Playing Out of the Back

The year our club is emphasizing the need for our teams to learn to play out of the back from goal kicks and goalkeeper possessions. It will take time for the players to learn how to maintain possession under pressure and build up an attack. There will also be times when we give up goals because of mistakes by the goalkeeper and defenders. However, the long term up-side far out weight the loss of a goal or even a game. If we train our players to deal with pressure and play around it from the back, they will be better able to do this all over the field.

This starts with our youngest teams. Here is how we want our U8, U9 and U10 teams to take goal kicks:

There first choice is to pass to the defender on the near side of the box. The second choice would be the midfield player on the near sideline. As the players gain confidence they learn when to play to the forward who has come back into the gap in the middle of the field created by the defenders moving wide. Passing to the defender on the opposite side is also an option for players with the confidence to make the pass.

I like the fact that we are asking our players to play to feet as often as possible. There are a lot of developmental opportunities that occur from doing this. But maybe the most important benefit is the confidence that this style of play places in the players and their ability to make decisions. Developing technique is important but developing confidence is vital.

As coaches we need to think about the message we send players. When we tell them to kick it long this implies a lack of confidence in the players ability to keep the ball. It also reinforces a fear of making a mistake. Soccer is a game of mistakes. They are bound to happen and we are forced to deal with them. As in life, it’s not the mistake that defines us but our reaction to them. That’s why transition is such an important part of soccer.

It should be an interesting fall season as the players learn through trial and error but they will no doubt be better soccer players and hopefully more confident kids because of the experience.

So tell us what you think. Do you ask your kids to play out of the back or kick it long?

Have a great day!



  1. Farhad says:

    The point that you mentioned is really vital but i think it ‘s better to focus on this aspect of play when our player are older. I think the best age for focusing to improve confidence is 12 . Before that age , it ‘s better to increase the players skills such as environmental awareness, pass and positioning on the ground because good players have a better skills than weaker players.Teaching basic skills will lead to increased confidence.

  2. says:

    I agree that technical ability should be a very important emphasis for the young player but this goes hand-in-hand with the ability to play out of the back. What better way to use the technical skills of dribbling and passing than to play short passes and use fakes and moves to beat defenders rather than just kicking the ball up to the half line.

  3. jw7 says:

    I would strongly question any club leaders that are encouraging training this type of tactical play for this age group.

    This digram is not playing out of the back because you have the players starting from too deep inside the box. Playing out of the back is about possession build up play once you have gained clear possession of the ball and the players have space and time.

    – If the team is in the process of changing their shape to attacking while playing deep out of the back then you would not want players going 1v1 (dribbling) while still very deep in the defending third with little cover.
    – Your passing choices 3 and 4 for U8-U10 will end up a disaster many times if you have not created the correct amount of space around those players before attempting those passes. It might just make your players lose confidence in their coach.

    Playing out of the back happens as the team is leaving the defending third. It is intentioned to spread the opposing team across the width of the field and also to spread them out over the depth of the middle third. In my opinion playing out of the back only happens effectively after you team learns to transition to attack correctly and when: the players are skilled enough to consistently have a good directed first touch away from pressure; then are smart enough to quickly chose where to play away from pressure; and then be strong enough hit a long pass accurately, rolling on the ground with the correct pace. The whole idea of playing out of the back is to create more width and depth (space between players) in which to play through the middle more.

    This is way to advanced for this age group. Stick to less tactics at this age and let them have more fun playing with less form so they get comfortable playing and passing while under pressure. Let those 1v1 happen at this age group. Help them safely get out of the defending third by teaching them how and why they should play away from pressure and maintain possession first. Keep working on the transition shape to a more spread out attacking form and keep stressing possession skills with the ball while moving forward as a group. Spend a lot of time with this age making sure the second and third attackers know their roles to help maintain possession and correct wrong support positions. Work with smaller groups of players 3v3-4v4 at this age and make sure they understand the importance of correct supporting movements and positioning while in attack and the correct cover movements and positioning while defending.

    • says:

      I think you’re defining, ‘Playing out of the back’ too narrowly. Playing out of the back can take a number of forms: it could be from a goalkick, a goalkeeper in possession of the ball, a defender winning the ball or a free kick won in the defending third. I picked the goalkick to describe in this post.
      The choice comes down to whether to have the goalkick just kicked as long as the goalkeeper can kick it or to work the ball out of the back through passing, moving and dribbling.
      Do you think it would be more developmentally appropriate to have the kick taken long or passed out of the back?

  4. jw7 says:

    This situation is simply goalkeeper distribution and it always comes out of the back.

    If the team is fit enough to play short on GK distributions all game long then it will be good build up training for them. But you are increasing the risk involved and that may not work out well if the group is lacking the correct skills to play under this kind of pressure. If you are playing a strong team and the defending group has been worked too much then clear the ball out further every third play (with possession in mind) work on your counter attack skills and let the back players rest a bit. The team should be able to play slow and also be taught when to play long and fast when the time play is on up front.

    • says:

      When we are teaching players to possess the ball the emphasis is on taking what the defense gives you. Move the ball away from pressure and into space. Seeing the longer pass is part of that.
      Of course the players will make mistakes and choose the wrong option at times but they do that in every other aspect of the game as well. I don’t think we should fear mistakes at this age but use them as learning opportunities.

  5. jw7 says:

    I understand you want to help your team improve, all coaches do. You have found a problem and you want to give them a solution. But are you really teaching them to learn to see what is in front of them and are they making decisions based on the defense, or are they just doing what they have been told to do?

    I don’t agree with coaches giving this type of specific game management tactical instruction at this young age. Whenever you tell them to play mainly one way you take away the environment for natural abilities and team playing style to develop under real game pressure, on their own.

    Possession skills are just one part (an important part) of team development and the development of a complete team playing style.

    At the younger ages quick counter attacking play is one of the prime scoring situations. This is the age good attacking players learn those fast dribbling 1v1 attacking skills. It also creates an exciting and fast paced game that the younger players find to be lot of fun, why take that all away during the game when you have plenty of time to work on possession skills in practice?

    If you always play out short from keeper distributions you will find a well coach team would not give you much space to play out of while in your own defending third. At that age even the young players will figure out your going to try to play through them. Why would they drop off if your team becomes very predictable?

    Why not teach them the correct possession skills in small group games during practice? Give them the abilities in the practice to make possession work correctly, then see if they as a group chose to use that during their games. let the team develop their own style of play at that young age. After all at that age the final team score is not important, but having individuals that learn how to score at those ages is very important.

    Q- Are you also developing your speedy counter attack forwards?
    Q- Are you also developing your forwards and attacking mid players to find space and ask for the ball quickly after transitions to attack?
    Q Have you trained your 7,8, and 9 year old players how to get through a crowded middle third caused by the slower build up?
    Q- Are you showing your team how to penetrate through a compact defense that has had plenty of time to get back to defend in front of their goal in the slower build up style?

    let the players actually make their own decisions during the games. That is how creativity, decision making abilities, and leadership develop in soccer.

    Use the learning situations you observe in the game for your next practice. If you are building confidence in their group possession skills then they will use those skills you have trained.

    Don’t create a restriction for a young youth team during the game itself. Let them play the game as it works for them.

    • says:

      We are not limiting their choices, we are expanding them. Most coach just have their goalkeeper take a long run and bash the ball as far up the field as possible. By showing them how to play out of the back it gives them one more weapon in their arsenal.
      As I said in my last reply, making the longer pass is always an option. If the other team presses up then there should be someone available farther up the field.

  6. patrick says:

    learning is never rushed, so therefore building from the back goal kicks or otherwise is the way

  7. patrick says:

    learning is never rush, build from the back goal kicks or otherwise