Stonewall Youth Soccer Association
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Player Development

Developing a player has many facets and will never be the sole responsibility of one coach. The complete development of a player entails technical refinement on all the core skills of the game, tactical understanding of the roles and responsibilities of each and every player within the role of the team, plus the physical and psychological development of a player to make sure they are capable of playing at what ever level they choose and their ability allows them to perform at.

The primary responsibility of individual player development lies with our district and regional clubs. Their programs will take players from their earliest introduction to the game right through to adulthood. The Provincial Team program will look to develop the elite players within a team framework - competing against the best players across the province in practice and games in order to be prepared to be able to perform on a national level.

The modern game of soccer is getting faster and faster, as such when considering developing players, coaches should pay attention for the need to make practice realistic, and have players work on their techniques at speed, under pressure and in game like settings in order for true development to take place. Obviously the level of training will be dependent on players' age and ability and enjoyment of the game is paramount to any player's long term development at any standard of play.

Here are some general guidelines for coaches and players to follow, regardless of the level and your system of play: The guidelines offer things for you to look for or consider in the three main moments of a game.


First and foremost - Read the GAME by thinking of the 3 main moments

  • When you or your team is in possession
  • When the opponent is in possession  
  • The moment the ball is won or lost (transition)

Opponents in Possession


  • Be alert - follow the play even if it is in the opposition half
  • Act as a sweeper when your team is pushed up
  • Get off your line quickly and decisively when long balls are played forward
  • Deny goals
  • Give direction to your defenders

Right & Left Defenders

  • Prevent crosses, shots
  • Squeeze the play away from goal
  • Do not dive in on tackles, do not foul, keep your man in front of you
  • Closer to goal, the tighter the marking/be aggressive but not reckless Mark on the inside line
  • Close down the ball between the ball and the goal
  • Cover when central defenders are challenging
  • Do not fall behind the Center backs. Hold the line
  • When right side defender is challenging, tuck inside and cover the line
  • Understand your recovery lines if beaten


 Central Defenders

  • Prevent shots on goal
  • Tight marking close to goal
  • Keep the defensive line compact
  • Do not allow the player with the ball to turn. Keep your man in front of you
  • Anticipate the pass and intercept. Be aggressive but not reckless
  • Do not foul
  • Challenge in the air and head up and out
  • Cover
  • Mark on the inside, line on the same side of the ball
  • Stay between ball and goal
  • Understand your recovery lines 

Central Midfielder(s)

  • Play your position; do not play too far forward
  • Pick up opponents that push forward
  • Track players that are unmarked and making runs into dangerous space
  • Cover on the side of your team when the full back goes forward
  • Anticipate forward pass
  • Get goal side of the ball as quickly as possible

Right and Left Midfielders

  • Prevent forward passes by closing down the ball and/or space
  • Play in your zone; mark tight around the ball; cover space furthest away from ball.  When teammates are pressuring in the opposition's half, pick up tight; deny any room for escape; do not drop off
  • Track immediate opponents running behind your back
  • Do not spread your line and leave gaps
  • Get goal side of the ball as quickly as possible  


  • Responsible for fullbacks and space in midfield. Track overlapping full back
  • Tuck inside when the play is on the opposite side or midfield
  • Deny forward passes in the build up of opposition
  • Deny crosses
  • Recognize the most dangerous situation, i.e. your direct mark or space behind pressuring defenders
  • Get goal side of the ball as quickly as possible 


  • Pressure the build up
  • Choose the correct moment to challenge; you can take more risk in your challenge
  • Do not chase if the team is in complete control or you have no support
  • Keep the play and opponent in front of you. DELAY the build up


Your team is In possession (the build up phase/attacking phase)


  • Remain alert and involved
  • Start the attack with good distribution
  • Throw out, kick, goal kick, pass
  • Good communication with all teammates 

Central Defenders

  • Look to play forward
  • Switch the play
  • Push yourself and the line up where possible
  • Support in depth
  • Recognize when to join the attack from deep
  • Be demanding 


  • Left / Right create width in the build up (this will force pressuring players to take a decision)
  • Central move away
  • Recognize the moment to go forward and join the attack
  • If left side is on the attack, right side must tuck inside
  • Support behind the side midfielder 

Central Midfield

  • Long range shooting from layoffs
  • Try to get into scoring positions of attack through combining with strikers
  • Play your position in the build up phase
  • Link defenders to midfield (stand sideways on) I link midfield to attack
  • Support central strikers
  • Don’t move forward to early or without caution.  Remember the space behind you
  • Look to be available to switch the point of attack 

Midfield - Left & Right

  • When attack is on the other side (flank) look to arrive into the penalty area late
  • Avoid crowding the winger, by drawing defenders into his space, especially when the winger is in a 1 v 1 situation  (support in depth at the correct distance)
  • Maintain good positioning and distance in relation to defenders, wingers, etc. .
  • When the winger is outnumbered; i.e. 1 v 2 destroy the cover with runs off the ball
  • Recognize when the ball needs to be switched (avoid square passes)
  • Weigh the risk of running with the ball in midfield
  • When you cut inside look to combine with strikers 

Wingers - Wide Players Left & Right

  • Come inside when the play is on the opposite flank (wing)
  • Quality of the cross is important. Cross away from keeper, behind the defenders, below head height. Strike the cross with pace.
  • Beat your man (1 v 1) Learn to go both sides
  • When you receive the ball, where possible, attempt to square yourself off with the defender; i.e. Position your body towards the goal or opposite comer flag, rather than down the line
  • Score goals 

Central Striker or Strikers

  • Read the build up play; do not move into space too early to receive long balls
  • Recognize when to hold the ball up or lay it off.
  • Move away from the vision of the marker, before you make your runs
  • Know when to run deep versus when to come to the ball (look to get behind your marker)
  • Make a dummy run to move defenders into poor defending positions, before you show for the pass
  • Get into the penalty area; anticipate where the ball will arrive
  • Take risk do not lose the ball through hesitation. Run at the defense 1v11ook to enter the box, shoot ASAP.
  • Score goals 


The moment the ball is won

  • Look to play forward (look to attack)
  • Attack with speed while the opposition is off balance
  • Look to attack behind the defense
  • Look to run behind the defense
  • Go 1 v1 or even 1 v2

The moment the ball is lost

  • Look to win it back
  • Nearest player to the ball put pressure on the ball.
  • Deny forward play
  • Do not push (to pressure) until you get the signal from behind you
  • Recover goal side of the ball as quickly as possible


  • Observe the game around you. Do not simply look at the ball.
  • Do not let balls bounce
  • Be first to the ball
  • Move to the ball
  • Attempt to lose your marker (stay out of their vision)
  • Your movement dictates the pass
  • Close to the ball mark tight
  • Furthest from the ball cover space
  • No pressure on the ball be aware of the space behind you