Friday, August 31, 2007

Slanting the Line

Dear Farrell,

The Slanty Line concept is a great one for youth soccer coaches. The idea comes from the old game kids used to play in PE. You have a rope stretched out with two kids holding it at each end. One by one, the kids jump over it. Then you raise the rope higher and everyone jumps over it again. Whoever misses it is out. They go sit and wait for the activity to end.

That's where the problem arises. The kids who end up sitting out are the kids who need the activity the most. But should we dumb down the activity so everyone can participate? Well, no. That punishes the better athletes, the kids who want to accel and have the ability to do so. So what do you do?

You slant the line. Make it higher at one end and lower at the other. Let the kids choose where they want to jump over it.

That translate into soccer training, but not always so obviously or easily. I have a 1v1 activity that slants the line without the kids even knowing. You set up a grid of about 20x20. Two teams are at opposite corners facing each other (think of a diamond, one line at the top, one at the bottom of the diamond). One team has balls. The first player in the line with balls (usually no more than 4 in a line), plays the ball to the first player in the other line. Then they go 1v1. The dribbler gets one point if he makes it safely to one of the corner cones. If he/she makes it to the cone where the defender started (the other corner), it's three points. They switch lines after each dual so the defenders become attackers.

I like this activity because it's combative, it forces players to make moves, there is no outlet pass to use as a safety net, and it's competitive because one team wins.

The interesting part is that the line is slanted. If a player chooses to go for one point, they can do it and still have to work hard, think and be creative. If they choose to go for three points, it's even harder.

If you pay attention to it, you can start asking the kids why they never go for three. That could bring them out of their comfort zone and get them to try new moves and use more courage. You see kids bust out toward one of the side cones (1-pointers) and they quickly change direction and accelerate to the three-pointer.

I like it. One of my teams has an issue with 1v1 attacking and 1v1 defending. They elect to pass the responsibility to someone else instead of taking a defender on and cracking a shot or then making a pass. They are a very good passing team -- I'd call them advanced -- and this is a missing element.

As with any team, we have a pretty wide range of skill. But this activity seems to slant the line enough to keep everyone challenged while also being demanding.

When I think of more, I'll write
You know who.

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