Full disclosure – I didn’t grow up watching or playing much soccer. Our household were fans of University of Maryland basketball, beginning in the Lefty Driesell era and continuing through Gary Williams’ teams in the 90’s. Likewise, basketball was a great draw at the High School level in Maryland and I saw a lot of the sport played there.
When a team in Basketball reaches a comfortable lead for the time remaining in the game, they will start playing an offense that involves passing the ball, holding the ball, and dribbling in place. They try to maximize each possession to the full length the shot clock (if one is used) allows.
In my time as a basketball player, I never can recall being instructed to throw the ball to an open down court for my team to chase like so many U8 soccer teams do with their defense.
For fans of soccer who catch FC Barcelona in action during La Liga or Champions’ League matches, they have a particular style of offense and defensive play.
When in possession of the ball, they methodically pass the ball around the field. It starts from the back – usually the goalkeeper makes a smart distribution of the ball to a defender, and they work both horizontally and vertically across and down the field. When they find a hole they can exploit, they make a targeted attack on the goal with a through pass or crossing the ball.
They primarily keep the ball on the ground and use the big kick – either from the back forward or across the field to switch the point of attack or cross the ball – less often.
When the other team has the ball, they often employ a press – putting 1-2 men tightly on the ball carrier in the offensive half of the field.
While the players are all among the best in the world -it’s their execution of skills like first touch, thoughtful passing and control that really shine in the team’s play.
If you change the setting to the hardwoods, change the ball to one that’s orange and put it in the players’ hands – then you can see the similarity of what Barcelona plays to a basketball offense and defense. The more I see it, and consider it – I wonder if fundamentally kids would understand it well if introduced properly to it even in the U8 age group.
I wonder if the kids could slow down enough during the game to use the method thoughtfully. It seems like more U8 (and below) soccer is played at a break-neck pace of always full speed ahead without time to think (or a constant panic when on the ball).
Alternatively – could you take a group of kids who have played Basketball for a few years and teach them to play soccer in this style easily?