Playing Out-of-Position is Good


A friend reminded me the other day of an old soccer saying. It goes something like, “Good forwards make the best defenders and good defenders make the best forwards”. There is a lot of truth to this saying.

Any good forward is always trying to figure out how to get the upper-hand on the defense. Over time, forwards have learned plenty of tricks to help them beat defenders. Now imagine that same forward playing defense. He/she, knowing many of the offensive strategies and tricks, will instinctively know how to deal with them. For example, he/she is unlikely to get caught directly behind a forward where an accidental bump or a dreaded phantom touch will send the forward crashing to the ground, resulting in a free kick, penalty, and possible expulsion.

The same is true of defenders. Deficiencies a defensive player may have are most likely shared by other defenders. In addition, a good defender should know how certain defensive formations can be exploited. Equipped with this knowledge will give a defender playing forward a tremendous advantage over the other team. Who is best equipped to beat an offside trap than a player who has been employing the trap for years?

Players, you should view ‘playing out-of-position’ as a great opportunity. First of all, you will surprise yourself at how well you do, I promise. Secondly, by playing other positions, you will become a better, more well-rounded soccer player. Also, you will develop an appreciation for other positions, especially when you have to play keeper. If your coach has not offered you this opportunity, ask. At some point in your career, perhaps during a tryout with another team, you are going to be asked to play other positions. That I can also promise.

Coaches, how often have you surprised yourself when a player exceeds all expectations at a position you knew he/she would not and could not play? It happens all the time. As a youth coach, I strongly encourage you to play your kids in all positions. The worst thing a coach can do to a young player is pigeon-hole him/her to one position. With older players who may be labeled as a good forward, defender, or goalkeeper, or who have stated that they only play one position, switch them around. Although you are likely to hear plenty of complaints and even receive a few parent phone calls, give it a shot. It will make those players and your team better.

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3 Responses to “Playing Out-of-Position is Good”

  1. puregame Says:

    As I read this it makes me think about my experience growing up playing the game. Most of the time we would play park soccer, or football as we English like to call it. We would throw down a couple of sweaters and play, no positions, no ref’s, no coaches, and certainly no parents. It was great to play anywhere on the park you wanted to. I think one of the main issues with American soccer is the structure around it. Kids are placed in positions, and as you mentioned, they don’t get to play anywhere else. How sad! I think there should be more opportunity for kids to get out and play for the fun of it, it doesn’t happen nearly enough. They would learn so much more about the game and themselves. Who knows, that defender the coach has earmarked could be a great forward.

  2. Soccernut43 Says:

    It is sad. We now have the concept of “positionless soccer”. But this is probably only in the USA. We now are trying to get the kids to play total soccer. I just got done seeing the damage that is done when a coach will not allow a defender past the midline (why??? serves no purpose). So when I get them I have to figure out why they run to the midline and stop. And coaches and parents need to get less involved in the games themselves and allow the kids to learn. The saying “the game is the best teacher” has never been truer. But we have to allow the kids to play so they can learn.

    • Alex Kos Says:

      Seeing defenders playing all the way back and never going past the halfway line can’t be any fun for those players. More often than not, I can guarantee you that the coaches son or daughter is not playing that position (I know, that was a bit of a dig). There is a term called “joystick coaching” where the coach and parent dictate (or control) every movement of the players as if they were playing a video game. That, too, can’t be very fun for the player.

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