Did you ever see a player who looked confused when they received a ball? Did they make the wrong decision or just do something silly that lost possession? If you're like most youth soccer coaches, you'll have the opportunity to see this many times during a game. Here's a little thought process that just might help.
Over the years and through the development of the SoccerU series, it has become quite evident to me; sometimes we just need to tell them and show them. Often players can figure things out on their own, but why keep secret what should be known by all, and for which we know the answers. Putting these thoughts into players' heads will help them make great strides as far as decisions on the field of play.
Decisions Must Come Quickly
Watch the speed of play in older players and games and you'll notice something different. The speed of play increases. More and more we'll see one-touch passing and less "time with the ball" as players quickly make decisions. At the very upper levels of play it becomes an amazing sight. Players seem to instinctively know what to do well before the ball arrives.
Guess what? They learned these thoughts and habits not only through playing for years and years, but at some point they figured out (were told) what was a good decision or a bad decision. What now seems instinctive was LEARNED and practiced over and over. After enough play and practice these players just know what they should do next.
Example of Bad Thoughts
I was watching some middle school players this past spring. I sat through both the boy's and the girl's games. I decided to watch these games differently that day and watched for decisions at the point of receiving the ball. Over and over I saw players make bad decisions that often resulted in the team losing possession. They were simple things, but they made a huge impact in the game.
A lot of these occurred in the middle third but it was not limited there. It happened throughout the field. Time after time I watched players receive a pass, then turn or dribble directly into two defenders. They knew they were there, but it's like they just couldn't help it. That's where the goal was so that is the way they turned or dribbled. It didn't matter.
Watch this in younger players and you'll see it often. If they receive a ball, they're "off to the races." Watch a mature player, and you'll see them often move very little and pass, or move away from pressure, regardless of the direction, even if it's away from goal.
How many times have you seen a younger forward, striker, or point man at the top of the eighteen box receive a ball and turn into two or three defenders? They shut him down every time and possession is lost. It's just innate I guess, they're "so close" to that goal they just can't think of anything else. Now watch a mature, developed player receive a ball in that same position. If the ball comes in from their right, they simply lay the ball off to the player hanging back on their left, make a turn or run in. How did they learn this? Well, at some point someone told them, then showed them, then they practiced it.
Again, some of the simplest things in soccer are never learned because we just don't tell them.