Are your kids playing bunch ball?




Why do kids bunch up in the game of soccer?


Why does bunch ball occur?

At the younger ages U6-U10 the soccer ball is a magnet - kids want the soccer ball.

  • Kids that are new to the game of soccer don't possess a lot of soccer skill.
  • The kids don't understand how to use space on the soccer field.
  • The players without the soccer ball run towards the player with the ball and drag all the defenders with them.

This process can take some time while the players are learning their soccer skills and how to play the game. I have outlined some coaching points below for coaches to correct some of the issues that come with bunching.


How do we eliminate the "bunch ball" mentality?


Dribbling

A player who uses 1 on 1 dribbling soccer skills to get out of pressure and find space, can eliminate the bunch ball.

So, how does a coach help develop 1v1 dribbling skills? Here are a few tips to get your players playing better 1v1 soccer.

Once players have developed dribbling, passing, ball control skills and the ability to handle the soccer ball, it is easier for them to get out of trouble.

Passing: Another way to teach players to get away from "bunch ball" is to pass the soccer ball - I like to teach dribbling first. Why? Once they  have basic dribbling down you can then add in passing technique. Now the players will have the option to play the ball out of trouble. Obviously, this takes some time to develop. The basic push pass with the inside of the foot will help young players find their pass.



Small sided games


So, how do we get the players to use their soccer skills to eliminate the "bunch up" during a practice or a game?

Play 1v1, 2v2, 3v3 or 4v4 games...

Not to go off topic but for a quick recap of why the kids should play small sided games? Check out some examples below...

  • Teach small sided games like 3v3 or 4v4 because these shapes will fit into the 8 vs 8 or 11 vs 11 game.
  • Touches on the ball - improve dribbling, passing and ball control.
  • Lots of chances to shoot and finish.
  • Decision making - when a player receives the soccer ball they can either dribble, pass or shoot.
  • The small sided games also help eliminate bunching because there are fewer kids sharing one ball.

Play small sided games and the kids will enjoy their soccer practices and learn how to avoid playing bunch ball.



Coaching points for a 3v3 game


Play a 3v3 or 4v4 game.

I let the kids play 3v3 - you might have two games going during a practice session, but this will depend on the amount of kids you have in a soccer practice.

Three common scenarios you will run into...

  • Players dribbling into opponents.
  • Players not dribbling to space.
  • Team-mates running toward the soccer ball.

Coaching Tip: I generally address these scenarios when teaching soccer skills during sessions so when the small sided game comes along the kids are already aware of what is going on.

We talk about dribbling to space, and using turns to get away from defenders. We also discuss how to avoid crowding teammates.

Do you ever get that scenario where players are just kicking the soccer ball against each others shins and the ball is going no where?

  1. Question: What can we do to get out of this?
  2.  Answer: A pullback or specific move.

  3. Question: What do we look for when we dribble?
  4.  Answer: We look for space.

  5. Question: What do we do when a teammate gets the soccer ball.

            Answer: Big - create space.

A fun game: If the players keep bunching up play dead ants - good for the little ones! I scream dead ants when it gets crowded - the players lie on their backs and wave their feet and hands in the air. I say play and they get back up and spread out and play. 

Once I have addressed these key points I encourage them to dribble for space, support their teammates and have fun. Add dead ants to your soccer practice plans.




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Coaches, do you want to make soccer fun and motivate your players? Soccer patches are a great motivational tool that can be used for goals, assists, good defending or skills competitions. The kids love patches!!


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