When facilitating games at practice do you find it challenging working with a wide range of ability levels? Do you have players who get the lion’s share of the ball? Are there individuals that you find difficult to engage in the game?
Are you looking for ways to bring a specific topic, skill or attribute to the surface within games? Do you ask yourself how you can get your players to:
Dribble the ball, Pass and move, Spread out, Communicate, Follow in for rebound, Hustle back, Tackle, Show determination, Never give up.
This list could be exhaustive. Through the novel concept of Scoreboard Soccer, which involves running fun and motivational activities in conjunction with small sided games, you may be able to tackle some of the barriers to player development mentioned above.
I have been a big believer and advocate of a games-based approach to develop young players for several years now. The game itself is a fantastic teacher but I developed the idea for Scoreboard Soccer as a solution to some of the limitations I encountered.
Reminiscing to when Scoreboard Soccer first began, I had set up two 5v5 pitches in preparation for letting the children play the game.
During my session, it became obvious there was a player who could easily outstrip everyone else and scored every time he wished. When play resumed, this young player could also easily win the ball back and score again at their leisure.
This player was not being challenged. Other players were becoming disengaged. I needed to find a solution.
I don’t believe in stifling players by introducing rules such as 2-touch, which only falsifies the game.
Here’s a talented young player, capable of dribbling the ball past 2 or 3 opponents and as a coach it’s my role to give him space, time and practice so he can progress to taking on 4 or 5 opponents!
Scoreboard Soccer is the method I came up with to deal with the situation. Instead of discouraging him from dribbling, I praised him. I created a ‘Scoreboard’ in the middle of the two pitches which consisted of 4 cones for each team.
When a goal was scored players would come to the scoreboard (as the game continued) and put a ball on their teams’ cone.
This was my way of giving that player and any other players that scored a big well done, but also momentarily getting them off the pitch so others could see more of the ball.
It proved a massive success and over time the children called it Connect 4 and always asking to play it when they came to practice.
The more comfortable I got with the delivery of Connect 4 the more I was able to find ways to evolve the session. I would ask the players,
‘Is goal scoring the only good thing we can do on the soccer pitch?’.
Thankfully the players answered ‘no’ and when I asked the follow up question of what else may we do, I was delighted to hear some great responses.
‘Passing’ ‘spreading out’ ‘teamwork’ were just some of the replies and I simply made players aware that if they demonstrated these values I might reward them by sending them to the scoreboard.
It might seem simple, but the players absolutely loved putting the ball on top of the cone. It acted as a visual representation that they had done something well and the coach was proud of them. I can say from experience shouting,
‘Well done Sarah! I love that you’ve tried to run with the ball like we worked on, come to the scoreboard!’
Sarah would run over to the scoreboard with a smile on her face, put a ball on the cone to signal a point for her team and then charge back onto the pitch desperate to get on the ball and try and be rewarded again.
The players particularly like the progression to Connect-4 that allows them to either put a ball on their teams’ cone or kick one off the other teams!
Scoreboard Soccer games were proving a hit with the players I was working with. And if they achieve nothing else but fun, I think they serve a purpose.
However I started to get creative with the scoreboards and I would encourage you to do the same. I started to think, ‘can we include the ball?’ After all, extra touches and practice is always a good thing.
And so scoreboards were developed such as crossbar challenge, free kick challenges over mannequins, flicking the ball into a trash can, trying to knock over a cone with a pass, trying to score from distance without the ball bouncing and so on.
Here’s one of my favourite scoreboard games, another one the players ask for often.
Running alongside the game’s environment you have created, set up a shooting area and if possible utilize a goalkeeper to get some extra practice.
The praised player will come to the scoreboard and if they score from the shooting area that goal will be added to the score line from the game that’s running.
Not only does this praise the player for something they have done in the game (checking their shoulders for example) but they also have an opportunity to work on shooting and as a coach you may spend some time with them at the scoreboard to help them with their technique.
So this player gets some 1 on 1 help while all the other players are benefitting from a games based approach as the main game continues.
Knocking over cones, collecting pinnies, aiming for targets and hitting the crossbar are just a few things incorporated in some of the most fun Scoreboard Soccer games.
If the activity you use as a scoreboard is fun and engaging, the players will work hard and try to display rewardable behaviours within the games based environment. If the players have fun, you’ve ticked the first and most crucial box.
We can reward good passing and shooting. However, Scoreboard Soccer gives coaches a great platform to encourage and reward key values. Send players to the scoreboard for respect, sportsmanship and, crucially, for effort.
Regardless of the outcome (maybe they miss a tackle) if you praise the 25 yard sprint to try and make the tackle in the first place then players will come to realise that effort is what you value, and that is what they will give you. With time, that effort will evolve into positive outcomes.
If you are perhaps new to coaching, ticking the first two boxes is a great start and as you continue on your coaching journey and pick up ideas and knowledge, you can then explore the multitude of coachable moments within Scoreboard Soccer.
Experienced coaches will have already identified the moments I am about to reference.
Of course, Scoreboard Soccer is about having fun and praising positive behaviours, but look at the learning environment it creates; there will be constant overload and underload situations, recovery runs and transitions.
All of these moments provide the coach with an opportunity to observe how players respond within these challenging situations and identify where they may need guidance and coaching.
I find Scoreboard Soccer is a great environment to highlight and coach attacking overloads, defending outnumbered, counter-attacking and transitions.
I believe highlighting key fundamentals such as width, length and depth in possession and narrow, patience and pressure out of possession, provide players with crucial knowledge that will set them in good stead as they progress through their soccer journey.
Finally, my favourite thing about Scoreboard Soccer is player autonomy. When you’re comfortable with the concept and its delivery, start to build in some player autonomy.
Allow them to pick the teams, name the teams, choose the structure of the game, name the game and come up with some scoreboards.
They will amaze you with their ideas. Until you and your players are creating and designing scoreboard games, feel free to use some of the tried and tested ones I have.
For more information about Scoreboard Soccer – please visit: www.scoreboardsoccer.com
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Module 1: Fundamentals & introduction to coaching
Lecturer: David Baird (Scotland) Scottish Football Association
Module 2: Coaching Process – Part 1
Lecturer: Dr. Adam Owen (Wales) Lech Poznań, England Football Association
Module 3: Training the Game: A modern youth academy training structure
Lecturer: Mirko Mazzantini (Italy) ACF Fiorentina
Module 4: Coaching Process – Part 2
Lecturer: Dr. Adam Owen (Wales) Lech Poznań, England Football Association
Module 5: Coaching FUNdamentals within small-sided games (SSGs)
Lecturer: Dr. Ashley Allanson (England)
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Lecturer: Efthymios Kyprianou (Cyprus) Aspire Academy, Qatar