9v9 Soccer: Where to Put Weak Players
On every team, there tends to be one or multiple weaker players. In a 9v9 soccer match, you might be wondering where to position weak players so you can ‘hide’ them and still find success.
Even though winning isn’t everything, you do want to give every player a chance to contribute to the team’s success while also minimizing the risk of getting blown out of a game. The good news is that I think there are specific positions on the field where weaker players can thrive and make a valuable impact.
Ideal positions for weaker players in a 9v9 format:
- Right or left winger
These spots allow them to contribute without facing constant pressure, which can help foster their skills growth.
Of course, it also depends on the formation you come out in and the surrounding players.
With the right positioning and support, weaker players can become strong contributors to the team’s success. As a coach, this is what you want from your players. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen weaker players become the strongest player in 2-3 years.
Understanding 9v9 Soccer
The 9v9 format involves two teams, each consisting of nine players on the field at a time. The purpose of 9v9 soccer is to provide a more challenging and strategic experience for young players while still maintaining a focus on player development and not just kicking the ball up field to chase it.
The dimensions of the field can vary, but it is usually around 80 yards long and 50 yards wide. The goals are smaller than full-sized goals, but larger than those used in smaller-sided games.
In 9v9 soccer, the game is typically played with a size 4 ball, which is smaller than the size 5 ball used in full-sized games. This smaller ball size allows for better control and more opportunities for players to touch the ball.
9v9 leagues are a great way to hone in on skills before the players jump up to 11v11 fields.
Identifying Weak Players
Identifying weak players can be a challenging task for coaches. It is important to remember that every player has their unique strengths and weaknesses, and it is the coach’s responsibility to identify them and help players improve their skills. Here are some ways to identify weak players:
Observe their Performance
One of the easiest ways to identify weaker players is to observe their performance during practice and games.
Sometimes all it takes is to witness their running abilities. I think many times you can tell an athlete by watching their coordination and their body movements.
For soccer specifically, keep an eye on their technical skills, physical abilities, and tactical awareness.
- Do they struggle with basic skills like dribbling, passing, or shooting?
- Are they slow or lack agility?
- Do they struggle to understand the game’s tactics and positioning?
If you notice any of these issues, it could be an indication that the player is weaker than their peers.
Analyze their Behavior
Another way to identify weak players is to analyze their behavior on and off the field.
- Do they lack confidence or seem disinterested in the game?
- Do they avoid taking risks or shy away from challenges?
- Are they easily discouraged or give up quickly?
These behaviors could be an indication that the player lacks the mental strength to perform at their best.
Communicate with Players and Parents
Lastly, it is essential to clearly communicate with players and parents to identify weak players.
Ask players for feedback on their performance and areas they need to improve. Talk to parents to understand their child’s strengths and weaknesses and their expectations from the team.
At the 9v9 level, it should equal playing time. There’s no need to bench weaker players just so you can get a W.
Strategies for Positioning Weak Players
When it comes to positioning weak players in 9v9 soccer, there are several strategies to consider. Depending on the player’s strengths and weaknesses, you can place them in a position that maximizes their potential and contributes to the team’s success.
If you have a weak defender on your team, consider placing them in a position where they can slow down the opponent’s attack without getting in the way of your fullbacks clearing the ball. Here are some defensive strategies to consider:
- Wingback: Placing a weaker player as a wingback can be an ideal choice since they don’t have to mark an opponent constantly. They can focus on supporting the attack and defending when necessary.
- Center-back: If the weak player is good at reading the game and positioning themselves, you can place them as a center-back. This position requires less physicality and more tactical awareness.
In midfield, weaker players can be placed in positions where they can contribute to the team’s overall play and utilize their specific skills. Here are some midfield strategies to consider:
- Central midfield: Placing a weaker player in central midfield can be a good choice since they can contribute to both attack and defense. They can focus on distributing the ball and supporting the attack while also helping out defensively.
- Wide midfield: Placing a weaker player as a wide midfielder can be an ideal choice since they have more space to operate and can focus on supporting the attack and crossing the ball.
In the attacking third, weaker players can be placed in positions where they can contribute to the team’s attack without facing constant pressure. Here are some attacking strategies to consider:
- Winger: Placing a weaker player as a winger can be an ideal choice since they can focus on dribbling and crossing the ball without having to constantly beat defenders.
- Target forward or Second Striker: If the weak player is good at holding up the ball and bringing others into play, you can place them as a target forward. This position requires less running and more strength and positioning.
Identify Potential and instill Confidence
As a coach, it’s important to identify the potential of your weak players and instill confidence in them. This can help them improve their skills and become valuable members of the team.
Not only this, by giving them more confidence, they will hopefully lead better lives.
Improving the Skills of Weaker Soccer Players
One way to improve the skills of weak players is to focus on their strengths. Identify what they do well and encourage them to build on those skills. For example, if a player has good ball control, work on improving their passing and shooting accuracy. Or, if they can hustle a lot, encourage them to make tackles and be a defensive stopper.
Instead of criticizing your players for their mistakes, give them specific tips on how to improve. For example, if a player struggles with dribbling, suggest drills that can help them improve their technique or use their passing abilities so they don’t have to dribble so much.
Another way to build confidence in weak players is to give them opportunities to play in different positions. This may be counterintuitive to find a spot to hide the weakest player but it can help them discover where they excel and where they need to improve.
Finally, make sure to praise all your players when they make progress. Encourage them to keep working hard and let them know that their efforts are noticed and appreciated. This can help them feel more confident and motivated to improve their skills.
As I’m writing my thoughts on this topic, I didn’t like to type ‘weak players’ because everyone on a 9v9 team is learning the game. Kids mature and develop at different stages and you don’t want to discourage any kids from trying their best.
With that said, there may come times when you need to put players in certain positions for the success of the team.
I think safe options for weaker players are wingers, full back, or a striker. These positions usually have good support from stronger players.
It’s important to consider the formation and tactics of the team as a whole. Choosing the right formation can help balance the strengths and weaknesses of the team and create a cohesive unit on the field. For a defensive system, a 2-4-2 formation can be effective, while a 2-1-3-2 formation can be used for a more attacking style of play.
Ultimately, let’s not take this topic too seriously. Instead, as coaches, let’s develop all players to maximize their abilities on the field. You just never know who will be the next great player coming out of your area!