At what age to introduce positions, formations and tactics

I coach an U7 team and through my learning and research I feel encouraged to let kids be kids and just go out and enjoy the game of football. However I find many teams are coming out and playing in formations with tactics whilst our kids are there as a group of 4 in any position ready to play. I am wondering at  what age and at what point other coaches start assigning players positions etc. I think I am maybe sticking too tightly to the guidance some times. I have a team with some great little players who are winning their matches without structure. With structure and being taught tactics and formations they could be really good.

  • without structure they are free to try things and more likely to accomplish those skills at that age.

    even without structure they are still playing in positions and formations without knowing it, and i should imagine your giving them tactics anyway

    like "how many goals can you score?" or "lets have fun"

    tactics are just instructions they could be really exciting like "can we score 2 goals with a left footed shot or a right footed shot?"

    structure and formations at that age could have a negative impact on the development to try things 

    like running out of defence  if they think they have to stay in that position.

  • This is a difficult one to answer.

    Back when I started out c.2010 I let the players do what they wanted but it soon became clear to me that some children love structure and want to know what area of the pitch they should be in whereas others love the freedom…

    To overcome this difference I used to give my players basic areas that they could play in. They didn't need to stay in them as it was simply a guide for them. I have attached the file that I created, printed out and laminated so that the players could look at it at each training and match day. As you can see it is very basic but the players seeing it all the time meant that they took the information in without even knowing it. This basic structure definitely helped some of the players whereas some others where more aware of how the game actually worked and needed less help with positioning.

    Other points that really helped these young players are simple tricks like your GK and Defenders positioning themselves by looking at the opposition's goal. That way they do not have to turn around to see where their goal is….

    Hope it helps and good luck for the future!!


  • In our u8s team this year we gave them simple positions. We have one defender that plays in our half, 2 midfielders that play all over and one striker in opposition half. I've found they all bought into it and it's kept a structure and helped them all learn the position over a short amount of games. It also encourages passing from the defender into midfield/attack. It also really helps with fatigue as midfielders do majority of work and you can then rotate so they don't all run around like headless chickens. We've now progressed so that at corners the defender comes over half way and is a free player generally between box and half way. It's also really helped as the positioning has made it easier to explain a press.