*very personal opinion forthcoming!
We all hear this at the weekend, and most of us are likely ‘guilty’ for shouting such commands.
Does it work? I don’t think so.
Why? The question of why is why do you tell them to pass or to spread out? It’s not in the rules.
Of course its not in the rules, but yes one would say that those are 2 key elements to the game. Yet they are not told in relation to the game that is being played by the players.
So, spread out. Why? Stop taking the ball off of each other, is what you are seeing and wanting to stop happening. Yet, in reality we spread out to create space to receive the ball in, to isolate players, to change the point of attack when being crowded out.
Pass. Why? Because you don’t want your player to lose the ball. Again, in reality we should pass when necessary, to move the other team, or to penetrate with a through ball, or to simply restart play (yes with a pass, not a big kick!)
Unfortunately, we see so much isolation of the spread out and pass commands that the reason for them is not connected to the game the kids are playing.
We have seen rope that defenders have to hold and keep tight so they know they have perfect spacing. We have seen cones on the field to mark out the zone the players have to stay in. Repeated FREEZE commands and then moving of players into space. And so on.
Yet, none of this is in the real game, so why not try using GAMES to show the players the WHY to passing and to spreading out? They may just understand. Before you do that, consider what is important for the young player. USSF moved Soccer to small-sided games as we remember that children are not small adults (I remember playing 11v11 at 10 years old). I feel the adult game has players better equipped for the true understanding of passing and spreading out, which leaves me to favor more on the reasons for players to have the ball at their feet, to be greedy, creative, and to make mistakes.
Attached are two game field images you can set up easily and use to encourage the players to be greedy and to go to the goal. Yet, if they cannot, the game set up will help you to coach the understanding of why they might pass or why they might need to spread out more.
Game #1. 6 goal game.
3 goals for each team to score in.
Player on the ball has 3 goals to score in – should have some success. If they do not – this is when you can look at the rest of the team and consider where they COULD BE to provide the best support (remember, spreading out only when they have the ball and staying compact and crowding out the attackers). This will help you to encourage players to react and find space quickly because being wide in this game means they could have an easy goal to score on and a direct reward for being in the space. Here you are showing them the WHY. The same goes for passing – if they dribble into defenders and lose the ball multiple times, then encourage them to pass to the players who have begun to spread out and find the right space.
Progress this game to pushing all 3 goals together for one central goal. Now much more like the real game and the reward for being in space and passing to team mates is the reward for getting the team up the field to the goal. In the game at the weekend use this practice as a reference point for when the team should spread or pass the ball.
Game #2. multi-direction game.
One goal on each sideline. One team will play horizontally and the other will play vertically.
The idea being that when the player gets the ball they have somewhere different to go with it as they have different goals to score in. They are able to get their head up and see the space away from the other team. I love this game because of the multi direction and the encouragement it gives players to get their head up and score relatively easy goals – a reward for their creativity and greed with the ball.
Progressions are to start using fakes – as they head toward one goal, the other team will go to defend so they can turn (insert coaching point for skill required to turn, such as cruyff) and go to the open goal. WHY – this translates to the game – when all of the players are in front of you, turn and find space away. Go further – ‘in a game the side goals would be team mates’ so now the WHY continues to share with the players where they should be to help out. Your reflection for coaching should be ‘remember in practice when we had side goals, we don’t have goals now, but who should be there?’
Overall, can you teach the players WHY. Yes, we as adults know why we spread out or pass, but the kids see the ball and want the ball – they do not comprehend the bigger ‘game’. Our role as a coach should always be about the WHY.
If you have any other suggestions or ‘games’ to use, then share and I will update for you! firstname.lastname@example.org