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Coaching Language and Terminology

Broken into 4 basic categories

1. Basic Concepts.
2. Roles and Responsibilities and Game Concepts.
3. Attacking Concepts.
4. Defending Concepts.

1. Basic Concepts

1.1. Pitch - The field of play. The external dimensions will depend on the age and format of the
game. The internal markings are different for each game format.
1.2. Halfway - The center line separating the two vertical halves of the pitch – In 9v9 and 11v11
game formats the halfway line also marks the commencement of offside restrictions.
1.3. Build-out line - a requirement for all 7v7 games (approximately 1/3 from each end-line).
Defenders must retreat beyond the restraining line when the attackers have a goal-kick or the
keeper has the ball in his/her hands – to allow the attackers to build from the back.
1.4. Kick-off - the act of starting each half/period and restarting following a goal. The ball can
be played forward or backward.
1.5. Penalty Area - the rectangular area directly in front of goal (7v7, 9v9 and 11v11).
Goalkeepers can pick up the ball with the hands inside a penalty box.
1.6. Principles of Play - Principles of play are the underpinning concepts of the game and can
be coached from the first stage of development (3-5 year old players) onwards. The principles
relate to attacking and defending and should not be confused with systems of play – the
formation of the team on the field. The principles of play are the same in any system of play.
1.7. Technical Training - technical training can be basic or extremely advanced. With young
players dribbling with the ball, passing over short distances and defending 1v1 is technical
1.8. Functional Training - (or role specific training) occurs in the specific area of the field where
players normally play:
1.8.1. Player or small number of players who operate in close proximity to each other.
1.8.2. Opponents who also operate in that area of the field. Functional training is frequently
done without opponents in the early stages.
1.8.3. Targets for both attacking and defensive players - a goal, a line or it could be a coach or
1.8.4. Starting position. Repetitions begin from a specific area.
1.8.5. Restarting method/trigger player - specific player or a coach (called the trigger player)
1.9.Phase of Play - is the natural extension of functional training. Refers to practicing in two of
the thirds of the field (i.e back and middle, middle and front). Numbers are added to further
complicate the environment. We can practice both attacking and defending in phase play.
Involves two blocks (lines) of players (e.g. backs and midfield).
1.10.Coaching in the Game -The overall objective is to imprint a style of attacking and style of
defending. Coaching in the Game methodology includes rehearsing attacking and defending
‘patterns’ occurring in a game. Key elements of Coaching in the Game training include:
1.10.1. Normally focused on a certain ‘group’ of players within the team.
1.10.2. Generally conducted within an even-sided game.
1.10.3. Coach must have a good ‘picture’ of what he/she wants in terms of tactical patterns.
1.10.4. Exercise generally commences and re-commences with correct repetition and correct
starting positions. Coach consequently utilizes a ‘trigger’ man to re-start exercise.

2. Roles and Responsibilities and Game Concepts

2.1. Formation - Describes team make-up at the commencement of the game. A formation
consists of number combinations and players organized by lines in the team. For example, a
1-4-4-2 formation consists of 11 players organized into 4 lines of the team. The first number is
the goalkeeper (1) and the subsequent numbers build from the back line (defense), through to a
midline (midfield) and conclude with an attacking line (strikers/forwards). Popular formations for
11v11 include: 1-4-4-2, 1-4-3-3, 1-3-5-2 and 1-5-3-2.
2.2. Functional Positions - the name given to a position in the formation where players start
the game. For example, goalkeeper, left fullback, central midfield and striker. There are many
formations a coach can adopt that name similar functional positions, but the positional roles may
be very different.
2.3. Positional Role - a feature of progressive youth clubs is consistent application by all
coaches, at all ages of positional roles. Players as young as 5-6 years old will learn to play
positional roles. As the game format evolves and numbers of players are added to the field the
roles will remain the same, but the responsibilities of each role will transition from simple to
2.4. Game Format - In 2016 United States Soccer (Federation) mandated nationwide adoption
of small sided game formats up to the age of 13. All competitive leagues and tournaments are
required to play 4v4 (8 and under) to 7v7 (10 and under) to 9v9 (12 and under) to 11v11 (13 and
2.5. Numbering System - the utilization by coaches of the numbering system (1 to 11) is now
commonplace and particularly in elite level coaching. In many places, the numbers are used
instead of positional roles to indicate to a player the performance responsibilities of a chosen
system of play. Players will learn the positional roles of the #4 (central defender), #7 (right
midfield), #11 (left midfield) and #9 (striker), etc.
2.6. System of Play - System describes the details of how the team plays. The system
describes the shape of the team in attack or defense and evolves when winning or losing or
when playing against a particular opponent. A system reflects the strategies of the club and
coach – a cautious defensive approach so not to concede a goal or an expansive approach to
score the first goal.
2.7. Reading the Game - as critical as the techniques of passing, receiving and shooting,
reading the game is developed with experience and with a variety of teaching methods. Reading
the Game refers to a player’s ability to intuitively position, reposition and adjust as the ball is
moving. A learned skill ... with experience and dedication ... a player will demonstrate great
anticipation and instinct.
2.8. Visual Cues - players will be taught to recognize patterns emerging and during a game and
the ‘triggers’ leading to predetermined and learned actions/reactions.
2.9. Deep Practice - a learning approach suggesting high performance levels can be achieved
with a commitment and dedication to perfecting the ‘detail’ and refinements of a skill. Hours of
practice is required and significant time individually and outside of formal practices with a coach.

3. Attacking concepts.

3.1. Principles of Attacking - there are 5 principles of attack:
3.1.1. PENETRATION - In simplistic terms penetration is the act of breaking through the
defense by dribbling, shooting, running or passing. We can start to coach penetration at the 1st
stage of development.
3.1.2. SUPPORT - A player in possession of the ball receives help to maintain possession.
Support attackers provide forward, backward and sideways options to the attacker in
possession. We can start to coach support at the 2nd stage of development with an introduction
to passing and receiving.
3.1.3. MOBILITY - Attackers make runs into different areas of the field in order to draw
defenders out of their positions. A coach can commence teaching this principle late 2nd stage
for advanced learners and stage 3 for others.
3.1.4. WIDTH - The attacking team attempts to stretch the opponent’s defensive shape. The
attacking players use the width of the field to tempt defenders from a compact shape covering
the dangerous areas in front of goal and in so doing create space. The attackers move the ball
to change the point of attack in an effort to find a seam or space between or behind the defense.
3.1.5. IMPROVISATION, CREATIVITY & SURPRISE - Attackers will try to break down defenses
by employing the element of surprise. Skills such as back-heels, cutbacks, flicks, feints and
fakes are all used to this end. Comfort on the ball is critical and this training starts in the 1st
stage of development.
3.2. Through, around or over - related to the principle of penetration, the team will attempt to
break down an opponent’s defense by attempting to play Through (space between opponent’s),
Around (space in wide positions) or Over (space behind the defensive line and the keeper).
3.3. Length (Height and Depth) - an attacking team should attempt to stretch the opponent’s
defense to find space to penetrate and to maintain possession of the ball. Height refers to
pushing player/s forward into the opponent’s end and depth provides support from behind the
player in possession. Ideally, a player with possession has a high and deep passing option.
3.4. Stretch the opponent - attacking teams attempt to create ‘big space’ in an attempt to
spread or stretch the opponent’s defense – with more space to cover a defense is often easier
to penetrate and score.
3.5. Between the lines - simply, attacking players seek to move between the opponent’s lines
of defense and midfield to find space on receipt of the ball. Often, a player moving between the
lines is not closely marked by an opponent and can get into threatening positions.
3.6. Down the seams - attackers attempt to exploit the space between defending players with
passing and movement penetration – typically a vertical concept (up and down the field).
3.7. Passing Combinations - Attacking players will attempt to collaborate with passing
exchanges such as a wall pass, overlap, underlap, give and go or third man run.
3.8. Play long - Players attempt to drive or chip the ball over long distances to a teammate. A
useful strategy when the opponent is pressing to win possession and space is available high up
the field.
3.9. Play short - a good way to maintain possession and to draw the opponent ‘forward’. Ideal
in setting up the opponent for a longer penetrating pass.
3.10. Angles of support - ideally support will be provided by multiple teammates high, deep
and wide. The passer is encouraged to pass at a 45 degree angle high or deep ... try to avoid
square passes as these are easy to intercept and counter.
3.11. Distance of support - as a rule, attacking teams should attempt to increase the size of
the space to stretch the defending team. To this end, the distance of players from a teammate
should be 10-15 yards minimum playing 11v11.
3.12. Transition - when the ball is won and lost by a team - transition of possession occurs. The
team either transitions from attack to defense or from defense to attack.
3.13. Counter attack - when a team is successful in forcing a turnover, a counter attacking
option may be possible quickly if the opponent is slow in recovering defensively.
3.14. Switch Play/Switch the Point of Attack - If a team is prevented from penetrating down
one side of the field, the team may attempt to combine passes and play the ball to the other side
of the field. The quicker the transfer the better.
3.15. Building from the back - A team uses the defenders and midfield players to combine
passes to reach the attacking players. Usually play is started by the keeper with a short
throw/pass. Building from the back is associated with a more progressive style of play – as
opposed to the keeper kicking the ball often.
3.16. Movement off the ball - refers to the time when the ball is travelling from one player to
the next – not directly in possession of any player. This is an important time – we teach players
to move as the ball is in transit.
3.17. Complimentary movement - attacking players will move in conjunction with or as a
reaction to the movement of teammates or opponents. i.e. if a wide midfielder moves outside a
striker may move inside to provide 2 passing options and to shift the defense.
3.18. Patterns of Play - also known as Shadow Play ... usually pattern play is used to imprint
movement patterns and strategies. Typically with no defenders to begin and then defenders
added as the team becomes more efficient.
3.19. Wide channels - players are encouraged to pass the ball quickly into the wide channels
(5-7 yards down each side of the field from the sideline) to penetrate around the opponent.
3.20. Center - a term used interchangeably with ‘cross’ to indicate a pass from wide positions
into the penalty area.
3.21. Shielding - protect the ball from a defender; the ball carrier keeps their body between the
ball and the defender.
3.22. Cut Back - typically referring to a player penetrating forward with the ball and crossing the
ball back into the path of a teammate. A devastating move when a player is able to get to the
end line and ‘cut the ball back’ to the penalty spot.
3.23. Hospital Ball - an under hit pass from one teammate to another in a dangerous position
on the field and/or so an opponent has at least 50/50 chance of winning the ball.
3.24. "Man On" - the warning shouted to a teammate to indicate an opposing player is close by
and applying pressure. Further refinements include informing a teammate where pressure is
coming from ... ‘left shoulder’ and ‘right shoulder ‘ provides the receiving player with instructions
to find space and beat the pressure.

4. Defending concepts

4.1. Principles of Defending - there are 5 principles of defense:
4.1.1.PRESSURE - The moment possession is lost the nearest player(s) try to regain
possession or apply pressure on the ball, if possible. Players giving immediate chase can also
help to delay the attack by making recovery runs that deny the opponent the opportunity to play
the ball quickly forward. If a defender cannot put “immediate” pressure on the ball, he or she
must drop back and delay the attacker’s advantage. COVER - The immediate organization of players behind the pressuring defender. While
the ball is being pressured all other players should be recovering into defensive positions. The
positions taken should support the pressuring defender in the event he/she is beaten. BALANCE - As the team concentrates their defense in the area of the ball, defenders
away from the ball (opposite side of field) must position themselves to cover vital spaces
(central areas) in order to prevent attackers from making penetrating runs into these spaces in
which to receive the ball for an attempt on goal. All players who are on the opposite side must
seek positions in which to provide balance to the defense. COMPACTNESS - As players recover towards their own goal and organize their
defense, the objective is to limit the time and space for the opponent by concentrating their
defense in the area of the ball. Defenders also recover centrally towards their goal in order to
limit the opponent's’ ability to directly attack the goal. CONTROL AND RESTRAINT - Players must be disciplined and play “under control”
when challenging for the ball. Too often players make poorly timed or off-balanced attempts to
win the ball. Players should restrain from tackling until they are confident they will win the ball.
4.2. Line of confrontation/restraining line - a team may drop back defensively when the
keeper has the ball to make the vertical structure of the team more compact. The line of
confrontation is where the opponent will start to meet resistance from our team.
4.3. High press - A high pressing defense will play very high up the field in search of forcing a
turnover of possession close to the opponent’s goal. A good tactic when you have a fit group of
players and the opponent is vulnerable in possession.
4.4. Low press - The strikers drop back to the circle to encourage the opponent to play from the
back. A good tactic on a hot day and if the opponent is managing to work between the defensive
lines with positive effect. Low press can compact the defense and make space between lines
very tight.
4.5. Delayed press - Part way between a high and low press. The team encourages the ball to
be thrown to the opponent’s fullbacks or central defenders to build from the back and then the
teams steps forward and presses to win the ball.
4.6. Organized defense - an organized defense is able to recover into a planned shape and will
be able to implement strategy quickly. The coach may set up the team with certain positions that
have important organizing roles defensively.
4.7. Disorganized defense - a team slow to adjust after a turnover of position is vulnerable to a
counter attack. Players are slow to recover, do not get in the correct positions and leave
opponent’s unmarked. Disorganization is a real concern against a good passing opponent.
4.8. Defensive Shield - a strategy of dropping a player/s in front of the defending line to prevent
passing penetration to the opponent’s attacking players.
4.9. Clear the ball - When there is a scramble in our team’s defensive penalty box and there is
little time to control the ball/too dangerous to attempt to do so ... the players are encouraged to
kick the ball out of the penalty area away from immediate danger- ideally high and wide.
4.10.Tackle - the act of taking the ball away from a player by blocking, kicking, poking the ball
away. A slide tackle is made when a player goes to ground and hooks the ball away.
4.11.Cut Down the Angle - the goalie comes out of the goal towards the attacker to reduce
space and leave the attacker with less of an open net to shoot at.
4.12.Mark - covering an opponent with or without the ball and attempting to prevent the player
passing, receiving or shooting the ball.
4.13.Goal side / Ball side - Defenders are encouraged to defend the goal, so when confronting
or marking an opponent, the player should be between the ball and their defensive goal (goal
side) – this is a vertical concept. Ball side refers to positioning in a goal side position but
favoring the horizontal positioning of the ball. For example, in the ball is to the our left side, the
center defender will mark the opponent’s striker on the goal side and more to the left (ball side).

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