  We play five versus five, including a goalkeeper, on a 50 yard field.  We have one match per week, and one practice per week that totals 60 minutes of practice time including technical skills.  Our team is seven players, with some players in their first season of play and others starting their fourth season of recreational play.
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