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Position-Specific Training

As our game continues to develop globally, we as coaches must ensure that we are providing our players with the coaching and education necessary for them to excel among their peers.

To assist you in preparing your players, this month we will focus on position-specific training. The purpose of this article is to highlight position-specific training: what it is, why the game is moving in this direction and when it should be implemented in training — both in terms of age and quantity of sessions — to maximize your players’ abilities.

What is position-specific training?

Position-specific training provides players with education and practice focused on a particular position. The goal is to give players the training repetition necessary to master particular positions on the field. This training will improve the performance of individual players, as well as the team as a whole, as each player gains a greater understanding and mastery of their position.

A good way to utilize position-specific training is to break your team into four units: goalkeepers, back line, midfield line and forward line. Depending on your coaching philosophy, each position within the line should have a training curriculum addressing the technical and tactical implications of that position. The training curriculum should also include the positional relationships within units and to the team.

These sessions must have a distinct focus in relation to a player’s position. For example, working on a central defender’s ability to play various types of passes and employ an abundance of techniques. By breaking down aspects of a player’s position, coaches will give their players the ability to master their position in pieces.

Position-specific training is not a new theme in the sports industry. If we look at other elite professional sports, especially those that originated in the United States, you will find that this idea has been part at of their fabric for many years. Soccer must follow this same path, making training more in-depth to educate and train players on the requirements for each position on the field.

"The game has become faster and more technical, and will continue to do so. My essential requirements for a player are pace and technique."
- Arsene Wenger, Arsenal Manager

There are specialized methods necessary to teach the nuances of specific positions. We must create learning environments that expose the modern realities of the game to our players, coaches and trainers in order to effectively enhance our players’ soccer education and needs.

When should position-specific training be implemented?

At the U13 age group, coaches will begin to see that players have a general scope and passion to develop their tactical IQ and physical capacities. They will start to demonstrate further signs of their need for more in-depth skill acquisition. When you see these signs in your players, you will know that position-specific training can be initiated.

At this age, studies have shown that players crave more information, and additionally, show the ability to solve more complex soccer problems. They can begin to multi-task (players can receive the ball, play it and look to support the ball).

In the early stages of implementing position-specific training, I recommend that you educate players on the various positions around them. For example, if a player is a right wide defender, then the training should also include positional understanding and movement of the right midfielder or wide right forward (depending on the position). Players must attain a solid foundation of all positions and gain experience in several playing scenarios all over the field. Their knowledge and understanding of the game will be increased, which will allow them to read the game and solve problems more effectively as a member of a team — no matter what position they end up occupying.

Position-specific training sessions would ideally be integrated into your team’s weekly training schedule at least 1-2 times a week (for about 1 to 1.5 hours), and must be done in small groups to allow an appropriate rest-to-repetition ratio.

Players must have comprehensive knowledge of team strategies and tactics as well as understand the roles and responsibilities of their specific playing position. This understanding and position mastery dictates the team’s and coach’s style of play. For example, if you have a player who has outstanding abilities at a specific position, you will utilize them as a resource in your team strategy.

Why use Position-specific Training?

History, as well as current game trends, demonstrate the increased emphasis on the functions of specific positions. This trend has spanned across many sports, including American football, basketball and rugby, and even with goalkeepers in our own sport.

We need to maximize the contact time we have with our players and educate them to perform position-specific roles and actions; they need to become specialists in their positions on both sides of the ball (with and without possession). This type of training has begun in some parts of the world at the highest levels of the game, and will soon become a widespread teaching tool as the future needs of the game dictate the significance of position-specific training.

The speed of play in soccer continues to increase, and to match this change, we must modify our training tactics to mold players that are more detail-oriented in order to fulfill their role on their team. If you provide your players with position-specific training, you will gain an edge on your opponents, as you will be able to maximize your players’ performance.

When & How to use Position-specific Training?

This training environment is conducive to spotlighting potential growth areas in a player’s game through meticulous repetition. The results I have witnessed of position-specific training are astonishing, as training themes become exclusive and pertinent to the actions players face in the game. Sessions need to be progressive in nature, moving from simple to complex, with each training activity building upon the last. It is crucial that you take the players’ ability and age into consideration in order to include the appropriate content to ensure the time and effort dedicated is as efficient and relevant as possible.


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