Play It!Live It!Love It!

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Player/Parent Volunteer and Coaching Staff Development

Written by Phil Weaver, UTHS Head Coach and Director of Coaching for EMSSC

The U.S. Soccer Federation philosophy on National Team Soccer as a basis for this soccer curriculum for the EMSSC Pride participants. The governing body for soccer in the United States of America is the U.S. Soccer Federation and its primary goal is to make soccer in all its forms, a preeminent sport in the United States both for spectators and participants and to raise the National Team caliber of competition to a world championship level.

The U.S. Soccer Federation is unable to fulfill its goals without the support of its membership, which at present represents approximately 3 million youth players, (ages 19 and under).

EMSSC Pride should remain therefore, a competitive soccer club, initially geared towards developing competitive players capable of competing on a regional and even national club level and secondly, producing skilled, competitive natured soccer players who will eventually feed the competitive United Township High School Soccer Program.

The ages of 8 through 14 are the most important for the development of players’ individual skills and understanding of simple tactics. Therefore it is vital that the EMSSC coaches of this age range have a good understanding of the mechanics of technique, the coaching points of technique, how the techniques are taught and how they are applied in the game. It is also important that the coaches have an understanding of the principles of play. Without this basic foundation of information it would be impossible for novice coaches to correct errors and help players improve performance.

It does not matter if the vehicle used to produce players of better quality is the U.S. Soccer Federation Coaching Manual, the Football Association Guide to Tactics and Team Work, or the Will Coerver 5 Stage Coaching Method, provided that the basic foundation of information is firmly in place for our Youth Team players. It also has to be remembered that once the picture has been taken and placed in the mind of the individual player, it is up to the young player to challenge him or herself to improve skills on their own. 

Soccer Techniques


Playing the ball with the feet. This is the most widely used of the techniques, therefore, the most important to practice.


Running with and manipulating the ball with the feet. 


Receiving the ball that has been passed along the ground or in the air using any part of the body except the arms or hands.


Playing aerial balls with the forehead. 


Striking the ball with the feet, head or body towards an opponent’s goal.


Using the feet to challenge for a ball that is in the possession of an opponent. 


Talking with other team players to assist in the control of play. 


All technique practices, however simple, should excite the imagination of the players and take the form of a competition. Mundane, static, unchallenging technique drills lead to boredom, a lack of interest and ultimately, bad habits. 


Skillful players are those that are able to play under all the pressures that the game demands. 

Movement of the ball

Players have to move to adjust to the movement of the ball. As the players move, the “pictures” in the game change and different options become available. Players must assess those options quickly and play the ball skillfully. 

Movement with the ball

Not only must players be able to run with the ball under control, change direction, evade challenges and accelerate, but also, at the same time, they must have a “clear picture” as to their next actions in the game. Players must be able to make quick decisions and execute quickly while in possession of the ball. 

Movement off the ball

Players have a tendency to stand still and watch players in possession of the ball, they must be encouraged to see the “developing picture” and anticipate where to position themselves so that a pass or move can be completed. 


It is much different performing a technique of the game under the pressure of an opponent than without such pressure. With opposition there is less time and less room in which to execute. 


Trying to execute techniques and making split second decisions under pressure often lead to mistakes. Players must be exposed to pressure in training so that they are able to deal with stress in games. 


It can be said that practice makes perfect , it is true that you must practice in order to improve your game. However, it is possible that practice may lead to bad playing habits as well as good playing habits. Therefore practice only makes perfect when you practice perfectly.


There are several ways that you will learn to improve your techniques. 

  • Observe the techniques of other players especially the professionals.
  • Look at the techniques on CD or Video where you can slow down the action to observe each technique through its full range of motion.
  • Observe the various techniques that are illustrated in booklets and pay particular attention to the “shape” of the players bodies in the illustrations. Not only are the legs and feet important but also the positions of the arms and head are vital to successful execution.
  • Practice repeatedly with and without the pressure of opponents.
  • Test those techniques in games. 

 Required Technical Mastery


  • Inside foot  - Push Pass
  • Low Drive
  • Lofted Pass
  • Chip
  • Swerving Pass 

Elements of the Perfect Pass :

  • Pace 
  • Accuracy 
  • Timing
  • Timing on the Run
  • Support for the Passer

The skill of dribbling is to have both body and ball under control under the following conditions: 

  • Running with the ball at your feet 
  • Manipulating the ball from side to side, forwards and backwards
  • Shielding the ball
  • Moving the ball past opponents by:
    • pure running speed
    • manipulating the ball to throw opponents off balance
    • movement of the body to throw opponents off balance
    • change of direction
    • change of pace
  • To receive and change the direction of the ball
  • To relieve the pressure of an opponent 


  • To maintain possession of the ball whilst being challenged by an opponent 
  • To protect the ball until a passing opportunity becomes available 


Control is not an end product but merely a means to an end. Your first touch must be good enough to set up your next action – a short pass, a long pass, a dribble or a shot on goal. 

  • Chest – Lofted Pass 
  • Chest – Ball bouncing off the Ground 
  • Thigh - Lofted Passes 
  • Instep – Lofted Passes
  • Inside or Outside of the Foot
  • Wedge Control 

Many mistakes in control are caused by indecision because players fail to make an early selection in the method of control. There is a body shape to each method of control and should be mastered by the young player. 


  • Using the forehead to play a high ball as a pass or a shot when attacking or to clear the ball when defending 
  • In all aspects of heading, the position of the feet and being light on the feet are the keys to jumping for the ball
  • On offense the player is trying to head the ball down with power and accuracy
  • On offense the player is trying to head the ball up with distance and accuracy
  • As a deflection, the player is looking to glance the ball either to change its plane or direction 

It is quite normal for young players to be afraid of heading the ball. Therefore, this technique should be introduced gradually and with gentle service. Good technique, good practice and good coaching information will help to eliminate the fear. Gradually increase the challenge of heading as players move into their teens. 


Shooting is the most rewarding of all techniques but for many players, it is the most difficult, there is the tendency for the player to look up at the goal at the moment they are about to make contact with the ball.

While goals are scored from many angles, a high percentage are scored from in and around the six yard area. There is no such thing as a bad goal, some goals just look more spectacular than others. Any part of the body except the hands and arms may be used to score a goal. However, the following are the more convenient methods. 

  • side foot 
  • low drive
  • swerve shot
  • chip shot
  • header 


  • To redirect  a cross towards the goal while the ball is still in the air 

Half Volley 

  • To redirect an aerial cross or bouncing ball towards the goal just as the ball touches the ground 


Well timed, strong tackling is a very important defensive asset. It is vital that players tackle the ball and not their opponents. Not is it only a foul to tackle an opponent, it could also cause injury. 

  • Front Block Tackle
  • Hook Sliding Tackle
  • Conventional Sliding Tackle 

EMSSC Coaches should work hard to understand the methods and mechanics of each technique and prepare rewarding and competitive practices that challenge their players.

EMSSC players should practice these techniques on their own, with a friend, with a parent, with a coach and with their team mates. 


The Principles of Play 

The principals of play combined with the elements of  technical development and how they  relate to the game provide the foundation of  knowledge on which the game is played. Without an understanding of this information it would be impossible for players and coaches to correct errors and improve performance both technically and tactically.

One of the beauties of the game is that both teams have the opportunity to play both offense and defense. When a team is in possession of the ball, the whole team is on offense. The key to success is how the team combines to keep the ball and advance it to create goals. When opponents are in possession, the whole team is on defense. The keys to success are in the way the team cooperates to win the ball back to begin their own attack. 

 Principles of Offense

Unlike American Football, soccer is not a series of set plays. It is a fluid game in which the player in possession of the ball must always have several options to pass the ball. The more options a player has , the less likely he or she is to lose the possession. Therefore, it is necessary for players who are not in possession to quickly help the player with the ball. 

Players need to learn where the options are to pass the ball and how, where and when to support.

Coaches and players should familiarize themselves with these principles and aspire to understand them fully as they are the keys to breaking down your opponents. 

  • Limited Support – Is not offering your player the options he needs to make a pass 
  • Good Support – Is giving the player in possession numerous options to play the ball 

Despite varying angles and distances of support, soccer is played in triangles. Players who stand, or run in straight lines are destroying support and, therefore, making life difficult for the player in possession of the ball.

One of the most common mistakes for a young player is to run forward after passing the ball in a forward direction, irrespective of the direction his team mate is facing. 

  • Move to support your team mate before he receives the ball
  • Make sure that your supporting distance is not so close that you would be under pressure if you were to receive the ball. Give yourself room to dribble pass or shoot
  • You must always be “open” to receive the ball. Do not run or stand behind opponents or team mates 


While it is possible stand still at times to support,  most times players have to move to be in the right place at the right time to offer help to the player in possession. 


  • Your movement mobility is vital to the performance of your team
  • As a defender, it will help you to play the ball out of the back and join in the offense
  • As a midfielder, it will help you to connect the defenders to the attackers. It will enable you to stretch your opponents across the width of the field and it will also help you to penetrate your opponent’s line of defense.
  • As a forward, it will help you to “show” become a target for the ball and also, to penetrate the opponent’s last line of defense 
  • In all areas of the field, timing of your movement is the key to success

When a team is in possession of the ball, it has to use all the area of the field available. Successful teams use all the width of the field  and as much of the length of the field as the offside rule will allow. The more room they have, the more room and time each player has in possession of the ball. As a result, there is less chance of being pressured into mistakes. It also forces opponents to defend a larger area of the field. Teams must therefore, utilize as much of the space as is available to them. 

  • If you are a wide midfielder or a winger you should be wide, on the touchline, when the play is on your side of the field 
  • Not only does this action stretch your opponents, but it also enables you to “see” all of the field of play 
  • This wide position also gives you several options if you receive the ball
  • These options depend upon how you are being marked by your opponent, i.e. If you have space you may want to dribble past your opponent, or combine with your full back with an overlap. If you have little space you may want to play a wall pass off a team mate 


A well organized, balanced defense naturally does not play in a straight line. There are several lines of defense that have to be penetrated in order to achieve the ultimate success, a goal.

Penetration can be achieved in three ways:

  • Running with the ball past opponents 
  • Passing the ball through the lines of defense 
  • Shooting the ball into the opponents goal 

Players should: 

  • Control and pace the dribble
  • Determine when and where to pass the ball in order to commit the defender
  • Use paced and accurate passes 
  • Penetration is achieved by your recognition of a situation, i.e. can you dribble or advance the ball past an opponent
  • Penetration is also achieved by your ability to dribble, pass or shoot
  • You must work with your team mates to attain the necessary verbal and visual communication
  • Be prepared to improvise to achieve your objective 


There are many times in a game when a player has to use their own individual flair to create passing or shooting opportunities for themselves or their team mates. Coaches should not discourage players from free expression. Players who have the ability to turn quickly, evade challenges easily, shoot off balance or even perform their own “tricks” to create opportunities are an asset to a team. Naturally there is an element of risk involved when a player tries to improvise. 

  • The defensive third of the field is the area in which teams should be cautious, improvisation can lead to a loss of possession that leads to a goal scoring opportunity for opponents
  • The Midfield third of the field, an error may not be as costly as in the defensive third of the field, but although improvisation here is acceptable, players should be encouraged to work on moving the ball strategically up field
  • In the final third of the field, or attacking third of the field, risk taking is acceptable and may be necessary. In this area a team would not be immediately punished by giving away possession of the ball due to the long distances back to the players goal 

Players should have an idea of what they intend to do with the ball before it arrives at their feet, passing the ball out of the defensive third of the field should remain a priority, in midfield simplicity is the key to success. 

 Principles of Defense

It is much more difficult to create than to destroy, therefore a greater proportion of training should focus upon the techniques and principles of offense. However, it would be a mistake for players and coaches to equally neglect the important defensive understanding of the game. 


It is important for the defender closest to the ball to delay the opposition’s ability to play the ball forward for as long as possible while the defending team is repositioning defensively. 

  • You must be disciplined and under control as and when you challenge for the ball 
  • You cannot gamble and commit yourself prematurely to try and win the ball
  • Do not challenge for the ball unless you know that you have a good chance to win it, or force your opponent into making a mistake
  • If you rush in too quickly you may be leaving your team exposed to a counter attack
  • Channel your opponent towards pressure or to an area of confined space, i.e. the side lines
  • If you are beaten it is important that you try to recover goal side as quickly as possible 


The importance of support to the player in possession of the ball as a principle of offense is critical. It is equally important that players on defense challenging for the ball have support.  Just as teams cannot play in straight lines on offense, neither can they play in straight lines on defense. 

  • When you provide depth cover or support to your team mate who is immediately challenging for the ball you have more than one responsibility. Your position must allow you to be able to apply pressure to the ball if your team mate is beaten 
  • Your position must allow for you to challenge your opponent if the ball is passed to him
  • Your position must allow you to beat your opponent to the ball if the ball is played behind you
  • The angle of your support will depend upon the jockeying position of the team mate
  • Your distance of support will depend upon the position of your opponent
  • At all times you must be goal side and ball side of your opponent 


The balance of a team is determined by the spacing of the players behind the ball and across the field. The spacing is dictated by the pressure on the attacker with the ball, the position of the ball on the field and the strating positions of the covering defenders. 

  • Your starting position is the key to successful balance on defense
  • Your position in order of priority should:
    1. enable you to intercept a pass to your opponent
    2. arrive at your opponent’s position so that he receives the ball facing away from your goal, or
    3. he receives the ball facing your goal but is immediately under pressure
  • Your opponent should never receive the ball with time and space to pass the ball forward 
  • Your starting position should not be so close to your opponent that a ball played in behind you gives him the opportunity to get to the ball before you do 



Defenders must always use their own goal as their direction when they defend. When opponents play the ball sideways or in a forward direction, the defenders’ first action must be to run back in a line towards their goal.

This movement in the defensive third of the field, especially in and around the penalty area, creates a concentration of bodies trying to protect the goal. 

 Principles of Team Play

It is important for team organization and understanding to have a system of play. However, systems do not win games, (4-3-3, 4-4-2), players win games. Several factors must be taken into consideration before arranging the players to form a system. 

  • Players differ in their qualities and should be played in areas of the field where those qualities can be expressed
  • Most players will feel comfortable playing on one side of the field than the other. When possible, those players should be used where they feel most comfortable 
  • Successful teams have a fine balance of players who can score goals, dribble, distribute the ball, defend and alike
  • Even the most adventurous of attacking teams should not throw caution to the wind and expose their defense
  • While teams must think positively on offense, they must attack in such a way that if they lose possession of the ball, they have players well positioned to regain the ball 
  • Even the most negative of teams cannot afford to remain in their own defensive third of the field if they want to win 
  • Teams on defense must have players in forward positions to play the ball to when they regain possession
  • The team on offense must utilize all areas of space on the field as possible to create more time and space for its players. Conversely, the team on defense seeks to restrict the amount of time and space their opponents have in order to exert more pressure on the attacking team 

 The shape and balance of the team, changes as the game changes from offense to defense and from one side of the field to the other.

Coaches must expose their players to a training environment where the players have to make split second decisions and execute their skills under realistic pressures of the game. Whatever numerical game is constructed in practice, or whatever system of play is deployed in a soccer match, offensive and defensive principles must be observed. 

Players must learn quickly that soccer is a game of offense and defense and that transition from one to the other is constant. Players must be prepared mentally and physically to revert from an attacking mode to a defensive mode (and vice versa0 in a split second. 

The tactics of the game create a contest for possession of the ball. The decisions that players make combined with the execution of their skills will affect the outcome of the game. 

 Soccer Laws

Both the coaching staff and players within the EMSSC program should be familiar with all aspects of the rules of the game, to include field dimensions, rules and laws of the game and referee signals. A concerted effort should be made by all members of the coaching staff to learn any new rule changes that may affect the playing status of our players.

Whether the board encourages or funds players/coaches to attend referee courses, it must be stated that the more knowledgeable our coaching staff and players are on the rules of the game, there is the likelihood of less disciplinary problems on the field of play. 

  • A standard code of conduct and discipline should be applied for all EMSSC Pride Teams
  • Coaches and players should be held accountable for any breach of the club code of conduct, as determined by general consensus of the EMSSC Board