The concept of finding space is quite an abstract one for young players. There’s the ball, that’s where I need to be. This can be something we often see with younger players when we have honeypot moments with half the players within feet of each other, the object of their intentions almost invisible beneath the morass.
By the team young soccer players reach the U12 stage they are much more aware of the importance of finding space, and also the tactical requirement of denying it. Therefore, this is a good age to coach some drills which help to develop the skill of finding space.
u12 Soccer Drills Spacing Warm Up – Coming Short
The best warm up drills involve a ball and help to develop other skills at the same time.
- Five players, one ball, two cones or mannequins.
- Area or grid approximately 16m x 10m.
- Cones in the middle.
- The area does not need to be accurately marked out.
- Two players at each end, one in the middle in front of a cone.
- Ball begins with one of the players on the outside. (Player 2) (Action One on diagram)
- The player by the cone (P1) comes forward two to three metres to find space from his ‘cone’ defender. (Two)
- The ball is played firmly into Player 1’s feet. (Three)
- The player receives the ball on the half turn, controlling with his or her front foot.
- The player lays the ball off to the other player at this end. (P3) (Four)
- Meanwhile, Player 2 has moved into space behind the cones. (Five)
- Player 3 plays a longer pass to Player 2 who is in space. (Six)
- Player 2 plays the ball onto Player 4 or 5, (Seven) then moves back to wait by the cones (Eight), and the drill is repeated from the other end (Nine).
- Player 1 fills the space vacated by Player 2. (Ten)
- Ensure players coming short receive the ball using their front foot on the half turn.
- They should come short with a burst of pace to create space from their marker (the cone)
- Keep the drill reasonably pacy.
- Ensure players on the outside are loose and moving.
Add in an extra player at each end and a second ball. The drill then requires more focus and communication to ensure that passing is always to the ‘spare’ player.
u12 Soccer Drills Conditioned Spacing Six a Side Game
Everybody loves a game. Here we combine the motivation of a ‘match’ with conditions that help players to find space.
This is a fairly complex game to set up, but once players learn their roles the drill works well and encourages players to look for space.
- Normal 6 a side pitch, but with the addition of a ‘drop back’ zone. This is 5m wide and stretches across the pitch either side of the half way line. Only one attacker of the team in possession is allowed to receive the ball in the drop back zone, and no defenders may enter it unless their team is in possession. Even then, they can only enter this area to pass through it in order to support an attack.
- Each team has:
- A goalkeeper who starts each attack.
- A centre half (5) who must remain in their defensive area, which is their own half behind the drop back zone.
- Two full backs (2, 3) who may join an attack once one of their attackers has received the ball in the drop back zone.
- Two attackers (9, 10) who are not permitted in the defensive zones, and one of which must receive a pass in the drop back zone.
- Drill begins with the keeper.
- He or she makes the pass to a defensive team mate, creating 3 v 2 in his or her defensive zone.
- An attacker moves back into the drop back zone to receive a pass.
- At that point, full backs may advance and join the attack, creating a 4 v 3 overload in their attack.
- Full backs attack wide, and the player in the drop back zone dribbles or passes to draw a defender out of position.
- The other attacker looks to create space by changing the angle of their run and getting in behind the defense.
- When the attack ends with a saved shot, goal or the ball goes out of play, the drill restarts with the keeper, and players retaking their starting positions. If the ball is intercepted during the play, this is a transition moment, and the defense launch their own attack, following the rules above.
- Ensure players are either looking for space, or seeking to draw a defender to create space for a teammate.
- Ensure players seeking space change the angle of their runs.
- Passes into space should be on the angle rather than straight.
- Encourage communication.
Remove the drop back zone, meaning that the defense can track the player dropping short.
u12 Soccer Drills Spacing Key
(Diagrams created by Abiprod, using ‘Soccer Drive’)