The Retreat Line Rule
I think the Retreat Line Rule that has been introduced to Mini-Soccer (at all age groups up to u10s) is such a good idea, that it’s a shame it wasn’t implemented years ago. For those of you unfamiliar with this rule, it means that from a goal kick, the opposing team must retreat to their own half of the pitch until the ball is played.
It is aimed at encouraging youngsters to play out from the back, as opposed to getting goalkeepers to lump it down the pitch as far as they can. Many teams have taken this approach in years gone by, whether it is to relieve pressure when struggling to progress up the pitch with the ball, or just to take advantage of a big, strong kid who can kick the ball further than anyone else.
Shifting the Problem?
The new ruling is still in its early days yet, with most junior teams only playing a few games so far since the 2013/2014 fixtures began. And I’ve read a mixture of comments from coaches on twitter. One coach commented that it hasn’t actually helped, and all it has done is shift the pressure onto whoever the goalkeeper passes the ball to. Initially I thought this could be a valid point. The goalkeeper takes the goal kick by passing it to a player in their half, who is immediately swarmed by 2 or 3 opposition players charging after the ball. Then, under pressure and at an age where the sight of 3 players charging straight at you can be intimidating, the player panics and just launches the ball away.
However, with a little help, it doesn’t need to pan out this way.
Let Them Play
My Waltham Lions u7s have shown great courage in always trying to calmly play from the back, holding onto the ball themselves or passing to a nearby player in their own half. Even when under pressure and in one game where we suffered a heavy defeat, the boys have stuck with this way they are trying to play. And this isn’t through me, as a coach, shouting at them what to do. Neither I nor any of our parents are shouting the kids to “get rid of it” or “kick it up the pitch”. So the kids themselves are choosing to want to play with the ball, rather than kick it and run after it. Which is great, and what does that tell you about how creativity can be coached out of kids at any age?
Anyway, with a bit of 5v2 practice before the last couple of games, the boys are now becoming very handy at playing from goal kicks. We don’t have the situation mentioned by some people on Twitter because once we’ve played a short goal kick to the defender, the boys have shown they’re quite calm when someone charges at them, choosing either to pass around them, dribble a bit themselves, or (as two of the lads do quite often) just put their foot on the ball, turn to face away from the player and just shield it until they can safely turn to one side to get away. They’re even learning that they can wait for the charging player to get really close to them before they pass, meaning the pass bypasses that player and takes him out of the game.
The key is making sure your own team don’t all charge off up the pitch towards the halfway line themselves. If the goalie passes it up to a player near the half-way line, he’s going to get closed down straight away by an opposition player from the half-way line. There’s no rush. Encourage the goalie it is ok to take a short goal kick and then have at least some of the team stay close enough to offer some help to the player in possession.
Patience and Long-Term Development Focus
All in all, the Retreat Line is a fantastic adjustment to the rules of junior football. Hopefully the masses will take to it and try to change the British culture that a goal kick must be launched long. Hopefully people will show patience to the kids playing the game at such a young age and not give up on them playing it short from the back. Hopefully coaches and parents won’t drain the confidence that some youngsters have to keep hold of the ball and be more creative, even if it is a little more risky. At the end of the day, it is junior football, which is all about fun and development, so who cares if they try something in their own half that doesn’t come off and the other team score? Applaud and praise their bravery, attitude and intentions.
The thing I think could be the next progression in terms of Mini-Soccer rules, is a mandatory centre-circle marked onto the pitch to force a mini retreat for kick offs. Some areas may already have this, but the pitches we’ve used so far don’t, meaning the opposition don’t end up more than a few feet back from the centre-spot and it is easy for them to swarm the 2 taking the kick off as soon as it is taken.
So…..the Retreat Line…..great stuff….better late than never eh!