Developing Tactics

In my time working with youth players, one of the biggest questions that always comes up is what to do with tactics. My brain has always been attracted to the idea of tactical set ups and the chess game that soccer can become. But the idea of creating tactical advantages and overloading areas of the field are not nearly as important to player development as they are to winning games.

For this reason, I have tried to look at tactics as simply the answer to the question of “What should I do?” Players ask this question continuously while playing and answering this question correctly leads to high quality play while answering it incorrectly leads to mistakes on the field and poor play. When a team is able to answer the tactics question timely and correctly then the team will be able to fit in the overall tactical vision that a coach creates when stating “What do we want to do?” Tying this to the technical abilities, physical capabilities and mental strength of the team, tactics are created.

It is important to remember that these two questions work together to create what we know as tactics. Coaches create the tactical vision while players answer the tactical question. When this happens tactics are achieved. If the tactical vision for a grassroots team is to play in 1v1 situations to develop the individual then the answer to the tactical question when attacking will be to dribble to attempt to penetrate and when defending is to attempt to press and win the ball in the 1v1 quickly. Thus we can see how the teams tactics will look and the coach can begin to train the necessary techniques needed to achieve this vision.

The coach has several jobs within this process. First, they must determine what the tactical vision is. Second, they must teach players how to find the correct answers to the tactical questions that will arise. Lastly, they must connect these two items so players can tie the question and vision to create a complete picture, to create tactics.

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