It is harder to have weak soccer players and good players on the same team than it is if you don't have any weak players.
Below is a letter I wrote to a U12 soccer coach who had players of greatly differing abilities - ranging from weak soccer players to excellent. His good players were worried and practices were difficult due to the differing skill levels. There are also links to other articles on this subject.
You have a great attitude. Weak players make it much harder for a coach - it is even harder to practice because you have kids of different skill levels. My experience is that players (even the weak players) and parents prefer winning to losing and that creates pressure on the coach. When I coached U16 Rec soccer I was assigned 2 players who were barely 14 and VERY slow and unskilled. The other coaches didn't want those players and even players on my team who had played with them before were worried and thought we would lose all our games. Those 2 players were smart and brave, but very slow, and couldn't dribble or pass very well. One was small and one was overweight, and both were unskilled. Because they were slow but brave I decided to put them at Left Fullback and Right Fullback. When we attacked, I let my strong Center Fullback Push Up but made the 2 slow FBs Defend Deep (stopping at the soccer Penalty Box line) because they were SOOO slow. They couldn't dribble or pass the ball under pressure so I had them just clear the ball. Those boys were an inspiration because they were brave and tenacious, and they did great as long as they stayed deep, and their teammates respected them and were glad to have them on our team. When they tried to Push Up, the opposing Forwards blew by them like they were statues. The point is, those 2 players were successful because I put them in a position where they could be successful, and we were 6-1-1 that season against some tough competition. I don't know if that is a possibility for you. I think the other best positions for weak players are at Right and Left Mid, and in my experience you can't put a timid player at Fullback. You probably can't use width in attack so think about adding depth, like a 3-2-3-2 formation. Try drills like the Dribble Across a Square Soccer Drill and Shoulder Tackle and Strength on the Ball Soccer Drill that work for players of differing skill levels.
You may wonder "How did those 2 players react to playing Fullback?" I think those boys had been so unappreciated that they were glad to be given an opportunity to be successful and valued by their coaches and teammates. They never asked to play other positions and when we got ahead and I offered to let them play at Forward they didn't want to - they were proud to be Fullbacks and were good at it and they probably knew they wouldn't be good at Forward - they simply didn't have ball skills. I would let them play Fullback for the entire game because they Defended Deep, so they didn't run much and didn't need to be subbed, and that left me with subs to use for other positions like Stopper and Center Mid and Forward that ran a lot (we played 11 v 11 and a 3-2-3-2 soccer formation). I would have to remind them to not Push Up too far when we attacked because if they did they were too slow to recover to defensive positions against the opposing fast forwards. I would encourage them to shift from side to side with the ball so they were moving, and that kept them in the game. I tried to give them lots of praise and positive reinforcement, on the field and at halftime and after games. They would get a Defense patch and when they got knocked down or used their body to block a shot (which they did a lot) I would praise them at halftime or after the game in front of the entire team and parents and give them a "Blood Patch" (we used a red soccer ball patch for that - kind of a super bravery patch).- I encouraged that kind of bravery. When the team scored a goal (we averaged about 5 per game), we would do the Brazilian Goal Celebration where the entire team (including them and the Goalkeeper) would come together and do a team cheer to celebrate the goal, so everyone participated in the team's success in scoring (See Below) . Those boys would never back down or dodge a shot - they body-blocked a lot of shots and were run over by Forwards twice their size. They were inspirational to us all - I remember it to this day, 10 years later. I was proud that they requested to be on my team the next season. They were 2 of my favorite players.
The Brazilian Team Goal Celebration to Encourage Teamwork - Team Attacking Reward Ideas and Team Goal Celebration Idea When a Goal is Scored. Look at the Patch Reward Program I developed at Patch Award System. In that program, players are rewarded for the actions and behavior a coach wants to encourage such as Bravery, Leadership, Teamwork, Special Effort, Team Attacking, Defense and Playing Both Offense and Defense. Team Attacking is critical and a way to start to teach what allows a goal to be scored. At U8, Team Attacking probably won't involve as many players as it will at U10 and U12, however, it is very important to still make it clear that scoring is a TEAM EFFORT and when a goal is scored have the ENTIRE Team come together in the Center Circle or near the sideline for a Team Goal Celebration where they put their arms on each other's shoulders and do a Team Cheer or a Chant. This Team Goal Celebration will allow EVERY member of the team celebrate and share the spotlight for scoring the goal and it will cut down on jealousy. This is great for Team Building and is what the Brazilian National Team does after scoring a goal.
For more about weak soccer players see:
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