Actions We Can Take As Coaches
Encourage space utilization in possession
Teach players that when they or their team are in possession of the ball, they should look to find their own space rather than crowding around the player with the ball. This can help create passing options for the player in possession and make it more difficult for the opposing team to regain possession.
Shift the coaching focus towards players out of possession and away from the ball, instead of always focusing on the player on the ball or the nearest defender. This allows coaches to instruct players on positioning, reading the game, and fulfilling their defensive responsibilities, thereby helping to avoid the clustering around the ball.
Reduce the number of players on the field to create smaller game formats. Fewer players on the field can make it easier for players to understand the importance of spreading out and not clustering around the ball. It also provides more opportunities for each player to interact with the ball, thereby improving their overall engagement and learning.
Create primary areas of play
Set designated areas on the field for each player, which they should primarily occupy during the game. This can help players understand their individual roles better and prevent clustering around the ball. It also promotes a better understanding of positional play.
Use game-based learning
Design game scenarios that reward players for spreading out and penalize them for clustering around the ball. This can be an effective way to reinforce the concept of space utilization and positional discipline.
Teach players to effectively communicate on the field. Calling for the ball, directing teammates, and announcing their positions can significantly help prevent clustering and encourage better space utilization.
Encourage space occupation out of possession
When the team is out of possession, coach players to stay with an attacker or occupy and defend strategic spaces on the field. This can help maintain defensive structure and reduce the chances of leaving opposing players unmarked.
Drills focused on spreading out
Implement training drills that focus on spreading out, moving off the ball, and occupying space. For instance, passing drills where players must move to a new spot after passing can help reinforce these concepts.
Changing deeply ingrained habits takes time. Be patient and consistently reinforce the principles of space utilization and positional play in training sessions and games.