One of the most important jobs of any coach is to teach his players how to keep their team shape. Whether you play with a 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1, 3-5-2 or 4-4-2, if your players don’t understand how to keep their shape you are going to have a difficult time on the field.
It’s no good having players chasing the ball and leaving large holes that the opposition can expose with a quick counter. It’s also not much help when you are in possession and teammates don’t spread the field or don’t get open in the areas they should.
So yes, keeping your team shape, no matter what formation you play with, is critical if you want to be successful.
Sean Pearson has authored a great book called Coaching Team Shape in the 3-3-1 that explains how you can easily and effectively teach your team how to keep their teams shape and play more effectively. Below is an excerpt from the book that explains how you can set up a grid system to help your players easily understand their roles.
The Grid System to Teach Team Shape
The grid system is a coaching aid I developed to improve what I consider to be the number 1 problem in youth soccer, player spacing (shape) on the field. How many times have you watched a youth soccer game where players are huddled round a ball and fight for a kick? A soccer game quickly descends into a frantic display of kick and run. I have created a system that allows anyone, no matter what your level of soccer knowledge, to coach your team how to spread out when playing soccer.
This system is called the Grid System and it increases the efficiency and awareness of how to coach shape within formations. It is a system that breaks down the fundamentals and increases the coach’s and players’ understanding of how to keep the desired shape during play. Simply put, according to the formation (1-3-3-1 or 1-2-3-2 etc.) each player is assigned a grid to play in. Grids are connecting but players have limits as to which grids they are allowed in during any specific play. The grids relate to field positions and stop players bunching whilst allowing them to play in a more structured setting. Using this system, we go through step by step what to do to achieve success, beginning with simple movement patterns through to more advanced tactical choices.
I think it is important to relate everything you do during a training session to a scrimmage, therefore keeping it GAME REALISTIC. Thus terms used in this guide will relate to player and body positions according to the type of play being focused on.
Whichever formations you choose to coach all bearings are the same. The grid directions are taken when attacking. So, facing the opponents goal, the grid line in front of the players is called the top/front of the grid, the line behind is the bottom/back. The left and right are simply that. This should be relayed to your players so if you say move to the top right corner of your grid all players should know where to move.
Using a 3-3-1 or 2-4-1 or a 3-2-2 in a SSG setup can really help your players understand how to keep the team shape whatever system you play. Give it a try.
Check out Coaching Team Shape in the 3-3-1 by Sean Pearson.