Possession Soccer & Player Development

I wanted to share a recent blog post from Doug Lemov, author of “Teach Like a Champion” and “Practice Perfect”. The points made in the article illustrate how our possession-oriented style of play is superior to developing players vs. much of the random kick and chase coaches and parents often see during weekend games.

Check out the article here: http://teachlikeachampion.com/blog/coaching-and-practice/coaching-develop-players-vs-coaching-win-examples/

One excerpt of his piece touches on the importance of teaching and utilizing a possession-oriented style of play to players’ technical and tactical understanding. He argues that this style of play helps develop players by…

  • giving players many touches in game situations;
  • distributing touches across many players vs. only a select few in a “kick and run” style;
  • provides mental “touches” as the team is able to keep sustained possession and helps players start to anticipate and move appropriately off the ball (remember, 90% of the game, a player won’t have the ball so tactical knowledge is extremely important!); and
  • the most successful teams at the professional level play this style of soccer so it is working off a global standard.

Let’s take a look at stats from a recent U10 Boys game to illustrate how our style of play benefits players…

ALEX Griffins Red Game Total Arlington Madrid Red
3 Goals 2
11 Shots 5
25:01 Time of Possession 14:18
64% Time of Possession % 36%
284 First Touches 154
177 Passes 47
62% Pass Completion % 31%
8 Number of 5+ Pass Strings 0
7.1 Average Pass String Length 0.0
12 Longest Pass String 4
  • Time of Possession: Our teams should aim for at least 60%, This benchmark indicates clear control in the match.
  • First Touches: In this game, our players had nearly twice as many first touches on the ball than the other team. Also, our touches are distributed more evenly based on our style of play vs. other teams whose touches end up being skewed towards their central defender and forwards due to their “kicking it long” approach. These touches benefit our players massively as they practice applying technique and decision-making on the ball at least twice as often as their counterparts in games!
  • Number of 5+ Pass Strings: Counting the number of times each team is able to connect 5 or more consecutive passes helps to determine if a team players are learning the tactical side of the game. As defined by our club’s standards, connecting at least 5+ passes demonstrates that a team has established possession of the ball. At that point, players off the ball (remember 90% of the game a player will not have the ball at their feet) can start to anticipate and get “mental” touches on the ball. If a team does not have any 5+ pass sequences or only a few on a consistent basis, they never really establish possession, which limits each player’s ability to train the tactical side of the game. As a result, the game is simply random with players operating on their own “islands” without any cohesive team framework.

We encourage all our teams to use SoccerMeter as a way to gauge and use objective measures to see how well they are executing our style of play. Are we consistently controlling play through at least 60% possession of the ball? Do we see a rising number of 5+ pass sequences each game and more than the opponent? Do we see this possession leading to shots on goal?

Feel free to email me (ryan.rich@alexandria-soccer.org) with your team’s stats. We’ll get them up on our blog and/or travel newsletter!


6 thoughts on “Possession Soccer & Player Development

  1. Absolute love your philosophy of play … I currently coach U13 boys select team in SW Ohio and we also use SoccerMeter to gather stats on the games. Boys are gaining so much confidence with having the ball so much and leading to so many opportunities!
    Mr. Kieron Boyle
    Middletown Select Soccer Club


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