When In Doubt, Kick It Out?

I was reading the book, Coaching Soccer Tactics recently and it got me thinking about the long time rule of thumb for soccer in the defensive part of the field has been “If in doubt, kick it out”.

The logic for this rule of thumb is when the ball is in the defensive part of the field, if you have possession of the ball and can’t find a good option, if you kick the ball out of bounds, it will give your team time to get back to help you defend.

The problem with this is when you factor in that more than 50% of all goals come from dead ball situations, do you really want to give the opposing team a dead ball situation?  Needlessly giving away corner kicks and throw in’s can create a lot more danger than working your way out of danger.

Most of the time, when a player has the ball in back, even when they are under pressure, they still out-number the opposition (especially if the keeper is providing support as opposed to just standing in goal yelling “Clear!, Clear!”.)  Think about the amount of time spent in training working on 3 v 2, 4 v 2 and 5 v 3 and most of the time, this is the exact same situation.  It’s just a matter of simple problem solving and patience and most of the time, the player under pressure will be able to work the ball out of danger and keep possession while working the ball downfield.

When young players first try to work the ball out of the back instead of kicking the ball at the first sign of pressure, it’s important as coaches for us to understand they will make mistakes.  They will make some wrong choices.  They will lose possession.  They might give up a goal and they might cost the team a game.  The thing to remember is, it’s not about the “now” it’s about the future and allowing them to make the mistakes when young will also allow them to grow as players and grow as a team.

The only way to expect a team to be able to work the ball out of the back when under pressure is to have them train for these situations..

Start with the ball with the keeper and 7 players working the ball out of the back against 5 defenders.  There is a target player in the center circle.

The yellow defending team allows the first pass to be made in front of them and then pressures the ball and tries to force the black team to work quickly to work the ball out of the back.

The black team is trying to work the ball to their target player in the center circle.  It’s important for the keeper to stay involved with the play and to keep giving options (as a supporting player and also through communication letting the player with the ball what is available).

As the black team gets more comfortable working the ball out of the back, add more players (gradually work up to even numbers).

From a coaches perspective, let the players figure out their options but also be willing to freeze play and show some of the other options and preferred movements when necessary.

The alternative is to keep kicking the ball out!

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