We train our players to be technically sound, and value skill on the ball. Hours and hours are spent on shooting, passing, receiving and dribbling.
But for most of the game, players do not have the ball at their feet. What are you to do when you don’t have the ball? Do you stop and watch?
Of course not, you play without the ball. You move, but you move with a purpose

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If two teenage teams of 11 players each, playing an 80minute game, share the ball equally, subtracting time that the ball is out of play, you will realize the average time any player will have the ball at his/her feet is close to three minutes, give or take. Not much time at all!
If your team has the ball, there is an old soccer saying, “when not in possession, get in position.”
When the opposition has the ball, move to assume a defensive shape. Either pressure the ball or move in support of teammates who are pressuring.
There is a name for those who stand and watch. They are called spectators. They belong on the sidelines.
Playing without the ball is a skill that has to be developed. As the player gets older, the game becomes more and more mental. Technical ability is more like riding a bicycle. As you get better, you don’t think about the technique, but rather the game becomes cognitive.
Teach your players to understanding supportive runs, both to receive the ball or to open space for another teammate to receive a ball. Most runs should be angled. Teach them to bend their runs to keep from being played offside, and to position themselves in a way that allows them to run onto the ball.
Teach them about timing. Not arriving too early and using up the space to receive a ball, after all you will be bringing a defender with you. Also, not arriving too late, when opportunity is lost.
Teach them that their movement without the ball also moves the defenders. When the defenders move it creates openings in their defensive shape. Exploit that with the through ball into the path of the run being made by an offensive forward.
Teach them to recognize where they want to be to receive a ball, and how necessary that it is to take the defender away from that space before making the run to receive the ball.
Teach flank players to move wide to stretch the defense, and make it difficult for a defender to see both the opponent and the ball at the same time. Teach them to be aware of where the defender is looking.
There is more to the game than playing with the ball.

Author: ray@southernsoccerscene.com

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