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Whether you are coaching your team of young players or if you’re a player yourself, the key here to recognize is “controlled aggression”. In American football, the word “aggression” has been culturally understood as flattening out your opponent until they cannot breathe.
However, in soccer, you don’t have to resort to these tactics. And yet, being aggressive in soccer is very important to succeeding. You can use aggression in a smart way where it is effective for the player with the ball and their team.
Why Teach Aggression Techniques?
Since the main goal in soccer is to get the ball in the back of the opponent’s goal without conceding one yourself, aggression should be geared towards that goal, as well.
Getting to the ball first, tackling the ball away from another player, and shielding the ball from the other team are all ways to instill aggression.
Players will use aggression and physical maneuvers to put themselves between the opponent and the ball. They’ll need to be physical to stay on their feet while still keeping an opponent away from the ball. They’ll need to learn how to use their arms and body to shield the ball and win the ball in the air.
Aggression Challenges for Younger Players
For younger players, learning how to properly use aggression is a challenge. Usually, the youth will go one of two ways when it comes to aggression. A player wearing a high rated indoor soccer shoe for kids can either be extremely timid about physical contact during sport or can go all out.
Normally, this lack of physical contact in a kids game is from the lack of their idea of HOW to make contact. These young players need to be taught the rules of the game and how to play the game effectively. Being physical and making contact with another player is allowed—they just have to know how to do it effectively.
As for a coach, there are a few ways to instill aggression into your young players. Teaching them how to be first to the ball and fending off a defender is crucial to their development. Teaching players how to act and win 50-50 balls is also extremely important.
The key here is to make sure that your players know how to be aggressive in a controlled environment. There’s nothing wrong with a player getting “stuck in”—in fact, it should be encouraged. Teaching a young player how to win the ball fairly by using physical contact is very important in their development. Making sure your players are equipped with the right soccer cleats for training can help with that. Good quality socks for soccer will also aid them in the game .
Now that you know why it’s important to instill aggression in your players, you might want to learn how. Here are a few ways you can teach aggression during your practices:
How to Teach Aggressiveness in Soccer
1. Prioritize Fun and Aggression
Don’t have one drill that focuses on goofing off and having fun and the other drill promoting aggression. Try and find soccer drills that can help develop both aspects together. If possible, have your players practice with a highly rated rebounder for soccer. This will ensure the ball bounces back to them when played.
Once you make the game or drill fun but still emphasize aggression, the kids will definitely make the connection between the two. Hopefully, this will also help lessen the stereotype that aggressiveness has to be mean-spirited.
Having fun drills also helps soccer remain enjoyable and helps increase interest in the game. And, its possible to do drills that promote aggressiveness while also helping other soccer skills at the same time.
As you give them drills, be sure to give them ones they can practice on their own. If kids are shy, they might be nervous to show aggression in front of their teammates at first.
2. Talk About It
Instead of just thinking that a child will be able to pick up exactly what you’re trying to teach, talk to them about it. Even if you have to talk to each player individually, it’s important that they know what is and what is not allowed.
As always, make sure to prioritize fair play and respect to the opponent. Teach them how to play positively and safely. This is called “Appropriate Aggression”. It rejects the idea that a player has to injure their opponent, nor be negative nor disrespectful towards them.
The key here is to find the balance between Fair Play aggression and still being respectful. Make sure to review the complete set of soccer rules, including the section that specifically applies to fouls and misconduct.
3. Watch Professional Soccer
Although you might not have much control over what your youngsters watch on television when they go home, encourage them to watch matches. You can even make it your soccer “homework” for them to go home and watch a game or two.
Talk with parents about them watching more games at home if the players have a real interest in soccer. Not only is this a good idea for the kids to watch how professionals play, it is also important to normalize aggression.
Even holding a film session with your team can help you point out situations where players should be more aggressive. That way, they can visually see when it’s appropriate and necessary.
4. Guide Them During Play
We all don’t like that coach that talks too much. However, you can’t be the bad guy if you’re giving out positive or constructive feedback during the game!
While they’re playing, the play they just went through is fresh in their mind (and their bodies). Commenting on it directly after it happens is a great way to promote aggression.
Some words you can say to them after a good 50-50 challenge would be to encourage that sort of tackle. If you see a player is trying for it and loses anyway, you can still reward them for getting in there and being aggressive for the ball. If you have players who might struggle from being flat footed, recommend them a good pair of soccer cleats for overpronation so they are supported adequately.
You control and prioritize what your team learns or works on in practice. Creating a strong emphasis on aggressiveness—regardless of the drill—is a very useful tactic that can help you have an influence on your players.
Teaching appropriate aggression in soccer is extremely important—especially for players who are young. Knowing how and when to be aggressive during the game can not only help them improve as players but also help them avoid getting yellow or red-carded in the future.
Channeling over-aggressive players is also a part of teaching aggression. Not only do you have to encourage the timid players to be more physical, you also have to show over-aggressive players how to use their physical playing style to their advantage—and stay within the rules.