Soccer is a low-scoring game. Goals are precious and rare. That’s why we love it. (And why haters hate it.)
Every coach is used to 0-0, 1-0 and 2-1 matches. 3-2 is a goalfest.
But every once in a while, you see a score like 9-0. 11-0. Or more.
Of course, the losing side does not feel good about those matches. But neither do the winners. True fans don’t like sitting through a mismatch. Athletes don’t like to be unchallenged.
Coaches are frustrated too. We’re in this because we love the sport. We care about the players – all of them, on both teams. We don’t get respect from our colleagues by winning a lopsided game against a weaker opponent.
So what can a coach do when you’re up by half a dozen goals – and there’s still tons of time left?
First, you can take a player off the field. No one likes to play short – except when it makes a match more competitive. This is also great training for those times when you willbe one man down. Chances are, no one even notices what you’ve done. (That’s why you do it quietly!)
You can also move players into unfamiliar positions. Let your high-scoring forward get a run as a central defender. Put a flank player in the middle. This keeps everyone interested and involved, while lessening the chance that the flood of goals continues. (Avoid the temptation to put your keeper up top, though, with the instruction: “Here’s your chance to score!”)
Tell your players they can only shoot (or even pass) with their weak foot. We do it in training – why not in an actual match? Who knows – it might pay off in one of those 1-0 games down the road!
You can place other conditions on your team too: score only off a header, for example. Players cannot enter the offensive penalty area. Your team must complete x number of passes in a row before shooting (no counting out loud!). Or they must pass back to the keeper every time they win the ball (within reason).
Any or all of these conditions can be communicated to players at halftime. The only thing more embarrassing than running up the score is yelling out for everyone to hear that you’re trying to stop embarrass your opponent.
In addition, you can ask the officials to keep the clock running after a goal, or any other normal stoppage.
Finally, of course, if you knowahead of time that a game could turn into a rout, bring up some junior varsity or freshman players. They’ll be grateful for the chance.
The Connecticut Soccer Coaches Association urges coaches to use common sense when your team is on top in a one-sided game. The coach on the other bench – along with players and fans on both sides – will be grateful too.
(Dan Woog is the boys varsity soccer coach at Staples High School in Westport, and a CSCA board member.)