Coach Chris’ Pressure Method
The basic concept to increasing the speed of play is to gradually increase the pressure and complexity of the drill during the trainings of a soccer season. As these two factors increase, more and more field awareness is required to execute the drills. As was discussed in Philosophy section, having good technical soccer skills is a basic need to develop the soccer player to the next level. Players must know how to pass, one-touch, receive, turn, use moves versus an opponent, etc. As we teach a young player, between the ages of 8 to 16, the technical skills of soccer we also expect the player to be able to use these skills when they are under pressure by an opponent.
A young player--or any player for that matter--can have great control of the ball in a non-pressured environment, but those skills quickly disappear when that player is put under pressure. That may be physical pressure from closely marking defenders, or psychological pressure from a lack of confidence or the excitement of the game. Physiological pressure can break down a player’s ability through that player’s fear of failure. Once the player learns the basic fundamentals of a skill such as receiving a ball, passing, shooting or "holding the ball", the player must learn to use those skills while being contested.
The ability to "use a skill" changes a "kick" to a pass, and gives the player confidence to "hold the ball by using soccer moves" rather than quickly giving it away. The ability to "hold the ball" is crucial at every position on the field. It is especially true at midfield. If your players can "hold the ball" and at the proper time connect or combine with a teammate, they are keeping possession of the ball. If you have possession, you have the opportunity to score.
One of the best ways to develop skill under pressure is through grid training--small sided work within a marked off area (grid) or by 1 versus 1 and 3 versus 2 + goalie in a game realistic environment. The sides may be even, or either the offense or defense can have a numerical advantage. If the offense has five players in the grid and the defense only two, the pressure will be less than it would be for three offensive players going against four defenders. By having more on offense you can teach players to play with their heads up, to find an open player for a pass, to avoid one-on-one situations by playing an early pass to an open teammate, etc. By using the 1 versus 1 during the training you can teach players to use their soccer moves while being pressured in a game realistic environment.
During the ages of 5 to 10 the trainings should be concentrated on improving the technical skills of the soccer player without being under pressure. Between the ages of 10 - 16 the trainings should be concentrated on improving the technical skills of the soccer player while being under pressure by an opponent. Players at that age are open for creativity and all ways to learn how to control the soccer ball. The soccer ball itself is already pressure enough during these ages besides the pressure that they get from playing on a soccer field with its boundaries and crowd. After a soccer player/ team has mastered the requirements to control the ball by using their technical skills it can move to the Pressure level.
From my coaching and training experience I recommend to use the pressure method during the ages of 8 to 14 while emphasizing these skills with the older ages. A lot of young players have learned the technical skill in the early years but experienced that when reaching the age of 10 suddenly the old possession drills (4 versus 2) become more used by their trainers. Instead of using the opportunity to improve the player’s technical skills, the player learns most of the time, after that age, how to pass the ball to an open player. This has a bad effect on the technical improvement of the soccer player and as result it changes your players into players who are not able to pass an opponent 1 versus 1.
As a Trainer, I like to focus during my trainings on the technical skills and use pressure in the daily drills so the control over the soccer ball grows and the ability to outplay an opponent 1 versus 1 becomes second nature. Repeating these drills over and over improves the player and gives the player more confidence on the soccer field. In my experience, during the ages of 5 to 16 it is essential that a young player improves their technical skills to be able to outplay an opponent 1 versus 1 and to increase the speed of play in the ages to come. After the age of 15 the ability to improve your technical skills have become less and the soccer trainings normally have changed from focusing on the Technical aspects of soccer towards Understanding the game and Communication on the soccer field (TUC).