My general philosophy on positions is that I try to find a position for a player where they can feel successful and make a significant contribution to the team. Each position requires particular physical, technical, tactical, and mental attributes from a player. Fundamentally, my view on positions are that the positions end up picking the best players to play them.
I tend to take a flexible approach to positions where the focus is on attacking and defensive roles more than “positions” played in a particular area on the field. When our team has the ball, every player on the field should think of themselves as an attacker and what they can do to support and continue the attack. Conversely, when the other team has the ball, every player should be a defender with an area of the field that they are responsible for protecting in partnership with their supporting players.
Gone are the days where any given position stands around protecting their empty plot of land and waits for the ball to come to them before they do something. Every player on the field should be actively participating in the attack or in the defense…every minute of the game. Especially as the level of competition gets higher, it takes a team to score or stop a goal and not just a single outstanding player.
There’s an old adage that says that goals win games and defense wins championships. As a bit of an aside (being the soccer geek that I am) there’s a bunch of statistics out there that speak to a defensive a player’s contribution to winning or tying a game by preventing a goal as being “worth” more than actually scoring a goal. As such, defensive players hold a special place in my heart and tactical approach to the game. I’m a big believer in building a strong defensive base and then building an attacking oriented team from that foundation.
I tell the players that they play the position the team needs them to play. With all the emphasis put on scoring goals, it will take a player a little while and a lot of reinforcement from me as coach and the parents as cheerleaders for them to see the positive impact they can have from any position on the field. So stolen passes, won duels, blocked shots, forward-diagonal passes behind the defense, assists, hunting rebounds, and beautiful runs off the ball (even if they don’t get the ball) all have to be valued and celebrated at least as much as goals if not more since these are the behaviors exhibited by the best soccer players and teams.