U16s – Switching Play


My U16s have played two games recently and having watched those games I’ve been thinking about how we can improve our ball retention. There were two initial areas which came to mind – one was from throw-ins and the other from the full-back position, this is why I created a PDF summarising my views on how we could improve this (and give it to the players).

Therefore, I decided I’d do some work on this at training tonight. I’d originally planned to have a bit of discussion around this and work through a game-realistic scenario (i.e. keeping possession from a throw-in through actually doing the throw-in, return to feet and then playing across the back four) but I found an interesting session idea on Performance Four Four Two.

This is the session

I usually get 11-12 at training so this was due to work quite well, as it was I had 16 and it was chucking it down it made it a little more difficult to run (Update – I should add that this isn’t a bad thing, great to have more players as hopefully it means sessions are enjoyable!). Anyway, this is some self-reflection from me in terms of how it went.

  • I setup as per the video, 4 midfielders, 4 defenders, 2 strikers beyond the defenders and a GK
  • Due to the fact I had 16 players in total I had 5 players stood near me on the halfway line, one of who served the ball in each time

I informed the defensive unit that I wanted them to remain close by and defend as if they would normally but I wanted them to work across the pitch as a unit. I informed the midfield four that I wanted them to work the ball across the pitch and specifically, I was looking for the middle two to drop off when a wide player received it. Finally, I instructed the strikers to remain central so as not to deny space to the wide players.

Over the course of the session I rotated players fairly frequently, usually in their groups of four. I had my current normal back four as a unit, my midfield from Sunday as a unit and then four players (one new, one who’s not signed on but trains and one who’s playing elsewhere) as a unit.

I began with Sunday’s midfield playing against Sunday’s back four and I had to work on them re-starting from half-way when they lost possession because gradually they were starting to get closer and closer to the 18 yard box which was making it difficult for the wide players to find any space (and this was on a pitch used for U13/U14s).

What I primarily wanted to work on was my back four, as I’m keen that they’re able to drop off when we’re in possession and move the ball from one side to another. With this in mind, I swapped the midfielders with my defenders (essentially, the movements and flow of the ball are the same in this instance as they are if you’re moving the ball from your right back to left back) and they were a lot better at switching play than the midfield four had been – this I think is because I’d worked with the back four previously during our early training sessions.

I continued to rotate the units around and worked on this for about 20 minutes. Some players were able to quickly pick up what was required in terms of dropping off, some often ended up engaging with the back four which, although match realistic, means that you lose the ability to switch from one side to another.

It wasn’t the best night for it as having players waiting around in the rain (even if I was talking them through what I was looking for) isn’t ideal but I really wanted to spend some time working on this as I believe it’ll help and it’s an important part of keeping the ball.

I talked to the players about why I wanted to work on this, what I’d seen in recent games and said that we’d do further work on this. I top and tailed the session with a game – started with 8v8 pop-up goals and a one-touch finish, ended with 8v8 all in but stressed that I wanted to see them switching play to keep the theme of the session.

Overall? Worked ok, could have been a lot better and having 16 turn up threw me a bit.

Positives: Able to work with back four, given them a pattern to think about and see. Same with midfielders and rest of players.

Negatives: A lot of content to try and get across, which means stopping play and in the rain/cold that’s not very easy to do (and I didn’t try to get lots across due to this).

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About Simon Godfrey
Grassroots Football Coach

5 Responses to U16s – Switching Play

  1. StaleUK says:

    Thoughts on throw ins..?
    If opponents mark the thrower make sure you take your marker away, but wait for the thrower to have the ball behind his head. Throw ball into the space for a runner to come on too.

    • Hey,

      Good question – not something we’ve worked on. However, I have observed that possession can be lost frequently from thrown-ins so it’s certainly a topic to be considered, especially because it gets so crowded around the thrower.

      This is partly why I want to work on releasing pressure from wide positions, including throw-ins.

      Have you worked on it with players?

  2. Emanuele says:

    Didn’t read the full post yet, but I really feel to say something after reading the attached PDF: you are a great example to follow as you do care of doing things well and professionally. You will succeed in your work, I’m sure about that.

    • Thanks Emanuele. I saw other coaches doing it and thought it’s a great way to consolidate my own views on a topic, which hopefully helps me coach the topic!

      • Emanuele says:

        Yes, it’s a very good way. And I’ve liked you spent time to do a proper presentation for your players, you will get rewarded ;)

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