Principles of Play

Why are they important?

The principles of play are:

  • Fundamental to effective football and successful team play.
  • The same for most team sports.
  • The foundation for teaching the game.
  • Along with good technique, essential to enabling your players  to play any system and style as determined by the coach.

What are they?

Attack Defend
Disperse (aka Dispersal). Players must spread out front to back and side to side in order to stretch and pull defenders out of position. Delay. The defender nearest the player with the ball must close down the space to delay shooting, forward passing, and dribbling opportunities.
Support. Players must take up good supporting positions close to the ball and away from it where they can receive the ball without it being intercepted. Need support in front, to the side and behind the ball. Cover (aka Depth). To support the defender nearest the ball, other defenders must reduce forward passing opportunities by covering space and marking players.
Penetrate (aka Penetration). Players must decide whether to advance the ball—by dribbling, passing around, over, or between opposing players—or shoot to score. Block (aka Compactness). Players must defend as a block and restrict space between defenders from front to back and side to side, making it difficult for opposing players to find space or play penetrating passes.
Move (aka Mobility). To create space and unbalance defences, players must make calculated moves and change positions to move and stretch the defence. Balance. Players must seal off dangerous openings away from the ball to limit the opponents attacking options. Usually it is the players away from the ball—the third defenders—who maintain the defence’s balanced formation.
Improvise (aka Improvisation). To unlock tight defences, occasionally players need to do the unexpected. Control.Players individually and collectively must be patient and wait for the correct moment to win the ball back and not be drawn too far out of position and create an opening for a scoring opportunity.